By Lamar Battle
Why fool ourselves, Once again, LeBron James dominates the headlines. LeBron joins the L.A. Lakers this year right smack dab in the middle of a Golden State Warriors Dynasty run. This is shaping up as better entertainment than a good Marvel movie.
There will be blood. The Western Conference:
Golden State Warriors: One over looked aspect of the Warriors reign of excellence is how incredibly lucky they are. Think about it ? During the 2015-16 playoffs San Antonio Spurs then-star player Kahwi Leonard turned his ankle stepping on Warriors Zaza Pachulia’s foot. Forward to the 2017-18 Western Conference finals Houston Rockets star point guard Chris Paul blew a tire (hamstring pull) when the Rockets had control of the series and now during the summer of 2018 DeMarcus Boogie Cousin decided to call Golden State with the question, do you guys have room for one more ? Luck aside the Warriors are an incredibly well coached team with intelligent and un-selfish players that will not go down easy.
Houston Rockets: Last seasons Conference runner ups will be expected to challenge even harder this year. Gone are key defenders Luc Bah a Moute and Trevor Ariza however the Rockets bolstered their offense with new players Carmelo Anthony and Brandon Knight and defensive help from Marquise Criss, Micheal Carter Williams and James Ennis III. The Rockets were successful playing physical against Golden State last year so will the Warriors pick up of Boogie Cousins mitigate that factor? Will this be the year for the Rockets or has that window closed?
Los Angeles Lakers: The league consensus is that LeBron signed a four year deal with the Lakers with the big picture in mind. In other words the team is not expected to win right away. LeBron is still the leagues best player and he is playing with a team better than the one he had in Cleveland. Expect a 3rd or 4th place finish for the this team and expect significant improvement from either Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart.
Oklahoma City Thunder: What does OKC have going for itself ? The core has been together with the same coach for a while, That has to count for something? Actually the Thunder made a key pick up in acquiring back up Dennis Schroder from the Hawks. Rookie and human pogo stick Hamido Diallo will also open plenty of eyes. How far this team goes will depend on playoff positioning.
Welcome to the playoffs, Denver and Dallas
Key Rookies, DeAndre Ayton, Luka Doncic’, Moritz Wagner and De Anthony Melton
Minnesota won 47 games last year, and they are capable of improvements if star guard Jimmy Butler sticks around.
The Clippers will miss the playoffs. Portland and San Antonio will slide.
LeBron tells Kevin Durant I’m good, upon acquiring superstar Anthony Davis next year.
The Beast Of The East:
Boston Celtics: What’s left for a team that took the LeBron James led Cleveland Cavalier team to seven games in the 2017-18 Eastern Conference finals? This was accomplished without their best player guard Kyrie Irving and newly acquired all star Gordon Hayward. The Celtics are deep experienced talented and well coached, they are the odds on favorite to come out of the east and possibly beat the Warriors for the title.
Look for even more improvement from their promising young players Jason Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
Toronto Raptors: Has Raptors G.M. Masai Ujiri ever won NBA Executive Of The Year ? If not, he should get it this year for the absolutely astounding trade that brought in top five player Kahwi Leonard for a player he needed to get rid of anyway, Demar Derozan. This was a deal that was a win for both teams and the Raptors have an oportunity to challenge Boston for the East crown while recruiting Kahwi with the hopes that he will stick around.
Philadelphia 76ers: Future success awaits this team that boast two of the top players in the league in point guard Ben Simmons and all star center Joel Embiid. As the top center (not counting Anthony Davis who is sort of a hybrid forward/center) Joel has said that he wants to win MVP this year. OK Joel, lets see what you are working with. With Boston, Toronto and Milwaukee this 76er team will help the Eastern Conference regain some of it’s past luster.
Milwaukee Bucks: The NBA general managers during the annual General Managers survey were asked which current player would they choose to start a team with? The overwhelming favorite was Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Bucks sport a new arena, new coach and supporting players poised to bolster an already weak outside shooting attack. Don’t be surprised if this team ends up as one of the top four conference contenders,in the top four Eastern Conference teams.
With outstanding rookie Mo Bamba, Orlando will start to show signs of life.
Chicago Bulls to play beneath their talent level and possibly miss the playoffs.
Rookies to watch, Wendell Carter Jr. Mo Bamba, Kevin Knox, Trae Young and Alonzo Trier
Boston to take the Warriors to seven games.
Let’s get it on !