With NBA training camp officially underway and the inauguration of the 2014-2015 season less than one month away, there are plenty of things to look forward to this season as we break our offseason fast. The end of last season was filled with dramatic storylines that dominated sports headlines for all of May and June.
Of course, we cannot forget the audiotapes of former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. Sterling’s racial comments to his girlfriend, secretary, or mistress, were egregious, yet not surprising considering Sterling’s history of racial prejudices and discriminatory actions. Sadly, Sterling’s comments stole the thunder of the NBA playoffs and his legal case soon became headline news, instead of his own team advancing to the second round of the playoffs. With Doc Rivers threatening to quit if Donald Sterling was still the owner and the players about to boycott one of their playoff games, there was more drama off the court than on it. The eventual outcome ended with Commissioner Adam Silver enforcing a lifetime ban on Donald Sterling from any NBA activities, including his own team’s games, with Sterling being forced to sell the franchise for $2 billion, which ushered in the dawn of a new era with the Clippers franchise.
This is just one of the things that caused Twitter to blow up last season and there will be plenty of more storylines that we can look forward to for this up and coming season. Players have been traded, coaches are coaching for the first time, and there are a plethora of high-flying rookies this season that will put the future of the NBA in very good hands. Here are the top-10 potential storylines that are already half-baked for the 2014-2015 NBA season and that we as storied fans can look forward to.
15 The Potential Retirement of Steve Nash, Tim Duncan, and Kevin Garnett
Steve Nash has already come out and said that he will retire after his contract runs out this season. The fact of the matter is, he should have retired two years ago, but you cannot blame the two-time MVP for collecting every last penny of his contract. It is also possible that Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett may retire this year. Both players seriously contemplated whether or not they wanted to come back this year, but they decided to come back for at least one more year. The two giants have a ton of mileage on them and it is quite possible that we may be seeing the end of an era this year with these future Hall of Famers.
14 Who Will Be Rookie of the Year?
Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Nerlens Noel are the top 3 likely candidates to win Rookie of the Year. Even though Noel was drafted last year, he is eligible to win Rookie of the Year because he did not play a single game last year, just like Blake Griffin did. More than likely though, Jabari will win Rookie of the Year because he will score more than either Wiggins or Noel who are both more defensive minded than offensive minded.
13 Can Anthony Davis Enter the MVP Conversation?
Anthony Davis became the face of the FIBA World Cup team this past summer. Despite not winning the MVP award, it was obvious that Davis was the most important member of the team. Davis has put on muscle this past summer to his slender frame, so that he doesn’t get bullied in the paint as much this year. Davis was already starting to get a lot of hype towards the end of last year, but this year, he may be in the MVP conversation right from the beginning.
12 How Will the Pacers Score This Year?
With the departure of Lance Stephenson and the brutal injury to Paul George, the Indiana Pacers are absolutely depleted. Last year, they were projected to be the second best team in the Eastern Conference. This year, they will be lucky to even make the playoffs in the East. Their main scoring options are now an old David West, Roy Hibbert who lost all of his confidence last year, and a George Hill who is averse to shooting the ball.
11 Who Will be the Cinderella Team This Year?
Last year, the Washington Wizards came out of nowhere and not only made the playoffs, but they made it to the second round by beating the Chicago Bulls in the first round. The Portland Trail Blazers also made it to the playoffs for the first time in a long time, and they also made it to the second round after beating the Houston Rockets. This year, the Phoenix Suns have their full squad back and have acquired Isaiah Thomas to be their heat check player off the bench. The Suns finished with the 9th seed last year, but this year, they look poised and ready to make the playoffs in a tough Western Conference.
10 Will the Young Wolves Make Noise?
The Minnesota Timberwolves knew that they could not hold onto Kevin Love for too long. Love’s foot was already halfway out the door before the season started last year, so the Wolves were in a bit of a dilemma heading into this season because they did not want to lose Love for nothing. So, they wisely traded away their superstar and they may have gotten as much as they could out of a trade for someone of Love’s caliber. The Wolves got the number one pick Andrew Wiggins and last year’s number one pick, Anthony Bennett, from the Cleveland Cavaliers. They also were able to acquire Thaddeus Young from the Philadelphia 76ers. And oh yeah, they also had their own draft pick, Zach Levine, who is arguably even more athletic than Andrew Wiggins. The Wolves won’t make the playoffs, but you can bet that they are going to make it on ESPN every other night with Ricky Rubio passing to Levine and Wiggins.
