Tonight marks the official start of the new NBA season after arguably the busiest offseason in league history. With so many teams switching roster spots, a lot of questions linger that can only be answered on the court.
- Will Minnesota ever mesh?
The Minnesota Timberwolves are one of the teams with substantially higher expectations this year with the acquisition of all-star guard/forward Jimmy Butler. The team later added three-time Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford and former all-star guard Jeff Teague to a roster that already included 20-plus point scorers Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. Many question how 22-year-old Wiggins and 21-year-old Towns will adjust to having to yield to the authority of Butler. Having Butler and Teague come off of very disappointing team performances last season also causes concern for a squad looking to compete for a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
- Can Lonzo Ball live up to the hype?
Big Baller Brand. It’s the company name and motto that has been thrust in the heads of sports fans across the country for the greater part of the last seven months. The attention around Lonzo Ball is so real that his choice in shoes was the biggest story in the Summer League. As the final episodes of his reality show come out, the fanbase and attention will only continue to grow.
On the court, Magic Johnson and James Worthy have compared him to perhaps the greatest point guard of all-time in Johnson. Prior to being a Laker, he was often compared to future Hall of Famer Jason Kidd. He’s been labeled the centerpiece for the next great era of Lakers basketball, but no pressure. Ball averaged 16.3 points, 9.3 assists, and 7.7 rebounds, and 2.5 steals in July and was named the Summer League MVP.
- Are there enough shots to go around in OKC?
Last season, Paul George averaged 18 shots, Carmelo Anthony averaged 18.8 shots, and Russell Westbrook averaged 24 shots per game. Not one player averaged more than 20 shots a contest on the 2012 Miami Heat, the 2017 Golden State Warriors or the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers. Last season, Warriors forward Kevin Durant averaged 16.5 shots a game. If one of three players for the Thunder this season can make and expect that level of sacrifice, the year will go much smoother than it could in a worse case scenario.
- Can the 76ers keep its core healthy?
The Philadelphia 76ers have the potential to be the next dominant team in the league. Led by center Joel Embiid, who can shoot, handle the ball, defend, and hold his own on the post standing at seven foot, the team also consists of recent top draft picks like Markelle Fultz, Jahlil Okafor, and Dario Saric. Ben Simmons is the closest resemblance to LeBron James in his playing style and build since James himself came in the league 14 years ago. Philadelphia also picked up veteran sharpshooter J.J. Reddick this offseason. One of the reasons the 76ers have so many top draft picks, however, is because of their lack of health. Embiid has played 31 career games while entering his fourth season in the NBA. Simmons didn’t play a game last year after getting hurt in the preseason. Fultz is starting the year coming off of the bench due to his offseason struggle with injuries. Embiid even admitted on Media Day that he thought he wouldn’t be able to play all 82 games this year.
This young team will make a lot of mistakes, but once the chemistry is on-par, they’ll easily be one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. They just have to stay healthy.
- Will age be just a number for the Cavaliers?
On paper, the Cleveland Cavaliers made the necessary moves to compete with the Warriors in the finals again this year. They’re still, however, one of the oldest teams in the league. The concern of age and health for key players such as Kyle Korver, Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, and Isaiah Thomas brings a huge “if” to the team heading into the last two rounds of the playoffs.