By Zack Peñalva, Sports Editor
The opening tip-off of the NBA season is finally here. Months of waiting followed one of the most memorable championships in history last season, and now the page will turn once again to a new year. Obviously, the focus of the summer trade talk was around Kevin Durant’s move to the Golden State Warriors, and for a good reason. The Warriors swapped out the weakest link of their starting five with one of the best players in the world; there aren’t many better ways to wash away the taste of the worst choke in NBA history.
Teams all around the league were making moves too. Take a look at Houston. The Rockets are assembling a lineup that appears set on running up the score with no concern for how many points they give up in the process. They locked up James Harden for another season at least and brought in the likes of Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson to help out on offense. According to Basketball Reference, Gordon’s and Anderson’s suspect defense means that they were responsible for giving up more points than they produced in each of their seasons in the NBA.
The Rockets were a bottom-five team in terms of defense last year, and bringing in players that don’t seem to address that could seem counterintuitive. Enter Mike D’Antoni. After managing some middling teams in the past ten years, it can be hard to look back to the success D’Antoni had in the early 2000s with the Phoenix Suns. The Suns were a team with lots of offensive talent that would lead the league in points scored and often sit dead last in terms of points allowed. Regardless, they still made some deep playoff runs, going as far as the Western Conference Finals in 2005. The Rockets could be a dangerous team, as long as their offense can keep cashing the checks for their defense.
Months of waiting followed one of the most memorable championships in history last season, and now the page will turn once again to a new year.
This year also looks to be a major proving ground for veterans and newcomers. Philadelphia 76ers fans have been not so patiently waiting for the debut of the long-hyped Joel Embiid, the third overall pick in the 2014 draft that is yet to play a minute of NBA basketball. If there is any time to prove that “The Process” is worth waiting for, it’s now. Especially in the wake of a poor first year from Jahil Okafor and a long-term injury to first-overall pick Ben Simmons. He looked good in his limited preseason minutes, but it remains to be seen if he’s the key to putting out a dumpster fire that’s been burning in Philly.
Elsewhere, namely Los Angeles, the city’s “other” team is poised for a season that could determine it’s foreseeable future. The Clippers have both Blake Griffin and Chris Paul heading into the final years of their contract, both getting older and both desperately searching for a ring that has so far been elusive. With a championship not looking extremely likely again this year, the team will hope that a good season will at least keep their superstars in Lob City for a little longer. Otherwise, the pair may be playing in the hope of a big contract luring them to greener pastures.