With the kickoff of the 2016-17 season, the NBA will enter its 70th year running since it began its inaugural season back in 1946-47. A lot has happened since 1946 but with a doubt, this 2016-17 season is up there in terms of excitement level. The 'real' excitement for the 2016-17 began after the Cleveland Cavaliers came back and won from a 3-1 series deficit against the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. LeBron James and company finally brought the city of Cleveland a championship, ending a record 52-year drought which was the longest drought in professional sports. The excitement began with what happened in the offseason, which shocked many NBA fans.
2016-17: The Era of the 'Super Team' Begins
Three months ago, the NBA free agency period began. During that period, NBA fans witnessed the unexpected. Kevin Durant did what was thought unimaginable when he left a very talented Oklahoma City Thunder team to form a 'Super Team' with Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors. The buzz around KD joining the Warriors is still being talked today. Mainly because the Warriors were already in the NBA Finals for two consecutive seasons and with Durant now on the team, the Warriors are arguably the best team in the league. NBA analysts are saying that the Warriors are going to win at least 70 games this season. While head coach Steve Kerr says their goal is not to win 70 games or break any records but to win an NBA championship.
The move by Kevin Durant joining the Warriors sparked more players leaving their old team via signing with a new team or being traded. Players like Dwyane Wade heading back home to Chicago and signing with the Bulls, and Dwight Howard who also goes back home to Atlanta, signing with the Hawks. Derrick Rose who has yet to perform like his MVP season since injuring his knee back in 2012, was traded to the New York Knicks to join forces with Carmelo Anthony in hopes of bringing a championship to the Big Apple.
On the other hand, Al Horford left the Hawks because of Dwight Howard signing with the team. Horford decided to sign with the young and talented Boston Celtics team that now poses a threat to the rest of the Eastern Conference. Next up was Chandler Parsons who left the Dallas Mavericks to play alongside Mike 'Money Making' Conley and the Memphis Grizzlies.
Donning Mike Conley as 'Money Making' makes sense as he signed the biggest NBA contract in history with a five-year, $153-million deal. Several other players got paid in large sums of money in part of the nine-year, $24-billion NBA TV deal that kicked in this season. The 2016-17 will now put pressure on the players who got paid a lot as they are expected to perform at a higher level.
The Stars that Left Us
The 2016-17 season will be without a few familiar stars. The first, Kobe Bean Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers. Before the start of the 2015-16 season, Future NBA Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant announced that he will retire at season's end. Many fans, as well as teams, fwere sad to hear this news so many of the road games the Los Angeles played last season, a team played a tribute video or an appreciation video. Bryant retired with five NBA championships, two-time NBA Finals MVP, one-time NBA Most Valuable Player and an 18-time NBA All-Star, and much more awards. With that said, the legendary number 24 will no longer play in the NBA.
A couple of Future NBA Hall of Famers retired during the offseason, those being Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett. Duncan who spent his whole career with the San Antonio Spurs called it quits at age 40. He is the only player in NBA history to win an NBA championship in three different decades. Duncan walks away with a total of five NBA championships, two-time NBA Most Valuable Player, and a 15-time NBA All-Star, and much more.
Kevin Garnett decided to call it a career as well, leaving behind a persona that many will miss. Garnett brought a tough presence game in and game out during his 20-year career with the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Boston Celtics, and the Brooklyn Nets. He retired with one NBA championship, one-time NBA MVP, a 15-time NBA All-Star, and an NBA Defensive Player of the Year, and much more.
Notable players who also retired are Amar'e Stoudemire, Elton Brand, and Mo Williams.
It's Not Going to be Easy to Repeat
The Cavaliers will have a much tougher chance to repeat with the Eastern Conference becoming much stronger. The Toronto Raptors still seem as the Cavaliers top competitor but then there is the much improved Boston Celtics and the Indiana Pacers. If in fact, the Cavaliers do get out of the East, they would likely have to face either the favorite Golden State Warriors, the San Antonio Spurs or the Los Angeles Clippers. Each one of these teams improved during the offseason and might have a chance in getting out of the Western Conference. With that said, it will most likely be a Finals rematch featuring the same teams for three years in a row in the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors.
Statistics are Going to be Important for 2016-17 and Beyond
Ask any player or analyst if statistics matter. Most will say no but it is quite possible that stats will matter this season more than ever. The reason being is that Stephen Curry was the league's first-ever unanimous MVP. His play and his stats for the 2015-16 season were incredible. Curry averaged 30.1 points and 6.1 assists per game, and splashed an NBA record 402 three-point field goals last season. This is what won Curry the MVP award and what will dictate future MVP awards.
A prime example for this season would be Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder. This is Westbrook's team now that Durant is gone. Westbrook's numbers will be off the charts and possible one for the ages. He will get those triple-doubles like he did last season and may be close to finishing the 2016-17 campaign averaging a near triple-double. Without a doubt, Westbrook or Curry will finish as top candidates to win the MVP award.
Final Take for the 2016-17 NBA Season:
This season will be a true test for the future NBA. The game has definitely changed from a few years ago. Teams are now looking more for the three-point shot more than ever. Shooting has become very important in today's league and teams are utilizing shooters more in their plays. Just ask Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors. Outside of shooting, the NBA seems to be playing longer and taller players to play the point guard position.
The Houston Rockets are experimenting this with James Harden who will be playing point this season. Another team also playing this strategy is the Milwaukee Bucks with seven-footer Giannis Antetokounmpo. Overall, this season will come down to how the three is defended as well as which team can get it done in the fourth quarter of games.
|Atlanta Hawks||Boston Celtics|
|Brooklyn Nets||Golden State Warriors|
|Houston Rockets||Minnesota Timberwolves|
|New York Knicks||Oklahoma City Thunder|
|Sacramento Kings||Toronto Raptors|