Jimmy Butler offered baskets to every teammate20 April 2020 / Miguel Coelho
The 30-year-old didn't want his teammates to remain rusty... So he gifted them baskets
The NBA regular season will be underway tonight with two blockbuster games, with the New Orleans Pelicans visiting the reigning NBA champions Toronto Raptors, followed by the Los Angeles rivalry when Lebron James and Anthony Davis take on the newly acquired Clipper in Kawhi Leonard.
A lot has changed between the day the Toronto Raptors have been crowned the 2019 champions and the day that's upon us. Significant moves were made in the league, as experts were denominating this off-season as the biggest and most important ever in the history of the game.
Los Angeles Clippers
The second most well-known team in LA surprised Golden State last season in the playoffs when they took him to six games in the 1st round of the stacked Western Conference. Doc Rivers and Jerry West turned a franchise who was doomed to a rebuilduing state after the losses of their main players in Chris Paul and Blake Griffin into a grit and grind team who never backs down against anyone. Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrel are the main engines of Rivers' system, with Patrick Beverley deserving an honorable mention as well.
Maintaining almost the same core of players from last season, Jerry West, the Clippers General Manager, worked his magic during the summer when he convinced the current NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard to join them. Along the way, they made use of their flexible cap space and assets to trade for OKC's superstar Paul George in a move that sent on opposite direction Danilo Gallinari and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
This team surges as one of the favorites to win the NBA 2019/2020 title, as they have the potential to lockdown the other teams offense in Beverley, Leonard and George. Their wingman rotation is the strongest in the league with two perennial MVP candidates, along with their backcourt in Beverley, Shamet and Lou Williams. The only problem this team could face is their flawed frontcourt. Harrel and Ivica Zubac are good players but could prove to be undersized when faced against the Lakers or 76ers bigs like Anthony Davis or Joel Embiid. Even so, count the Los Angeles Clippers to be on the late stages fighting for the Larry O'Brien trophy come May.
Mike Budenholzer's team succumbed in Eastern Conference Finals against the Toronto Raptors last season. Giannis Antetokoumpo had some problems against their defense, which turned him into a spot-up shooter instead of the slasher he is. But there's one thing with the Greek Freak. You can always count on him to work on his game shortcomings during the summer time and come back even stronger. That's why I expect the Bucks to be one of the favorites this season.
They lost an important piece to the Indiana Pacers in Malcolm Brogdon, a guard who could shoot the ball very well, as well as pass it when the defense collapsed. This move could be a game changer if Eric Bledsoe doesn't step up in the post season, something that didn't happen against the Raptors, where he averaged 10.2 points with a 29.4% field goal percentage. On the other side, Brook Lopez twin brother, Robin Lopez, signed a four-year €52 million deal, providing much needed support in the Bucks frontcourt in terms of defense and rebounding. Wesley Matthews and sharpshooter Kyle Korver headed to Milwaukee as well, two players that will help spacing the floor when Giannis is on the court.
Due to the reasons listed above, I still have the team from Wisconsin as one of the favorites to make it out of the East. Adding some key players to important positions, along the re-signing of All-Star Khris Middleton makes them one of the biggest threats to lift the championship trophy.
Despite a heartbreaking loss in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals in the last second due to Kawhi Leonard jumpshot, the Sixers seem to be in the right spot to be super competitive again this season. Reports say that Joel Embiid have lost 25 pounds this summer to be in the perfect shape possible to start the season. This could be key for the 76ers success, as the center faced problems each season due to health issues. An healthy Embiid could be primed to a MVP season with even better numbers than the previous year (27.5 PPG, 13.6 RPG, 3.7 APG).
Jimmy Butler was one of the main pieces on Philadelphia's team last year, as well as the closer in the last minutes when the game was on the line. Butler's no longer with the team as he's been traded to the Miami Heat. However, Philly received Josh Richardson, a player who is a 37% 3-point shooter for his career and doesn't need the ball in his hands to make it work, as well as a great defensive player. This move could open more space for Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons to run the offense and get more touches, something that didn't happen with Butler on the team. Another incredible move the 76ers made, was the signing of former Boston Celtic Al Horford. Horford always gave Embiid problems in the playoffs when they faced each other, so that will no longer happen come post season. Even with 33 years old, the 2x All Star is a facilitator on offense with his passing and scoring ability as a great defender on the other side as well.
The Philadelphia 76ers seem to be the favorite to win the Eastern Conference and make a Finals appearance in 19 years, a time where Allen Iverson carried his team to eventually lose out to the Los Angeles Lakers 4-1. Even with the losses of Jimmy Butler and JJ Reddick, Brett Brown's team worked very well during the summer to provide a championship caliber team.
Los Angeles Lakers
LeBron James missed the playoffs last year, something that didn't occur in the last 14 years, a time where he went on to win multiple championships along with many Finals appearances. What can we expect this season from argaubly the best player in the world? He didn't have this much time in the summer to prepare for the new season in a long time, and as questions raise whether he's the number one player in the league, James is ready to take the NBA by storm once again. But now he's got one of the top 5 players in the league as his sidekick in Anthony Davis.
The Lakers went under a big overhaul this offseason due to the trade with the New Orleans Pelicans. Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and their number 3 draft pick on this year's draft went straight to the Pelicans in exchange for Anthony Davis. The best Big 2 in the league has something to prove, with LeBron seeking recognizement as the best in the game, and Davis trying to prove he can perform under the bright lights of Staples Center. One of the main flaws in the team's game last season was their shooting woes, something that Rob Pelinka adjusted very well with the the players he signed for this Lakers squad. Danny Green, Quin Cook, and Troy Daniels will fit like a glove alongide James and Davis, providing much needed spacing in Frank Vogel's system. Kyle Kuzma is bound to improve his numbers, while Rajon Rondon orchestrates the offense as a Point Guard.
Many can argue that if the Lakers can find chemistry both on and off the court, there will be no stopping this team from raising another banner at Staples Center, but the same can be applied the other way around. Dwight Howard, has the potential to be a great pickup for the team, or someone who can destroy their entire locker room, although it's hard to imagine that happening when veterans like LeBron and Danny Green are on the team. Alex Caruso is another player who finished the previous year on a high note and is entering this season with a lot of expectations. It's safe to say though, that this year is Championship or bust for the Los Angeles Lakers.
The "What-ifs" for the Lakers are tremendous, but Anthony Davis is primed for a MVP season alongside LeBron James.
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