Here to save North American sports fans from this dreadful NFL season, the NBA’s 2016/17 season officially tips off Wednesday morning at 3.30 am when the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers host the new-look New York Knicks.
All week, The National's resident NBA fans Jonathan Raymond and Kevin Jeffers have been counting down to the season by discussing some of the league's hottest talking points. Here's our five-part NBA season preview
Part 1: The Favourites
• There’s never been a three-peat of consecutive NBA Finals matchups. That’s likely to change this year, as it’s extremely difficult to imagine a scenario where the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers do not meet for a third straight year.
Part 2: The Spoilers
• But, what if there is a magic fantasy world where some other team rises up to challenge the Cavs or Warriors? Could it finally be the Clippers’ year to put everything together? Or could the addition of Al Horford give their young roster enough ammunition to challenge Cleveland for the top of the East?
Part 3: The MVP Candidates
• We are assuming that MVP voters are not going to give the most prestigious individual award to a member of the super team in Golden State. That means two-time MVP Stephen Curry or his new teammate Kevin Durant – who won the award three seasons ago – are out of the running. That opens the door for a possible fifth MVP for LeBron James, or perhaps another player so important to his team, such as Chris Paul, James Harden or Russell Westbrook. Since the title race could be dull, the MVP race could take on extra significance this year.
Part 4: The Rebuilds
• The Minnesota Timberwolves are not going to win the NBA title this year, but they might not be far away. And in Philadelphia, the long “process” is finally taking shape, hopefully with the fully healthy on-court debut of Joel Embiid ensuring that the years of losing could finally turn around. Those are a couple of the intriguing up-and-coming teams we discuss.
Part 5: The Rookies
• The reason there is so much optimism with the T’Wolves is mostly due to the fantastic rookie season of Karl-Anthony Towns. Rookies can do a lot to turn around a franchise’s fortunes, but there likely isn’t a Towns-like phenom in this year’s rookie class. Still, there are many intriguing prospects. We look at Jaylen Brown, Brandon Ingram and the rest of our favourites.
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