The 2021-22 NBA season is lastly upon us. On Tuesday night time, the Milwaukee Bucks will get their championship rings before taking on the Brooklyn Nets. Within the nightcap, the Los Angeles Lakers will host the Golden State Warriors. As is the case with the beginning of each NBA marketing campaign, there are every kind of storylines that must be entrance and heart in your fan radar. Under I’ve listed 20 of them, beginning with the mess in Philadelphia.
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This would possibly really feel a bit drained at this level, however when the clock is ticking on a big-name participant being traded, it should be excessive drama till it occurs. And make no mistake: it is going to occur. Simmons is gone from Philly. Within the meantime, can the 76ers afford to let him play? Maybe solely on the highway? Doc Rivers says he’ll play when he is prepared, however that leaves a number of room for interpretation. If he does go well with up at house, these Philadelphia followers are going to be brutal, and if it will get in Simmons’ head and he performs badly, that may solely damage his commerce worth. The place Simmons finally finally ends up, and what sort of package deal the Sixers get in return, are the 2 largest questions within the league coming into the season.
The Lakers actually went out on a limb in buying and selling for Russell Westbrook, who, as a high-usage non-shooter, doesn’t seem to suit AT ALL alongside LeBron James. Westbrook ought to be capable of thrive alongside Anthony Davis in non-LeBron lineups, strengthening the Lakers’ bench and thus lifting their regular-season profile. However when the ball inevitably results in LeBron’s palms and Westbrook, one of many worst 3-point shooters ever, is relegated to an off-ball position, how is that this going to go? In some way, it is must-see.
3. The start of LeBron’s finish?
It feels blasphemous to even counsel that LeBron James won’t be one of many high two or three gamers within the league, but it surely has to occur sooner or later. LeBron is not going to fall off a proverbial cliff, however there’ll begin to be indicators right here and there that he is in decline (there already are in the event you look intently). This will probably be LeBron’s nineteenth season. He’ll flip 37 earlier than the flip of the calendar. It is true, earlier than he and Anthony Davis fell to accidents, LeBron had the Lakers buzzing final season and was a top-five MVP candidate. A few of that, I feel, was media created, however there absolutely weren’t any dramatic indicators of decline. That mentioned, LeBron does not energy via defenders on his solution to the ring fairly the identical method anymore, and as soon as he has to depend on his 3-point shot extra (he is already doing this), that is the place we may see a a lot much less dominant model of LeBron emerge. Once more, it has to occur sooner or later. The Lakers are hoping it will get delay one other 12 months.
It does not sound prefer it. Irving seems absolutely dedicated to not getting the vaccine, and the Nets, for now, aren’t going to let him play till he generally is a full participant — that means he’s cleared to play in each highway and house video games. I suppose the Nets may change their stance as properly, however for now we’ve got the most effective gamers within the league throwing a proverbial wrench within the championship aspirations of arguably the league’s finest group on paper.
5. Will the Warriors make a commerce?
They’ve the younger items to make a big transfer. However will they? Even when Klay Thompson comes again at or close to 100% of his previous self, Golden State nonetheless feels one participant away from true rivalry. Possibly that is not true. Possibly Jordan Poole actually is Steph Curry Lite. Possibly Otto Porter Jr. will shoot 42 % from 3 and play protection. Possibly Draymond Green will probably be a scoring menace. Possibly James Wiseman will probably be playable. However in the long run, the surest method for the Warriors to develop into a top-tier contender once more is to sacrifice a number of the future for a win-now veteran whereas Curry continues to be in his prime. Will they pull the set off?
6. Is the Giannis takeover upon us?
Giannis Antetokounmpo’s sport went to a different degree this previous postseason, when he lastly discovered his place as an off-ball powerhouse. No extra standing on the high of the important thing with a dwell dribble attempting to drive his solution to the rim. He grew to become the screener. The curler. He was unstoppable as an offensive rebounder. He discovered his free-throw stroke. He ditched, for essentially the most half, the 3-pointers and have become a 15-foot face-up menace. He is at all times been a harmful defender and transition drive. If Giannis, who continues to be simply 26 years previous, builds on all this and takes his dominance to an excellent greater degree, there won’t be something any group within the league — tremendous or in any other case — can do in regards to the Bucks repeating.
The Hawks took everybody unexpectedly by making it inside two wins of the NBA Finals final season. Now they must observe that up with a bullseye on their again. I feel they are going to, and that is a special form of validation for Younger. Atlanta, by my estimation, is a top-three team in the East. Younger goes to place up monster numbers, and with the system there for Atlanta to leap into the realm of legit contenders, it’s properly inside cause for Younger to crack the MVP dialog.
