After an interesting off-season with multiple trades and a shortened reprieve due to the coronavirus pandemic, this upcoming NBA season is going to have a lot of storylines to follow. For most NBA fans, it’s going to be nearly impossible to keep track of all of the many headlines the league and its teams are trying to promote. Therefore, I have compiled a list of the five biggest storylines for the upcoming NBA season. Whether you are a casual fan, or a devout follower of NBA basketball, this list will help on prioritizing one’s focus on the storylines that actually matter this season. Do not waste your time on the millions of headlines traditional media is going to inevitably push through, instead focus on the storylines that will actually be important throughout the regular season and into the playoffs.
5) Reclaiming the Golden Dynasty
Look, I honestly did not want to focus on a team centric storylines, however, considering the history of this golden state team, it only seems fair that this team takes a slot on the list. For Basketball fans of the late 2010’s, it was impossible to even discuss the sport without discussing the absolute dominance of the Warriors. For 5 straight seasons they were in the Finals and in that stretch they won 3 championships. However, due to injuries and the loss of Kevin Durant in free-agency, the Warriors had a difficult 2020 season ending with one of the worst records in the league.
But with this rebuilding season, they were able to gain multiple assets like No.2 overall pick James Wiseman, Andrew Wiggins, and Kelly Oubre. What makes this team incredibly fascinating is that no-one is clear on the ceiling or the floor of this team quite yet. Sure they have an interesting roster, but can they compete in this new Western Conference with two dominant LA teams, a well-balanced Denver team, and a budding Dallas Maverick team? The jury is still out, but if I know anything about Steve Kerr and Steph Curry, it’s their ability to optimize their teams talent, while forcing other teams to play a very fast-paced style of basketball. Overall, this team I believe is going to surprise a lot of people, and as a fan it will be interesting to watch their progression
4) LA Clippers Redemption Arc
Okay, I promise that this is the last team centric storyline. The reason this storyline has to make the list is due to everything that occurred last year in the bubble. After being heavy favorites throughout to win the finals, the Clippers were one game away from battling their in-city rivals for the Western Conference Finals. However, they had one of the biggest meltdowns in NBA history as they blew a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets and failed to even reach the Conference Finals. The loss in the semifinals caused massive changes to occur in the off-season as they fired long-time Clippers head coach Doc Rivers, and even made heavy changes to the line-up.
Also, this was the first time in Kawhi Leonard’s career that he has received major criticism from the media. Most years, Kawhi has been able to avoid media scrutiny by him being in smaller markets and having a generally aloof and calm personality. These factors were not going to matter in LA where every issue is exponentially weighted due to the size of their market and pull on the national media. This situation is eerily similar to the 2011 season where the Miami Heat, led by Lebron James, lost to the Dallas Mavericks. In the following season, LeBron and the Heat had a dominant run, establishing themselves as one of the best teams in the league and eventually winning the championship.
The Clippers have the same ability as they have a clear motivation and desire to prove that they are the best team in the league. I believe it’s going to be a big year for both Kawhi and Paul George, as they are going to reassert themselves as one of the best duos in the league. Also, I expect them to go extremely far in the playoffs, potentially reaching the Lakers and fighting for Western Conference supremacy. While this is going to be a very good season for the Clippers, the reason why I have them so low on the list is because I don’t think they are going to be an interesting team throughout the regular season. They are going to probably end up as a top 3 seed in the West with little to no drama. However, once the playoffs starts, this is going to be one of the more interesting storylines to follow. .
3) Same Faces, Different Places
As with every off-season, many of the familiar faces that we have grown accustomed to in certain places have transitioned to a different franchise. The three most interesting changes that will be fun to watch this season are Chris Paul to the Phoenix Suns, Russell Westbrook to Washington, Doc Rivers and Daryl Morey to the 76ers, and Kevin Durant making his debut in Brooklyn.
All these changes are incredibly fascinating because we as fans have no idea on the outcomes of these moves. Take for instance Kevin Durant playing for the Brooklyn Nets. Prior to the injury, he was universally regarded as the second best player in the league. Now that he has returned, is he going to return better than ever, or is he going to struggle? Will he be able to compete and gel with his new teammates? These are questions that are not going to be answered in a single game, but will take the entire season to watch and see the impact these players, coaches, and general managers are going to have on their respective franchises.
Simply look at last year with the Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook trade. Many fans and media members thought that Westbrook was going to flourish in Houston, while CP3 was going to end his career in mediocrity fighting for a draft position. However, CP3 proved many wrong, leading an OKC that was formidable against everyone they played and secured themselves a place in the highly contested Western playoffs. And as we all know the Westbrook experiment never truly worked in Houston and they were simply good but were never considered legitimate champion contenders.
