The NBA’s second golden age has arrived. Michael Jordan isn’t playing anymore, but we do get to watch LeBron James, whose game seems to be a mixture of MJ’s and Magic Johnson’s. And the storylines to follow this season are almost boundless:
- LaMarcus Aldridge shocks the world and joins the five-time champion San Antonio Spurs
- The Los Angeles Clippers somehow reel in DeAndre Jordan after one of the most ridiculous (and emoji-filled) free agency debacles in NBA history
- The Oklahoma City Thunder finally welcome a new coach, Billy Donovan, who will hopefully keep Kevin Durant around
- Derrick Rose starts the year with an injury (again) while the Chicago Bulls learn a fresh offense under new head coach Fred Hoiberg
- The Golden State Warriors attempt to defend their title
- And, of course, LeBron plays the hometown hero as he tries to bring Cleveland a championship (its fans haven’t seen one in five decades, regardless of the sport)
As we head into the 70th season of the NBA, let’s look at a few plot twists in each conference.
LeBron James and The Eastern Conference
Obviously James, as the best player in the league, will take center stage again this season, especially because he’s been in the NBA Finals for five years running. The Cavaliers are going through some ugly contract negotiations with Tristan Thompson, but the good news is that Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving should be healthy for the playoffs this season.
Other teams to keep an eye on in the East are the Washington Wizards and Milwaukee Bucks. However, John Wall might not be able to do it all on his own without wily veteran Paul Pierce, and Jason Kidd’s squad might be another year or two away from actually contending with their young core that includes Chicago high school legend Jabari Parker.
The Bulls have welcomed a quality draft pick in Bobby Portis while keeping their roster almost completely intact, but it will be interesting to watch the “Who Is Chicago’s Alpha Dog?” battle between former MVP Rose and reigning Most Improved Player Jimmy Butler.
The Western Conference Chaos
The Warriors only lost David Lee from their core rotation over the summer, but it’s concerning that head coach Steve Kerr is battling a back injury this preseason and hasn’t traveled with the team yet.
The Spurs are always in the mix, and the Clippers have a much deeper bench than last season after their epic collapse in the 2015 Playoffs, were they lost to the Houston Rockets despite having a 3-1 series lead. Speaking of Houston, head coach Kevin McHale’s squad has added Ty Lawson, who had a turbulent offseason (to put it kindly) into a lineup that was already one of the most dynamic offenses in the NBA.
It feels a bit remiss to not mention budding MVP candidate Anthony Davis, although he and the New Orleans Pelicans are probably two years away from being a threat in the West.
More Storylines, More Excitement
A few other fun, off-the-wall stories to keep an eye on:
- The Los Angeles Lakers and their evolution as Kobe Bryant ages
- The New York Knicks’ fall under the tenure of Phil Jackson
- The Atlanta Hawks attempt to stay relevant after leading the East in wins last season
The 2016 NBA Finals will likely come down to James’ Cavaliers versus whoever survives the bloodbath that is the Western Conference Playoffs. One thing we can be sure of: The league has never been in a better place from a talent or entertainment perspective. The regular season kicks off Oct. 27 with Cleveland at Chicago and Detroit at Atlanta (8:00 pm ET) – followed by the defending champion Warriors taking on Anthony Davis and the Pelicans (10:30 pm ET).