This week, the NBA season begins following one of the most absurd and entertaining off-seasons in recent memory. With so many star players shifting teams and conferences, it was impossible to keep up with. It could be best described as “Manifest Destiny,” as almost everyone in the Eastern Conference migrated to the Western Conference, leading to teams in the west making large improvements to their rosters.
Notable teams to make such improvements include the Oklahoma City Thunder, who were able to trade for a pair of Eastern All-Stars in Carmelo Anthony and Paul George. Astonishingly, the Thunder were able to create a “Big 3” consisting of George, Anthony and their reigning MVP guard, Russell Westbrook, by sending bench players to the New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers. Also notable in the Western Conference is the Minnesota “TimberBulls,” formerly known as the Minnesota Timberwolves. Coached by former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, they were able to add Eastern All-Star and former Chicago Bull Jimmy Butler. They also signed former Chicago Bulls Taj Gibson and Aaron Brooks to bolster their depth. They also acquired guard Jamal Crawford, who also spent the early 2000s as a member of the Bulls, but that would be petty to bring up. The Wolves are hoping to end their 13-year long playoff drought with the help of Butler and their young stars Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony-Towns.
Unfortunately for the Timberwolves and Thunder, the NBA’s Manifest Destiny is similar to the actual thing, as not everyone who goes west will strike gold. The Golden State Warriors Mining Corporation has already been there for three years and, despite the increase in competition, will more than likely still dominate the West Coast.
The west is still going to be a lot of fun to watch despite its seemingly obvious conclusion. The conference is extremely deep and full of teams enjoyable to watch, despite the difference the Warriors have in talent. The Houston Rockets should be a top four seed in the west behind their newly formed dynamic duo of Chris Paul and James Harden. The Spurs and Gregg Popovich will, once again, defy the limitation of age and be highly competitive in the Wild West, led by their young forward, Kawhi Leonard. The New Orleans Pelicans will be interesting to say the least with their dynamic duo of bigs in Anthony Davis and DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins. They will have to claw their way into the Western Conference playoff picture, and if they don’t, perhaps they will place Cousins on the trade block given his impending NBA free agency. High scoring teams like the Portland Trail-Blazers and the Denver Nuggets will put up pinball- like numbers on the scoreboard with their offensive minded roster.
Well that was fun, now onto the unfortunate task of talking about the Eastern Conference also known as “LeBron’s Land.” The East was already considered to be inferior to the West before Manifest Destiny happened this offseason. The talent discrepancy between the West and the East is so bad that the NBA has gotten rid of the Conference vs. Conference format of the All-Star game that had been in place for the past 66 years. All you need to know about the Eastern Conference is the fact that LeBron has won the Eastern Conference for seven consecutive seasons as a member of two different teams (four with the Heat, three with the Cavs). Based on that, we can all assume what is going to happen again. There are only two teams in the east that could be considered legitimate contenders; first, there is the Boston Celtics who were coming off of a surprising season where they earned the top seed in the Eastern Conference led by their tiny dynamo point guard Isaiah Thomas. The Celtics also owned the rights to the Brooklyn Nets draft pick which wound up being the first selection. Naturally you would assume that they would maintain their roster. But instead, they did the exact opposite thing. First, they traded down to the third overall selection to choose Duke’s small forward, Jayson Tatum. Then they signed Western All-Star small forward, Gordon Hayward, reuniting with his college coach Brad Stevens. Finally, they traded Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the rights to the Nets’ 2018 first round pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for Kyrie Irving. Unfortunately, these moves depraved them of defense and rebounding which leaves them still behind the dominant Cavs.
Now onto the Cleveland Cavaliers, who have bounced back nicely from a rough offseason. The team added Dwyane Wade, Isaiah Thomas, Derrick Rose, Jeff Green, Jae Crowder and Ante Zizic which gives them arguably the deepest bench in the NBA. And LeBron James’ presence on the team essentially a guaranteed trip to the NBA Finals to meet with Golden State Warriors for the fourth consecutive time. This meeting will likely go to the Warriors, as they still remain as a Superteam that there is really no good way to match up with.
Let’s not focus on the negative though and have fun watching the NBA Season this year. Because at the end of a day, a team should not need to win a championship to be observed for our viewing pleasure.