NBA quietly kicks off

Dylan Snyder

The NBA is proven drawing card to a variety of fans, but the biggest news tends to come during the summer months when playoff basketball combines with the NBA’s player-friendly team movement rule. The biggest stories usually come along late in the season and early in free agency. The NBA has gotten off to its quiet start this fall, however, and there are plenty of reasons to watch.

The biggest story of the offseason was LeBron James’ return to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. Cleveland completed the latest installment of the ever popular “Big 3” team construction by trading the two most recent number-one overall picks, Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett, to Minnesota for All-Star power forward Kevin Love. The Cavaliers mortgaged their future for the chance to capitalize on the tail end of LeBron’s prime and bring a championship to Cleveland for the first time in the team’s history.

Jason Kidd, who last year was the first player to take over a team right after his playing career has moved from Brooklyn to Milwaukee after falling out of favor with ownership, but Derek Fisher has followed in his footsteps. Fisher will install Phil Jackson’s triangle offense in New York for the Knicks in an attempt to get Carmelo Anthony a shot at a title.

The Indiana Pacers, who finished second in the Eastern Conference last year, will likely take a big step backward. In preparation for the FIBA World Cup late over the summer, Pacers star Paul George suffered a compound fracture in his leg and will miss the entire 2014-2015 season.

The East also has a serious darkhorse contender in the Chicago Bulls. Last time Derrick Rose played an NBA, he was playing at an MVP level, but that was two major knee surgeries and almost two years ago. Rose looked good during the World Cup, but an 82-game season is different that a summer tournament.

The Western Conference also welcomes back a superstar who will have to play extraordinarily for his team to have success. Kobe Bryant returns from injury to headline a depleted Lakers roster that will need a miracle just to make the the playoffs.

As for actual contenders in the West there appears to be some uncertainty. The defending champion San Antonio Spurs are one year older, yet people have been saying that for years and have seen no real change in production. Kawhi Leonard will presumably take a larger role, and the Spurs should once again be one of the top team in the league.

After the Spurs lie the real question marks when it comes to contenders. The Clippers have to deal with the Donald Sterling aftermath. The Memphis Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunder all hope to take the next step in the spotlight as the Spurs fade. The Thunder have the toughest time as their two best players, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, will miss significant time this season with injuries. The Clippers need more maturity and consistency, and the Grizzlies need a bit more offense. The Golden State Warriors also pose the threat from the West with the “splash brothers” Stephon Curry and Klay Thompson powering an explosive offense and underrated defense.

Despite all that goes on in the offseason, basketball will separate the contenders from the pretenders soon enough. This year the teams that are able to be successful may be the teams that are able to stay healthy, or there will be unknown come through and shock the world.+