With the arrival of NBA season comes many important questions. Here are 10 questions about the most compelling headlines of the season (and my attempt to answer them).
10. Will Joel Embiid be worth the wait?
After two years we finally get to see Embiid hit the court. At least he was entertaining on Twitter in the meantime. Seriously, this kid’s the real deal. Embiid is HUGE – as in makes opposing centers look like shooting guards when they stand next to him. But, more importantly, he displayed so much of the talent we saw at Kansas in less than 15 minutes per game in the preseason — 11.4 points, 6.0 rebounds, nearly a block and great shooting touch (81.8 percent free throws and connected on a 3-pointer).
9. Will Russell Westbrook succeed as a solo act?
Individually, sure. But the Thunder are going to struggle.
Westbrook just can’t carry a team without Durant. He’s an amazing individual talent and should be a staple in your DK lineups this season, but just look at what happened the season KD only played in 27 games because of a foot injury – OKC missed the postseason. I pegged them to be the odd team out in the West once again in my season preview, but also had Russ leading the league in points, assists and steals. So I suppose it depends on your definition of success.
8. Who’s the best young and upcoming team ready to breakout?
Hands down it’s the Timberwolves.
The other two that come to mind are the Blazers, who actually won a round last season (but does Damian Lillard have another level?), and the Jazz, who just missed the postseason. I picked those two teams to finish just above the Wolves in the standings this season, but it’ll be obvious that Minnesota is the best of the group come the postseason. Between KAT, Wiggins, Dunn, LaVine and the new coaching staff, this is the next super-team out west after the Warriors time comes to a close.
7. Who’s the best young and upcoming team NOT ready to breakout?
There’s still so much talent in the league that’s a few years away. But how can you not want to be the Bucks?
The Lakers are definitely on the right track adding Ingram, Russell and Randle, and will get a key free agent to add to the mix when their core is ready. Philly is even on the up thanks to Embiid and Saric finally joining Simmons (when healthy), Okafor and Noel. But behind Towns and Wiggins, Giannis and Jabari are the best young duo in the game. And no matter what his actual age is, don’t sleep on what Thon Maker could evolve into in three years.
6. Will the Bulls and Knicks actually work?
Sorry, guys. Nope!
I’m not overreacting to the Knicks getting blown off the court by the Cavs. The Cavs are really good and I actually picked the Knicks to grab the final playoff spot in the East. However, Rose and Noah aren’t the pieces that are going to help Melo find success. This team is all about what Porzingis becomes over the next few years.
In Chicago’s case? Yeah, this just isn’t going to work. Like, they’re going to miss the playoffs type of not work. Is this team going to make a 3-pointer this season? Rondo/Wade/Butler just doesn’t strike me as a successful combination.
5. Do the Celtics finally pull the trigger on a blockbuster?
Maybe!? This is the big question every season, but I’ll say it finally is the year the Celtics make a trade.
The bigger question is: Who? The answer is: I have no idea. Let’s call it DeMarcus Cousins because he probably makes the most sense (to become available and find the Celtics’ pieces attractive). The Nets picks will be valuable to hold onto unless a marquee player becomes available, but Boston has also gone a little too far with holding onto assets. A small example is that the C’s just had to cut 2015 first-round pick R.J. Hunter, who they liked, simply because there weren’t enough roster spots. Eventually they need to hook the big fish and let go of some of the smaller bait.
4. Who’s the real MVP?
We have such a deep MVP pool this season. Here are some realistic candidates: Westbrook, Harden, Leonard, Davis, George, Griffin, Lillard – and that’s without naming LeBron, Steph and KD.
I picked Harden to take the crown since he’ll be playing point guard for Mike D’Antoni in a Steve Nash-esque role (but with elite scoring ability). However, there are 10 guys that could win the award and not qualify as jaw dropping. That’s pretty good for a league where people have already pinned down which two teams we’ll see in the NBA Finals.
3. More importantly, who’s the fantasy MVP?
Every one of those players have their nights. ‘Bron gave us an opening night triple-double. But when it comes to season-long consistent dominance, Russ and Harden are going to be the lethal options. They shed Durant and Howard from their respective teams, both will be handling the ball for 40 minutes in fast-paced offenses and both can make any play on the court. They’re going to rack up fantasy points and have extremely low floors/high ceilings every game.
2. Insert question about LeBron’s legacy here
Glad you asked! LeBron really cemented his legacy in last season’s Finals, but each season will be crucial to him “chasing the ghost of MJ.” Thanks to KD’s decision to join the Warriors, LeBron now gets a brand new “mission impossible” placed in front of him just a couple months after coming back from 3-1 to defeat a 73-win team. Talk about motivation to keep going.
LeBron will have a chance to play in a historic seventh consecutive NBA Finals, groundbreaking in its own right, along with a chance to take down potentially the most talented team ever assembled. Jordan never got an opportunity like this. LeBron has a chance to become a no-brainer top-two player of all-time if he can win this season.
1. Will anyone stop the Warriors?
LeBron’s got the only chance, but the short answer is no.
Look, the Dubs got wiped off the floor by the Spurs on opening night. There goes 82-0. But, realistically, the Warriors were never even going to come close to winning 73 games again this season. No matter how good of a fit Durant may be, it still takes adjusting. Keep in mind GSW lost Bogut, Barnes, Ezeli, Barbosa, Speights and Rush to add Durant (yes, David West and Zaza Pachulia help). But when you make that many moves it takes time to adjust/gel — just look at the first year LeBron’s Heat came together.
In the end, they’ll get it together by mid-season and take down the Cavs in the Finals. There’s too much talent to overcome once they learn how to use it.
For questions or comments don’t hesitate to reach out to me on Twitter @julianedlow.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is jedlow) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.