After four months off, the NBA season is back to enrich our lives with all of its drama and excitement. The west has been shaken up with the arrival of LeBron James, while the East is as wide open as it has been in what feels like forever without the King running roughshod over the conference. Let's preview the upcoming season.
East: Milwaukee Bucks
Two words. Greek freak. Giannis Antetokounmpo is somehow getting more athletic and is definitely growing in maturity as he leads this team into the season. The Bucks upgraded their head coach with the signing of Mike Budenholzer and made strong signings over the summer. The shootinf of Ersan Ilyasova and Brook Lopez should make this team a 50 win squad and at least a top four seed in the East.
Honourable mention: Detroit Pistons
Acquired Dwayne Casey, last seasons coach of the year and should be better equipped to handle the front-court combo of Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond. Should be in the playoffs.
West: Los Angeles Lakers
Yes, it's the obvious pick but there's just no way you can go past the team that LeBron James signs for. Without the King, the Lakers won 35 games last season and made some other improvements in signing playmakers like Rajon Rondo and Lance Stephenson. LeBron will make them a playoff team and should push for 50 wins.
Honourable mention: Dallas Mavericks
Dirk's probable last ride in the NBA should be a fun one with an exciting team on paper for the Mavs. Luka Doncic appears to take the NBA by storm and the acquisition of DeAndre Jordan will make them better than the 24 wins they got last season.
East: Cleveland Cavaliers
Yes, again it's obvious to say but that doesn't make it wrong. They won the East last year, it would be stunning if they were a playoff team this season with a roster like they have. Unless Minnesota Kevin Love returns, this team will be irrelevant, maybe JR Smith will do something stupid who knows.
Dishonourable mention: Indiana Pacers
This is not a shot at the team, however they may have just overachieved with their talent last season and Tyreke Evans is not as good of a signing as many think. Will still be a playoff team, however won't be in contention to win the east.
West: Houston Rockets
Like the Pacers, this doesn't mean they'll miss the post-season or be a bad team, they just set an near impossible standard to maintain last season. The addition of Carmelo Anthony will not help their defence, which was fourth best in the west last season and could stagnate the offence. Will still be a high seed.
Dishonourable mention: Sacramento Kings
Hard to get worse than 27 wins, however their roster is so poor across all fronts, with talent that isn't ready to take over and win games yet. Probably the worst team in their conference this season.
East: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks)
One thing that is important about the NBA's MVP award is the narrative you set. Should Giannis continue to grow as a player and capture a top three seed in the east, he sets a better case than a Kawhi Leonard, who swaps in for a team that won 59 games with DeMar DeRozan. Could be as safe as houses a bet if his jumpshot is consistent this season.
West: Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans)
The 'brow' comes into his seventh season in the league as an established top-five player and now has a point to prove that he is ready to take the mantle from LeBron as the best in the world. The signing of Julius Randle should help Davis improve and similarly to Giannis, if he can carry his team to a high seed, especially in the loaded west, he will go a long way to winning.
East: Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors, Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Washington Wizards, Detroit Pistons.
West: Golden State Warriors, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Utah Jazz, New Orleans Pelicans, Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets.
East: Boston Celtics def. Toronto Raptors in six games
Kawhi Leonard is a definite upgrade on DeMar DeRozan, however the Celtics simply have too many weapons to all keep under control. Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Al Horford, Jayson Tatum and Gordon Hayward is too good a starting five to miss the Finals.
West: Golden State Warriors def. Oklahoma City Thunder in five games
Consider it addition by subtraction for the Thunder, losing Carmelo Anthony, plus they added Denis Schroder to potentially take the load off Russell Westbrook at times. Whether he accepts that is another thing entirely. Still, it's the Warriors and it will only take injury to beat them or themselves and it doesn't seem likely with history calling them.
NBA Finals prediction: Golden State Warriors def. Boston Celtics in six games
The Celtics will probably do enough to secure home-court advantage as the Warriors cruise through another regular season. The reigning champs should be too good, boasting two of the best five players in the world and five of the best 25 once Boogie Cousins joins the lineup. A dynasty confirmed come June 2019.