5 things to look forward to in the NBA in 2019

It’s 2019 and the NBA is arguably in its best shape since the halcyon days of Michael Jordan and Space Jam back in the 90s. A new crop of stars has emerged to complement the indefatigable LeBron James, including Kevin Durant, Steph Curry and Kawhi Leonard. And with the current CBA agreement encouraging freer player movement than ever, the future looks bright for America’s premier basketball league.

So much so that now’s as good a time as any to showcase a few things that should get all NBA fans hyped going into the rest of the year. Not all these events may unfold exactly as we imagine them, but each is notable in its own way and deserves a mention as a result:

  1. The first LeBron-less playoffs in 14 years

With 8 finals appearances in a row and 14 consecutive playoffs made, it’s safe to say that LeBron James has been at the forefront of the NBA for quite some time now. While the man himself doesn’t look ready to relinquish his crown anytime soon, the middling Lakers team he’s currently leading doesn’t inspire much confidence either. Currently, the Lakers occupy the 11th position in the Western Conference, with FiveThirtyEight giving them less than a 1% chance of making the playoffs. Needless to say, LeBron’s playoff absence would shake the league, but there are plenty of contenders ready to take his place.

  1. The rise of the East

Speaking of contenders, it’s perhaps surprising that, aside from the usual Warriors juggernaut, many of them reside in the East this year. The Eastern conference has been much weaker than its Western counterpart in recent years, but this season it looks set to change the tide. Buoyed by Giannis Antetokounmpo historic season and Kawhi Leonard’s move to the Raptors this off-season, the East is experiencing a resurgence and stands a good chance of making some noise come playoff time. Of course, things could still change at the drop of a hat, so be sure to stay one step ahead of the game by following the latest NBA predictions and news.

  1. An extremely competitive MVP race

This year’s MVP race promises to be a real barn burner. In addition to the aforementioned Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden has been on a tear as of late, scoring 30 or more points in 31 consecutive games, a feat not achieved since the days of Wilt Chamberlain. Paul George has also been putting the Oklahoma City Thunder on his back with his excellent two-way play, while Steph Curry and Kevin Durant continue to make Golden State the team to beat in the West. With just a few more weeks of regular season play to look forward to, expect this race to continue heating up over the next couple of months.

  1. One last chance to see some of the greats in action

The NBA has always been a league of legends, and this year some of those legends will likely bow out and make way for future generations. Dwayne Wade has already announced his retirement, capping off a stellar career that includes three championships with the Miami Heat and one Finals MVP. Mavericks icon Dirk Nowitzki looks set to join him, following a 21-season marathon of a career crowned by the championship he earned for the Mavs back in 2011. Meanwhile, the jury’s still out on Vince Carter, with the former Raptors legend currently still going strong at 42.

  1. The Zion Williamson sweepstakes

Last but not least, once the actual NBA season reaches its conclusion, it’s time to look forward to the draft lottery, the famous ping-pong ball draw that allows teams to select their future rookies from the world’s top college players. This year all eyes will be on Zion Williamson, a veritable freak of nature whose athleticism and talent will likely change the fortunes of any team lucky enough to draft him. Other potential game-changers include Duke’s RJ Barrett and Manute Bol’s son, Bol Bol, who currently plays for the Oregon Ducks.

As you can tell, 2019 promises to be a jam-packed year for the NBA. And with so little to go before the playoffs start, now’s a great time to start tuning into the action. So start rooting for your favourite team and get ready to witness history in the making.

uva basketball team of destiny
Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, by Jerry Ratcliffe and Chris Graham, is available for $25.


The book, with additional reporting by Zach Pereles, Scott Ratcliffe and Scott German, will take you from the aftermath of the stunning first-round loss to UMBC in 2018, and how coach Tony Bennett and his team used that loss as the source of strength, through to the ACC regular-season championship, the run to the Final Four, and the thrilling overtime win over Texas Tech to win the 2019 national title, the first in school history.
 
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