With the return of Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving, the Boston Celtics are poised to be a top contender in the league next season.
In the East, the 76ers have had another year to develop their young talent and gain back Markelle Fultz. The Raptors traded DeMar DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard, which depending on his health, could prove to make them a serious threat in the East, but the departure of LeBron James to the West certainly opens things up for the Celtics.
However, there’s still a huge hurtle in the way of Banner 18.
The Warriors as they stood last year would be a formidable opponent to an Irving and Hayward led Celtics team but next year’s Warriors team is a whole different beast unlike anything the league has ever seen before (at least on paper).
More from Hardwood Houdini
With the signing of DeMarcus Cousins, the Warriors have assembled a starting five of Curry, Thompson, Durant, Green and Cousins which looks more of like an All-Star lineup.
Which points to a larger problem in the league. Cousins, who made roughly 17 million dollars last season, took a massive pay cut to join the Warriors. His one year deal with them will pay out just over five million dollars.
To be fair, he is coming off one of the worst injuries in sports (torn Achilles) and will miss a significant chunk of the regular season but when he does return, even if he doesn’t return to full form, the Warriors will be virtually unstoppable as they have dominated the league with a lot worse at the five.
It prompts the question: “How does this keep happening?”
This team that has been a dominant force, won multiple titles and broken records keeps getting better. Things like the Durant signing and the Cousins signing are indicative of a much larger problem with the NBA.
It all starts with the players. It seems as if the level of competitiveness has gone down and the players expect to get whatever they want. Players demand trades if things aren’t going their way and the way the league is set up, they are given massive amounts of leverage over their situations.
Players also seem to want to take the easiest path to win a championship and it makes sense to some degree, but a league filled with guys who employ a “if you can’t beat em’, join em’” philosophy makes for a boring product.
To me, the league would be a lot better off if guys in free agency wanted to join a team that gave them the best chance to knock off the defending champion, not just join the defending champion. That would show heart and competitive spirit and we would start to see a more fun NBA that wasn’t so predictable.
Its players like Durant and Cousins that are devaluing what it means to win an NBA championship. The titles that Kevin Durant has won, and that Cousins will most likely win, with the Warriors, come attached with an asterisk in my opinion.
I think that the commissioner should veto signings like that of Durant and Cousins similar to what David Stern did with a trade involving Paul to the Lakers in 2011. Free agent signings are obviously a little different, but in the interest of keeping the league competitive, I believe it is necessary.
The vetoing of free agent signings might be somewhat extreme but I also think that preventing teams as dominant as Golden State can be done through rule changes and reform of the cap. For example, players who made a certain amount of money in the previous season shouldn’t be allowed to take a massive pay cut.
On top of that, the NBA should think about implementing a hard cap which along with players unable to take huge pay cuts, would prevent the formation of teams that dominate the league.
The Celtics are certainly poised to make a title run with the way their roster is looking now. Irving and Hayward will be back and for the most part the Celtics have retained most of last year’s roster with the resigning of Smart and Baynes.
Tatum and Brown have another year of experience under their belt including heavy playoff exposure and the drafting of Robert Williams adds a little more depth to their frontcourt.
The team that took LeBron and the Cavs to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals last year is undeniably better than it was and should be the favorite in the East.
It will be interesting to see how next season plays out. The Celtics finally get to see what their team looks like with Gordon Hayward, the East looks drastically different, LeBron is in the West for the first time in his career and the Warriors are loaded.
My early prediction is that we will see a Celtics vs. Warriors NBA Finals with the Warriors winning their third title in a row.
With the way the NBA is structured, it has become far too easy to make predictions.