NBA Season Preview: LeBron to LA, MVP candidates and more

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) in a game against the Denver Nuggets in the first half on Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif. (Tribune News Service)

With the preseason beginning last week, the National Basketball Association jumped back into action on the court. After an offseason full of league changing trades and signings, there are a few intriguing topics as the regular season approaches.. Here are two of the more intriguing topics coming into the season.

Can LeBron really lead the Lakers to the Finals?

Over his last eight seasons with both the Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat, LeBron James has not missed the Finals. Even at age 34, there is no doubt James is still in the prime of his career, as he tallied 27 points per game alongside eight rebounds and nine assists per game last season.

Now a Los Angeles Laker, he faces a new, daunting task. Unlike during his time with the Cavaliers and Heat, James does not have a proven commodity to back him up.

During his time in Miami, LeBron had help from the likes of 12-time All Star Dwyane Wade and 11-time All Star forward Chris Bosh. Even in Cleveland he received help from Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving.

While the Lakers do appear to be a talented, young team, none of those young players have proved themselves. If James has any hopes of making it back to the finals this season, he needs help.

Whether it’s a younger prospect like Brandon Ingram exploding and becoming that star, or veterans Rajon Rondo and Lance Stephenson bringing cohesiveness to the team, the King will need some help.

Cody Hanna, Sophomore in Electrical Engineering when asked about his take on the Lakers this year said “They are probably the team I am most excited to see this year… I want to see LeBron carry them far.”

Who Will Secure the East?

For the last eight years, LeBron James has dominated the Eastern Conference. But his movement out West creates a gaping hole in the East. James’ move to LA leaves four legitimate contenders from the East to make it to the Finals— the Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks.

The Raptors bring in star Kawhi Leonard from the San Antonio Spurs, and with him a new energy that could help propel the Raptors into the Finals for the first time in franchise history. This addition along with key starters like point guard Kyle Lowry and power forward Serge Ibaka, this year has potential to be a special one for the Raptors.

While they are the least likely of the four mentioned to make a championship run, the Milwaukee Bucks offer an interesting bid to make a run to the Finals. The Bucks are led by young sensation Giannis Antetokounmpo, who at the age 23 has shown nothing but signs of greatness. Though his supporting cast isn’t perfect, role players such as Malcom Brogdon and Thon Maker give the Bucks an outside shot at the Finals.

The Philadelphia 76ers bring a youthful flair with young stars like Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Even more importantly this offseason, they were able to retain prolific three-point shooter J.J. Redick, along with the addition of rookie guardLandry Shamet.

Lastly, the new favorite in the East is the Boston Celtics. The Celtics return after a long-fought battle in the Eastern Conference Finals with the Cleveland Cavaliers, with most of that team returning.

Carter Rands, sophomore in marketing when asked about the series said “I was impressed how much of a run the celtics made at the Cavs without Kyrie (Irving), and Gordon (Hayward).” Kyrie Irving, and Gordon Hayward having missed most of the playoffs look to comeback with vengeance as the deepest team in the east. Making this year for the Celtics a finals or bust type of season.

My Top 5 MVP Candidates

1. LeBron James- With his move out west James has caused quite a stir around the NBA. One topic he has begun to take over in the media are his chances of winning the MVP this season.

In comparison to his last eight seasons, this Lakers team is a lot different. While playing for the Heat and Cavs, James had the opportunity to play with current all-stars and veteran based teams.

Now with the Lakers, James will play with a very young team that is unproven. With that in mind, James has the chance to put up big-time statistics that we have not, giving him a great shot at his first MVP since 2013.

2. James Harden- Harden is one of the most prolific scorers in NBA history, which gives him a very legitimate chance at his second-straight MVP this season.

Over his six seasons with the Rockets, Harden has put up 27.9 points per game, adding seven assists, and five rebounds per game to that tally.

While Harden’s stats show great promise, a subtle decline in the team’s success could hinder him as the season progresses.

3. Russell Westbrook- An MVP list would not be complete without the stat king himself, Russell Westbrook. He has averaged a triple-double each of the last three seasons.

The Thunder are poised for a potential breakthrough this season with Paul George returning, Andre Roberson now healthy, and acquiring Dennis Schroeder and Nerlens Noel this offseason. Those factors give Westbrook an even better shot at winning his second MVP in the last three seasons.

4. Anthony Davis- Easily one of the most forgotten top tier players in the NBA, Anthony Davis has quietly become a member of the league’s elite. In the last two seasons, Davis has averaged 28 points per game and led the New Orleans Pelicans to back-to-back playoff appearances.

Though his stats have been gradually increasing throughout his career, his team’s underwhelming performances have really held him back form taking that next step.

5. Kyrie Irving- Though Irving has yet to play an entire season without injury, I believe if there is any season for him to claim an MVP, this is the year.

With LeBron out West, Irving now becomes the best player on the best team in the East.

With the combination of success between both Irving and the Celtics, he has a slight chance of claiming his first MVP.

My “Way Too Early Playoff Seeds”

Eastern Conference

1 Seed- Boston Celtics

2 Seed- Philadelphia 76ers

3 Seed- Toronto Raptors

4 Seed- Milwaukee Bucks

5 Seed- Indiana Pacers

6 Seed- Washington Wizards

7 Seed- Charlotte Hornets

8 Seed- Miami Heat

Western Conference

1 Seed- Golden State Warriors

2 Seed- Houston Rockets

3 Seed- Oklahoma City Thunder

4 Seed- Utah Jazz

5 Seed- New Orleans Pelicans

6 Seed- Portland Trail Blazers

7 Seed- Los Angeles Lakers

8 Seed- Denver Nuggets