We are officially one month through the NBA season, and there is drama everywhere.
Brooklyn has all the assets of a championship team if their players even want to play basketball. Los Angeles is still Laker County, but Kawhi, PG13, and the Clippers might have something to say about that. Milwaukee has found their superstar for the long run while Houston has lost theirs. One month in and the NBA is in full swing.
Western Conference Championship Contenders
Los Angeles Lakers: After the Lakers won the title in the Bubble last season and their 17th championship as a franchise, few people thought that this team could get better. Well, they did. They started off their summer by trading Danny Green for Dennis Schroeder, Schroeder came into replace Rajon Rondo and has had a great start to his Laker career. Following the trade, the Lakers went on to sign Montrez Harrell, Marc Gasol, Wes Matthews and re-signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Adding shooters was a big offseason point for the Lakers and Wes and KCP have brought it. The Lakers are still the team to beat in the West.
Los Angeles Clippers: The Clippers are trying to bounce back after a devastating end to their season last year. After holding a 3-1 series lead, the Clippers lost three in a row to the Denver Nuggets and were bounced out of the playoffs. The Clippers picked up Serge Ibaka to fill in after losing Montrez Harrell to the Lakers. The Clippers also picked up Luke Kennard from Detroit and are hoping for a big year from the third-year shooting guard. It is going to take a lot to knock off the Lakers but Paul George and Kawhi Leonard could do it if they stay healthy.
Eastern Conference Championship Contenders
Brooklyn Nets: This Brooklyn Nets team is quite different than one they have ever had before. With the recent addition of James Harden, Kevin Durant back from his Achilles injury, and Kyrie Irving not having to carry the whole team, the Nets are extremely dangerous. With three incredible ball-handlers and sharp-shooters, they are almost impossible to match-up with defensively. Brooklyn is looking to win now after trading many future first-round draft picks for James Harden. It will be interesting to see how this team works together throughout the season, but they are the team to beat in the East.
Milwaukee Bucks: Even after being the 1st seed in the East, Milwaukee was knocked out of the playoffs in the second round last year. Once the off-season came around, the Bucks’ entire future was in their hands. Giannis Antetokounmpo, the two-time MVP, was ready for a new contract. Luckily for Milwaukee, Giannis decided to stay. The Bucks signed Giannis to a 5-year, $228 million contract. Following the contract, the Bucks traded for point guard Jrue Holiday from New Orleans. Bringing a new point guard in has shown to help Giannis so far this season. Milwaukee will be the biggest test in the East for Brooklyn.
Eastern Conference Pretenders
Boston Celtics & Miami Heat: The Celtics and Heat are loaded with potential but are not Championship caliber yet. Miami had an incredible run during last year’s postseason. After knocking off the number 1 seed Milwaukee Bucks and the number 3 seed Boston Celtics, the Heat made their first NBA Finals since the Big Three of LeBron, Wade, and Bosh. After losing in 6 games to the Lakers and a slow start to the 2021 season, the Heat are back down on Earth. The Celtics have multiple talented players who are one step away from being “Superstars”. Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Kemba Walker make the Celtics a scary team to match–up with. The health of Kemba Walker has always been a major factor with this team though. I could see these teams putting up a fight with Brooklyn or Milwaukee but not having the star-power to win.
Western Conference Pretenders
Denver Nuggets & Phoenix Suns: Denver has been hanging around the top of the West for the past three years while this is Phoenix’s first time here in a while. Denver, led by Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic, has been off to a slow start this season. Few changes were made by the Nuggets this past offseason which can create the same narrative of years past, they do not have enough playmakers. Once they match-up with the Clippers or Lakers who have defenders to shut down Jamal Murray, the Nuggets seem to fade away. Phoenix made a big splash this past offseason by signing Chris Paul. Chris Paul being matched up with Devin Booker has seemed to work for the Suns this season but with Booker not having a single playoff appearance, it is hard to tell what is to come.
Asking for a Miracle
Philadelphia 76ers: The 76ers have heard the same thing every year, Ben Simmons cannot shoot. Simmons has shown that he is one of the most athletic and best passing point guards in the league but as we have seen with Russell Westbrook, that does not hold up in the playoffs. The 76er’s did not make many offseason moves, getting Dwight Howard to replace Al Horford and trading away Josh Richardson for Seth Curry. For the 76er’s to make a deep playoff run, Joel Embiid needs to be the best big man in the league while Ben Simmons needs some shooters around him.
Utah Jazz: The Jazz have a lot of young talent in Donavan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert but cannot seem to build the right pieces around them. This past off-season, their best signing was Derrick Favors. This does not help a 4 or 5 seed team enough to get past the second round. Unless Donavan Mitchell can put together an MVP like run, they could have another extended offseason.
Were only a month into the season and with injuries prone to happen, the season could change quickly. As of right now, it looks like we would get the Brooklyn Nets vs the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals. LeBron James has been back to his old ways this season and Anthony Davis has been looking fresh while the new Big Three in Brooklyn begin to figure it out. No matter what, it is great to have basketball back.