Is the NBA Ruined?

By: Nick Galle

NBA free agency is in full swing and it has been nothing short of what fans expected.

Whether it be LeBron James making Los Angeles his new kingdom, Tony Parker leaving San Antonio after 17 seasons, or Brook Lopez making his way to Milwaukee, none of these moves compare to the signing that shook the Association- DeMarcus Cousins taking his talent to the Bay Area.

With the addition of the elite center, the Golden State Warriors have essentially become an All-Star team that looks to defend the NBA Title after a clean sweep of LeBron and the Cavaliers.

The signing, a veteran’s minimum of one-year, $5.3 million, has caused some fans to lose interest in the NBA. Who could beat a team with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Kevin Durant, AND DeMarcus Cousins? Has a champion already been crowned?

It is undeniable that Golden State is one of the best, if not the best, super team to ever be assembled in NBA history. With that being said, they are certainly not going 82-0, and they are a long way away from officially being named 2019 NBA Champions.

With new faces in new places and a draft class with limitless potential, the 2018-2019 NBA season could be an absolute thrill ride that is far from over.

The Western Conference has been viewed as the stronger, more talented conference opposed to the East. The Western Conference alone has a handful of teams that could challenge Golden State during the regular season and shake things up in the West.

Los Angeles Lakers

Of course, with LeBron making his move to LA, the Lakers have big expectations for the upcoming season. With young stars such as Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma, and role players such as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Lance Stephenson, Magic’s Lakers have a nice support staff to compliment the King and his quest for another title in another city. Throw in Rajon Rondo’s veteran leadership skills, and a promising draft pick in Moritz Wagner, and you have a Lakers team that is going to exceed last year’s 35-47 record.

Threat to Golden State: Yes

LeBron James has moved cities once again and looks to team up with Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma with hopes of winning another title with another team. (Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Houston Rockets

The Rockets, who took home the first seed in the West last year with a 65-17 record, are going to be one of the Warriors’ biggest challenges that they face this upcoming season. With Chris Paul re-signing, Rockets fans will get to see more of CP3 and James Harden on the court this year, a dynamic duo that worked well together last season. With Clint Capela down low if he re-signs, Houston will have the size to match up with Cousins. Capela won’t shut down Cousins by any means, but he could at least limit him to sway the game in the Rockets’ favor. With Joe Johnson, Eric Gordon, Nene, and Gerald Green, Houston has a strong veteran core to assist Paul and Harden. The Rockets lack young talent, but should still pose a threat to Golden State.

Threat to Golden State: Yes

With Chris Paul re-signed, the veteran point guard looks to lead his team to the one seed in the West along with James Harden and Clint Capela if he re-signs. (Justin Tafoya/Getty Images)

Oklahoma City Thunder

OKC could really go either way this season. Obviously Russell Westbrook and Paul George will be leading the way, as Oklahoma City looks to improve upon a successful 2017-2018 season. With a 48-34 record, the Thunder locked down the 4th seed and with Carmelo Anthony’s decision to part ways with the team, Westbrook and George will be able to get more opportunities to make plays. Besides PG13 and Westbrook, OKC really has no backbone. The depth of this team won’t be able to carry them over the Warriors, but they could still be a dark horse in the West if they can add another big name before the beginning of the season or at the deadline.

Threat to Golden State: No

Paul George is back with OKC despite Carmelo’s departure. The duo of Westbrook and George will look to outplay the duo of Harden and Paul in Houston and make their way to the Western Conference Finals. (Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman)

Utah Jazz

Utah went 48-34 last season and was able to secure the 5th seed in the West after a breakout rookie season by Donovan Mitchell. The Utah Jazz are a young and talented team. Add Grayson Allen to the mix, and who knows where the Jazz could end up this season. Despite being composed of mostly role players, the Jazz still have Gobert, Mitchell, and now Allen as the start of a foundation for not only this season, but the future as well.

Threat to Golden State: No

Donovan Mitchell broke out last season and with Grayson Allen joining Utah this season, the Jazz could make some noise in the Western Conference. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Phoenix Suns

Phoenix will not pose a threat to the Warriors. They simply do not have the talent or experience to match-up with a team composed of All-Stars. What Phoenix does have going for them is the amount of potential featured throughout the roster. With Devin Booker getting a max contract, the NBA could see a whole new level of play from the 21 year-old who averaged 24.9 points per game last year. Booker is joined by Josh Jackson, Marquese Chriss, Deandre Ayton, and Mikal Bridges, an unbelievable group of young, up-and-coming athletes.  The Suns could very well be one of the most exciting NBA teams to watch in the West this year if the young guns play to their strengths. Phoenix was atrocious last season, at 21-61, so things can only go up from here for the franchise.

Threat to Golden State: No

Devin Booker received a max contract extension and will have a plethora of young talent at his disposal this season with Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges, and Josh Jackson. (Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports)

The Eastern Conference is clearly the weaker conference, but there are still a few teams in the East with huge expectations for next season. With LBJ’s departure from the East, the conference is up for grabs. With Cleveland out of the way, last year’s playoff teams have their eyes set on the Eastern Conference Finals, and an eventual spot in the NBA Finals.

