NBA pre-season makes predictions for this winter season

Zach Gitlin, Staff Writer

On Oct. 16, the NBA season officially tipped off. After a tumultuous offseason, the season opened with the Boston Celtics taking on the Philadelphia 76ers, and the heavily favored Golden State Warriors taking on the Oklahoma City Thunder. It will be interesting to see what team comes out on top from both Eastern and Western conferences. However, the Golden State Warriors are by far the heavy favorites to take home the championship title for the fourth time in five years.

The largest stunner in the NBA offseason was surprisingly not news-surrounding superstar LeBron James. Instead, it involved former New Orleans Pelicans center Demarcus Cousins. On July 6, the Warriors inked the multi-time all-star to a one-year deal worth $5.3 million dollars. The basketball world was stunned. Not only did Golden State win the championship in four games one year prior, they now added one of the league’s top players. With the addition, the Warrior’s lineup includes five all-stars at all five positions. Last year, the team held four all-stars with the likes of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson leading the team. Yet now, when Cousins returns from his achilles injury, they will hold only all-stars in the starting lineup. Many people around the league have felt this gives Golden State an unfair advantage, and that it is hurting the league as a whole. 

“It is very frustrating to see the team that just won the championship add another all-star,” said junior Justin Tawil. “It’s almost like there is no true reason to watch, as everyone around the league almost knows Golden State will sit on top in the end.” 

Though Cousins is yet to play as he recovers from a torn achilles sustained in the winter of 2017, Golden State is off to a hot start at 3-0.

Perhaps the biggest move of the offseason came out of Los Angeles. After four years in Cleveland, LeBron James announced he would be joining the Los Angeles Lakers for a deal that included $154 million dollars over four years, or an average salary of $38.5 million dollars a year. This is one of the largest contracts to date in the NBA, but all fans know it is all deserved for one of the greatest players of all time. James joins a young Lakers squad, which includes second-year stars Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma. Additionally, Los Angeles went into free agency and added Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo, and former Warrior center Javale McGee. With the recent additions, 2016 first round pick Brandon Ingram is the longest tenured current Laker, though only twenty-one years old. The new look Lakers will look to take down the Warriors in the western conference. Though a challenging task, the league has seen James do crazier things. It will be very interesting to see how the young squad with veteran presence fairs in this 2018-19 campaign. So far, the squad is off to a slow early start, with an 0-2 record after two games. The Lakers already made headlines with a skirmish breaking out between veteran Rajon Rondo and Houston guard Chris Paul, resulting in a three game suspension for the Los Angeles point guard.

In the eastern conference, a heavy favorite lies in Boston. The Celtics are back to full strength for the first time since Gordon Hayward suffered a gruesome injury in the first game of 2017 in Cleveland. Though they lost an all-star, the Celtics still took the Cavaliers to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals. Around the east, the Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers look to be challengers. Toronto could be a major contender with newly acquired all-star forward Kawhi Leonard, who was acquired in a trade with the Spurs.  

“I could see Toronto being a big challenge in the east to a team like Boston. They look great early and Kawhi could be one of the best in the league,” said Tawil.

In New York, hopes are not necessarily high for the Knicks and Nets. Both teams are coming off subpar 2017-18 seasons, and don’t expect to heavily contend in the east this year. The Knicks will be without all-star forward Kristaps Porzingis for the first portion of the season, and if rehab fails to go well he could miss the entire season. The team spent a first round pick on youngster from Kentucky Kevin Knox, but he already has sustained a sprained ankle in the first three games and will miss a few weeks. The Nets are not expected to be large contenders either, yet were still able to defeat the Knicks in the second game of the season 107-105. It will be interesting to see how both New York teams look to rebuild throughout the season and on.

With the season underway, all eyes will be on the Warriors who are expected to dominate the league and take home their third championship in a row. However, competition lies in the east and west from LeBron James and his young Lakers, and the full strength Celtics and Kawhi Leonard led Raptors. It looks to be a great season, and fans around the league are excited to see how it plays out.