Top 10 Storylines Heading Into the 2018-19 NBA Season

    NBA Training Camps are here, so it’s time to look at the biggest storylines throughout the league in 2018-19, led by none other than The King. But there’s

    September 24, 2018

    NBA Training Camps are here, so it’s time to look at the biggest storylines throughout the league in 2018-19, led by none other than The King.

    But there’s more than just LeBron on the west coast, and the Warriors going for the three-peat.

    These are the ten biggest stories heading into this NBA season.

     

    1) How far can LeBron take the Lakers in Year 1?

    LeBron and the Cavs owned the Eastern Conference since he returned to Cleveland in 2014, taking the franchise to the NBA Finals each of the last four years. But now LeBron is in the Western Conference, where he’ll have to find a way to get past Golden State in order to make another NBA Finals appearance. It’s not gonna happen. At least not yet.

    The Lakers have some young talent on the roster with guys like Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, and Josh Hart, and Magic Johnson brought in some enigmatic vets: Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley and JaVale McGee. How will these guys mesh, and how much drama will there be with this storied franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs the last five years? Not to mention the drama that could evolve between LeBron and LaVar Ball … This should all be entertaining, at the very least.

     

    2) Can anyone give the Warriors a run?

    Golden State has won three of the last four NBA titles, including the last two since Kevin Durant came aboard. Not only is everyone of note back for Steve Kerr, but he will also get another toy in Boogie Cousins. The 28-year-old four-time All-Star is coming off a torn Achilles, but he can take his time coming back in an attempt to be 100 percent for the playoffs.

    The Houston Rockets won 65 games during the regular season and made things interesting against Golden State until Chris Paul went down, but Houston suffered a couple of key losses when Trevor Ariza signed with Phoenix and Luc Mbah a Moute left for another stint with the Clippers.

    Boston should be the team that has the best opportunity of pushing the Warriors this season, as long as Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward are both healthy. They will join Al Horford and young, emerging stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown along with a bench that includes Terry Rozier, Marcus Morris and Marcus Smart.

    But let’s face it: Unless someone significant gets hurt for the Warriors, they will likely hang another banner in 2019.

     


    3) Kawhi north of the border

    Kawhi Leonard was unhappy in San Antonio, and was traded to Toronto in a deal for DeMar DeRozan. Leonard is coming off a season in which he played just nine games due to injury, so there are still questions regarding both his mental and physical health. Leonard, when at 100 percent, is arguably the top two-way player in the NBA. Two years ago, he averaged 25.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and was one of the top defensive players in the league.

    Now it’ll be interest to see how far he can take the Raptors in an Eastern Conference that is certainly more wide-open than it’s been in years now that LeBron is in the west. And maybe just as important will be to watch whether Leonard is happy north of the border, and would consider spurning the Lakers next offseason and re-signing with Toronto, much like Paul George wound up doing in OKC.

     

    4) Melo in Houston: Addition or subtraction?

    Carmelo Anthony’s one-year stint in Oklahoma City was a bona fide disaster. The 34-year-old shot a career-low 40 percent from the field, and the Thunder — with Russell Westbrook and Paul George — were knocked out in the first round of the playoffs. ‘Melo was traded to Houston in the offseason, and now we’ll see if he has anything left in the tank and whether he can co-exist on the court with James Harden and Chris Paul.

    The issue is not just whether ‘Melo can accept a role now that his skills have eroded, but also that he’s a sub-par defender and he steps in for a couple of guys in Ariza and Mbah a Moute who were quality defenders and also team guys.

     

    5) The Sixers: The next step

    After three years of tanking, and a fourth where Philadelphia won 28 games, the Sixers finally became relevant last season when they went 52-30 and lost to Boston in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Joel Embiid played 63 games, Ben Simmons was the NBA Rookie of the Year and J.J. Redick helped give the franchise a much-needed veteran who can make shots.

