The 2016-2017 NBA Preseason is over, and the final standings are in. What do we know? What are we excited about? Basketball! That’s what.
The rich get richer
Of all the storylines to follow during the off- and preseason, let’s address one thing right off the bat: Cleveland and GSW seem destined – now more than ever – to meet each other again in the NBA Finals, making them the first teams to meet in three consecutive finals. It’s a long time until June, but this seems the only logical outcome if you look at the field.
Kevin Durant signing with Golden State turned both him and the team into villains, and they will embrace this role, score a ton of threes and win 65+ games again this season. People were afraid of how they would integrate KD into their offense, but after a 6-1 preseason, we should be confident they’ll figure it out. Their bench took quite a hit, but they kept the crucial Andre Iguodala and coach Steve Kerr will work his magic on rotations.
Cleveland also kept the band together, with the big three all returning (which might not have happened had they lost in the finals), as well as Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and adding some nice pieces like Mike Dunleavy. But even if they just had one player, they would probably still come out of the east. LeBron James seems destined to remain the Final Boss of the East, and might even be motivated enough to go for a fifth regular-season MVP trophy.
The result is the continuation of a great rivalry, with some new flavor added to it.
They grow up so fast
Apart from the top dogs, one of the main reasons to look forward to this season is the teams whose young cores are looking to take a huge leap forward. Of these, Utah is almost guaranteed to do so under Quin Snyder. Their players are healthy and have improved year after year, they play solid defense and they also added a solid veteran in Joe Johnson.
The Milwaukee Bucks will prove to be very entertaining to watch with the growth of point guard/forward Gianni Antetekounpo and Jabari Parker. Adding Matthew Dellavedova (maybe not the best, but certainly one of my favourite point guards in the league) is a nice bonus.
But even more appealing are the two teams I detailed below.
Teams To Watch
Every season I pick one team in the east and one team in the west to watch. These teams follow a certain magic formula which make them especially appealing for the fans:
- They are unselfish and share the basketball.
- They have a great coach
- They are developing young talent
- They will improve (sometimes significantly) throughout the season
- They will win more games than last season
- They are exciting to watch
This season I’m picking the Boston Celtics in the east. They had a great offseason in which they added Al Horford to a young but talented core who continue to improve. Their coach is Brad Stevens who has managed to impress from his first days in the league. The Starters even tip him to win coach of the year, and I tend to agree. The Celtics are exciting to watch with Isaiah Thomas being one of my favourite point guards not just in the league right now, but all-time. Gerald Greene is very entertaining with both highlight dunks and his ability to get scorching hot on outside shooting. Jaylen Brown could be a dark horse for Rookie of the Year. What was really inspiring to see is how good the team atmosphere was during preseason. Every dunk was met by even better reactions from the bench. The fact that they had the best record in the east during preseason doesn’t mean anything, but it’s a nice bonus.
In the west there can be no doubt of who I pick. It’s only a matter of time before the Timberpups grow into the Timberwolves and end the longest streak of playoff-drought in the league. I believe Tom Thibodeau has the potential to be a great coach. People sometimes still paint him as a defensive specialist and knock him for his overuse of his starters and the top of his bench. While those things are true, I believe he will improve Minnesota almost immediately and as long as he watches out for overusing players he might get them back into the playoffs. If not this year, then certainly next year. The Timberwolves dismantled the Memphis Grizzlies during preseason, who – while maybe not a top-tier team – are definitely solid with some big stars like Mike Conley and Marc Gasol. They also utterly trashed the Charlotte Hornets. Let’s see if they can produce results during the actual season, versus tougher competition.
A list of things to look forward to this year (in no particular order)
– Both GSW rivalries: the villain rivalry with the LA Clippers and the Finals rivalry with the Cavs.
– Seeing KD play for the Dubs
– Jeremy Lin playing in New York again (albeit for the Brook-Lin Nets this time)
– The Lakers being fun to watch again with Russel, Ingram, Clarkson, Randle and Black
– Trust The Process; Joel Embiid is going to be great. He’s technically still a rookie, so it’s great to see his preseason tussle with Detroit’s Andre Drummond. He responded through his play, and showed he doesn’t back down from anyone. It will be exciting to watch someone with his combination of size, skillset and spirit.
– Boston’s Jaylen Brown
– BKN-NYK might actually become a nice in-town rivalry
– Russel Westbrook has been completely unleashed in OKC and Steven Adams continues to improve, which makes for a great combo.
– Defensive highlights from the Orlando Magic
– The old guy show in Chicago
– The Perpetual Drama in Sacramento
– Blake Griffin is a superstar (look at the handles and drop-off at 1:05)
– Miles Turner being the second best player on the Pacers
Two Random Preseason Awards:
How the pros prep for the season
One of the best parts of the NBA season revving back up to full speed is The Starters Season Preview: 72 Burning Questions. Skeets, Tas, Leigh and Trey cover everything and then some in a 9-part YouTube epic. I embedded Part 1 below and you will find links to the other parts below the video.
NBA Season Preview Part 2 – The Starters
NBA Season Preview Part 3 – The Starters
NBA Season Preview Part 4 – The Starters
NBA Season Preview Part 5 – The Starters
NBA Season Preview Part 6 – The Starters
NBA Season Preview Part 7 – The Starters
NBA Season Preview Part 8 – The Starters
NBA Season Preview Part 9 – The Starters