How will Dwight Howard do this season?
NBA season 2019/2020: At the start of the NBA season: These teams play for the championship
On the night from Tuesday to Wednesday, the long wait finally comes to an end: With the games of the reigning champion, Toronto Raptors, against the New Orleans Pelicans (2 a.m. CET) and the completely renewed Los Angeles Lakers against the Los Angeles Clippers (4.30 a.m. CET ) the 2019/2020 season begins in the world's best basketball league, the NBA. When it comes to spectacular passes, crashing dunkings or monstrous "blockshots", the German fans will especially miss one player who was not only the face of the Dallas Mavericks between 1999 and 2019, but also one of the best basketball players during this period. All-time promotion: Dirk Nowitzki. As is well known, the 41-year-old from Würzburg ended his unique successful career and from now on enjoys his new life as a private citizen and father of a family in the US state of Texas.
With Dennis Schröder (Oklahoma City Thunder), Maxi Kleber (Dallas Mavericks), Daniel Theis (Boston Celtics), Moritz Wagner, Isaac Bonga (both Washington Wizards) and Isaiah Hartenstein (Houston Rockets), a total of six Germans will go to Nowitzki in year one National players for their respective teams in the NBA basketball.
NBA trades: Many players switched during the summer break
However, completely different actors made the headlines during the summer break. The fact that superstars change clubs again and again in US sports - be it basketball, ice hockey, American football or baseball - is part of the brand essence of these sports. But this year it was no easy task to keep track of things, even for the greatest basketball experts. Hardly a day went by on which one of the numerous top stars did not sign a high-value contract with a new team or was shipped from one club to another.
In short: The current balance of power within the North American professional basketball league has been shaken up. Especially in the so-called "Western Conference" to succeed the reigning champion Toronto Raptors, who overthrew the favored Golden State Warriors, who were also unlucky with injuries, was a bitter struggle last season.
A city in California that has been longing for the great successes of the past for a long time could prove to be the new (and old) “show stage”: Los Angeles! In addition to the Lakers (16 championships) with the two mega-stars LeBron James and Anthony Davies (was brought from New Orleans by trade), the city rival, the Clippers, is also preparing to finally get his first title. With the reigning play-offs MVP Kawhi Leonard (Toronto Raptors) and Paul George (Oklahoma City Thunder), head coach Doc Rivers was given two exceptional athletes to successfully put the "Larry O'Brien Trophy" into practice.
We take a look at the favored teams in the "Western and Eastern Conference" and also dare to make a forecast:
Start of the season NBA: The favorites in the Western Conference
Los Angeles Lakers: After the disappointing performance last season, when the Lakers missed the play-offs despite the recruitment of the "King", LeBron James, no stone was left unturned in the once so famous and successful franchise during the summer break! The goal was clear: more superstars should be here so that the “King” doesn't get angry or, if possible, win the 17th championship in Lakers history with his entourage. In contrast to previous years, those responsible followed their words with deeds this time. Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans came via Trade. The additions of Danny Green (from the champions from Toronto), Avery Bradley (Memphis) and even Dwight Howard (Washington), whose first engagement with the Lakers (2012/2013) flopped, promise an upgrade. With DeMarcus Cousins, there is also another former all-star in the squad, who will probably be out of the season due to a torn cruciate ligament. Together with “enfant terrible” Rajon Rondo and “sniper” Kyle Kuzma, the new head coach Frank Vogel has a team at his disposal whose play-offs are guaranteed. The decisive question is rather: Are the "new" Lakers whose jerseys will be the two Germans Moritz Wagner and Isaac Bonga (both Washington Wizards), Reggie Bullock (New York Knicks), Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart (all New Orleans Pelicans) will no longer be wearing them, are they already ripe for the title?
Los Angeles Clippers: No title, no glamor, no “real” stars - for decades the Clippers in the city of Los Angeles eked out a dismal existence in the shadow of their “big brother” Lakers. While basketball fans at home games of the Lakers in the Staples Center put almost a fortune on the table for tickets, even in dreary sporting times, the Clippers games in local regions were available at a budget price, so to speak. But that should be over now. The franchise around coaching icon Doc Rivers drove its first big win against city rivals during the summer break. So with Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard (Toronto), probably the thickest fish in this year's “Free Agency Pond”, decided not - as feared or suspected - for the Lakers. Rather, the 28-year-old gave his “little neighbor” his yes-word! Since Paul George (Oklahoma City Thunder), another all-star, found its way to the Staples Center, the fight for sporting supremacy in the city of Los Angeles has now flared up completely again. Important role players such as "defense monsters" Patrick Beverley, Montrezl Harrell, Ivica Zubac, Lou Williams or youngster Landry Shamet also ensure that numerous experts see the Clippers not only at eye level, but even now a bit stronger than the Lakers.
