NBA Landscape Seen As Wide Open Following Stars' Moves
Basketball fans this offseason will not "agree on who is going to win the NBA championship," and that "wide-open feel is a good thing for the league," according to John Canzano of the Portland OREGONIAN. The NBA, following movement of star players like Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis and Kevin Durant, has "somehow landed in a place that feels very much alive." The league is set to "have a season like nothing in recent history" after many of the biggest stars moved this offseason (OREGONLIVE.com, 7/6). The AP's Tim Reynolds wrote the "biggest piece of valid criticism about the league in recent years" is that it has been "predictable." Reynolds: "No more. Welcome to a new NBA" (AP, 7/6). In Phoenix, Bill Goodykoontz wrote the "entire make-up of the NBA changed, with the league immediately more balanced and thus more interesting." This comes as a "nice surprise that caps a summer that made a whole lot of teams worth watching" (AZCENTRAL.com, 7/6). In Philadelphia, David Murphy notes as of yesterday, there were "eight teams with Vegas odds that valued them as having at least" a 6.7% chance at winning next season's title. In each of the three previous seasons, there were "three such teams in that category at the start of the regular season." That "might not serve much solace to fan bases in Toronto and Oklahoma City, but from a utilitarian standpoint, the developments are positive ones" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 7/8).
ANYONE'S GAME: SI.com's Rohan Nadkarni wrote fans are "heading toward one of the most entertaining NBA seasons in years." The Western Conference is "going to be a bloodbath next season, and there are an incredible number of competent teams around the league right now" (SI.com, 7/6). In Denver, Mike Singer wrote as many as six teams -- the Clippers, Lakers, Rockets, Jazz, Blazers and Nuggets -- can "realistically talk themselves into an NBA Finals run" this season. Since the start of free agency, the Jazz, Blazers and Clippers have "stocked up on pieces to contend." They all "sensed an opening with the demise" of the Warriors' dynasty (DENVER POST, 7/7). In Milwaukee, Matt Velazquez wrote Western Conference teams are "loading up to make a run now that the window is open." In the East, Leonard's departure "similarly signals an opportunity opening" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 7/7). In DC, Ben Golliver wrote the NBA now has "truly entertaining and competitive landscapes in both conferences" (WASHINGTON POST, 7/7).
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN: SPORTSNET.ca's Donnovan Bennett wrote the NBA world as a whole "should thank" Leonard for "going anywhere but" the Lakers. If he had "taken his talents to the Lakers, the entire narrative that followed would have been how super teams have once again ruined the NBA and that the championship fate had been over, determined before the season had even begun" (SPORTSNET.ca, 7/7). SI.com's Andrew Sharp wrote Leonard's decision was the "best possible outcome for the NBA." A Lakers team with Leonard, LeBron James and Davis would have been "heroes to some and an evil empire to many more," and the reality is that "most regular people would find all of this annoying." James "raiding other teams for superstars is a story that we've seen before, and it's not one we necessarily needed again" (SI.com, 7/6).
BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITIES: In Toronto, Dave Feschuk wrote fans could "shudder at the rebirth of the big-market NBA." With both Durant and Kyrie Irving choosing N.Y., "albeit the Brooklyn option," and Leonard choosing L.A., the league's mid- to small-market clubs "continue to compete in a game rigged against them." A summer after James "ditched Cleveland for power lunches in Hollywood, we've seen" Davis and Paul George "force their way out of New Orleans and Oklahoma City, respectively, pulled by the gravity of glamour" (TORONTO STAR, 7/7).