8. Luka and KP
We all know Luka Doncic, the betting favourite to win MVP, goes to be spectacular. It is intriguing sufficient simply to see how far he can single-handedly take the Mavericks. However the X-factor of all X-factors is Kristaps Porzingis. He is been largely written off, but it surely wasn’t that way back that he was a dominant offensive drive within the 2020 Bubble playoffs. I’ve a humorous feeling KP goes to come back out on hearth, and if he does, and retains it up, the Mavericks are tremendous harmful.
9. The non-super Nets
Tremendous groups are dumb. It is nothing greater than one of the best athletes ganging up at recess towards the chess group in an efficient effort to keep away from having to compete. Actual opponents break up up, no less than to some extent, and go at it. You will by no means change my thoughts on that. Now, I am exhausting pressed to not name a group with Kevin Durant and James Harden a superteam, however the unfastened definition of such a squad has develop into three legit stars taking part in collectively. You virtually must have two stars lately, or one celebrity and two All-Stars. Three prime superstars is when it turns into completely weak from a aggressive standpoint.
Kyrie Irving, no less than for now, has pulled the plug on that tri-star gang-up, and now, to me, the Nets develop into a way more fascinating group. They’re nonetheless in all probability essentially the most gifted roster within the league with Durant and Harden main a deep group of actually good position gamers, however the discrepancy between them and the Bucks, or even perhaps the Hawks within the East, not to mention the highest groups within the West, wouldn’t look like so large that they’ll coast to a title on expertise alone. They are going to actually must earn this. That is going to be enjoyable to observe as Durant, whom many individuals have elevated best-player-in-the-league standing, nonetheless has to ascertain his championship deserves sans Stephen Curry.
10. Steph Curry looking historical past
Stephen Curry enters the season 142 3-pointers shy of breaking Ray Allen’s all-time document of two,973 profession makes. It took Allen 1,300 video games to get there. Getting into Tuesday night time’s opener. Curry had performed simply 762 profession video games. Final season, Curry made a profession excessive 5.3 3-pointers per sport. If he retains that tempo this season, he may have the document properly earlier than Christmas.
11. Standard Blazers?
Portland employed a brand new coach (Chauncey Billups) and as soon as once more tried to tinker across the edges of its roster fairly than make a splash transfer, however has that group basically modified? If the preseason is any indication, they nonetheless stink at protection. Maybe a commerce continues to be a chance (CJ McCollum for Ben Simmons, anybody?), however till that occurs, the Blazers, except Larry Nance Jr. actually transforms them defensively, look like minimize from the identical fabric as at all times: Damian Lillard and McCollum having to create and make sufficient extraordinarily troublesome pictures to compensate for his or her incapability to cease anybody on the opposite finish. That system, we have seen, has a cap, and although we have put this story to mattress for the second, we’re nonetheless one Lillard commerce request away from a possible Portland teardown.
Chicago seems to be like a blast offensively. Zach LaVine is able to take the Devin Booker leap — which is to say dumb persons are going to must cease decreasing his elite scoring prowess to the good-stats-bad-team barrel of irrelevance. If Chicago generally is a good group, that’s. That comes right down to protection. If the Bulls can piece collectively their bottom safety, there’s cause for optimism on the skin with Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso and Patrick Williams all good defenders and LaVine able to pulling greater than his weight.
13. LaMelo Ball is life
There is no such thing as a method to not be pumped to observe LaMelo this season. If his confidence wasn’t already overflowing, it absolutely must be now after the rookie season he turned in. The sport is simply simple for him. In contrast to his older brother, Lonzo, who was additionally heralded as a spotlight passer coming into the league however had turned out to be extra of a meat-and-potatoes half-court passer, LaMelo drops “SportsCenter” dimes in his sleep. His capturing was method higher than anybody anticipated final season, which forces defenders to crowd his area, and that opens up the passing. LaMelo had a six-week stretch final season throughout which he regarded like an All-Star. He won’t be far off from that distinction.
14. Can Zion win the scoring title?
Final season, Zion Williamson averaged 29.3 factors per 36 minutes — the identical quantity as Kevin Durant. If he can get to the free-throw line a couple of extra instances per sport, and convert these freebies someplace nearer to 75 % (just below 70 % final season), he can have an sincere shot to win the scoring title regardless of having to do all his injury from contained in the arc. Zion is must-see TV for his mix of energy and athleticism, and he is nifty along with his footwork and alter of course in ways in which a person of his construct should not have any enterprise pulling off. One of many 5 most enjoyable gamers within the league to observe.
