The NBA tips off for 77th season

After an offseason of movement and rumors, The Association kicks back into gear for another year of hoops.

Carter Sims, Managing Editor

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Previously, in The NBA…

Confetti monsoons the TD Garden as the celebration begins. Tears stream down faces, as smiles spread across others, sometimes both at the same time. Champagne bottles clink together as they are wheeled on a cart to the champion’s locker room.

As the newly remixed Larry O’Brien Trophy is popped out of its Louis Vuitton case, a familiar hand awaits its possession: the Golden State Warriors. Making their 6th Finals appearance in 8 years and winning their 4th title in that stretch, the Dubs reclaim their place on the mountaintop of basketball. 

This was the last image of the NBA’s 75th anniversary season in 2021-2022, the final chapter of the league’s diamond year. Now it’s time to reboot and get prepped for another season of sneakers squeaking, buzzers blaring, and rims rattling. 

Every year, hoops are more than a ball and a basket. The sport is filled with storylines woven into the very fabric of the games themselves. This year with the superteam era seemingly gone, a unicorn prospect waiting in the wings, and a crowded championship race is no different. Welcome to the NBA, Vol. 77.


So, what’s new?

After a summer jam-packed with rumors, a few big names have moved around. Just like every summer, the landscape of the league has changed, and a few teams have a new look heading into the campaign.

As predicted by ESPN’s Brian Windhorst in a heavily memed segment, something was, in fact, “going on in Utah.” After repeatedly coming up short in the playoffs, the Jazz hit the reset button, sending defensive anchor Rudy Gobert to Minnesota and All-Star guard Donavan “Spida” Mitchell to Cleveland.

For Utah, this means back to square one. Though they had the best record in the league 2 seasons ago and multiple players winning awards during the latest evolution of the Jazz, the franchise never advanced past the conference semifinals. The Jazz enter the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes and move into a new era out in Salt Lake City.

For their trade partners, the outlook is much more positive. 

Minnesota lands Gobert after already having defensive stalwart Karl-Anthony Towns, promising young star Anthony Edward and established point guard D’Angelo Russell. The Gobert addition sets up a “Twin Cities’ ‘ look for the T-Wolves, possessing possibly the most threatening big-man duo in the association. 

While they did send known defensive mosquito Patrick Beverly the other way and their perimeter defense will suffer from it, Minnesota drastically improves their interior defense and adds another wrinkle to the offense, possibly setting them up for heights greater than last year’s hard-fought loss in the first round.

For Cleveland, the post-Lebron era has been ugly at times, but such is necessary when a player of that stature departs and leaves a team decimated after the exit. Though the wins didn’t always pile, the Cavs rebuild has gone almost perfectly to plan. 

Drafting young players Colin Sexton, Darius Garland, and Evan Mobley, and acquiring Jarret Allen and Caris LeVert via trade, the Cavs have steadily built a solid, youthful roster. Moving Kevin Love to the bench has paid dividends, helping development for Mobley who looks to be a player that will be a cornerstone in The Land for years to come.

The Cavs weren’t without their flaws last year, and injuries are a big part of that, but two glaring issues stood out for the wine and gold. Firstly, Cleveland was always on a course to have to choose between Sexton and Garland. Secondly, an attempt at reviving Lauri Markanen’s career after struggling in Chicago notably failed. 

They addressed both of these, sending Markanen and Sexton in a haul to Utah for Mitchell. The dynamic guard has the ability to take over a game, but hadn’t had playoff success in Utah after his teammate Gobert sent the NBA (and the world) into shutdown in March 2020 as he was one of the first celebrities to test positive for the virus. 

A fresh start for Spida in a squad that’s been lacking that proven star is a dream scenario for both parties, as Mitchell now has help in the front court, but Cleveland didn’t have to sell their soul to Danny Ainge in the process of acquiring the star. Given that the Cavaliers faltered in the Play-In after injuries down the stretch, this squad could take one of the biggest jumps this season. 

Speaking of complimentary backcourts, the Atlanta Hawks seem to be cooking one of their own. Trae Young has showcased his ability to distribute the ball at a high level but lacked a running mate at a guard position to enhance the offense. 

Enter Dejontae Murray. The former Spurs guard moves from San Antonio to ATL and brings his shifty, energetic play to the Hawks. The Eastern Conference is stacked, but the new acquisition could help the Hawks find form similar to their 2021 Eastern Conference run. The Hawks will have to decide if they want the young Onyeko Okongwu or veteran Clint Capela to get minutes in the frontcourt, but pairing two young guards together has proved a viable system around the league when done correctly.

