Let’s face it: Montreal isn’t the best city for basketball fans. However, the Raptors’ Championship win may have spurred the genesis of basketball-fandom across the country. Thousands of first-time fans packed into the Jurassic Park on Peel Street to watch the improbable dark-horse squad headed by Kawhi Leonard thrash the Warriors, and in the process, fell in love with basketball.
When the NBA season starts on Oct. 22, fans without a team will have to choose where to place their loyalties. There’s no lack of excitement coming into the 2019–2020 NBA season with everyone on the all-star starting lineup, including Leonard, playing musical chairs. The McGill Tribune compiled a list of the most thrilling teams to support before the bandwagons leave the stations.
The Philadelphia 76ers
Even those that question the value of the team-building process can’t deny that the 76ers are looking impressive this year. Joel Embiid lost 20 pounds over the summer, which is sure to make him better defensively and lighter on his feet. Ben Simmons may have learned to shoot, even draining his first ever three-pointer in a preseason game. Furthermore, the off-season addition of veteran Al Horford will add to their depth and defence. Without Kawhi Leonard in the Eastern Conference to stop them, the 76ers will be contenders this coming season.
Los Angeles Clippers
The recent addition of Leonard and Paul George to an already elite Clippers’ roster has Lakers and Warriors fans concerned. Hot off one of the greatest playoff runs in NBA history, Leonard is now on an even better team, he’s ready to cement his legacy, and it’s time for the battle of LA to return.
The Nuggets’ roster has remained mostly unchanged, unaffected by free agency. They are the only top team with any continuity, an undervalued aspect in building team chemistry. If Nikola Jokic continues with his unique take on the centre position while being surrounded by exceptional shooters and highly anticipated rookie Michael Porter Jr., they just might be in the mix to win it all this year.
Los Angeles Lakers
With the recent addition of Anthony Davis, the Lakers have catapulted into championship contention. By pairing Davis with Lebron James, holding on to Kyle Kuzma in the Davis trade, and landing valuable shooters like Danny Green, the Lakers are looking to prove that they still own LA.
Dirk Nowitzki retired last year, but this year’s Mavs roster isn’t any less European. Former Rookie of the Year Luka Dončić paired with recent 7’3” addition Kristaps “The Unicorn” Porzingis should make for a deadly combination.
New Orleans Pelicans
This might be the most exciting assembly of young talent to ever grace the NBA. Zion Williamson, possibly the most talked about NBA prospect of all time, will be paired with Lonzo Ball, a talented playmaker no longer suffering from a weird jump shot. The two should make for a flashy and explosive duo, churning out highlights on a nightly basis, and potentially propelling their team to the playoffs.
The Rockets have been hovering in finals contention for the last three years, but the Warriors have stopped them at every turn. The blockbuster trade of Chris Paul to Oklahoma City for Russell Westbrook might be what gets them through the blockade though, with the Warriors now weakened by Klay Thompson’s injury and the loss of Kevin Durant. With both James Harden and Westbrook setting all-time records for ball possession in the last few years, however, it’s unclear how both teammates will share the spotlight.
If there has ever been a year to get into the NBA, this is it. Nearly every team has been reshaped by free agency and trades, and there’s no clear frontrunner. Anything could happen, and fans have a fantastic chance to choose a team.