The NBA regular season starts this coming Tuesday with an epic opener – the Boston Celtics playing the new Miami Heat! And later that night, the Lakers take on the Houston Rockets to open their season.
With LeBron’s “decision,” the Lakers coming off back-to-back titles, Kevin Durant’s scoring title and emergence as, perhaps, one of the best players in the league, it’s going to be an exciting and interesting season. Here are five plotlines I can’t wait to see unfold:
- How will the Lakers fare? The Lakers are predicted by many to be the favorite team in the West, and for good reason. The Lakers have been to the Finals three straight years in a row, winning the last two. They have a savvy group of battle tested veterans and an intensely fierce and competitive leader in Kobe Bryant. But let’s not forget, the Lakers are another year older; Kobe is 32, but has extended miles on his legs due to entering the League at 18 and playing deep into the postseason most years. Speaking of “old legs,” Andrew Bynum will miss a fair part of the beginning of the season after knee surgery. On top of that, the depth and overall strength of the Western Conference has improved since last year. I think it’s safe to say the Lakers will start out slow, but hopefully they will hit their stride by January and be able to lock up a 2nd or 3rd seat for the Western Conference playoffs.
- How many points will Kevin Durant score each night? Last year Kevin Durant, at 21, became the youngest player ever to win the NBA scoring title, averaging 30.1 ppg. Durant’s 30.1 edged out LeBron by just 0.4 ppg. This year, I think Durant wins the scoring title again by a wide margin. Westbrook has improved markedly, the Thunder have another year of experience under their belt, and his closest competitor last year (LeBron) will not score as much this year now that he’s in Miami and will be playing a more complementary role. I’m betting Durant will average north of 31 ppg this season – should be a blast to watch!
- Who will be the beast from the East? The Eastern Conference has, arguably, three of the best (if not the best) teams in the League – the Heat, Celtics, and Magic. Each time these teams meet in the regular season will be a battle. Will any of the three emerge as a dominant team, or will each of these teams have an equal shot of winning the Eastern Conference title?
- How will the “losers” of the LeBron Decision fare? When LeBron decided to take his talents to South Beach, he left two serious contenders for the LeBron Sweepstakes out cold – the Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks. These teams each made some big signings in the off-season – the Bulls landing Carlos Boozer, who I think will complement Noah and Rose exceptionally well, and the Knicks landing Amare Stoudemire (and, perhaps later this season, Carmelo Anthony, if Carmelo has his way). Will either of these teams be serious contenders, or will they just be battling it out for the rights to lose to Miami, Boston, or Orlando in the first round of the playoffs?
- How Dominant will the LeBron/Wade/Bosh Trio Become? Have we ever seen two of the three best players in the League on the same team before? Can this newly assembled team gel quickly enough to make a serious run to the Finals? How many games can we expect to see the Heat win this year? (I’m guessing around 65. There’s no way they’re winning more than 70.) This should be the most exciting subplot of the season, and it all starts this coming Tuesday when the Heat welcome the Celtics!
Four days and counting… Let’s go Lakers!