DeMarcus Cousins is officially on the Golden State Warriors for the 2018-2019 season, but there’s still reason to love the NBA.
As if adding Kevin Durant wasn’t enough of a punch to the gut, now, DeMarcus Cousins is on the Warriors as well. But let’s stop the craziness at once. The league is neither ruined nor broken. In fact, it has much to offer in different ways this coming season and the NBA will still be awesome this year even if the outcome remains in favor of the Golden State Warriors.
Here are four reasons all NBA fans can still enjoy the 2018-2019 season:
The Western Conference is even more competitive
Last year, the playoff battle in the West was juicier than usual. The Houston Rockets finished the year with 65 wins. Golden State ended up with 58. Seven more teams had between 46 and 48 wins. The final spot in the playoffs was decided in a close game between the Nuggets and Timberwolves on the last night of the season. It’s hard to get more competitive than that. But this season could end even tighter.
Golden State will obviously secure a top seed. Houston is still a powerhouse, but won’t reach 65 wins without Trevor Ariza. Of those next seven teams that finished within three games of each other last season, six of them either should get noticeably better or finish about the same as last season. A couple more could also enter the mix.
The third-seeded Portland Trail Blazers still have their core intact, and their developing youth should keep them about as successful as last year. The fourth-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder also retained their core. Paul George re-signed and Andre Roberson will also return from his injury.
The fifth-seeded was the Utah Jazz. Donovan Mitchell will be a year older. Rudy Gobert will be a year older and healthy. Their role players are all back. There is no reason that the Jazz shouldn’t finish 2018-19 with more than 48 wins, last year’s total. Six-seeded New Orleans is a question mark. However, their team makes more sense now than it did with DeMarcus Cousins, and should win more games behind Anthony Davis.
The Nuggets and Timberwolves also should be better teams based on the development of their young cores. Nikola Jokic just signed to his max deal. Karl Anthony-Towns will soon be in the same boat. Jimmy Butler should be healthy next year if he remains in Minnesota. These teams are getting stronger and they will also be approaching 50 wins each if everything goes according to plan.
The Spurs are maybe the most questionable of these teams. Kawhi Leonard is beyond disgruntled and they’re not getting younger. However, Gregg Popovich never disappoints, and it would not be surprising if they squeaked into the playoffs.
More importantly, the Lakers are back. LeBron James and the new-look purple and gold should be able to make the playoffs and get near 50 wins, too. Their core is developing and LeBron is not going to let them get lower than an eighth seed.
The Western Conference is so loaded (and the East is so awful), that it wouldn’t be shocking to see nine or ten teams in the playoff hunt with at least around 48 wins. The West playoff race is going to be a bloodbath featuring awesome regular season performances.
The Lakers are Back
It has been some time since the Lakers have made the playoffs and quite a while since they were fun to watch. The Lakers have always been the most star-studded franchise in NBA history, and they just got one of the biggest stars on the planet to join their team, LeBron James.
The Lakers were enjoyable to watch last year behind the Lonzo Ball drama, Kyle Kuzma’s rookie season, Brandon Ingram’s step towards stardom, and Julius Randle’s growth on the court. But now, they are back to the Showtime Lakers. LeBron makes this team a must watch every night they play. That’s not the only thing that makes LA must-see TV.
Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo, and JaVale McGee are also on the team. Lance is practically a human meme. Rondo is one of the more passive-aggressive and volatile NBA players we have. Javale is a multiple-time Shaqtin’ a Fool champion. There will be some unforgettable moments on this team of misfits and hotheads. LeBron himself isn’t the easiest player to survive next to.
Let’s not forget that LaVar Ball is now a larger part of our lives. The Ball saga just seems to live on. All of these added oddities make Los Angeles one of the most watchable teams in the league, and it’s not exactly for positive reasons.
The Celtics and Sixers Await
The Eastern Conference is weaker than it’s been in forever. But at the top of that hopeless trash heap are two young teams forming dynasty-level ambitions. The Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers are not going to be a pushover for anybody in the NBA, and that includes Golden State and Houston.
The Celtics have some extremely high potential. They made it to the Eastern Conference Finals last season and took Cleveland to seven games without their two best players. I don’t care if the East was weak. Missing out on two All-Stars and still being minutes away from the Finals is incredible.
As Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown get even better and as Hayward and Irving get phased back in, the Celtics will separate themselves as a two-way superteam, likely the number one seed in the East. They can go toe to toe with the Warriors since their defense is the best in the league. But their offense should also be potent as well.
The Sixers are also ready for another leap forward. It was shocking to see them secure the third seed last year, as Ben Simmons handed in a Rookie of the Year season, and Joel Embiid finished second in voting for Defensive Player of the Year. Markelle Fultz remains a question mark, but has to have a better year than last year.
The rest of their young roster is one year more developed and experienced, and they should make a case for one of the highest ceilings for a team in the NBA. Beating Golden State is a mountain of its own, but the Celtics and Sixers pose possibly the biggest threat across the rest of the league.
The NBA is Full of Young Stars Ready to Shine
The league is deeper than it’s ever been in terms of talent. Players are getting good at younger ages as training advances forward and the league becomes a bigger business.
All of that has brought the league many talents from across the world. Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell, Ben Simmons, Lonzo Ball, Nikola Jokic, Devin Booker, Luka Doncic, and so many more young stars are already making names for themselves before they even hit the age of 23. We still have Karl Anthony-Towns, Dennis Smith Jr., Kyle Kuzma, Deandre Ayton, Trae Young, Kristaps Porzingis, Jaylen Brown, Brandon Ingram, and Jaren Jackson Jr. Some of these players are still teens.
The army of young stars all has the potential to be Top 30 players in the league. Will they all be? No. But there is so much young talent across so many teams that on any given night we could witness the birth of a future-MVP’s career. The night-to-night intrigue is super exciting.
The Golden State Warriors may have turned their 73-win-super-team-that-signed-Kevin-Durant into a whole new monster by adding DeMarcus Cousins, but the NBA remains a very enjoyable league in almost every way. The league isn’t ruined. We just have to enjoy the rest of what the NBA offers us, like the growth of young superstars, an incredibly tight playoff race in the Western Conference, and the circus that is the Los Angeles Lakers. We might even enter next June to find that someone has what it takes to dethrone the Warriors.