In their new roles, many fans will be curious again to see how they fit into their respective offenses. Many expect Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal in Washington to have the ability to be the best Backcourt in the East, while many Suns fans hope that Paul can help guide young stars Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton to a playoff series. However, as stated previously, it’s impossible to tell whether or not any of these new additions are going to actually yield positive results, and it will take an entire season to determine the impact on these two additions.
2) The Next Generation of Stars
One of the most Interesting aspects of this year’s season is the potential emergence of stars for the next era of the league. These are players that have the potential of dominating the league barring injuries or any other catastrophic event. Watching these players develop their talents is going to be a treat to watch for many basketball fans as the media argues over who is going to be the next great player in the NBA. While many names come to mind like Ja Morant, Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell, Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr., Devin Booker, etc., the two guys that I want to highlight in this section are Zion Williamson and Luka Doncic. Both of these players have the ability to legitimately dominate the league and become ambassadors of the game to the next generation of hoopers.
Let’s start with Zion Williamson who has already proven himself to be one of the big headliners in the NBA. Despite the fact that Zion has only played 24 games of his young career, it is clear that his impact solely on popularity is unmatched. His jersey is already in the top 20 of number of jerseys sold, content on NBA media featuring him on average garners 25 millions views, and he puts people in the stadiums and in front of televisions just to take a glimpse of his nightly performances. And Zion has also proven that he can back up much of the fame that he is receiving on the court. His unique skill set and size causes him to be an absolute monster in multiple aspects of the game.
While most consider the post wildly inefficient, Zion has essentially flipped that script as this is one of the most efficient plays in all of basketball. He also has shown to be a major threat in the fast break. If defenses get lazy, they could easily fall victim of a full court alley-oop pass from Lonzo Ball to Zion Williamson. Lastly, he has a decent feel for the game as he does not force shots, and is often able to find the open player. However, in spite of all the great aspects of his game there is still a lot to work and improve upon.
The first aspect is his defense which has been exploited upon by many quick and explosive guards already. If he is going to be an efficient contributor he has to be able to improve upon his skills on the defensive end especially when it comes to switches. The second major step to look for is him adding to his offensive skill set. While his shot wasn’t terrible from beyond the arc, it is a clear weakness in his game. If he can make these improvements then there is a good chance that he could dominate the leagues.
And speaking of dominating the league, Luka Doncic is already on his way to becoming a legitimate face for the NBA. While he still has some room to grow in the popularity department, the man is an absolute monster on the offensive end. Not only is he able to get any shot he wants, but similar to many of the great players before him, he is more focused on making sure his teammates get open looks, and easy shots around the rim. And he is also a player that is clearly unafraid of the big moments, as he has come through for his team on big plays, time and time again. He is single-handedly the reason why many NBA experts view the Mavericks as a top 10 team and a team that could potentially make big waves in the playoffs.
The biggest areas of growth for Luka is primarily going to be on the defensive end. He reminds me a lot of early James Harden, a player supremely gifted on one end but could easily be exploited on the other end of the court. While Luka may never become a staunch NBA defender, he needs to make himself into a non-liability on that end.
Lastly, I believe he needs to gain a bit more muscle and physicality on the other end of the court. While he is generally a nice guy on the court with a very pleasant demeanor, there is going to be a lot of players in the league trying to rattle him and use their physicality to stop him from imposing his will on the game. He has to be able to stand up to those players and develop some form of resistance in order to ensure opposing players know that those tactics will not work. If he is able to do this he will have a legitimate chance of becoming league MVP. And as fans it will be a joy watching not only these two players perform, but also watching this year’s draft of rookies, and the other young stars impose their faces as the future of the league.
- Can anyone Beat the Lakers?
As champions this is going to be the answer that we are going to have to wait the entire season to find out. We all know the damage that the dynamic duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis can do as they essentially ran through the Western Conference this past season. And the crazy part is that this team decided to acquire even more talent by adding Montrezl Harrell, Dennis Schroder, and Marc Gasol to their already solid line-up. However, there are many teams that have grown and developed this year, and I believe there will be plenty of teams ready to challenge the Lakers throne.
This opposing force will have to have not only a star studded cast, but they will have to have players able to challenge and slow down both Anthony Davis and Lebron James (a lot easier said than done). And while this will be a difficult task, this is not like the warriors teams that were simply unbeatable. Many teams like the Brooklyn Nets, Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat and even the LA Clippers will argue that they have the pieces needed to defeat the Lakers. However, like many of the other great storylines, it will take the entire season to truly determine whether these other teams are legitimate threats or simply stepping stones for Lebron’s 5th ring and the Lakers 18th banner.
Overall it’s going to be a season like no other and whether you’re a casual NBA fan or a die-hard supporter expect all of these headlines to be a major part of the NBA season. And for more NBA content, remember there is only one way, the Wright way.