    Philly didn’t make any huge offseason moves, except for the departure of its general manager, Bryan Colangelo, who was fired after it was discovered his wife was sending out tweets from several burner accounts. The key to watch will be the maturation and health of both Embiid and Simmons. Can the Sixers win the Eastern Conference, which likely means going through Boston?

     

    6) DeRozan and the Spurs streak

    Tim Duncan retired two years ago, disgruntled Kawhi Leonard was traded to Toronto this past offseason, Tony Parker signed with Charlotte and Manu Ginobili retired. Duncan won five NBA titles, Ginobili and Parker were a part of four championships and Leonard was on the last one in 2014.

    Now it’ll be up to DeMar DeRozan, who came over from Toronto in the deal that shipped out Leonard, as well as LaMarcus Aldridge to make sure that San Antonio doesn’t end its streak of 21 consecutive postseason appearances. The other question here is how much longer Gregg Popovich will coach. He turns 70 in the middle of this season and has watched all of his guys depart and now has a semi-rebuilding group.

     

    7) How will the Jimmy Butler saga end?

    When Jimmy Butler was reunited with Tom Thibodeau, most figured that Part II of the relationship would last more than a year. But Butler has demanded a trade out of Minnesota after just one season, and it’s highly unlikely he ever plays another game in a T-Wolves uniform. It just never worked with Butler and the young duo of Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony-Towns. Wiggins and Butler couldn’t be more different, with Wiggins being considered “soft” by many, but this is also Butler’s second stop where he was unable to happily co-exist — he’s starting to gain a reputation.

    The player has the leverage in these situations (i.e. Kyrie Irving and Paul George), and now it’ll be interesting to see if Minnesota complies with Butler’s wishes and is sent to Los Angeles or New York, or whether the Timberwolves send him somewhere else for the season prior to Butler becoming a free agent.

     

    8) Anthony Davis’ future in New Orleans

    Yes, I know the Pelicans won 48 games and swept Portland to advance to the Western Conference semifinals. And I also know they were better without now-former big man Boogie Cousins. But I also know there’s no guarantee that New Orleans makes the playoffs again. Remember the Milwaukee team in 2016, the one that had a young Giannis Antetokounmpo, along with Khris Middleton and a healthy Jabari Parker?  The year before, that core won 41 games, took Chicago to six games in the first round of the playoffs and looked primed to take a step forward. Then they wound up winning just 33 games in 2016-17 and finished 12th in the East.

    New Orleans needs to avoid taking a step back to keep AD happy and locked in regarding his future with the franchise. Davis won’t become a free agent until after 2021, but he won’t be happy with another year of watching the postseason from home, especially coming off last season’s playoff appearance.

     

    9) Guard restoration

    How will two scoring point guards get their careers back on track, even though one is a veteran and one is basically a rookie?

    Isaiah Thomas, who not long ago was Boston’s favored son, and Markelle Fultz, who was the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft a little more than a year ago, will both try and get healthy. We know that Thomas’ injury is physical: a hip issue that has hampered him since his time in Boston. But no one saw Thomas signing a one-year, $2 million deal with the Nuggets. This is his fourth team in two years.

    To me, the more interesting story is Fultz, a complete mystery last season, playing just 14 games due what appears to be a psychological issue that resulted from a shoulder injury. Whatever the case, Fultz — who was a solid long-range shooter in both high school and college — has been unable to shoot it from deep. Can he regain all, or even some, of the form that had many NBA execs putting him at the top of their draft board?

     

    10) Who will emerge as the next young star?

    A year ago, there were three rookies who quickly stood out: Ben Simmons, Donovan Mitchell and Jayson Tatum. All three could be viewed as perennial All-Star caliber players.

    Who will be the prize out of this year’s class?  Deandre Ayton went No. 1 and has a combination of size, skill and athleticism that hasn’t been seen in the league in a while. Versatile Slovenian Luka Doncic comes over after becoming the youngest-ever EuroLeague MVP and should make an immediate impact with Dallas. Marvin Bagley III averaged 21 points and 11 boards as a freshman at Duke, and should put up numbers for a Sacramento team that will likely finish near the bottom of the standings.

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