The NBA is a lot. It’s one of the only sports leagues where the season really is year round. After the season, it seems like the NBA Draft is right there. After the draft comes free agency, which can last almost a month. Then we get into trade season, and right before our eyes training camp is upon us. It really is a 12 month sport.
Because of this, it’s nearly impossible for the casual fan to keep up with everything that’s going on in the league. So, we thought it’d be cool to make a guide to the 2018 NBA season for those people who aren’t necessarily caught up with the biggest story lines, but want to be informed. If you’re a die hard NBA fan, it still might be nice to hear a refresher. Like I said, a lot has happened since the season finished. So, here’s your official All Around Guide to the 2018-2019 NBA Season.
LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers
In the 1990’s the NBA revolved around Michael Jordan. In the 2000’s, it revolved around Kobe Bryant (among others). In the 2010’s, the NBA revolves around one player: LeBron James. This summer, LeBron James decided to take his talents west and join the Los Angeles Lakers, a move that still seems surreal for many NBA fans. James has been in the Eastern Conference his whole life, and the move west signifies a new chapter in James’ life.
The team around him isn’t necessarily great. James is joining a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2013. Remember, when James joined the Cleveland Cavaliers for the second time back in 2014, the team already had a star in point guard Kyrie Irving. James’ new team, the Lakers, are a very different situation.
The closest thing to a star they have is probably 3rd year pro Brandon Ingram, who is leaps and bounds behind where Kyrie Irving was as a player back in 2014. Leading this team to the playoffs will definitely be a challenge for James, especially after spending his whole career in a much weaker Eastern Conference.
Most people are predicting the Lakers to finish anywhere from the 4th seed in the west to the 9th, which would mean they would miss the playoffs. I think it’s pretty easy to bet your money on the best player in the world making the playoffs, even in a really tough conference. There’s enough talent around James to do some damage during the regular season, but no one knows how far the team can really go. I think teams like Golden State, Houston, Oklahoma City, Utah, and Denver are all a lot better than the Lakers. Yet, the best player in the world is on the team. I think the Lakers will finish around 7th in the west, giving James & co a tough assignment in the first round of the playoffs.
Somehow The Warriors Got Even Better
The Warriors have been the best team in the NBA for what seems like forever. Even when the Cavaliers beat the Warriors back in 2016, it was evident that the Warriors were the best team. Somehow, this summer they got even better by signing 4x All-Star Center DeMarcus Cousins. When healthy, Cousins in one of the best centers, if not the best center, in the NBA. The issue is that last season he tore his achilles, an injury that is normally devastating and/or career ending for a lot of NBA athletes. Most players just are never the same after that specific injury. Because of this, the Warriors were able to get Cousins at an extreme discount. Cousins signed with the Warriors for the mid-level exception, turning out to be $5.3 million for one season.
If you hear someone saying how the “Warriors ruined the NBA” by signing Cousins, know they’re probably not the smartest individual. The Warriors did something that 29 other teams had the chance to do. There weren’t any offers out for Cousins due to his injury, which will most likely limit him until January or so (at the best). He most likely won’t be the same player he was before the devastating injury, which is a shame because Cousins was probably the best center in the NBA before he went down.
The Warriors are probably going to win the Finals again this year. However, this isn’t necessarily because of Cousins. They probably would have won it without him. The Warriors are an all time great team that just got a little better this offseason, with the chance to get a lot better if Cousins proves to be the same player he was before the achilles tear.
The 3-team Race for the Eastern Conference
The Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, and Toronto Raptors are all much more talented than the rest of the teams in the Eastern Conference.
The Boston Celtics are going to get back Forward Gordon Hayward from a gruesome injury he sustained during opening night of the NBA season last year. Hayward’s injury was hard to watch, and from the first quarter of the first game of the season, the Celtics had to overcome adversity. Point guard Kyrie Irving was out for the end of the regular season and playoffs for the team. The Celtics were without their two best players, relying heavily on rookie phenom Jayson Tatum during the playoffs. The Celtics went blow for blow with a LeBron James-led Cavaliers team and were mere points away from an NBA Finals appearance without their two best players. It was really incredible to watch. The Celtics have one of the 3 best starting lineups in the NBA. Irving, Brown, Hayward, Tatum, and Horford are a formidable group no matter who they’re playing.
