With the addition of Kevin Durant, the Golden State Warriors are the favorite to win the Western Conference this season. The Warriors open their 2016-2017 campaign against the San Antonio Spurs, a team that will start its first regular season in years without the services of future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan, who retired in the off-season. The Spurs added veteran Pau Gasol from the Bulls and will rely on the leadership of Tony Parker and young standout Kawhi Leonard.
The Knicks will face the defending champion Cavaliers as they debut former all-star point guard Derrick Rose and center Joakim Noah. Jeff Hornacek will make his debut as Knicks coach, while the Cavaliers come into the season feeling confident they can defend their title. The Cavs are the odds on favorite to win the Eastern Conference, and many expect them to do so barring any unforeseen injuries.
The Denver Nuggets will travel to New Orleans and face the Pelicans in a matchup of two of the Association’s youngest teams. The Nuggets roster features seven players that are 25 or younger, which could make for an amazing season or a season to forget. The Pelicans still have perennial all-star center Anthony Davis, but the team went nowhere fast last season and NBA insiders do not expect much from them this season.
A young Minnesota Timberwolves team travels to Sacramento to face the Kings. The Wolves feature an exciting young group in Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns, Ricky Rubio and Zach LaVine. The Wolves also brought in a proven coach in Tom Thibodeau to help guide the young team. The Kings are placing their bets on new coach Dave Joerger and their talented center, DeMarcus Cousins.
Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers face the injury-plagued Utah Jazz. The Jazz are without their best player, Gordon Hayward, who will miss the opener with a broken left ring finger. Portland has a deep roster and is expected to make another playoff run this season. Utah just missed the playoffs last season, finishing ninth in the conference with a 40-42 record.
The big news in the offseason was Kevin Durant signing with the Warriors. K.D. took a lot of heat from fans, especially in Oklahoma City, and the good guy image Durant has had throughout most of his career took a big hit as well. Most NBA pundits believe it will be the Warriors and the Cavs who meet in this year’s NBA Finals. The road to the ‘ship begins tonight for the Cavs!