What To Watch For On NBA Opening Night

Ooooooh doggy, it’s that time of the year. Next like two weeks are the BEST period of sports all year. Prime NFL season. Huge playoff-impacting college football. MLB World Series. And then we kick off the NBA season tomorrow night. Here’s what you need to know about the 3 games and 6 teams we’ll be seeing:

UTAH JAZZ vs. PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS

Jazz: Coming into the season with injuries, as they’ll be out with at least Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks for the opener, and possibly Derrick Favors. Utah just barely missed the Playoffs last year, and they’re definitely a better roster through and through than a year ago. They add George Hill, Joe Johnson, and Boris Diaw, return Dante Exum from injury, and are looking from bigger seasons from Trey Lyles and Rudy Gobert. They’ve got enough talent and vets to make the Playoffs this year, but it’s tough to start the season with your best player injured.

Blazers: Damian Lillard made it clear what his goals for the season are, saying he “wants to bring home the MVP trophy”. Dude’s the real deal, and undoubtedly put himself in the top 3 point guards in the league. One knock you can have against him is his percentages, which dipped last season. But the addition of Evan Turner and the progression of CJ McCollum should ease the shot load for Lillard and give him more open looks. I’m still not sold on their front court. Even after getting Festus Ezeli, they’re still a big man and other pieces away from being contenders. Dame Dolla will get them to the Playoffs, but there’s some GM work to be done.

lillard-1

KNICKS vs. CLEVELAND

Knicks: Derrick Rose has made more headlines this offseason than the Knicks should be comfortable with, between the rape trial and the “super team” comments. Even though most of their players are washed as hell, Carmelo’s still going to get his, and Derrick and Joakim still have something in the tank. On top of them, one of the biggest storylines this season will be if Porzingis goes through a Sophomore slump. Outside of those 4, this roster is TRASH, which has always been the Knicks way. Load up on a few “super”-stars, but pay no attention to roster spots 5-15. Another long season in New York.

Cleveland: Anything the Cavs do this season’s gravy. Lebron got his Cleveland championship, and if they get another, great. If they don’t, who cares. And since no one should care, you’re going to see a free-playing Lebron like we’ve never seen before. Same goes for Kevin Love, who I think returns to prime Kevin Love this year. With those two and Kyrie playing free and happy, the Cavs will walk through the East…again.

LeBron James
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, center, celebrates with teammates after Game 7 of basketball’s NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, June 19, 2016. The Cavaliers won 93-89. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

WARRIORS vs. SPURS

Spurs: One of the more overlooked acquisition of the offseason was San Antonio adding Pau Gasol, which I thinks keeps them a top 4 team in the West this season. Poppovich is still the best coach in the league (possibly in history), so there shouldn’t be any worries of a major major set back this season. Don’t believe the Lamarcus Aldridge rumors, he’ll remain there this whole season unless a gigantic offer comes from a team like Boston. Tony Parker and Manu will be their usual selves, and maybe play 60 games if they’re lucky. Danny Green’s still a good piece, and Dejounte Murray’s going to be a good one in the future, and those are two you’ll want to keep an eye on opening night. Overall, San Antonio without Tim Duncan is still San Antonio with Gregg Popovich.

danny-green

Warriors: Last chance motel for this Warriors franchise as we know it. This is the last contract year for Steph, Iguodala, Livingston, and KD, among others. With the cap going up again, Steph and KD (who I don’t think re-signs with Golden State) will want north of $30 million per year, and Livingston/Iguodala will be severely overpaid by a team. Not a chance they take pay cuts to be on the Warriors, those two have earned their money. And so there goes at least two of their most important pieces, and what gives them the chance to blow out the other teams’ bench. Leaving this as the last season for this Warriors team.

Let’s not worry about next season yet though. What are the Warriors chances for take the chip this year? Obviously high, but this team’s not as good as last year’s, or the previous year’s. Having Zaza Pachulia, David West, Anderson Varejao, and Javale Mcgee on basically vet minimums is a steal, and all 4 will fare well in the rotation the same way that Bogut did last year. But they’re old and brittle, and outside of Javale, won’t be running the floor in this offense. Nice to have vets on the team, but I don’t really get what they’re going to add.

steph 23

As for the backcourt, Steph-Klay-KD will clearly be the best in the league, but there’s a learning curve that comes with it. Steph won’t shoot like he did last year, and teams will be waaaaay more physical with him (like I’ve been preaching for years). Klay’s still the best pure shooter in league history, so I don’t see him falling off. As for KD, how does he not fold under the pressure? He’s NEVER been good with pressure. Those first few times, like in the Finals versus Lebron, we gave him a pass because he was a kid more or less. But dude’s entering his 9th year in the league, is one of the best offensive players in league history, yet has only made it to one NBA Finals. That’s an embarrassment. Last year’s Thunder were better than last year’s Warriors in the Playoffs, but KD’s hero ball killed them again. So when the clock’s winding down, and the best play for KD is to pass it to the open shooter, do you really think he’s going to? You think he’s changed that much? Hero ball’s ingrained in the guy, don’t expect that to change.

And finally, the biggest thing that keeps the Warriors from winning the championship this season: Draymond Green. Whether or not you agreed with the NBA’s decision to suspend Draymond in the Finals last season, the fact he did anything to put an idea like that into the Commissioner’s head tells you everything you need to know about Draymond. Having a lot of assists doesn’t mean you’re a team player. Because if he were a “team player”, he wouldn’t be in a situation that could hurt the team that much. He cost them last year’s season, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t do that again.

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