Speaking of teams the Celtics may play, we have to mention the Philadelphia 76ers. The 76ers lost to the Celtics last season in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, in a series that was almost all Boston. Philly brings back mostly the same group as last year, except for the notable losses of Marco Belinelli and Ersan İlyasova. Belinelli and Ilyasova were really important to the 76er’s crazy run to finish the season, as the team went on a 16-game winning streak to finish the season. The team’s progress continued into the playoffs, as it beat the Miami Heat in the first round.
The key thing to watch this season if you’re following the 76ers is point guard and former number one overall pick Markelle Fultz. The second year guard is looking to improve on his previous season, which was a weird one to say the least. Fultz pretty much forgot how to shoot…I’m not kidding. He spent his summer working with shooting guru Drew Hanlen, and his mechanics already look a lot better. If Fultz is able to live up to his number one pick potential, the 76ers will be really good. They already have two of the top 25 players in the NBA in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
The third team that I think really has a chance to get to the NBA Finals in the Eastern Conference is the Toronto Raptors. The Raptors had a huge summer, as they acquired star forward Kawhi Leonard from the San Antonio Spurs, giving up DeMar Derozan in return (among others). The Raptors are a team that really struggled once the playoffs came around. For years, they’ve been one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. Yet, when they get to the playoffs, they absolutely collapse. The Raptors let go of their head coach Dwayne Casey this off-season, choosing to hire first time head coach Nick Nurse. In my opinion, the Raptors are going to be the biggest threat to the Celtics. I think if they have a great season, Kawhi Leonard could choose to re-sign there, as he’s a free agent this summer.
Denver’s Gold Rush
The Nuggets might be NBA Twitter’s golden darlings this year. The team was one game shy of making the playoffs last season, suffering a crushing overtime loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Nuggets re-signed star center Nikola Jokic to a 5 year, $148 million contract this off-season (underpaid if you ask me). Along with Jokic, the team brought back guard/forward Will Barton, as well as drafting Michael Porter Jr. in the first round of the draft. Many believed Porter Jr. was going to be a definite top 10 pick, but he slipped to 14th overall where Denver couldn’t pass up his talent. Porter Jr. fell so far to due a back injury he suffered in college during his one year at Missouri. Porter Jr’s status to play this season is up in the air. If I were the GM of the Nuggets, I’d sit Porter Jr. for the whole year.
Michael Porter Jr. isn’t the only new Nugget who is injured. The team also signed point guard Isaiah Thomas to a one year deal. Thomas had a really rough year last season. He was traded from Boston to Cleveland in August of last year. Thomas missed a lot of time due to a hip injury that’s still affecting him. Thomas eventually got traded again, this time from the Cavaliers to the Lakers. Thomas finished out the season with LA before choosing to sign with the Nuggets in the off-season.
The Nuggets are going to be really good on offense this season. In the annual NBA GM survey, third year guard Jamal Murray was picked to have the biggest breakout season this year. Murray’s progression could really make this team lethal on offense. Forward Paul Millsap missed almost the whole season last year due to a wrist injury. Having him healthy will be really important for the team. The Nuggets have a chance to be the best offense in the NBA this year. What will make or break their season is how bad their defense is. If the team can manage to have just an okay defense, a top 4 seed in the west could be their scopes.
The Minnesota Problem
While we’re writing this, Jimmy Butler is still a member of the Wolves. That could very well change within the next few days. If you’re not familiar with the situation, let me bring you up to speed.
Last summer the Minnesota Timberwolves were involved in a trade that brought them star forward Jimmy Butler from the Chicago Bulls. The trade was perceived as a massive success for the Timberwolves, who haven’t had a player of Butler’s caliber since Kevin Love.
Butler was injured for part of the season. In those games that Butler didn’t play in, the Wolves were a below .500 team. With Butler, they were easily above .500. The issue is that Jimmy Butler doesn’t want to be in Minnesota anymore. Reports started to surface in September about Butler’s growing distrust in the organization, and lack of respect for guys like Karl Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.
Butler has an insane work ethic, and if people around him aren’t as passionate for the game, it really bugs him. This is most likely why Butler is trying to push his way out of Minnesota. He wants to go to a winning culture where he can also get paid the big bucks next season. The team that right now looks like the most likely to trade for Butler is the Miami Heat. Another team to keep your eye on is the Houston Rockets, however a trade there is somewhat unlikely. Other teams mentioned by Butler include the New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets, and Los Angeles Clippers.