The last big name to be moved was former Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon, as the point guard was sent from Indiana to Boston after the Celtics fell short to the Warriors in the NBA Finals. The move was a relatively quiet one, but the calm, consistent leader brings another respected voice into the Celtics locker room, while still adding a relatively young piece to provide some offensive production behind the defensive-oriented Marcus Smart.

Perhaps the biggest move of the off-season never got off the ground, the Brooklyn Nets deconstruction that never happened. 

After Kevin Durant requested a trade in June, rumors and theoretical trade packages were rampant for Durant and teammate Kyrie Irving. Would Durant go to Miami, Phoenix, or perhaps even back to Golden State where he won championships? Would Irving reunite with Lebron James in Los Angeles or maybe even head down the hall to the Clippers? 

KD and Kyrie stay parked in Brooklyn, but the failure to move the stars signifies the state of the league. The blockbuster trades (Kawhi Leonard to Toronto, Kyrie Irving to Boston, Paul George to the Clippers, and Anthony Davis to the Lakers) and musical chairs-like free agency signings (Lebron to Miami and Durant to Golden State) might be a dying trend.

After the Bucks and Warriors won championships with teams they primarily drafted combined with small, calculated transactions for role players shows that the super-team era might be in its twilight, moving towards a more development-driven approach for the league.


The Alien

So who is Victor Wembanyama? Correction: what is Victor Wembanyama?

The answer to that is simple: scary. 

The French 19-year-old is listed at 7’2 but stood an easy 2 inches over Purdue University forward Zach Edey at the U19 World Cup, who is listed at 7’4. 

Wembanyama isn’t just some skinny center stretched out to an obscure height though. The young prospect has it all, a tight handle, accuracy on his shot, and the ability to attack the rim. 

Though an ocean away, the dream prospect is dazzling the NBA, perhaps more than Zion Williamson ever or anyone since Lebron James has. While every team wants to win a title, teams like the Spurs, Rockets, Jazz, Magic, Kings, Wizards, Hornets, and Pacers who aren’t in the position to do so could all be entering the Wembanyama sweepstakes, trying to win the dream.

This has prompted a warning from league commissioner Adam Silver, telling the basketball world that “tanking”, or losing on purpose won’t be permitted to try to land the young star. Whether this warning is followed or not, Wembanyama looks to be the next prospect to be dubbed “The Chosen One” in the NBA.


Best of the best

The trades, signings, and draft picks are interesting, but in the NBA it’s all about who holds the trophy at the end of the road. Anything can happen, but each conference seems to have a couple of standout teams that should be seen as title favorites.

In the West, the Golden State Warriors and LA Clippers look to have a legitimate claim to be playing in June. 

Golden State returns the core of their championship squad with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins, Kevon Looney, and Jordan Poole all back in the pay. Wiggins and Poole recently signed extensions and Curry, Thompson, and Green are all healthy to start the year for the first time in 3 seasons. 

With additions like Jamychal Green, Donte DiVencenzo, and young center James Wiseman returning to health for the first time in over a year, the Dubs bench is arguably better than last year’s ring-winning campaign.

Jamychal Green adds a defensive veteran presence to the lineup, while Divencenzo adds another shooting threat to the defending champs. Wiseman on the other hand is a wildcard. 

The center played briefly at the University of Memphis before being declared ineligible after Tigers head coach Penny Hardaway allegedly paid for moving expenses. The 7-footer was drafted to the Warriors in 2020, but only played a partial season before a torn meniscus kept him out for the

For the Clippers, the biggest plus is how different they are from last year. With Paul George and Kawhi Leonard healthy again, the Clips have the best two-way players in the league and have added former All-Star John Wall to an already deep lineup.

The Western Conference is full of talent, but these two rivals could be on a collision course, as both teams have complete rosters decorated by stars.

Out East, the Greek Freak Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks look poised to make another run to the Finals, just like they did in 2021. Now with a healthy Khris Middleton, the Bucks return their Big 3 of Antetokounmpo, Middleton, and point guard Jrue Holiday that guided them to the chip 2 seasons ago.

Though the Bucks fell short in the second round in last year’s playoffs at the hands of the Boston Celtics, the shooting and defensive capabilities of this roster paired with the other-worldly talent of Antetokounmpo is why the team has been so successful in recent years, and why they should be respected this time around.

Speaking of Boston, the Celtics fell short in the Finals but return one of the best rosters in the league. The Jaylen Brown-Jayson Tatum pairing has proved to have championship pedigree and with Malcolm Brogdon inserted into a roster already armed with Al Horford, Marcus Smart, and Robert Williams III, the C’s look even better. 

Consistency will be key for the Celtics, but with a balanced roster featuring young stars, Boston is capable of keeping pace with the other favorites in the title race.

Anything can happen, but with a possible matchup with the most recent champions, new faces in new places, and a young prodigy who’s got next, the NBA looks to be more entertaining than ever.