For most, it’s hard to remember what the world was like the last time LeBron James was at home in April as opposed to competing for a championship. The last time this happened was in 2005, prior to the invention of the iPhone and YouTube’s inaugural year on the internet. The eventual NBA Champion that season was none other than Gregg Popovich and the Spurs, who despite the odds, continue to win even today.
Flash forward to the mid-2000s and NBA legends like Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Tim Duncan, and Kevin Garnett would cement their legacies in history. All of these eventual Hall of Famers would capture titles throughout the decade, in some cases taking down each other in the process.
As we progress later in what I will call the “super-team” era in the NBA, the Golden State Warriors emerged as one of the best teams in NBA history, breaking the long-standing record for regular season wins as well as winning 3 championships in 4 seasons. They are on their way to a 4th as I write this.
As we approach the post season of 2018-2019 there is a feeling that there will be a major change coming in the association. The turmoil that has engulfed the Lakers and Lebron seems to be holding them back from the playoffs. Kobe, Duncan and Garnett have been retired for some time and will be followed by Wade and Dirk at the conclusion of this season. Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson’s contracts are expiring and their futures in the bay seem to be in question.
So what will the NBA be like at the start of the 2019-2020 season? I have every reason to believe that next season may be the most exciting and anticipated season in quite some time. Here I will present every major change that I believe can affect the league next year and years to come:
The Lakers Roster Will Change by 70%
It is no secret what is going on in LA. With the announcement that Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram will not return for this season, and Lebron being placed on “load management,” we have seen the Lakers go from playoff certainty into a complete meltdown. It appears to be obvious that this coming offseason will result in the Lakers making an astronomical amount of moves.
To start, they will fire head coach Luke Walton. Anyone can look like a genius when you take Stephen Curry and the loaded Warriors roster to 24-0. The Lakers ignorantly believed in Waltons ability to coach and it is now safe to say that they grossly overestimated it.
The Pelicans had an opportunity this season to seemingly downright rob LA when trading away Anthony Davis. Their refusal of this deal would lead to the firing of their GM. It would be foolish to believe that LA won’t offer a similar deal once the offseason hits, one that the Pelicans will most certainly accept. This will entail the Lakers losing Ingram, Kuzma, Ball and a plethora of first-round draft picks while bidding against the Boston Celtics; another team that will attempt to move high level assets for Davis. A move like this is a bold one to say the least. If it fails, they will be backed into a corner with not much of a future to look forward to. But you only have three years left of LAbron James, years that Magic Johnson and the Lakers cannot afford to waste.
A Knicks Fan’s Dream
Kyrie, KD and Zion. These three names have been as synonymous as losing has with the Knicks in 2019. It seems as if every week there is a new report that suggests Durant and Irving will leave their current homes in pursuit of somewhere new. New York has been at the forefront of these discussions every time they take place. However, we cannot ignore history. The Knicks appear to be mentioned whenever a large free agent sweepstakes is taking place. We have learned through this that being at the plate doesn’t guarantee a base hit let alone a home run. In order to land both Durant and Irving, they will have to buy into the vision that the Knicks braintrust of Scott Perry, Steve Mills, and David Fizdale will be presenting to them.
Do I think the Knicks will secure both Kyrie and KD? Honestly, no. Although Durant seems to be particularly interested. With a notable fight between KD and his teammate, Draymond Green, earlier this season it appeared as if Durant mouthed the words, “This is why I’m out bro.” At the beginning of this year, Durant’s brother left a cryptic comment on his Instagram suggesting he may be leaving.
Durant, at least, will make his way to the Big Apple and join NYK.
As for Williamson? Well, he does not have much say in the matter. A slight tweak to his knee against Duke rival UNC is being treated with the most concern possible. It appears that Williamson will return to the collegiate court this season and his draft stock will remain untouched. He is, injured or not, the consensus number 1 overall pick.
Whether New York has the worst, second worst or third worst record in basketball, they will receive an equal 14% chance at winning the Zion lottery. No matter if the new lottery odds are a blessing or a curse for the Knicks, their draft position will have an enormous effect on their future.
There Will Be A New NBA Champion
Six of the last seven NBA titles have been won by either a LeBron James lead team or by the Golden State Warriors. The era has been dominated by just a small handful of juggernaut teams hence its name of the “super-team” era. In the last twenty seasons, the Warriors, Spurs, Lakers, and Lebron lead teams (Cavs and Heat) have won a combined 16 championships leaving only four exceptions. These being the 2004 Pistons, the 2006 Heat, the 2008 Celtics and most recently the 2011 Mavericks.
So there will be a new champion, but who?
As detailed previously, the Lakers dysfunction has been center stage this season despite their high hopes to begin the year. I think we may be looking at more of the same next season thus eliminating the Lakers and a Lebron lead squad in a two for one. The Spurs, although consistent as always, do not have the roster or star power to make it out of this current western conference. The Golden State Warriors will still be the team to beat next season even if and when Kevin Durant inevitably crosses over to the east coast. They will still have an MVP in Steph Curry, a frequent all-star in Draymond Green, and they will do everything they can to bring back their other splash brother Klay Thompson. Even if they are able to lock up Klay, which is not a guarantee, I do not see them as a lock to win the NBA title. They have struggled in the past with this roster, most notoriously losing to the Cavs in 2016 despite once holding a 3-1 lead over their head.
I think the Warriors may still be the favorite to come out of the west. However, the eventual champion will come out of the eastern conference.
There are currently four teams fighting for a chance at facing the Warriors this season. The Celtics, Bucks, Raptors, and 76ers have each made moves to edge out one another in the race for a championship. Next season each team will come ready once again with one newcomer added to the list of eastern contenders. Assuming all goes as planned for the New York Knicks, they can be added to the list of teams to beat in the East. Although it is difficult to decide which of these contenders had the best shot to win it all, there is a high likelihood that we will get a new top team in the NBA.
As a fan of the NBA, it is difficult looking from one season to the next expecting the outcome. Over the past few years, all we have come to know and understand is the Golden State Warriors and LeBron James winning.
As we look to the future, it seems as if basketball has a chance to feel unpredictable again. With the spotlight on new teams and new players, one chapter on the NBA will finally come to a conclusion, with a new one ready to get underway.