We are only one week into the 2017-18 NBA season and the league is already ripe with storylines that should continue to define this upcoming season. Names including Giannis Antetokounmpo, Lonzo and LaVar Ball, and Gordon Hayward are likely to be heavily featured in many discussions about this season. Whether in a positive or negative light will depend on whom you talk to.
It took less than six minutes for the entire outlook of the Eastern Conference to be shaken up. The Celtics’ hopes to seriously challenge the Cleveland Cavaliers for the conference title came crashing down with Gordon Hayward’s fractured left tibia in the season opener. What seemed like an almost guaranteed rematch between the Celtics and Cavaliers in this year’s Eastern Conference Finals is now looking like a far reach. Contributions from John Wall and Giannis Antetokounmpo have the Wizards and the Bucks looking like serious contenders, who will be able to challenge the Gordon Hayward-less Celtics for the chance to lose to Lebron and the Cavs, who will once again lose to the Warriors in the Finals.
Giannis Antetokounmpo has dominated the early games of this season in a way we have rarely ever seen. His team, the Milwaukee Bucks, is among the most impressive of the early stretch of the season, and he has been the primary reason for that. Averaging 36.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and a block through his first four games, Antetokounmpo has already inspired debate about his place in the order of succession to the title of “King of the NBA”, after LeBron someday steps down. Considering LeBron is averaging 27.3 points, 8.0 assists, 6.8 rebounds, and a block, as well as playing point guard for the first time in his career, the era of King James seems far from over.
While most people would agree that LeBron is still the best player on the planet, if you asked LaVar Ball, he would likely say LeBron ceded that title the day the Lakers took his son, Lonzo, with the No. 2 draft pick. Love them or hate them, the Ball family is becoming the Kardashians of the NBA and I, for one, cannot look away. While LaVar is a walking, talking sound bite, Lonzo has had to face the pressures of actually performing at the highest level. For the most part, he has played with talent, but also looks like he will need some time to grow. He showed a glimpse of what he can someday be when he nearly became the NBA’s younger player to ever record a triple double, scoring 29 points, grabbing 11 rebounds, and dishing nine assists in his second game. Although, it is worth noting that this impressive performance was against the Phoenix Suns, a team that seems to be suffering off the court, with players sub-tweeting their organization and head coach, Earl Watson, who was fired early in the season.
While these storylines are fun to watch, in reality they are like the first six seasons of Game Of Thrones; we love following them, but everybody knows that, in the end, it is going to be two powerhouses facing off. In place of Jon Snow and the Night King, there are the Warriors and the Cavaliers with the NBA season and first three rounds of the playoffs serving as a prolonged preseason to their matchup in the Finals. Even through we know where it is most likely to go, how it gets there is going to be, as always, extremely entertaining.