The NBA season is finally here! After a summer of events from the draft, summer league, free agency, training camp, and preseason, we have finally reached the start of the new season. Some players have joined their new teams and are looking forward to playing with their new teammates. There will be teams this year eyeing a championship run, while other teams will be focused on the future and not be in contention this year. This article will go over notable free agency signings, teams that have a real chance at the title this year, and a few teams that may not be winning now, but are exciting to watch win or lose. Sorry Sixers fans, this year looks to be a rough one once again, unless rookie Jahlil Okafor dominates the competition immediately. Watch for Okafor’s development as a player, as well as the development of our other young players as the season goes on.
Notable Free Agency Signings (and resignings)
These players have either changed teams, or signed new contracts with their current teams. The players here will have an immediate impact on their respective teams. While not every player on this list would be considered a top 10 talent, they will provide something their teams were previously lacking, or reinforce an area of strength on the team.
- LaMarcus Aldridge: Previously of the Portland Trail Blazers, Aldridge has joined the San Antonio Spurs in a search of his first championship. He joins future Hall of Famers Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker, giving Aldridge the best supporting cast he’s had in his career, as well as having the best coach in the league in Gregg Popovich. Aldridge was the best free agent available this offseason.
- Jimmy Butler: Butler resigned with the Chicago Bulls this offseason after a breakout season in which he was selected to his first All Star team, and won the NBA’s Most Improved Award. He gives the Bulls a legitimate two-way player who can carry the Bulls as former MVP Derrick Rose recovers from yet another injury as he looks to return to form.
- Monta Ellis: The top scorer on the Dallas Mavericks last season cashed in on his great season and joins the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers gain an elite scorer to pair with their own All Star in Paul George. Ellis, like Butler, will shoulder the scoring load as George recovers from a gruesome leg injury suffered last summer while playing with Team USA.
- Deandre Jordan: Arguably the second best player available behind Aldridge, Jordan provides elite defense and rebounding at the center position, something the Clippers desperately need. He looks primed for another great season and is a front-runner for the Defensive Player of the Year Award.
- Paul Pierce: THE TRUTH! Last season, Paul Pierce provided veteran leadership and clutch shot making for a Wizards team that swept the Toronto Raptors in the first round of the playoffs. He now joins his old Celtics coach, Doc Rivers, in Los Angeles, and looks to provide once again clutch shooting and depth to a Clippers team aiming to win this season.
These teams are the ones that truly have the ability to win the championship this season. They are all a step above the rest in terms of talent and coaching. As you will see below, the majority of these teams play in the Western Conference, a testament to how deep the conference is talent-wise.
- Golden State Warriors: Last season’s champions brought back most of their key contributors, have an MVP in Stephen Curry, as well as continued development from players like Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, and Draymond Green. The key for a repeat this year will be if the team can stay healthy. If they are healthy and survive the gauntlet that is the NBA’s Western Conference, they have the best chance of winning the title.
- Cleveland Cavaliers: When you have Lebron James on your team, you automatically become a title contender. The key for this team to win the title this year will be health like the Warriors. They play in the lesser conference talent-wise , the Eastern Conference, and Lebron James is still the best player on the planet, enough said. Expect to see Lebron James represent the East in the finals for the sixth straight year in a row.
- Oklahoma City Thunder: Former MVP Kevin Durant is finally healthy, and when healthy, is the second best player in the league behind only Lebron James. Paired with another top-ten player in Russell Westbrook, a shot blocking and 3-point shooting power forward in Serge Ibaka, Durant is looking to redeem himself and his team in search of his first championship after missing the playoffs last year.
- San Antonio Spurs: When the rich get richer and add the top free agent available, the rest of the Western Conference should start to worry. The Spurs remain the top organization in the NBA top to bottom, from the owner, to the GM, to the coaching staff, down to the players themselves, San Antonio is the model organization of the NBA, and are expected to be in the thick of the championship race again.
Teams to Watch
While these teams may not be teams that have a good chance at winning the title this year, teams in this group will definitely make every game they play in interesting. Some of the teams in this list may be a player or two away from being a true contender, or they are a team on the rise with young and exciting talent to watch out for.
- Los Angeles Clippers: While they have improved their depth and improved internally, the Clippers to me are still not on the same level as teams like Golden State, San Antonio, and Oklahoma City. However, with players like Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and Deandre Jordan, the Clippers will still draw big crowds and provide plenty of SportsCenter highlights. If this team plays well during the regular season, they could be considered contenders, but for now, we will wait and see.
- Orlando Magic: This team has no chance of winning the Larry O’Brien Trophy this season. However, they are full of young and exciting talent just filled with potential. The Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo backcourt may not provide much shooting, but both bring defense, hustle, and athleticism. They drafted a young and fearless guard in Mario Hezonja, a sleeper candidate for the Rookie of the Year Award. These young guards paired with center Nikola Vucevic, who is an All Star level talent, gives the Magic a promising core to build around for the next few seasons.
- Washington Wizards: A team that has been in the playoffs the past two years, only to lose in the second round both times. They are a team on the cusp of being considered “contenders”, and that is due to the continued growth of John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter. John Wall is already an All Star level talent, Bradley Beal will continue to improve his ball handling and consistency, and Otto Porter looks to build upon his breakout performance in the playoffs last year. How these three players grow will determine if Washington can finally get over the metaphorical hump and become true contenders for a title.
- Minnesota Timberwolves: The Timberwolves are a rebuilding team stocked with high flying athletes that can turn any game into a track meet. Guard Zach Lavine was last year’s dunk contest winner. Last season’s Rookie of the Year, Andrew Wiggins, is also one of the most athletic players in the league. They added the first overall pick in the draft, Karl Anthony-Towns, another elite athlete to the roster, and look to grow into a contending team over the next few seasons with the help of veteran players like Kevin Garnett and Andre Miller.