It seems extremely unlikely that Butler will be there at the start of the season for the Timberwolves. Head coach Tom Thibodeau wants to keep Butler, while ownership wants to trade him. What will happen? We’ll have to wait and see.
A New Era In Dallas
If you think of the Dallas Mavericks, you most likely think of the 7 foot German legend known as Dirk Nowitzki. This is going to be Dirk’s 21st season in the NBA. To put that into perspective, the Mavericks drafted international phenom Luka Doncic this summer. Doncic is only 19 years old, compared to Nowitzki’s 40 years of age.
This presents the Mavericks with an interesting situation. The team has a mix of veterans and young players. The core of the team is rookie Luka Doncic and second year point guard Dennis Smith Jr. who had a very solid rookie year. The Mavericks also have veterans DeAndre Jordan, Harrison Barnes, Wesley Matthews, and of course, Dirk Nowitzki himself.
While most people don’t have the Mavericks in the playoffs at this moment, things could change if the team really comes together and embraces it’s weird mix of players. Regardless of the outcome, it’s going to be really fun to watch the Mavericks.
We also have to mention the behind-the-scenes issues that have gone on with the organization. This past February, a report from Sports Illustrated surfaced that detailed the horrific things that many female employees went through as being members of the Mavericks organization. One excerpt from the lengthy investigation article comes from a former employee of the Mavericks. The statement reads, “It was a real life Animal House, And I only say ‘was’ because I’m not there anymore. I’m sure it’s still going on.”
The main issues were with team President Terdema Ussery. Mark Cuban has been very apologetic in recent months, and is now donating $10 million to women’s advocate groups. While this story doesn’t pertain to the Mavericks players and team itself, I think it’s an important part of what’s going on in Dallas and should be reported.
Houston, we don’t (really) have a problem
Despite a narrow loss to the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals and earning the 1st seed in the West last season, many are expecting the Rockets to take a step back. The concern is that Houston’s defense is going to suffer after losing Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute in free agency to the Suns and Clippers respectively. More doubts came when they signed a defensive liability in Carmelo Anthony, who is coming off his worst season in the NBA. Besides Anthony, the Rockets added Marquese Chriss, James Ennis III, and Brandon Knight and Michael Carter-Williams to compete for the backup PG position.
Led by reigning league MVP, James Harden, future hall of famer Chris Paul, and defensive specialist, Clint Capela, the Rockets still appear to poise the biggest threat to Golden State in the conference. There’s certainly reason to worry about Paul’s health and Anthony’s willingness to take on a different roll, but they should still form an offensive juggernaut that can keep pace with the Warriors. They’ve also reportedly been aggressive in trade talks for Minnesota’s Jimmy Butler, who would give them the great defensive wing they’re currently missing without Ariza, plus another dynamic scorer.
Orlando’s Obsession with Length
Sorry to all Magic fans, but Orlando has been one of the worst teams in the League this decade. Since the departure of Dwight Howard, most haven’t even thought of the Magic.
Lucky for Magic fans (and fans of basketball for that matter) the team has drafted pretty well the last two seasons. In 2017 the Magic drafted 6’10 Forward Jonathan Isaac out of Florida State. While Isaac was injured for a large chunk of the season, there’s a lot to be excited for with him. The soon to be second year pro really looked good in Summer League next to the team’s 2018 first round pick Mo Bamba.
Speaking of Bamba, oh man am I excited for him. Bamba was my second favorite player going into the draft. I really thought he was at least the best Center in this draft, maybe even the best player (still do). The Magic got lucky when Bamba fell to them at 6th overall. Bamba has the largest wingspan ever recorded at the NBA Draft Combine. His ability to block shots and have a presence on defense cannot be understated.
If the Magic decide to start Isaac at Power Forward and Bamba at Center, Orlando is going to have an insane amount of length with their front court. It could be really fun to watch, and for the first time in the while, people should be excited for Orlando Magic Basketball.
The Clock is Ticking in Portland
The Blazers are entering this season under heavy pressure. The nucleus of Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, and Jusuf Nurkić have been unable to win a playoff game the last two years and many are wondering where exactly this team sits in a stacked western conference.
After saying goodbye to Ed Davis and Shabazz Napier in the offseason, Portland’s bench rotation is primarily going to consist of Evan Turner, Zach Collins, and former Maverick, Seth Curry.