NBA: Russel Westbrook is new to the Houston Rockets
Houston Rockets: From the Rockets' point of view, it's almost tragic. In game five of the 2019 Western Conference semifinals against the Golden State Warriors, Kevin Durant (Warriors) limps towards the cabin in the third quarter - Achilles tendon tear! What at first glance turns out to be an advantage for Houston, the troop around the two top stars James Harden (top scorer of the NBA with an average of 36.1 points) and Chris Paul cannot use as such. The reigning champion gets this series despite the Durant failure and sends the visibly frustrated Rockets on vacation. One of the main reasons for the "out" was the difficult connection between the two "alpha animals" Harden and Paul, who did not manage to subordinate their personal ego to mutual success. General Manager Daryl Morey reacted accordingly in the summer and decided on a spectacular trade: He brought Russell Westbrook from Oklahoma for Paul and a handful of first-round draft picks. From 2009 to 2012, Harden and Westbrook once formed one of the best NBA trios with Kevin Durant at Thunder. Whether it will be enough for the Rockets to achieve a really big coup will primarily depend on whether head coach Mike D’Antoni succeeds in (re) uniting his new star duo both on and off the court.
Golden State Warriors: The series champion (2015, 2017, 2018) and finals participant (2016, 2019) of the past five years was not really lucky in the past few months. In the final series against the Toronto Raptors, Kevin Durant (ruptured Achilles tendon) and Klay Thompson (ruptured cruciate ligament) were seriously injured. Even if Durant is expected to have to take a break for the entire season, the 31-year-old decided to move to the Brooklyn Nets as a "free agent". Without him and Thompson, whose return is only forecast at the end of the regular season, the main burden is now on Steph Curry's shoulders. With D’Angelo Russell (Brooklyn) he has at least one extremely talented guard at his side who has by no means exhausted his potential. It also remains to be seen how difficult the departure of defensive specialist Andre Iguodala (Memphis) will be. Of course, one thing is already certain before the first jump ball of the 2019/2020 NBA season: For the first time in many years, head coach Steve Kerr's squad will not have to shoulder the burden of the title favorites.
Denver Nuggets, Portland Trail Blazers, Utah Jazz: The fact that the Western Conference is as balanced and strong as seldom in NBA history this season is undoubtedly due to the young and up-and-coming teams of the Nuggets, Trail Blazers and Jazz. Last season, the troupe from Colorado (Denver) surprised with second place after the main round. Led by their Serbian center giant Nikola Jokic and guard Jamal Murray, the Nuggets, who hold their entire squad or were able to strengthen them again with Jerami Grant (Oklahoma City Thunder), are even dreaming of bigger things this season!
The same applies to the Portland Trail Blazers and their star duo Damian Lillard / C.J. McCollum! If the team of head coach Terry Stotts made it into the Western Conference finals in 2018/2019, this time it can be a little more. The already well-equipped squad was further “pimped” with newcomers such as Hassan Whiteside (Miami Heat), Kent Bazemore (Atlanta Hawks), Mario Hezonja (New York Knicks) and “oldie” Pau Gasol (Milwaukee Bucks).
Of course, Utah Jazz doesn't have to hide either. But on the contrary! For numerous experts, the protégés of trainer Quin Snyder are even “the” insider tip when it comes to the 2019 championship! Not only that the franchise from the Mormon city of Salt Lake City around the top performers Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles and Rudy Gobert already had a first-class framework. With the engagements of Mike Conley (Memphis Grizzlies), Bojan Bogdanovic (Indiana Pacers), Jeff Green (Washington Wizards) and Emmanuel Mudiay (New York Knicks), jazz is undoubtedly one of the big winners on the transfer market.
