The NBA season is still two months away, but after the draft, free agency, and the slowest month on the NBA calendar, we’re not too far from the resumption of activity in preparation for another 82-game odyssey. One month from now, preseason basketball will be discussed.
You’ll obviously get a much deeper examination of these points in late October, but let’s simply set the table and lay out five big storylines for the coming NBA season:
5 – NOWHERE TO SOMEWHERE IN THE EAST, THE SEQUEL
The 2014 NBA season witnessed the sustained dominance of two teams in the Eastern Conference: the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat. The two teams that were supposed to rule the conference at the start of the season were the two teams left at the end of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
In 2015, the dynamic changed. Miami and Indiana didn’t even make the playoffs due to a combination of flights (LeBron James to Cleveland) and injuries (Chris Bosh for the Heat, Paul George for the Pacers). Cleveland, not a playoff team in 2014, promptly went to the Finals with its dramatically different roster. Atlanta, the No. 8 seed in 2014, became the top seed in the East and — for the first time in the Georgia-based portion of its history — a conference finalist. The Hawks benefited from a healthier Al Horford, which they did not have for much of 2014, and an improved supporting cast that meshed extremely well under Coach Of The Year Mike Budenholzer.
This year, Cleveland should reign in the East, but after the Cavs, we could very easily see more teams come from relatively low places in the conference pecking order to emerge as top-tier contenders. One of those teams is the group of young Bucks from Milwaukee. A No. 6 seed and a team not remotely ready to contend last season, the Bucks are the East team of the future. Is the future now, though, or will Milwaukee need at least one more year to make a serious run at the East finals?
In a fascinating plot twist, what was once the old guard in the East, quickly displaced last season, might be ready to return to the No. 2 and (or) No. 3 slot(s) in the conference: Miami and Indiana get superstars (Bosh and George) back in the lineup, and with Miami having a chance to put Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic on the floor with Bosh and Dwyane Wade, the Heat will have one the of better starting fives in the league. Miami and Indiana will both need their benches to exceed expectations, however — that will be the main obstacle for the Heat and Pacers.
To continue reading this article by Matt Zemek at Bloguin, click here.