Boston Celtics

Heading into the 2018-2019 season, the Boston Celtics are the favorites to represent the East in the NBA Finals. After taking the Cavaliers seven games in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals with no Kyrie Irving or Gordon Hayward, Boston aims to win an Eastern Conference championship and have a shot at getting banner 18. With the return of Irving and Hayward, alongside Al Horford, and young stars such as Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Terry Rozier, Boston poses a threat to the Warriors. Boston’s defense has been strong in the past, and with the addition of Robert Williams, it has the potential to become stronger. With such a talented Golden State team, the match-up situation is still questionable, but with the possibility of beating the Warriors and a revamped rivalry with the Lakers, basketball in Boston should be nothing short of fantastic.

Threat to Golden State: Yes

As Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward return, Boston looks to build upon an impressive 2017-2018 season and secure their spot in this year’s NBA Finals. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Toronto Raptors

The Raptors went 59-23 last season, a record that put them at the top of the Eastern Conference. Toronto was swept by Cleveland in the postseason, a disappointing end to a season that appeared to be promising. Aside from Kyle Lowry, DeMar Derozan, and Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto has limited star power with a team composed mostly of role players. Toronto is pretty much guaranteed a top three spot in the East with the departure of LeBron and they should have no problem making it past the first round of playoffs.

Threat to Golden State: No

Will DeRozan and Lowry be able to carry the Raptors deep into the playoffs? Toronto’s role players will have to step up in order for the team to improve upon last season’s playoff run. (Ernest Doroszuk/Toronto Sun)

 

Philadelphia 76ers

Philly may not necessarily be one of the Warriors’ tougher challengers, but with the skill level of the 76ers, there is no doubt that they do indeed pose a threat to the defending champs. Philadelphia played below expectations against Boston in last year’s playoffs, but with such a young core, the 76ers have a chance to be successful for many years to come. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid have taken roles as team leaders heading into next season. Who knows what Markelle Fultz could bring to this team as he returns from injury. Philly has some of the best role players in the East when it comes to depth, with Robert Covington, Dario Saric, and T.J. McConnell leading the pack. Wichita State guard Landry Shamet will also be thrown into the rotation this year with hopes to bring Philly to the Eastern Conference Finals, and possibly even the NBA Finals.

Threat to Golden State: Yes

Despite a disappointing playoff series against Boston last year, “The Process” is still in full effect as Joel Embiid and the 76ers strive for greatness this season. Markelle Fultz will make his return this season and play alongside Ben Simmons, who was awarded Rookie of the Year for the 2017-2018 season. (Jonathan Pushnik)

Milwaukee Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo has made it clear that he wants to bring a title to Milwaukee. Giannis is not going anywhere for an extended period of time and the supporting cast that Milwaukee has will give the Bucks a good chance of being a top five team in the East. With Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon, and now Donte DiVincenzo, the Bucks have a lot of depth at the guard position. Assuming Milwaukee re-signs Jabari Parker, Parker and Middleton both offer offensive talent at the forward position along with the Greek Freak. The Bucks are extremely weak at the five, but the other four players on the court should be able to pick up the slack and account for the weakness at center. Milwaukee could surprise the NBA this year, and it is certain they will find themselves in the playoffs again this season.

Threat to Golden State: No

Season after season, Milwaukee seems to improve. With Giannis leading the way, the Bucks should have no problem attaining a high seed for the playoffs. (Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports)

The NBA is far from ruined. Despite there being a team with a clear-cut advantage, there is still plenty of reasons to watch this year, and we may be in for some surprises.

If Golden State can’t stay healthy, teams are going to take advantage of those injuries. Cousins is coming off of a season where he only played 48 games and Steph Curry has had his fair share of injuries throughout the past few seasons. Kevin Durant faced a battle with injury back in 2017, where he dealt with an MCL sprain. The potential for injury might just be the most difficult opponent Golden State has to face this year.

In a span of 82 games, a lot can happen. Things can go amazing for Golden State and they can live up to expectations, or things can take a terrible turn. If that terrible turn occurs, you can guarantee that there will be another NBA team right around the corner to dethrone the defending champs.

Follow Edge Sports Network on Twitter: @TheEdgeSN

Follow Nick Galle on Twitter: @EdgeSNGalle

Cover photo via: Ben Margot, Associated Press

Nick Galle
About Nick Galle 20 Articles
Nick is from Sterling, Massachusetts and currently attends Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin as a journalism major. He formerly was the owner of BeanTownBlog617, a blog that covered Boston sports. In addition to the blog, he was the co-host of the Boston Sports Weekly podcast. He also writes for four other sports sites. His favorite teams include the Celtics, Red Sox, Patriots, and Bruins. Follow Nick on Twitter @EdgeSNGalle.

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