The NBA regular season tipped off on Tuesday, Oct. 25. There are many compelling storylines to keep an eye on as the season progresses. How do LeBron and the Cavaliers deal with complacency after bringing Cleveland its first championship since 1964? Will the Warriors regret their summer frenzy, as they gutted half of their team (a roster that won an NBA record 73 games) in order to lure Kevin Durant? Will the Knicks finally become relevant with the additions of Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose? Will the acquisition of Al Horford by the Celtics, or of Dwight Howard by the Hawks, swing the balance of power in the East? The answers to these questions will go a long way in determining who will be hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy come June. The Argus won’t try to answer these questions per se, but will leave you with some thoughts on some teams and players to watch this year, while also selecting an MVP, and lastly a champion.
Each year, there are a couple of players who come out from the shadows and cement themselves as stars in the NBA. This year, there will be two players who really take that next step and show fans and critics alike that they are to be respected as All-Stars in this league. The first player is Devin Booker. Booker, entering his second season out of Kentucky, is undoubtedly the Suns’ best player. He showed it as a rookie, averaging nearly 14 points per game along with three rebounds and three assists. The problem for Booker was that his team last season was just plain bad. The Suns missed the playoffs, so Booker has yet to become a household name. This lack of team success does not mean that NBA players have not taken notice of Booker’s potential. Indeed, LeBron James himself named Booker the next up-and-coming superstar in the NBA. If anyone has an eye for talent, it’s LeBron. Look for Devin Booker, who turns 20 on Oct. 30 (he played his entire rookie season as a teenager), to elevate his game and be in the All-Star discussion for this season and for many seasons to come.
The second player that will establish himself as a star in the NBA this season is Atlanta Hawks guard Dennis Schröder. Schröder had been in Jeff Teague’s shadow ever since entering the league in 2013. With Teague’s departure for the Pacers, the Hawks are now Schröder’s team. Head Coach Mike Budenholzer has given the German guard the keys to the engine. At just 23 years old, Schröder’s potential is limitless. Playing with a motivated Howard shouldn’t hurt either. The development of Schröder’s jump shot will be the factor that determines the heights he will or will not reach. Even if he cannot consistently hit from mid range, he has traits very similar to those of Rajon Rondo like uncanny vision and enormous wingspan that will separate him from other points guards. The sky is the limit for Schröder, and he is on an upward trajectory.
The surprise team in the NBA this season will be the Utah Jazz. After just missing the playoffs last season, and not having made the playoffs since 2012, the Jazz will be a top-three team in the West. They bolstered their previously inexperienced roster this offseason with the additions of veteran forward Boris Diaw and sharpshooter Joe Johnson. The leadership and experience brought by Diaw and Johnson will allow the young nucleus of the Jazz to thrive. Utah already possesses the best defensive big man tandem in the entire league with Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert manning the paint. Favors and Gobert are two behemoths that gave the Warriors fits last year. The big men were quick enough to switch onto, and stay in front of, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson on the perimeter while also having the length to deter the Splash Brothers from even thinking about shooting over them. With Gordon Hayward leading the way, the Jazz will go from 40 wins to somewhere in the 52-55 win range and will establish themselves as serious contenders come the postseason.
Chris Paul will be the NBA MVP this year. Even at 31 years old, Paul is still point guard royalty. He and the Clippers have been on the brink for what seems like forever. This is the season where they will distinguish themselves as the clear-cut, second-best team in the West. With the Spurs taking a step back and the Thunder losing Durant, the Clippers are primed to leapfrog their way up to the two seed come playoff time. Paul will have a healthy Blake Griffin, something that could not be said last season. Along with Griffin, Paul will have a rejuvenated, gold-medal toting Deandre Jordan, three-point shooter J.J. Redick, and arguably the greatest sixth man of all time, Jamal Crawford, to distribute the ball to. Paul’s assist totals will be almost inhuman at the end of the season. Paul understands that his window of opportunity is rapidly closing. He will seize the moment and the Clippers will enjoy a great deal of success this season. Paul will deservingly be awarded the league MVP.
NBA Finals Prediction
Although it is nearly eight months away, the NBA Finals matchup is set in stone. The trilogy. Cavaliers versus Warriors. LeBron versus Curry, and now Durant.
Whether Super Teams in the NBA are good for the league or not is another discussion entirely. That being said, the Warriors will be crowned NBA Champions. They are just too talented. Yes, they lost a bevy of key contributors from last season and seasons past, but they added Kevin Durant, arguably the most talented basketball player of this generation. Durant, grouped with Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, and Steph Curry is a lineup unlike any other in the history of the league. The Warriors will be impossible to defend. They can all shoot (even Draymond is a plus shooter) which invariably stretches the floor and gives them all the more room to operate on the wings. LeBron and the Cavs will not have enough to deter a Warriors team that is on a collision course with history.