By Alexander Gordon
This offseason we’ve seen almost unprecedented star player movement, and it has certainly changed the competitive landscape of the league. For this preview I will touch on all these major moves to see how much they really change things.
As a caveat, this analysis comes with the understanding that the Warriors will most likely be as good if not better than last year. They re-signed all their key pieces and managed to pick up Omri Casspi and Nick Young as well, bolstering an already impressive bench. Unless one of these new super teams drastically outperforms expectations, odds are none of them are going to threaten the Warriors in a series. An injury would most likely be necessary, and the terrifying thing is even that might not be enough.
Onto the Cavaliers, before diving into the rest of the 28 teams. There’s a chance, especially with the recent addition of Dwyane Wade, that the Cavs are a better team than last year. They are certainly deeper, which will hopefully mean Lebron doesn’t have to average a triple double in order for them to be at all competitive in a hypothetical Warriors series. Isaiah Thomas should come back healthy, and assuming a return to his all-NBA level last season, this potential final matchup could be the best of the tetralogy so far.
Now I want to talk about the new glamor teams, the Rockets, Thunder and Timberwolves, all in reference to how they might fare in a hypothetical Warrior’s matchup, because at the end of the day that’s the standard you need to come to terms with.
The Rockets have done something interesting in that they have managed to take the distinction of best backcourt in the NBA from the Warriors. For the past two seasons this distinction has belong to Thompson and Curry. All of a sudden the backcourt combination of Chris Paul and James Harden can at least match them offensively. It’s very rare to have two MVP level guards in the same backcourt; whether they can coexist is yet to be seen. If they do however, just matching Steph and Klay is simply not enough, as they would need to find a way to handily out play them in a series, and that’s just to give them a chance. They will probably be the two seed this year, but the anomaly of the Warriors is enough to make that honor ring somehow hollow.
The Thunder starting lineup is projected to be one of the best in the league: Westbrook, Roberson, George, Anthony and Adams. Substitute Anthony for the newly acquired Patrick Patterson and you have the bones of what could be a top 5 defense. Bringing in Anthony and George cost them depth though. You make these moves 10 times out of 10, but by the measuring stick of the Warriors you have to pay attention to the details. Patterson, Jeremiah Grant and Raymond Felton should provide at least serviceable backup minutes, but behind them there are few proven NBA players. On the bright side they have more than enough stars to stagger their minutes and make sure at least one of them is on the floor at all times to provide a scoring hub.
The Timberwolves did some major reshuffling and will most likely begin the season with a starting lineup of Jeff Teague, Andrew Wiggins, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson and Karl Anthony-Towns. They’re relatively deep also, beyond the much discussed Jamal crawford signing. While I am relatively bullish on the Wolves compared to some, the floor spacing could be a significant issue, and if they aren’t able to solidify a top ten defense they could struggle to win games, especially come playoff time. Luckily for wolves fans, they will almost certainly make it to playoffs a nice change fromt the last 13 seasons.