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Will top dogs in the NBA remain on top?

Will top dogs in the NBA remain on top?
July 13
03:00 2017

About a month ago, I wrote a column about the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers dominance over the NBA and how it would change sooner than later.  Since the conclusion of the NBA finals on June 12 and the NBA draft now over, the landscape of the NBA going into next season seems to have changed dramatically.

Everyone expected there to be some big moves at the start of free agency on July 1, but no one expected so many big moves from teams to try and catch the Warriors and the Cavaliers in the Eastern and Western conferences.

For starters, the Boston Celtics, who already had a nice core, were gifted with the Number One pick in the draft due to savvy moves made by their general manager Danny Ainge.  They were able to trade that pick to acquire an additional first-round pick next year and drafted highly touted Duke freshman Jayson Tatum.   In free agency they were able to pick up small forward Gordon Hayward, who will add additional scoring power playing alongside Isaiah Thomas.

The Celtics made it all the way to the Eastern Conference finals last season, losing to the Cavaliers.  With the addition of Tatum and Hayward, the gap between the two teams closes drastically.  Are they better than the Cavaliers top to bottom? No, but in a seven-game series, anything can happen.  They were the Number One seed heading into the playoffs last year and just got a lot better.

Even though they may be a few years away from really competing in the East, the Philadelphia 76ers have finally seen the process come to fruition.  By acquiring Number One overall pick Markell Fultz out of the University of Washington and putting him together with last year’s overall Number One Ben Simmons and big man Joel Embid, the 76ers will make some noise in the East.  They also signed three-point sharp shooter J.J. Redick to provide some veteran leadership along with clutch shooting.

The Celtics and the Cavs seem to still be at the head of the class in the Eastern Conference but the Washington Wizards, Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors, who made no significant moves, still loom as a threat.  Even though the Bucks did not make any major moves, they have a young core that looks to make a leap this season.

The Western conference saw an influx of superstars from the east like Jimmy Butler, traded from Chicago to Minnesota and Paul George, traded from Indiana to Oklahoma City.  The west was already the superior conference but now it is even more difficult.

Minnesota may be the most intriguing team out west this upcoming season.  The Timberwolves already had young stars in Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns.  With the addition of Jimmy Butler, who not only brings offensive potency but is also a great wing defender, the Wolves will try and fight for a top four playoff spot in the west. 

Paul George is now the tag team partner for Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City.  Westbrook averaged a triple double last season but now has someone to share the load.  Westbrook will need to learn to play well with another superstar as his troubles with Kevin Durant were well documented over the years.  George alone is not enough to get the Thunder over the hump but its a step in the right direction.

The Houston Rockets were able to pluck star point guard and Winston-Salem native Chris Paul from the Clippers in a monumental trade.  Paul, along with last year’s MVP runner up James Harden, makes the Rockets a very interesting team.  The Rockets were one of the most potent teams in the league offensively, but Paul and Harden play the same position, so sacrifices will have to be made by both parties in order to make it work.  With both, searching for their first championship wins, not stats, will be top priority, in my opinion.

The San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers still look to make some noise out West, but have not done enough to overtake the champion Warriors, in my estimation. 

The gap has slimmed between the top teams in both conferences, and next year’s NBA Finals may not be a foregone conclusion, as many have said. 

This upcoming year could bring a total surprise team that comes from obscurity, but the fact that there is a debate about who will face off in the finals is a win for fans.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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