NBA action is finally back in our lives! With two games on Tuesday night and eleven on Wednesday, the past couple of days have been a blur of excitement, highlights and (everyone’s favourite) overreactions.
But let's face it, we didn’t really have much of an offseason, did we? Following an action-packed summer with an abundance of player movement, the NBA landscape looks remarkably different to just four months ago.
In fact, the overhaul of player-personnel is so drastic that an NBA record 19 players who featured in last season’s All-Star game, will be suiting up in new uniforms.
Key narratives for the season
The most hotly anticipated Rookie since LeBron James will have his debut season monitored, dissected and speculated upon in granular detail. Despite impressing in the preseason with his tantalising displays of power and athleticism, the 19-year-old has not had the start he was hoping for, healthwise.
An injury to his left knee during Summer League was followed by the worrying news that the former Dukie tore the meniscus in his right knee last week, requiring surgical repair and a prolonged period of watching games from the sidelines. Don’t expect to see him on-court before December. Fears, perhaps unfounded, for how this start will affect his career are being uttered in hushed voices...
- Kyrie's Fifty Point Campaign for the Nets
- Siakam shines as the Toronto Raptors take the win
- Hornets Stars Look Forward to NBA Paris Game 2020
Is defence back?
As a result of the widespread (and sensible) adoption of analytics-driven offensive strategy, offensive ratings have been trending upwards since the 2014-15 and are currently at an all-time high. Could we now see defence become relevant again this season?
The Utah Jazz, who have been elite on that side of the floor for a number of years now, have added key pieces suggesting they can now also become elite on offence and push themselves to the upper echelons of the Western Conference.
Out in LA, the Clippers had a summer that the vast majority of General Managers can only dream of. Successfully acquiring the services of both the reigning Finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George (who finished third in last season’s MVP race), LA’s “other” team have two examples of elite two-way talent in the fold. Last season, the Clips ranked 21st in defence.
Both Leonard and George are perennial Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) candidates. Throw them into the mix with the toughest defensive point guard in the league, Patrick Beverly, and this team’s perimeter defence becomes a suffocating nightmare.
In the Eastern Conference, the Philadelphia 76ers have morphed from a talented challenger to a lengthy and physical monster. Franchise cornerstone, Joel Embiid has already made public his desire to be crowned both MVP and DPOY this season.
And, whilst they lost some significant offensive output this summer, the additions of Al Horford and Josh Richardson, alongside Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris give Philly a versatile, switchable and lengthy defensive unit that should rank at the very top of the defensive ratings.
Of course, the offense still remains the visual spectacle that gets the heart pumping, pupils dilating, arms tense and leave you gasping for air. Rest assured there is an abundance of highlights on their way and with the league announcing a record 48 prime time games to be played at UK friendly times. That means even more NBA for you to easily consume. Here are your must-watch games for this weekend:
Friday 25 October, 12:00am - Toronto Raptors @ Boston Celtics
The defending champs visit Boston in a battle between two teams who should be vying for top four seeds in the Eastern Conference playoffs come April. Lots of established and young talent on display from both teams including; Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol, Kyle Lowry, Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
Saturday 26 October, 10:00pm - Miami Heat @ Milwaukee Bucks
The reigning MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo, host a (potentially) resurgent Miami team led by Jimmy Butler. Expect Butler to be tasked with containing The Greek Freak. Things could get Heated… Other players to keep an eye on; Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe, Bam Adebayo and Rookie Tyler Herro.
Sunday 27 October, 10:00pm - Brooklyn Nets @ Memphis Grizzlies
There is a 7:30pm game featuring the Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder. But I’m picking the Nets and Grizzlies, purely because of the point guard battle between Kyrie Irving and Ja Morant, the second pick in the last summer’s draft. The rebuilding Grizzlies won’t be a good team this season, but they have some interesting prospects. Morant, with Zion out injured, assumes the reins as the favourite for Rookie of the Year and his pairing with Jaren Jackson Jnr could be a solid duo for years to come.
All games are available to stream live and on-demand through NBA League Pass.News Now - Sport News