The 2019-20 regular season kicks off again on October 22nd with thirty teams across the country competing over 82 league games for the most coveted title in the world of Basketball. This season is the 74th in NBA history and already looks set to be an absolute classic.
Whether you’re a seasoned pro, or entering the competition for the first time in your life, here is our definitive list to the ins and outs of everything you need to know ahead of this year’s competition.
Toronto Raptors shocked the world and won the hearts of a nation when they became NBA champions at the end of the 2018-19 season. Led by coach Nick Nurse, the Canadian side were already East Champions when they embarked on their PlayOff adventure in April, overcoming Orlando, Philadelphia and Milwaukee on their way to a tense final against West Champions Golden State Warriors.
In what promised to be a real classic against the defending champions, Toronto overcame their Californian rivals 4-2 and were crowned champions for the first time in their history.
However, their quest to retain their title looks set to be a challenging battle. For the first time in what seems like a good long while, there are no runaway favourites coming into this season. Tipsters around the country have pointed to at least six sides as potential champions heading into 2019-20, with the Lakers, Clippers, Rockets, Nuggets, Bucks and 76ers all having reason to be optimistic ahead of the season. With the promise of plenty of other sides ready to be involved in the mix, this is shaping up to be one of the most competitive years in the game’s history.
The era of the Golden State Warriors’ time at the top of the favourites tree is at an end; throughout this preseason, it has been the Los Angeles Lakers that have been tipped to take home the title, who are currently at +300. Following them are the L.A. Clippers at +325, the Milwaukee Bucks at +550 and the Houston Rockets at +850. Current champions Toronto Raptors staggering sit at a lowly +3000, 12th in the favourites table.
LeBron James remains the most intriguing and distinguished individual active in the NBA heading into 2019-20. The three-time NBA champion and four-time Most Valuable Player in tournament, it’s safe to say that James’ much-anticipated move to the purple and gold of the LA Lakers was not a massive success.
Injuries mounted up, resulting in a staggering seventeen consecutive run of games where James was out of the side. Missing their star man and talismanic personality on the court, the Lakers slumped to a 10th place finish in the Western Conference. It was the first time James had missed out on the playoffs since 2005 and the first time he had missed out on the finals since 2010. To add further insult to injury, the 2018/19 NBA season was the first season in twelve that James didn’t make the All-NBA First Team, dropping down to the thirds at the season close.
However, there are signs for LeBron James to be optimistic about the upcoming season. The addition of Anthony Davis looks set to rejuvinate a L.A. Lakers side badly in need of some inspiration from the world’s finest, and the duo of James and Davis already looks set to take the NBA by storm this year.
With unbelievable talents such as James and Davis on their roster, all eyes will be on the Lakers this year and nothing short of the title will be good enough for the purple and gold faithful. Whatever the outcome for the side at the end of the year, it is sure to be the definitive talking point and promises to be a great watch.
The Philadelphia 76ers finished the regular season in 3rd on the Eastern Conference final table. They came up against 6th place side Brooklyn Nets in the Conference first round and romped to an impressive 4-1 win, before being edged out 3-4 by eventual champions Toronto Raptors in the semis. It was a tough pill to swallow for the Sixers, who must have finished the season with a strong sense of ‘What if?’ hanging over their heads.
What has followed is yet another period of rebuilding and rebranding by the Sixers; for the fourth consecutive offseason, the Philadelphia side have shaken up their roster. Jimmy Butler and J.J. Redick were shown the door and, in a move that just seemed to scream of blending their fantastic front five with a far more solid defence, Al Horford and Josh Richardson were drafted in.
The Sixers have finished 3rd in the Eastern Conference for two years running now and their fans are crying out for a push towards the finals. The additions of Horford and Richardson are sure to shake things up with the side, but it’s anyone’s guess where they might end up this year.
Philadelphia 76ers are currently +850 odds for winning the NBA Championship this year.
And finally, we come to last year’s finalists: the Golden State Warriors. Six times champions in their history and back to back winners as recently as 2017 to 2018, the Golden State Warriors have been Basketballing royalty in recent times. The Warriors came agonisingly close to making it three for three in 2019, however their preparations for this year’s edition of the NBA has hardly been ideal.
Two-time championship winner Kevin Durant, who was injured in last year’s NBA Finals, departed for the Brooklyn Nets and injury concerns continue to hover around the likes of Klay Thompson, another seriously talented player for the Warriors.
All is not lost for the Warriors however. Two-time NBA All Star Steph Curry remains on the books at Golden State and there is more than enough ability and experience within the roster to make a successful year yet; Draymond Green, a former defensive player of the year, remains optimistic for the season and there are plenty of talented individuals on the Warriors bench to call upon.
Ultimately though, there is no denying that this could be a very long season for Golden State. Losing a player of the calibre of Kevin Durant is tough at the best of times, but it just so happens to have come at a time where the Western Conference seems more stacked and competitive than ever makes it even tougher which means even a Play Off finish might be hard for them to achieve.
Golden State Warriors are currently down at 6th place as favourites for the title, with odds at +1000.