- Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Basketball is back!
After a busy offseason filled with blockbuster trades sending All-Star players to rival teams, on Tuesday night the 2017-18 season officially tips off with two marquee matchups that will give basketball fans the world over their first look at some of the league’s newest lineups of superstars and might even be a preview of the conference finals – Boston Celtics at Cleveland Cavaliers and Houston Rockets at Golden State Warriors.
There’s plenty for basketball fans to love about the NBA’s return, both on and off the court.
Below we’ll take a look at why we are excited to see the NBA back in action.
No one backed down from the Warriors
Facing perhaps the greatest collection of talent the NBA has ever seen, NBA teams did not bow to Golden State, but instead went to ridiculous lengths to challenge them. The Rockets, Thunder, Wolves, Celtics, and Cavs all made major moves to challenge the Warriors this offseason.
Making it even more fun was the transactions looked as if they were spawned from the minds of over-excited fantasy basketball players. Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to the Thunder for the price for a few role players? Sure. The greatest point guard of his generation in Chris Paul joining a player who had career year as a point guard in James Harden? Why not? Kyrie Irving demanding to leave LeBron James and gets sent to… the Cavs’ biggest challengers? Of course!
It’s possible that none of this changes the outcome of this season, but it’s exciting to see NBA teams rise to the challenge in increasingly wild ways. The jelling of these newfound super-team teams and how they measure up to Golden State makes this as exciting a regular season as we’ve seen in years.
– Scott Davis
Trash talk and subtweets
- Jamie Squire/Getty Images
We’ve already had three Twitter subplots take over the timelines of NBA fans since the Warriors won their second title in three years back in June. Kevin Durant got busted using a burner account to respond to trolls who dunked on him for leaving Oklahoma City, Joel Embiid is calling Hassan Whiteside “EXTREMELY ASS,” and LeBron James called the sitting president of the United States a bum.
Twitter is usually bad, but basketball offers something of a respite to those looking to escape the constant deluge of hot takes and crippling self-doubt that the site can induce. While it’s a complete mystery as to what social subplots will takeover this season, there will undoubtedly be plenty of them, ranging from who liked whose Instagram post to Embiid finally getting that date with Rihanna he’s been pushing for for years.
– Tyler Lauletta
Players getting political
The NFL season has seen more vocal activism from players on the field than any before it, spurned on by President Trump’s continued insistence that players that don’t stand for the national anthem be fired.
Trump would have a tougher time going after what is without question the most progressive of the four major sports leagues. Players and coaches across the league have already proven themselves adept at criticizing the president’s divisive comments with insight and empathy, whether it’s coming from Gregg Popovich or LeBron James or any number of other prominent figures in the league.
If the worlds of politics and sports are destined to continue overlapping in the coming months, it will be interesting to see how NBA stars react should President Trump take similar umbrage with their actions.
- Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
This year’s rookie class has been called one of the most compelling in history, and no, that’s not just because of Lonzo Ball. The Lakers’ new point guard has already captured the attention of the league with his highlight reel passes (and his outspoken father, LaVar Ball), but he’s far from the only first-year to keep an eye on this season.
The No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, Markelle Fultz, will be fighting to get a fascinating 76ers team back to the playoffs. The Celtics, widely considered the main threat to unseat the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference, have a star rookie of their own in Jayson Tatum, who’s drawn comparisons to Carmelo Anthony.
Across the country, point guards De’Aaron Fox and Dennis Smith Jr. will try to continue the terrific talent they showed as freshmen in Sacramento and Dallas, respectively. Even Milos Teodosic, an international star with a Steve Nash-like passing touch, will be making his NBA debut for the Clippers. Expectations for this class are high, and I’m ready to watch them play in games that actually count.
– Sam Belden
- Abbie Parr/Getty Images
After years of collecting assets and Trusting the Process, the Sixers are ready to push their chips to the center of the table and see if their bet pays off in the 2017-18 season.
Philadelphia traded up to snag Markelle Fultz with the first overall pick in the 2017 draft and paid veteran sharpshooter J.J. Redick $9 million on a one-year deal to bring him to the City of Brotherly Love. Ben Simmons will be ready to go, and the team also extended Joel Embiid with a deal worth $147 million despite playing just 31 games in his first three seasons combined.
With all the pieces now in place, this is the first year Philadelphia fans will see the results of Sam Hinkie’s masterplan.
Even if you aren’t a die-hard Process Truster like me, the Sixers will at the very least be an interesting team to watch on League Pass.
– Tyler Lauletta
Dunks are the simplest pleasure basketball can offer. Whether it’s a posterizing dunk that destroys a defender, or a gorgeous alley from half court that reaches its destination for the oop unscathed, there are few instances in sport more truly athletic.
Images like the one above etch their places into our memories, and while we might not remember the specific instance of the slam, the snapshot will always evoke a feeling of “Oh man that was awesome.”
Scrolling through Twitter for the next few months, you never know when a random Thursday will turn into The Night Blake Griffin Destroyed the Jazz.
- Zhong Zhi/Getty Images
Most Valuable Player
Sam Belden: Russell Westbrook Scott Davis: Kawhi Leonard Cork Gaines: LeBron James Tyler Lauletta: James Harden Brett LoGiurato: LeBron James
Defensive Player of the Year
SB: Kawhi Leonard SD: Rudy GolbertCG: Rudy GobertTL: Rudy GobertBL: Rudy Golbert
Rookie of the Year
SB: Dennis Smith Jr. SD: Ben Simmons CG: Dennis Smith TL: Ben Simmons BL: Lonzo Ball
Most Improved Player
SB: Brandon Ingram SD: Devin BookerCG: D’Angelo Russell TL: D’Angelo Russell BL: D’Angelo Russell
Sixth Man of the Year
SB: Jamal Crawford SD: Dario Saric CG: Andre Iguodala TL: Milos Teodosic BL: Jamal Crawford
Coach of the Year
SB: Tom Thibodeau SD: Brad Stevens CG: Scott Brooks TL: Jason Kidd BL: Erik Spoelstra
Eastern Conference Finals
SB: Cavs over Celtics in 6 SD: Celtics over Cavs in 7 CG: Cavs over Wizards in 7 TL: Bucks over Celtics in 7 BL: Cavs over Celtics in 7
Western Conference Finals
SB: Warriors over Rockets in 4 SD: Warriors over Rockets in 6 CG: Warriors over Rockets in 5 TL: Rockets over Thunder in 7 BL: Warriors over Spurs in 6
2018 NBA Finals
SB: Warriors over Cavs in 6 SD: Warriors over Celtics in 5CG: Warriors over Cavs in 5 TL: Rockets over Bucks in 7 BL: Cavs over Warriors in 7
Now check out the potential break out star from each team in the NBA this year