Our forecast from the Western Conference:
1. Los Angeles Clippers
2. Houston Rockets
3. Los Angeles Lakers
4. Utah Jazz
5. Portland Trail Blazers
6. Denver Nuggets
7. Golden State Warriors
8. New Orleans Pelicans
9. Dallas Mavericks
10. San Antonio Spurs
11. Minnesota Timberwolves
12. Sacramento Kings
13. Oklahoma City Thunder
14. Memphis grizzlies
15. Phoenix Suns
NBA 2019/2020: The favorites in the Eastern Conference
Milwaukee Bucks: The times in which the speakers of the respective NBA arenas regularly stumbled upon his name are now a thing of the past. Giannis Antetokounmpo, 24-year-old national player from Greece, has raised the Bucks franchise into new spheres in recent years. The earned wages finally followed in 2019 with the award of MVP of the league. After they had to admit defeat to the eventual title holder from Toronto 2: 4 in the Conference Finals, the big hit should now follow this season. In return, the already strong squad was reinforced with Wesley Matthews (Indiana Pacers), Robin Lopez (Chicago Bulls) and “sniper” Kyle Korver (Utah Jazz). Anything but entering the 2020 NBA finals would be a (big) surprise for head coach Mike Budenholzer's team.
Boston Celtics: One step forward - or one step back? The experts disagree on the assessment of the current Celtics squad! While the change in the point guard position from Kyrie Irving (to the Nets) to Kemba Walker (Charlotte Hornets) is seen as positive, there is a risk of further departures such as Al Horford (Philadelphia 76ers), Terry Rozier (Charlotte Hornets) or Marcus Morris (New York Knicks) quite a loss of substance. Decisive for the success of the Celts this year is, among other things, whether Enes kanter represents the hoped-for reinforcement in the center position and whether Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who are blessed with a lot of talent, ignite the next stage in their development.
After NBA title: The Toronto Raptors have to bake smaller rolls
Philadelphia 76ers: After the three-time NBA champion failed to qualify for the play-offs between 2012 and 2017, the performance curve of coach Brett Brown's team, which has been cleverly put together over the years, is clearly upwards. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are now the new face of the franchise. Together with Tobias Harris and the promising newcomers Josh Richardson (Miami Heat), Al Horford (Boston Celtics) and Trey Burke (Dallas Mavericks), the semi-finalist of the past two seasons has the next step in his sights: the entry into the conference finals! For this, however, the painful departure of Jimmy Butler (Miami Heat) has to be compensated.
Toronto Raptors: Easy come easy go? This could be the motto of the 2019/2020 season for the Raptors! Of course, the 2019 championship will no longer be able to take away from the Canadian franchise. But after the departure of the final MVP Kawhi Leonard (Los Angeles Clippers) and Danny Green (Los Angeles Lakers), the team of successful coach Nick Nurse will probably have to bake smaller rolls in the future. After all, with the up-and-coming Pascal Siakam, Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, important pillars of the championship team could be held. The Raptors are hoping for the most of the newcomers from Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (Brooklyn Nets).
Brooklyn Nets: Mocked as a laughing stock in the NBA just a few years ago, the Nets have blossomed into a very serious team in the Eastern Conference. Head coach Kenny Atkinson, who has been in charge in Brooklyn since 2016, has played a major role in this. With hungry players like Caris Levert, World Cup participant Joe Harris, Spencer Dinwiddie, Taurean Prince or Rodions Kurucs, who even paid a surprise visit to the basketball players of TSV Schwaben Augsburg during the summer break, as well as the newcomers Kyrie Irving (Boston Celtics), DeAndre Jordan ( New York Knicks) and Garrett Temple (Los Angeles Clippers) meanwhile provide the Nets with a team that is better avoided in the play-offs. For the future, you also have another ace up your sleeve with the currently injured Kevin Durant (Achilles tendon tear).
Our forecast for the Eastern Conference
1. Milwaukee Bucks
2. Philadelphia 76ers
3. Boston Celtics
4. Toronto Raptors
5. Brooklyn Nets
6. Miami Heat
7. Indiana Pacers
8. Detroit Pistons
9. Orlando Magic
10. New York Knicks
11. Chicago Bulls
12. Atlanta Hawks
13. Washington Wizards
14. Cleveland Cavaliers
15. Charlotte Hornets
Our champion tip for the NBA season
While a bitter battle between six or seven teams for the final will be raging in the west, the situation in the east seems more manageable. The Milwaukee Bucks are the measure of all things here. The squad around the reigning MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo, will face the Los Angeles Clippers in the 2020 NBA Finals, but will have to admit defeat 3: 4 there.
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