Just like last season, three wins very well may be the difference between the 3rd seed in the West and the 9th. What set Portland apart last year was their good luck with avoiding major injuries, but history shows that’s unlikely to happen again. It’s a safe bet that they’ll be alive, and in the postseason mix in April, but it’s difficult to predict where they might finish when 7-8 teams will be in a similar boat. The only certainty about the Trail Blazers, is that both Lillard and McCollum will deliver several memorable Tweets.
Im trying Jennifer
— CJ McCollum (@CJMcCollum) August 15, 2018
If things don’t go well during the first half of the season for the Blazers, one piece of their core could very well be traded. The team is unlikely to part ways with Lillard as they see him as their franchise player. C.J. McCollum is the guy a lot of people expect to possibly be moved. With all these possible issues in Portland, you’ll definitely want to keep an eye out on the Blazers.
How Happy is Anthony Davis?
If you want a smart pick for the MVP of the 2018-2019 season, you’ll say Pelicans’ (for now) big man Anthony Davis. Davis had an incredible season last year, and if it wasn’t for James Harden’s brilliance would probably have won MVP. Davis is under contract with the Pelicans until 2021, but there’s a slight feeling around the league that Davis could be heading to either Boston or Golden State. This most likely won’t happen next season, but if the Pelicans under perform then Davis could very well grow unhappy in New Orleans.
This summer the team decided to not bring back DeMarcus Cousins, who we previously spoke on in the Warriors section. The team signed former Lakers forward Julius Randle to pretty much replace Cousins. New Orleans also signed guard Elfrid Payton, which is notable because their former starting point guard Rajon Rondo elected to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers, leaving a big gap in the Pelicans backcourt.
New Orleans is going to be a really interesting team to keep an eye on this season. While there’s a lot that can go wrong, there’s definitely a strong possibility that things can go right for the Pelicans. A playoff appearance is definitely within reach, though not a guarantee.
The Bucks Aren’t Kidding Around
The Milwaukee Bucks have one of the best players in the league in Giannis Antetokounmpo. The “Greek Freak” has gotten better every season he’s been in the league, with last year being no exception. Antetokounmpo averaged 27 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists last season for the Bucks. While those numbers alone are incredible, what’s even scarier is the room for growth still in Antetokounmpo’s game.
The Bucks elected to let go of former head coach Jason Kidd, and instead hired former Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer in a move that (in my opinion) was an absolute game changer. Budenholzer’s Hawks team in 2014-2015 was incredible, finishing 60-22. Budenholzer has never coached someone with Antetokounmpo’s talent. NBA fans should be ecstatic about this coaching change. It’s honestly amazing that Giannis was able to play so well under Jason Kidd. The former NBA-star proves that just because someone was a good play, it doesn’t mean they’ll be a good coach. Kidd was disastrous for the Bucks this past season, and replacing him with Budenholzer is going to move mountains for this Bucks team. Right now they’re not on par with teams like Boston and Toronto, but if things go really well, they very well could be. Even if the team stinks this year, Giannis Antetokounmpo is so good that everyone should be watching the Bucks.
New York State Of Mind
The New York Knicks oddly have something to be excited about again, after witnessing seeing their star big man Kristaps Porzingis suffer a torn ACL last season, putting an end to any playoff hopes the team had. The team selected Kentucky forward Kevin Knox with the 9th pick in this past summers draft. Knox really showed out in Sumner League, so much so that many Knicks fans are already regretting their booing of Knox on draft night.
The Knicks also drafted former McDonald’s All American Mitchell Robinson in the second round of the draft. If you really want to sound smart to your NBA friends, ask them what they thought of Robinson’s Summer League. The guy totally outplayed his second round selection and looks like an absolute steal. New York also hired former Memphis Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale this summer.
While this may not be a season where the Knicks will make the postseason, it’s going to be extremely fun to watch. With Porzingis likely being out most of the season, the team will have significantly less pressure on it. Expect to see a lot of weird upsets at Madison Square Garden this season with a Knicks team that has the potential to be the most fun it’s been in years.
There it is! We hope you enjoyed our official guide to the 2018 NBA Season. Are there any storylines that we didn’t mention that you’re really excited for? If so, leave a comment and let’s start a dialogue! Be sure to follow us on Twitter and Instagram.