The wait is over, folks. The NBA is back.
The 2018-19 NBA regular season kicks off with a Tuesday night doubleheader featuring an Atlantic Division clash between the Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics and a Pacific Division contest between the Oklahoma City Thunder and two-time defending world champion Golden State Warriors.
After one of most explosive offseasons in recent memory, some familiar faces will be in different places this season. From LeBron James moving out to LA LA Land to Kawhi Leonard joining Drake in “The Six,” this could be a season for the ages.
To get you up to speed, we’ve compiled a list of the top five storylines to follow this season.
5. 2018 Rookie Class and Uber-Competitive Rookie of the Year Competition
The 2018 rookie class is extremely talented and potentially could go down as one of the deepest classes in recent years. The Rookie of the Year race is going to be extremely tight with at least ten players who have a fighting chance to win the award.
A few players to keep an eye on are Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton and Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young. These players will have a multitude of opportunities for their respective teams and could put up some massive numbers, similar to what Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell produced last year. To read about other potential candidates,Â click here.
4. Jimmy Butler and the Fiasco in Minnesota
The relationship between the Minnesota Timberwolves and their star forward, Jimmy Butler, is fractured to say the least. Butler reportedly wants out, but the T-Wolves’ asking price for one of their stars remains prohibitively high. This led Butler to sit out most of training camp until he returned for one fiery practice, in which he led to third-stringers against the starters and won.
As of right now, the two sides have agreed to an uneasy truce, in which Butler will dedicate himself to the Timberwolves while they continue to try to trade him. If the Timberwolves can hang onto Butler, they might make noise in a talented Western Conference but if they end up trading the four-time All-Star, their season is in jeopardy.
3. Fully Reloaded Boston Celtics and Gordon Hayward’s Health
It was almost a year ago to the day that Gordon Hayward suffered a gruesome, season-ending injury. The C’s were forced to regroup and play without one of their superstars, which helped younger players like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown gain experience and thrive much earlier than expected.
Boston exceeded expectations en route to finishing second in the Eastern Conference on their way to the conference finals. The C’s also lost star point guard Kyrie Irving to a season-ending injury in April, making that accomplishment even more impressive.
The 2018-19 Celtics return two All-Star-caliber players to go along with a budding group of youngsters and veterans with almost the entire roster still intact.Â Will Hayward’s ankle hold up? Can Hayward mesh with Brown and Tatum? How far can this team go with everyone healthy? Stay tuned.
2. Can This Golden State Warriors Core Three-Peat in Possible Final Season Together?
The current Warriors arguably are the greatest team in NBA history, but this might be their final season together. The 2015-16 Warriors’ 73 wins set the NBA single-season wins record and although they lost in the NBA Finals, they added arguably the second-best player in the NBA in Kevin Durant. They have since won back-to-back championships and look to complete the trifecta this year with the addition of All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins.
The Warriors are scarier than ever, but Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins all can be free agents after this season. The slim odds of all four returning raise the question: Is this the beginning of the end for the Dubs?
1. LeBron James and the New Showtime Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers made the move of the summer by signing four-time MVP LeBron James, but now we have to see how he’ll fit with his young new squad. James’ arrival also raises the Lakers’ expectations. The future Hall of Famer has been to eight consecutive NBA Finals, but Los Angeles hasn’t made the postseason since 2013. The Lakers have an abundance of young talent, including Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart, who now will be able to learn from one of the greatest basketball players of all time.
James wasn’t the only player the Lakers signed this offseason, as they also brought in veterans Rajon Rondo, Michael Beasley, JaVale McGee and Lance Stephenson. Will the younger players improve with James? How will the new veterans mesh with their older and younger teammates? Can James lead this eccentric squad back to the postseason and challenge the Warriors?