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NBA season gets underway after memorable, impactful offseason

By: Josh Bozzick ~Staff Writer~

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Photos courtesy of thestar.com | LeBron James looks to pick up right where he left off after leading the Cavaliers to their first title in franchise history.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) started its season on Tuesday night with a trio of games. Here is a preview for the 2016-17 NBA season, broken down by conference and division.

In the East’s Atlantic Division, the Boston Celtics should improve upon last year’s campaign with the addition of power forward Al Horford. They are joined by the New York Knicks, who were perhaps the most active team in free agency with their additions of former MVP Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. Keep your eye on the development of power forward/center Kristaps Porzingis, who looks to build off an impressive 2015-16 campaign in New York. 2016 No. 1 pick Ben Simmons will miss three months for the Philadelphia 76ers, but the Sixers will finally have 2014 No. 3 pick Joel Embiid, who is healthy and ready to play his first NBA game. The Celtics should control this division, even with the additions of a few great players to their opponents.

In the Central, the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers look to repeat while four-time MVP Lebron James uses the “Ghost in Chicago” as motivation. Their stiffest competition, the Indiana Pacers, were busy in a positive way this offseason, adding center Al Jefferson and power forward Thaddeus Young while trading for point guard Jeff Teague. Along with the Pacers are the Milwaukee Bucks, who have been looking to “Own the Future” for a few years now, may take a step back this season with the loss of Khris Middleton to injury. Another storyline is shooting guard Dwayne Wade going back home to play with the Chicago Bulls, joining a solid backcourt with Jimmy Butler and Rajon Rondo. Unsurprisingly, look for the Cavs to control the pace here.

The Southeast division is up for grabs, as point guard John Wall is often forgotten amongst the best point guards in the NBA. Getting the Washington Wizards back to the playoffs after a oneyear hiatus would fix that. The Charlotte Hornets will look to be stronger with the return of a healthy Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who only played seven games last season. The Orlando Magic traded for power forward Serge Ibaka, who adds experience to a young Orlando Magic roster that includes rising star forward Aaron Gordon. The Miami Heat signed big man Hassan Whiteside to a long-term deal, which will hopefully solidify a young core for the Heat moving forward.

Out in the West’s Northwest Division, the Portland Trailblazers look to seize the moment behind point guard Damian Lillard, who is poised for an MVP season. They’ll be going head to head with a young Utah Jazz team, headlined by forward Gordon Hayward. Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook could top his 18 triple-doubles last season for the Thunder, as his touches will increase following the departure of Kevin Durant. Reigning Rookie of the Year center Karl-Anthony Towns and 2014-15 Rookie of the Year shooting guard/small forward Andrew Wiggins look to improve for the Minnesota Timberwolves under the helm of new coach Tom Thibodeau. They are a sleeper team in a lot of preseason rankings, making this one of the most interesting divisions in the NBA.

In the Pacific, adding a former NBA MVP in small forward Kevin Durant to an already potent offense could bring the Golden State Warriors their second title in three seasons. Center DeMarcus Cousins is the best center in the NBA, and the recently opened Golden One Center is ushering in a new era for a hopeful Sacramento Kings team. Shooting guard Devin Booker is looking like the steal of the 2015 NBA draft for the Phoenix Suns, and this year’s No.3 pick in the draft, power forward Dragan Bender, could have a Kristaps Porzingislike rookie season. The era of future NBA Hall of Famer shooting guard Kobe Bryant is officially over, and now the Los Angeles Lakers can build toward the future with point guard D’Angelo Russell and No. 2 pick Brandon Ingram. The Clippers are definitely a talented bunch, but they did not do anything in the offseason that would allow them to remotely compete with Golden State. Look for the Warriors to dominate this division and possibly the rest of the league.

In the Southwest, the Spurs are hopeful for continued success this season, even after the retirement of Tim Duncan. After signing Mike Conley to the richest contract in NBA history, the Memphis Grizzlies look to compete with the Spurs in the immediate future. The Houston Rockets hired Mike D’Antoni as head coach, and he looks to improve upon an offense led by the league’s best offensive player in shooting guard James Harden. However, like Harden, the defensive philosophy of D’Antoni leaves much to be desired. The Dallas Mavericks will debut a modified roster that features former Warriors center Andrew Bogut and small forward Harrison Barnes this season, which could make things interesting. The New Orleans Pelicans will be relying almost solely on the play of forward Anthony Davis, though they tried to find him some help in the offseason.

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