Nikola Jokić earned another significant milestone for his reputation. The two-time NBA MVP helped his team to the NBA Finals for the first time. Once the Nuggets arrived, they made short work of the Miami Heat, winning the series in five games.
Denver proved last season that winning a championship doesn’t take a super team. The Nuggets were able to break through thanks to the excellence of Jamal Murray and Jokić. Staying on topic will be difficult thanks to other teams’ moves in the offseason. The Milwaukee Bucks, Phoenix Suns, and Boston Celtics made significant additions in the offseason.
Keeping up with the rest of the league will require Denver’s core players to stay healthy and desire to win again. The latest NBA news shows that the championship race will again be wide-open this season.
Milwaukee Wins Lillard Sweepstakes
The Bucks were desperate to find a way to convince Giannis Antetokounmpo to stay in Milwaukee. What the Bucks had to do to make sure that happened was land another high-profile player to the lineup. Despite guard Jrue Holiday expressing his desire to stay in Milwaukee, the Bucks included him in a deal with the Miami Heat and Portland Trail Blazers that saw the Bucks receive star guard Damian Lillard.
Lillard, 32, averaged over 30 points per game last season for Portland. Despite Lillard’s 3-point shooting excellence, he has never been able to advance to the NBA Finals. Milwaukee hopes that adding Lillard to the lineup will be enough with Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton to help get the Bucks deep into the playoffs.
Milwaukee had the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference last season but was upset in the first round by the Heat. The Bucks last won the NBA Finals in 2021. Milwaukee has opened the season as a betting favorite to win the championship.
Did Celtics Do Enough to Compete?
It seems like Boston has been knocking on the door of winning another NBA Championship for the past 10 years. But the Celtics never seem to have quite enough to get things done. This offseason, Boston put serious time and thought in on how to improve.
To improve defensively, Boston brought in forward Kristaps Porziņģis. The Celtics also brought in Holiday from the Bucks to boost scoring. With the big contract the Celtics gave to Jaylen Brown, this is a win-now season for Boston. The Celtics decided to stick with young coach Joe Mazzulla, who faced heavy criticism for Boston’s Eastern Conference Finals loss to Miami.
The Lakers Window is Closing
Optimism about Anthony Davis’ preseason performance may be the latest NBA news regarding the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers have been slowed down during the past two seasons by injuries to their aging roster. Last season, Los Angeles made the Western Conference Finals despite Davis only playing in 56 games.
Davis has only played in 96 regular-season games in the past two seasons. He hasn’t played in more than 70 games in a season since the 2017-18 season when he was still in New Orleans. The Lakers will need LeBron James, 38, to continue playing well. If emerging superstar Austin Reaves continues developing, Los Angeles will have a strong team.
Can Philadelphia Contend?
Philadelphia thought it had a big three with James Harden, Ben Simmons, and Joel Embiid. However, Embiid is the only star likely to be there at this season’s end. While Harden rejoined the team’s practices last week, he has been vocal about his desire to be traded elsewhere.
The 76ers have yet to honor his wish. Due to Harden’s age and attitude, it may be hard for Philadelphia to get the proper return to move that trade chip. The 76ers brought in former championship coach Nick Nurse to take over from Doc Rivers. Nurse hopes to be able to work with whatever roster he has left and get them further than the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Phoenix Retools Roster
The Suns will test the theory that a top-heavy lineup can carry a team. Phoenix moved on from Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton during the offseason. To support Kevin Durant and Devin Booker, the Suns brought in guard Bradley Beal.
Beal played all his career for the Washington Wizards and never got a chance to go deep into the playoffs. The Suns were also able to add Jusuf Nurkić in a trade. Phoenix has been close to climbing the NBA mountain over the past few weeks and won’t miss its opportunity to win with Durant.
Miami Missed Out of Big Additions
The Heat have made the NBA Finals twice in the past five years but lost both times to the Lakers and Nuggets in the final series, respectively. Miami has never brought in a second star to support Jimmy Butler properly. The Heat have filled out its roster with savvy signings of players overlooked by other teams. Miami wanted to bring in Lillard, and the experience was mutual, but the Heat couldn’t get the deal done. While Miami could always try to add at the trade deadline, the Heat will lean on their culture to get things done.
Memphis and LA Clippers are Flawed Contenders
The Grizzlies looked like a team that could make significant waves last season. Memphis has a young lineup that plays an exciting brand of basketball. However, the Grizzlies’ star guard, Ja Morant, was suspended several times for issues with firearms off the court.
Morant will start this season on a 25-game suspension. Memphis will need to ride out his suspension before it figures out how to compete. The Los Angeles Clippers haven’t accomplished much since Kawhi Leonard came to town.
Leonard has missed much time due to injury, much like his teammate Paul George. Leonard has only played in 52 games apiece during the past two seasons. If Los Angeles’ veteran lineup can stay healthy, the Clippers may find a way to contend.
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