9 Can Steve Kerr Coach?
The former TNT analyst is now the head coach of the Golden State Warriors. It is hard to say why the Warriors let go of former coach Mark Jackson, since the players loved him so much, but it is possible that Steve Kerr can do just as good of a job as Jackson, if not better. Kerr was a former general manager for the Phoenix Suns and he has multiple championship rings with the Chicago Bulls and the San Antonio Spurs, so he has experience on the court and off of it. Make no mistake, this is no basketball fool, Kerr’s basketball IQ ranks with the best of the basketball erudites.
8 Can Steve Ballmer Re-Energize the LA Clippers?
Anyone not named Donald Sterling is a step up from former owner Donald Sterling. What makes Steve Ballmer even more of a fascinating owner is that he is filled with the energy of a die-hard sports fan. Mark Cuban may finally have some competition. Additionally, Forbes Magazine recently said that Ballmer is a net worth of $22.5 billion. Ballmer is easily the richest owner in the NBA now, so he already stands in an elite category. The $2 billion that he paid for the Clippers was pocket change for him. And when you have an owner this wealthy and this passionate about the game, the culture is already changing.
7 Will the Oklahoma City Thunder Finally Win?
The Oklahoma City Thunder are predicted to be Championship contenders almost every season, yet they have only made the Finals once. They seem to always get knocked out early because of youth or injuries. But the Thunder have paid their dues and they are hungry. They are tired of losing and it is quite possible that last season’s MVP, Kevin Durant, is even better than he was last season. Add a healthy Serge Ibaka, an angry Russell Westbrook, and the emergence of Steven Adams, and the Thunder have a good nucleus that has been together for quite some time.
6 Can Phil Jackson Change the Culture in New York?
Most outsiders don’t know this, but New York is even more of a basketball town than it is a baseball or football town. It is just that the Knicks have been irrelevant for so long, fans really have nothing to talk about. But the tide could be changing. The Knicks have finally brought someone into the front office that knows what he is doing, and he has brought some of his Zen magic with him. Jackson’s presence alone has brought on a winning culture, which has been lacking in this organization since the days of Allan Houston and Walt Frazier.
5 Will Derrick Rose be a MVP Player Ever Again?
NBA fans finally saw Derrick Rose in a game setting this summer during the World Cup, but he did not look like the old Derrick Rose at all. Rose still had the explosiveness and the speed that he has always had, but his bad shooting form looked even worse in the World Cup. Rose shot 1-19 from the shortened 3-point line this past summer in Spain and couldn’t hit a shot into the ocean. However, this summer may have been the best thing that he could have done to prepare him for this season. Rose shook off some much needed rust by playing with the US team, and there is no doubt that the rust will eventually shake off during the regular season. Bulls fans just have to hope that it is before the playoffs because the expectations for the Bulls this year are higher than ever.
4 Can the San Antonio Spurs Repeat?
The short answer is yes. They were 7 seconds away from winning the Finals two years ago and they won it last year as well, so technically they won the Finals 1.5 times. Are the Spurs old? Sure they are, but they have been old for the past 5-7 years. Eventually, the old arguments get old. It seems like the San Antonio Spurs are counted out every year, but until they look like they are about to croak and fall over, it would be a mistake to count out Greg Poppovich and his Spurs, especially with every member from last year’s team returning.
3 How Will the Miami Heat Look Sans LeBron?
Knowing Pat Riley, he got over the departure of LeBron James in less than 24 hours. So, it is no coincidence that Riley immediately signed Chris Bosh back and acquired Luol Deng to fill in the small forward spot that LeBron left vacant. Deng is no LeBron, but he is still one of the best two-way players in the NBA. The Heat also acquired Danny Granger and Josh McRoberts, who can play the 4-spot and stretch the floor to the 3-point line. With Wade shedding some weight and Bosh looking to post up more in the paint, the Heat will look different, but they will still be in the Top 5 in the East.
2 How Will Kobe Bryant Look?
Kobe Bryant has not played a NBA game since last December. That is how long Kobe has been out of the game. But he says that he is fully healthy and ready to go for the first game of the season. Kobe always looks like he is in shape, but the bigger question is whether or not he is rusty. Furthermore, what can the 36-year-old do with this newly formed roster and new head coach? There are a lot of things that need to come together for the Los Angeles Lakers to be relevant again. This year, we will really see if Kobe was always Superman or if he is Clark Kent, but if there is anyone that can rise again from the dead, it is Kobe Bryant.
1 Can LeBron James Bring Cleveland a Ring This Year?
Most franchises cannot win a championship when there is too much change that is happening over the course of one year. In one offseason, the Cleveland Cavaliers have gotten a new coach and two new superstars that will demand the ball. Usually, it takes one to two seasons to build any sense of continuity, but LeBron is the exception to every rule. Additionally, it is not as though LeBron is new to the Cavaliers. Cleveland is where he grew up and he played for the Cavaliers prior to joining the Heat. This is his team and they should rightfully be looked at as the best team in the East.