Year Of The Underdog: The Best Things To Watch For This NBA Season

Let’s be real, the race for the NBA championship is a one-team meet. There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that the Golden State Warriors will it for the third time in four years, but that doesn’t mean the NBA season will be a total wash. The season will not lack action; it’s chalked full of things to make fans tune in every day.

We can all agree that the league got quick turned upside down the second Kevin Durant pulled that Warriors jersey over his head, making a once lovable team villains overnight. Fans want to see a level playing field. When the Warriors faced Cleveland for the first time in 2014-15, most fans were rooting for Golden State because LeBron had been to the Finals five straight years. Now that both teams have faced off three straight times, it’s only natural to find yourself rooting for the underdog.

Once the “super-team” became the thing to do, after LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh joined forces in Miami, general managers and players are doing whatever it takes to make one of their own. As a result, the NBA saw seven All-Stars make a wardrobe change this off-season, more than any other time in the history of the league.

Chris Paul fled La La Land to join James Harden in Houston, Jimmy Butler flew out of Chicago to Minnesota, Boston and Cleveland swapped Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas, Oklahoma City acquired Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard is testing a new hive in Charlotte, and Gordon Hayward scaddled from Mormon town to Beantown.

It all comes down to which team stocked up on enough firepower to dethrone the champs, and it appears to be either OKC or Houston. The Rockets emerged as a threat last year but it turned out to be smoke and mirrors when Harden hit the proverbial wall in the playoffs and suffered the fate of a second round knockout.

The Thunder were always dangerous because of Russell Westbrook, but never considered a legitimate threat. Although that is all about to chance as the additions of George and Melo to OKC and CP to Houston will gives these teams the extra firepower they lacked a year ago.

If you love rooting for the underdog, you’ll want to follow the success of the Thunder and Rockets.

Then there’s the gambling addicted team that raced to the top of the headline a week ago. The Philadelphia 76ers made a bet they probably should have taken a step back and thought about before offering Joel Embiid a 5-year $146.5 million contract.

Trust the process, yes, but how in the world do you offer a guy that much money when he’s only logged 31 games in three season? You can knock on wood as many times as you’d like, but that’s not going to keep an injury prone guy on the floor. Remember Gregg Oden? If not, that’s ok; that’s the point.

Embiid absolutely showcased his talent last year. There’s no doubt he has the talent and make up of a potential future All-Star, but he needs to stay healthy. The Sixers are so much better with him on the floor, and if they’re trying to climb out of the basement, they need him to play all year. The buzz is back in the city of brotherly love, and Philly finally has a chance to not be the laughing stock of the league again.

The third thing that should be on the radars of the fans concerns the longest playoff drought finally coming to an end. Will the Minnesota Timberwolves, who haven’t reached the post season since Kevin Garnett was the leader of the pack, make it back to the playoffs?

After acquiring Tom Thibodeau as their coach last year, playoff aspirations skyrocketed to an all-time high, yet the youngsters weren’t quite ready to fly. This year, they pulled off two monster moves: a trade on draft night to get Butler, and then signing Jeff Teague to be the veteran leaders the pack was lacking. Both Butler and Teague have playoff experience to steer the ship and teach Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns what it means to be an elite player in the league.

It now comes down to how Thibs coaches. His biggest knock is that he runs his stars into ground. Look what happened to Derrick Rose. The difference this year is that he has more weapons on the bench than he did in Chicago.

Despite being at the end of his career, Jamal Crawford can still add a spark. Then he has Shabazz Muhammad, Aaron Brooks, and Gorgui Dieng, all who can put the ball in the hole. It’s not like these guys can build a lead, but with four All-Star caliber players in the starting lineup, Thibs should be able to pair at least two of his starters with the bench unit at all times and turn these Wolves into a dangerous hunting pack. They’ve picked up the scent of the playoffs and might just make it to the post-season for the first time since 2004.

The fight for a title this year is basically a wash, but crazier things have happened. hThe 6ers and the Timberwolves are clawing to be relevant again, and if you love upsets, this is definitely the year to follow the NBA. Just because the Warriors are the defending champions and the best team in the league doesn’t mean they can’t lose. If you want to see them go down, you’ll have to tune in.

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