15. The Heat is again on
After following up their 2020 Finals run with a relative dud final season, the Warmth look primed to problem for a top-four seed within the East and as soon as once more be a nightmare matchup within the playoffs. Kyle Lowry does a lot for this group. Assuming he does not fall off dramatically (which is at all times a chance for a man who will flip 36 earlier than the season is over), Lowry offers Miami the off-the-dribble 3-point menace that Jimmy Butler does not pose as a pick-and-roll initiator, and he is a terrific off-ball participant, too, which inserts completely with Butler and Bam Adebayo nonetheless controlling a lot of the half-court offense. Tyler Herro must be a Sixth Man of the Yr candidate, and Duncan Robinson will probably be as deadly as ever. Here is to hoping Lowry’s presence as an offensive organizer nudges Butler again towards a score-first mentality.
George has develop into a media punching bag, and for essentially the most half it is ridiculous. He is made some questionable feedback and he is had a handful of dreadful playoff performances, however he’s a such an unimaginable basketball participant. He was superior with out Kawhi Leonard in final 12 months’s postseason, and with Leonard probably out for the whole thing of this season, that is George’s probability to remind individuals that he’s completely a lead-dog celebrity on this league.
I’d argue, actually, that he’s higher because the clear No. 1 of an offense than as a 1B, which he has needed to steadiness alongside Leonard and Russell Westbrook courting again to his quick tenure in Oklahoma Metropolis. It is to not say George hasn’t performed properly as a 1B; he completed third in 2018-19 MVP voting taking part in with Westbrook, and he is shot higher than 41 % from 3 in each his seasons with the Clippers. However I feel he may be ever higher this season, and the Clippers may shock lots of people who’re anticipating this to be a misplaced season with out Leonard.
17. The rookies
That is going to be a wildly entertaining rookie class. Cade Cunningham will get Luka Doncic comparisons for a cause. Jalen Inexperienced goes to have a completely inexperienced mild in Houston. Jalen Suggs has management of the Orlando offense. Evan Mobley would possibly find yourself one of the best participant of all of them. And if you have not watched a lot of Josh Giddey in Oklahoma Metropolis this preseason, I counsel you get that in your to-do checklist.
With Jamal Murray out for doubtlessly the complete common season, Jokic has the tall order of carrying the Nuggets into the playoffs via the brutal Western Convention. He is not alone by any means. Denver is deep. Michael Porter Jr. may be a star. Aaron Gordon offers the Nuggets two-way athleticism and a 3rd scorer. However Murray is irreplaceable, and Jokic has the added expectations of matching his MVP season from a 12 months in the past. We have gotten used to the Nuggets being penciled into the top-half of the West, however that’s in actual jeopardy this season.
19. Sleeping on the Suns
Keep in mind that group that went to the Finals final season? It does not appear to be we have heard a lot about them in relation to title discuss. You get the impression individuals suppose the identical of the Suns that they considered the 2019-20 Warmth, which is to say their Finals run was, dare I say, one thing of a fluke in a bizarre season. I do not suppose that is true, however I additionally do not suppose Phoenix is among the 5 finest groups within the league. The Suns simply signed Mikal Bridges long run, however Deandre Ayton wasn’t prolonged and also you marvel how, or if, that can impression his strategy as he goals for a max supply in restricted free company subsequent summer time. Like LeBron, an ageing Chris Paul cannot stay elite for the remainder of time.
20. No crying in Boston
Together with 3-point shooters now not being rewarded with a bogus foul name for his or her contorted capturing motions meant solely to attract defensive contact, new Celtics coach Ime Udoka making it clear that his group is not going to be a bunch of crybabies with officers may be one of the best factor I’ve heard in a very long time. Whining to officers is an NBA epidemic. Udoka is not having it. He benched Grant Williams for griping to the refs in a preseason game, and one can solely hope he sticks to his weapons when the video games depend, although I doubt he’ll if it is Jayson Tatum complaining. Nonetheless, you need to love the sentiment.
“You guys play via performs and transfer onto the subsequent factor and let me be the man that complains to the refs,” Udoka mentioned early in coaching camp. “However that is not the group we wish to be and that is not who I’m, so I do not need the group to start out crying about each name.”
Reward the basketball gods.
https://www.cbssports.com/nba/information/20-nba-storylines-for-2021-22-season-lebron-james-vs-father-time-ben-simmons-saga-nets-minus-kyrie-irving/ | 20 NBA storylines for 2021-22 season: LeBron James vs. Father Time, Ben Simmons saga, Nets minus Kyrie Irving