By Max Lemmon
Well, it is safe to say that my finals predictions last year were wrong. In case you did not read it, I predicted that either the Bucks, Thunder, or Rockets would be able to beat the Warriors last year, and I went zero-for-three. The past few months have seen many curve balls thrown: Toronto’s unprecedented run through the East and eventual victory over the Warriors in the finals, the Bucks’ choking, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to the Clippers, Russell Westbrook to the Rockets, Anthony Davis to the Lakers, Jimmy Butler to the Heat, DeAngelo Russell to the Warriors, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to the Nets, and so on. With the league being completely flipped on its head, I have taken it upon myself to make sense of all these moves in as unbiased a manner as possible.
Let us start with the Clippers. This team is going to be one of the best defensive teams ever. Their new starting lineup features four all-defensive players in Kawhi Leonard, a former Defensive Player of the Year winner, an all-defensive player last year, Paul George, last years DPOY runner-up and first team all defense, Patrick Beverley, the most notoriously aggressive defender in the NBA, Montrezl Harrell, a solid shot-blocking big, and Maurice Harkless, another solid defender. Plus, they have got Lou Williams, possibly the greatest sixth man of all time coming off the bench, adding elite level scoring to an already deep and well-rounded team. If none of that makes any sense to you, Vegas gives them the best odds at winning the 2020 title with +350 odds.
Next, let us address Los Angeles’s other title contending team, the Lakers. Vegas gives them the second best odds at +400, and for good reason: they are led by arguably the greatest player of all time, Lebron James. Not only that, but the Lakers’ front-office has finally done their job and given this man a competent superstar to play with. Anthony Davis is the right-hand man that Lebron James has been looking for.
Finally, for the last powerhouse of the west, we have the Rockets, who traded Chris Paul for Russell Westbrook. I’m not quite sure what either side was thinking when they made this trade, but Westbrook’s title dreams just got a whole lot more realistic. This coming season, Mike D’Antoni will have two of the best guards in NBA history in his backcourt. The two MVP’s, James Harden and Russell Westbrook, are both capable of putting up a 50 point triple-double if they so please. Pair them with Clint Capela, one of the best young bigs in the league, and we will witness him average 30 points on 80 percent shooting off the alley-oops alone. Not only this, but Westbrook is finally on a team with some floor spacing, which will take a huge amount of stress off his shoulders, since he won’t be hounded by three defenders on every drive to the rim. He will finally have kick-out options to shooters who don’t have seizures in the middle of each release (ahem ANDRE ROBERSON ahem), which means more output from him and the team. How James Harden and Westbrook determine usage will be interesting, since they are both super ball dominant, but at the very least, we’ll see Westbrook break his streak of first round exits.
Excuse me? What was that in the back? I forgot the Warriors? Well, news flash, Dub Nation, the dynasty is over. Sure Curry is still a monster, and D-Lo is looking amazing, but if we’re being honest, the Warriors aren’t making it past the second round. An already very shallow team, losing Kevin Durant to the Nets and Klay to injury spelled disaster for the Warriors. That’s right, no more Slim Reaper, no more Splash Bros, no more bailouts, no more Death Lineup, it’s over. Don’t get me wrong, a core of Curry, D-Lo and Draymond is pretty formidable, but nowhere near what it will take to win it all again. I predict a first or second round exit, and Vegas gives them +1400 odds to win it all.
Now, to the east, where we have a new rivalry between the Nets and the Bucks. In a blockbuster trade, the Nets gained KD for De Angelo and a few trash bags, and signed Kyrie Irving, instantly turning them into one of the most lethal offensive threats in the NBA, assuming Durant comes back sometime this season. Featuring a starting five of Kevin Durant, the league’s best scorer, Kyrie Irving, the league’s best finisher and ball-handler, Joe Harris, the three-point-champ, Spencer Dinwiddie, another prolific three-point shooter, and Deandre Jordan, an ultra athletic big. It is unclear what exactly to expect from this team on the defensive end, but it is safe to say that we will see some serious offensive output, and Giannis will at least get a run for his money in the East.
The NBA is truly where amazing happens; this offseason has shown us that. Whether you are a Warriors fan or not, it is clear that this upcoming NBA season will bring back competitiveness in the East and West, along with some bright new stars and stories. It will surely be a pleasure to cover them in the coming months, so that my dedicated fan base of three students and four teachers can receive the information they need to know from a vastly qualified source such as myself. Get ready for some fun this year, everyone.