The NBA has proven to be a sport that commands year-round attention these days as the sport continues to maintain a strong audience even after the season has concluded. The 2014-15 season was nothing short of a resounding success for the NBA, who is constantly looking for ways to grow its brand and its audience.
The NBA offseason has been nothing but pure off the wall fun and drama, such as the DeAndre Jordan Mavs/Clippers saga and trying to figure out why the Knicks and Lakers, once powerhouses in free agency, were struggling to gain any real consideration from marquee players. The Summer League continues to maintain a growing audience, as attendance of the Las Vegas Summer League was noticeably larger than years past.
Even with free agency and the Summer League commanding the attention of NBA fans weeks after the Warriors overwhelmed the Cavs on basketball's biggest stage, nothing compares to watching the best perform during the NBA season. Last season was one of the best NBA seasons in recent memory. Steph Curry and the Warriors were the darlings of the 2014-15 season, as they dominated the competition from the first tip-off to the last buzzer in Game 6 of the Finals. King James returned home to his Cleveland throne, Russell Westbrook played like a man possessed and Anthony Davis officially put the world on notice that he'll be the best player in the league in short order.
Every season, new intriguing storylines arise that captivate the NBA world and the 2015-16 season will be no different. With that said, here are 5 storylines that NBA fans can't wait to see unfold.
1. Will Steph Curry and the Warriors continue their dominance?
When the Warriors fired Mark Jackson and promptly stole Steve Kerr away from coaching under his mentor Phil Jackson in New York, expectations of the Warriors varied. Some thought they'd contend, others weren't as sure. With former all-star Andre Iguodala taking on the sixth man role for the first time in his career, the undersized Draymond Green being thrown into the starting lineup unexpectedly, and Klay Thompson and Steph Curry taking giant leaps forward in their respective games, it proved to be the perfect storm for the Dubs. The obvious catalyst for their success was Curry, who shot the lights out all season on his way to a league MVP and a Championship. But can they do it again? The road in the west will be even tougher next season with reloaded Clippers, Spurs, Rockets and Thunder teams, who all made improvements this offseason. Hell, even the Pelicans will likely be better with head coach Alvin Gentry leading the way. The Warriors are clearly the team to beat out West, but the Spurs, Clippers, Rockets and Thunder will be clipping their heels.
2. How will LeBron James and the Cavs bounce back?
LeBron James and co. have retooled nicely this offseason after a respectable showing in the Finals. With a healthy Kevin Love re-upping with a fresh 5 year max-contract, Iman Shumpert and Matthew Dellavedova re-signing, and the additions of Richard Jefferson and Mo Williams, the Cavs have added even more depth to their already great roster. JR Smith and more importantly Tristan Thompson still remained unsigned, but all signs point to both returning. With a deep roster and much star power, the Cavs are clearly the class of the East. Teams like the Wizards, Heat, Bulls and Hawks are all respectable challengers, but the Cavs likely bounce back strong from a tough Finals loss and dominant the East next season. Fans should fully expect LeBron James to make a strong push for MVP next season and the Cavs, barring injury, to make another Finals appearance.
3. How will KD's return impact the Thunder and the landscape in the West?
It feels like forever since the NBA world has been able to witness a fully healthy Kevin Durant. While it was pure entertainment watching Russell Westbrook play like a bat out of hell the majority of the season, it's clear the Thunder are a better team with Kevin Durant leading the way.
After finishing 45-37 and barely missing the 8th seed in the West, Durant and Westbrook will be gunning for the Finals and to remind the world of the powerhouse the Thunder can be with a fully healthy roster.
While we're all excited for the return of KD, it will be interesting to watch how things play out for OKC next season. Aside from the return of Durant, the Thunder have ousted former head coach Scott Brooks for former Florida head coach, Billy Donovan. This move was made in hopes that Donovan can take the Thunder to a championship level and provide the often isolation heavy Thunder offense with more diversity. Other offseason moves include, drafting Murray State PG Cameron Payne, trading Perry Jones III and Jeremy Lamb, re-signing Kyle Singler to a multi-year deal and Enes Kanter to a max contract (Ugh!).
One also has to wonder how Westbrook and KD will affect each other's games now that both are fully healthy for the first time since two seasons ago. It's fair to assume that they'll be fine and as dominate as usual, but it may take time for the team to gel under a new head coach. The Thunder will look to get back to their normal ranking among the Western Conference hierarchy, likely finishing in the top four seeds.
4. Is this really Kobe's farewell season? And are the Lakers respectable?
At age 36, Kobe Bryant will be playing his 20th season in the NBA in 2015-16. Kobe has said this is likely his last season and sadly he'll likely be going out with a starting lineup of D'Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson/Nick Young, Julius Randle and Roy Hibbert. Needless to say, the starting lineup won't be ultra competitive in the rugged Western Conference. While the most optimistic Lakers fans may project their team fighting for the 8th seed next season, that's clearly a stretch. The Lakers don't have much talent and Kobe's massive contract (1 year, $25 million) and injury concerns have hindered the team in different ways. Kobe is clearly “box-office,” and fans will always clamor to see the Mamba play, but one has to think the Lakers privately hope this is Kobe's farewell season as they look to move forward with their rebuild around Russell, Clarkson and Randle.
5. Has Phil Jackson kept his promise to Melo to make Knicks competitive?
With Carmelo Anthony returning after missing 42 of 82 games last year, the Knicks are looking to compete for a playoff spot under second year coach Derek Fisher. After finishing the season 17-65, there is nowhere to go but up for New York. While the Knicks will definitely be improved in 2015-16, there's no guarantee the team will be competitive.
The Knicks ultimately struck out on signing any real impact players in free agency. They were unable to tie down a meeting with LaMarcus Aldridge, after reportedly letting it be known they desired him to play “strictly” center. DeAndre Jordan clearly wasn't too interested and the one impact player who has been tied to New York for some time, Greg Monroe, ultimately steered toward greener pastures in Milwaukee. While Aaron Afflalo, Robin Lopez, Kyle Quinn and Derrick Williams are solid additions, it's hard to say that they'll lead NY much closer to title contention next season. Melo will likely be at least somewhat frustrated as NY hinges much of it's future on the development of stud Latvian prospect and 4th overall pick, Kristaps Porzingis. Phil Jackson promised Melo that he'd get the Knicks back in contention, but so far it looks like that promise is far from being honored. At least Melo has that $124 million dollar contract to ease the pain.Back to the NBA Newsfeed