Ladies and gentlemen, the NBA season is almost here! With tipoff right around the corner, we will have a full 82 game season with no lockout issues. After a turbulent offseason that featured names like Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum, Andre Iguodala, Joe Johnson, Jeremy Lin, Ray Allen, and James Harden all changing locations, there is plenty to look forward to as an NBA fan from now until June. It’s going to be a fun ride.
We live in a league full of stars, many of whom reside in big markets, which makes for plenty of story lines. So what are the top five NBA story lines to keep an eye out for this season?
5. Does Derrick Rose return to form?
Derrick Rose is the pulse of the Chicago Bulls, and his knee injury was absolutely devastating for the team, the city of Chicago, and the league in general. A torn ACL is never taken lightly, but it hurts a little more when it happens to someone who plays as hard and is as passionate as Rose.
We don’t know when he will return, but the team is hopeful that it will be at some point this season. They’re not going to take any risks, as you would expect with this type of injury to your franchise player. That means that this season could be a disappointing one for a team that was in the Eastern Conference Finals just two seasons ago.
Any time there is an ACL injury, you can’t help but worry about how someone’s explosiveness will recover. Derrick Rose is a player who’s game is primarily based on his athleticism, speed, and explosiveness, which leads to huge concerns about whether he can return to form. This season might be a stretch, but hopefully he can be 100% by next season.
4. Will the Knicks and Nets develop a legitimate rivalry?
With two teams calling New York home, the race to become the best team in the state is officially on. Brooklyn added Joe Johnson and brought back Deron Williams, and are hoping for a healthy Brook Lopez that remembered how to rebound. The Knicks are always in the news, for better or for worse. Linsanity has moved to Houston, but the team added a lot through free agency, although their clubhouse is slowly turning into a nursing home.
I’m still not sure that either of these teams are very good. Deron Williams hasn’t been nearly as good since he arrived in Brooklyn, and the rest of their roster is filled with overpaid players who only do one or two things well. The Knicks have their fair share of issues: whether Ray Felton can bounce back from an awful season, Stoudemire’s health, Melo’s play, and what they’ll get out of their older veterans.
The Nets and Knicks both need to be good in order for this to be a legitimate rivalry, and I’m not sure it will happen. They should both be playoff teams, but I don’t think there is any way that both of them finish in the top four in the Eastern Conference. There will be a ton of hype, but how much of it is warranted is questionable. It won’t be much of a rivalry if they battle for the 6 seed year in and year out.
3. How good are James Harden and Jeremy Lin?
The Houston Rockets all of the sudden have an intriguing situation. As I previously wrote about, the two main guys on the Rockets have never been full-time go-to guys. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook drew the attention in Oklahoma City, and Lin has still only started 25 games in his career. They are now Option A and Option B, and will have opposing teams gunning for them every night.
The combination is a strange one. Both are pick-and-roll guards that need the ball in their hands, and neither are off-the-ball slashers. You get the sense that when one has the ball, the other will just be standing in the corner waiting for a kick out. Neither are very good defensively, and you have to get the sense that they will get torched by quick backcourts.
There will be a ton of news stories on this combination, but I’m skeptical at the moment. I have a hard time believing that both of them will live up to the hype, and earn their contracts.
2. Will the Lakers be as dominant as they are on paper?
This team should be absolutely dominant. They have the best big center in the league, one of the best shooting guards ever, the most skilled big man in the league, and a point guard who is one of the best at getting his teammates the ball in the right spots. But they still have to play the games.
There are a few points here. Kobe Bryant might try to install “Kobe Ball” all season, where he decides not to pass and take every shot. This takes the offense completely out of rhythm, and it’s just not efficient basketball, particularly on a team this talented. Dwight Howard’s health is a concern, although it looks like he should be in pretty good shape. As always, we never know what to expect out of Metta World Peace. They’ll need his defense and perimeter shooting, which shouldn’t be too much to ask. They really don’t have a contingency plan for Metta, as Matt Barnes went to the other Los Angeles team.
They should be the Western Conference favorite, and the main challenger to the defending champion Miami Heat. But things don’t always go according to plan.
1. Can LeBron repeat last season’s performance?
Simply put, LeBron James was brilliant last season. He did everything you could possibly do for your team, which is why he won MVP, and eventually his first NBA championship. He initiated the offense, finished the offense, guarded every position, rebounded, and did anything else you could think of. It was an unbelievable run, and a much deserved ring.
Can he keep doing it? We know he has the ability, but it’s tough to ask that much of anyone year in and year out. With the Miami Heat going small, LeBron will have to play a lot more minutes as the power forward, which could lead to some extra fatigue. He can do it, but it will wear him down at least a little.
This is where he can make his legacy. LeBron has his first ring, and he is in a position to start racking up the total. Is it really unrealistic to think he can win two more over the next three years?
-Mark Evans, Assistant Manager/Editor of Content
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