2016 was one of the most fascinating years we will ever witness in the NBA. The Golden State Warriors set a new record for the greatest regular season record finishing 73-9. Kobe Bryant retired, scoring 60 points in his final NBA game. Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan quietly retired. The Cleveland Cavaliers pulled off an improbable comeback from down 3-1 in the NBA Finals to finally fulfill LeBron James’ promise of bringing a NBA Championship to the organization. The offseason continued to be shocking with Kevin Durant leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder to form a ridiculous super team with Steph Curry and friends.
The current season is already off to a great start with new stars making up for the veterans retiring. Golden State is the dominant team in the NBA, embracing their villain role. LeBron is having another outstanding season. A couple of Superstars are getting to the next level of MVP territory. Fan interest is strong and the league continues to grow as a global phenomenon. Next we’ll see new All-Stars named, the regular season conclude with the MVP race finishing strong, another compelling postseason and a drama-filled free agency period in the offseason. We’ll take a look at some of the huge things that will happen in the crazy world of the NBA come 2017.
15. Stephen Curry Signs Historic Contract
The new Collective Bargaining Agreement in the NBA will make free agency a sweeter process for certain Superstars. Stephen Curry fits the bill as a two-time MVP that has spent his entire career with one team. These incentives would allow Curry to make $207 million over five years if the Golden State Warriors agree to re-sign him at such a figure.
Curry could easily get the biggest contract in NBA history. His current contract netting him $12 million per season has made Curry the most underpaid star in the NBA with his rise to offensive dominance. The summer of 2017 will finally see him cash in on his success to make an astonishing pay upgrade. Golden State fans adore Curry and there’s no way the Warriors franchise can afford to let him leave. Curry is setting history with the biggest NBA contract of all-time.
14. Dirk Nowitzki Retires
The likes of Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett retiring in 2016 has changed the landscape of the NBA. Dirk Nowitzki is the only major star from the post-Michael Jordan era that is still active today. Unfortunately, age is starting to catch up to Nowitzki. The Dallas Mavericks have been forced to play with their top star sidelined and have one of the worst records in the NBA.
Nowitzki has gone on the record to say that he’s considering retirement after the season if the injuries continue to follow him. No one wants to end their career in pain on the bench, especially a future Hall of Famer. This will be his final season and he will formally announce his retirement by the summer. Dallas being in such a terrible spot means they’ll at least get a high draft pick and possibly find a Superstar replacement for Dirk.
13. Aaron Gordon Wins Slam Dunk Contest
One of the most underrated memories of 2016 was the spectacular Slam Dunk Contest showdown between Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon and Minnesota Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine. The results saw LaVine win but a large percentage of viewers felt Gordon delivered the better dunks. We finally have two elite dunkers that are made to compete in the competition every year.
LaVine defending the title against Gordon will be one of the high points of the 2017 All-Star Weekend. Gordon has been delivering epic dunks all season with the toughness of the in-game aspect not preventing him from styling on the competition. We’re going to witness him have a tremendous performance this year, winning the Slam Dunk Contest one year after he was robbed.
12. Giannis Antetokounmpo Wins All-Star Game MVP
This may be a wild prediction to the casual fan. Not many people will want to watch the Milwaukee Bucks, but Giannis Antetokounmpo is quietly having one of the best seasons in the NBA. With current averages of 22.9 points, 9.1 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game, Antetokounmpo is clearly going to make the All-Star Team in the Eastern Conference.
The Greek Freak will be a new face to the NBA elite but he has the talent to steal the show. Antetokounmpo does everything one can do on a basketball court and it shows in his numbers. The All-Star Game is always a crapshoot with the player with the best numbers on the winning team getting the MVP. LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony likely won’t push themselves extremely hard to win the award with their attention on reserving energy for important games. It opens the window for someone like Antetokounmpo to win the award.
11. Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry Have 50/40/90 Seasons
The elusive 50/40/90 season happens when an NBA star shoots 50% from the field, 40% from three-point range and 90% from the free throw line. A star really needs to be efficient to pull off such a feat with the only names to do so being Larry Bird, Mark Price, Reggie Miller, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry.
Durant and Curry are poised to join Nash and Bird as the only stars to do it twice. They will also become the first teammates to pull off the feat if it happens. Curry is currently lacking at the overall field goal shooting percentage (48%) and Durant is lacking at the free throw line (87%) with a lot of time left in the season. Both men are talented enough to bump those numbers up and have a historic end to the year.