After such a dramatic and controversial offseason that saw several all-stars change uniforms and join forces with other formidable talents, the NBA season is finally upon us. With all eyes on the defending champions, the Golden State Warriors, and their all-star studded lineup, teams like the Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, Minnesota Timberwolves, Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers made several moves during the offseason with the hopes that it would be enough to dethrone the defending champions.
The first team to really make a splash in the offseason were the Houston Rockets. After getting knocked off in the second round of the playoffs to the San Antonio Spurs, the Rockets looked to the offseason for a fresh start and they did just that by making a blockbuster trade with the Los Angeles Clippers.
After several organizational conflicts with the Clippers, they decided that it was time to part ways with their all-star point guard when they sent him to the Rockets in exchange for defensive specialist Patrick Beverley, along with former sixth man of the year in Lou Williams and young talents in Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell. The acquisition of Paul gives the Rockets an all-star point guard who can make plays for others while also taking some of the pressure off James Harden who has carried the team to three consecutive playoff appearances. The duo of Harden and Paul can be a deadly combination in the Western Conference as they offer a mixture of scoring and passing on a team that led the league in three-pointers made per game. Look for the Rockets to be a contender in the West.
Another team in the West that made a dramatic move were the Minnesota Timberwolves. It has been almost 14 years since the last time the Wolves made a playoff appearance and they are looking to end that streak this season. After a season that saw much potential from its young core in Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota decided to trade for all-star shooting guard Jimmy Butler from the Chicago Bulls. With the acquisition of Butler, the Wolves add an established scorer and a three-time all-star to lead the young Wolves. Minnesota made a couple of other moves to solidify their lineup by adding point guard Jeff Teague, scoring veteran Jamal Crawford and veteran power forward Taj Gibson. On paper, the Wolves look like a playoff team but they are still a young team and hope that Butler can lead this team back to the postseason.
After an early first round departure from the playoffs at the hands of the Rockets, the Oklahoma City Thunder look to bounce back behind the play of their MVP, Russell Westbrook. Westbrook single-handedly led OKC to a playoff appearance after averaging a triple-double in the regular season, the first to accomplish this feat since Oscar Robertson in the 1961-62 season. Thunder fans have lots to be excited about; following Russell Westbrook’s MVP season and lucrative contract renewal, the Thunder organization decided to give Westbrook some help on the court after shouldering the load for the majority of the season. OKC made two separate blockbuster trades, first by acquiring all-star Paul George from the Indiana Pacers and then acquiring Carmelo Anthony from the New York Knicks. The trades take some pressure off Westbrook after carrying the team all season long; Westbrook now has two reliable scoring options in PG-13 and Melo. Both George and Anthony were having conflicts with their respective organizations, which allowed the Thunder to swoop in and acquire both to give them the trio of Westbrook, George and Anthony. Look for the Thunder to seek vengeance on the Kevin Durant led Warriors as they seek to take down the former Thunder.
The Celtics finished last season with the best record in the East only to fall to LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and the Cavs. Many believe the Celtics to be the only competition in the East for James and the Cavs. This offseason, they looked to bolster their lineup which they did by first signing free agent all-star Gordon Hayward after a long tenure with the Utah Jazz. Their next move shocked the whole word. After Cavs star Irving requested a trade out of Cleveland, he was shipped off to Cleveland’s rival in Boston. The Celtics traded Isaiah Thomas, Ante Zizic, Jae Crowder and Brooklyn’s unprotected first-round pick in exchange for Irving. Irving and Hayward look to lead the C’s past James’ Cavs to claim the top spot in the East with the hopes they reach the NBA Finals.
Following their Finals defeat at the hands of the Warriors, Cleveland looks to bounce back and continue to dominate the East. After trading away Irving to Boston, Cleveland received Thomas who led the NBA in points scored in the fourth quarter and locked down defender Jae Crowder. The Cavs also made other moves as they brought in former MVP Derrick Rose to fill in at the point guard spot while Thomas nurses an injury. The Cavs also signed Dwyane Wade, reuniting the dynamic duo of James and Wade that took the league by storm back in Miami just a few years ago. The Cavs are still favored to come out of the East, but with these new additions, it’s tough to predict if it’s enough to take down the Warriors.
The NBA has transitioned from a league where stars lead their respective teams, to an era in basketball where all-stars join forces to form super teams with the hopes to take down the star-studded Golden State Warriors. Although several teams have made moves to become serious contenders, the Warriors still remain at the top of the hierarchy as they await the season to see who poses the bigger threat.