Kit Shepard | July 16th, 2018
There is a considerable amount of unnecessary negativity surrounding the NBA currently. The DeMarcus Cousins move to the Golden State Warriors left many basketball fans desperate for a more level playing field frustrated and furious, as it seemed one of the richest teams in history had only got richer.
In spite of this, recent events in free agency ensure that the 2018-19 NBA season still has all the ingredients to be immensely memorable. Lebron James‘ move to the Lakers, the curious supporting cast that he will have, and even the Cousins signing all mean the upcoming campaign will be an intriguing one. There will be the rise of new teams and players, and fresh rivalries will develop along with the usual comedy behind the scenes.
Tip-off may still be three months away, but it is never too early to get excited for the next NBA season. Here are three reasons why this summer’s free agency has made the league even better.
Power Struggle In the East
The tyranny is over. After eight years, King James’ move west to the Lakers means his stranglehold on the Eastern Conference is no more. For the first time since 2010, the East’s representative in the NBA finals will not include Lebron.
So, the question is, who will rise above the squabbling and claim the power that Lebron has relinquished? The two favorites, the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers, look set to do battle for the better part of the next decade. Both rosters boast bona fide superstars in Kyrie Irving (averaged 25 ppg for Boston before the injury last season) and Philadelphia center Joel Embiid (who is coming off a 23 ppg season and a Defensive Player of the Year nomination). Similarly, each team possesses superb young talent. Celtics forward Jayson Tatum averaged 19 points in the playoffs last season as a rookie, while Sixers playmaker Ben Simmons drew comparisons to Lebron and Magic Johnson in his first NBA campaign. Beyond the individual talent, Boston’s victory over Philadelphia in five games in last season’s playoffs was arguably the most entertaining series of the post-season, with three of the Celtics’ wins being decided by five points or fewer. With Irving and Hayward returning from injury, Simmons and Embiid continuing their development, and the continued possibility of Kawhi Leonard ending up at the Sixers, the prospect of these division rivals slugging it out again is mouth-watering.
However, the heir to Lebron is more than simply a question of Boston or Philadelphia. The Toronto Raptors, foiled by the King for three straight seasons, could suddenly realize their potential with James out west. The Washington Wizards, in John Wall and Bradley Beal, will feel they possess a backcourt to match anyone in the east, and will certainly believe they can challenge again. Over in Milwaukee, the Bucks have perhaps the best player in the entire conference in Giannis Antetokounmpo, indicated by his averaging of 27 points last season, second only to King James in the East. Even the Indiana Pacers, an outsider for a Finals spot, are a fantastic team unit and pushed Lebron all the way in an epic seven-game first round series last season.
Clearly, the fight for supremacy in the Eastern Conference looks set to be brutal, unpredictable, and fascinating.
The Lakers’ Concoction of Personalities
The Purple and Gold is alive and well and truly back in style. Lebron’s decision to swap Cleveland for La La Land was significant, if not surprising, as it revitalized the most recognizable team in the league.
Yet although the Lakers are now the focal point of the NBA once more, the attention they receive will stretch far beyond the court. Drama follows Lebron’s teams around like a shadow, as shown by the chaotic trade deadline, soup-throwing, and comical ending to game 1 of the Finals in his final season with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Admittedly, Lebron cannot be blamed entirely for the mayhem he endured in the last 12 months. Some of his teammates (ahem, J.R Smith) were not exactly model professionals at the best of times. Unfortunately for James, the Lakers other off-season acquisitions, Rajon Rondo, Javale Mcgee, and Lance Stephenson, mean that the familiar madness is expected, if not inevitable. Rondo is notoriously difficult to play with and coach. Mcgee is most famous for his starring role on ‘Shaqtin’ a fool’. Stephenson’s claim to fame is being the guy who blew in Lebron’s ear during the 2014 conference finals. This strange amalgamation of characters guarantees that Hollywood has a rival for drama in LA. Throw Lavar Ball into the mix, and pandemonium is a certainty.
Just How Good Can the Warriors Be?
Golden State’s acquisition of Cousins was unprecedented. Sure, how Boogie will return from his Achilles injury remains to be seen but, at some point next season, the Warriors will likely put out five all-star caliber players at once, as the Cousins addition teams him up with the frightening quartet of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. While NBA fans searching for parity were, understandably, horrified by this move, it could lead to the most historic season in NBA history. Should the Warriors dominate the regular season and win the title thereafter, their place as one of the all-time great dynasties is secured, and many will argue that they are the best ever. The upcoming season may not yield an unexpected winner, but if Golden State performs as everyone expects them to, they will be remembered for a very long time. Alternatively, if they fail to win the title, which is far from unlikely, it will be an even bigger story. History will be made either way.
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