The 2016/17 NBA season is in the books, and it will go down as one that was unsurprisingly unsurprising. It´s fate was sealed and destiny determined last summer with a tide turning transaction that brought Kevin Durant to a record breaking Golden State squad that won 74 regular season games the year before. This led to an all too predictable season, that stayed to script essentially the entire way. But there were other story lines outside of just Cleveland and California, that brightened a rather bland year in Basketballs top league.
The off season transaction of Kevin Durant to the Warriors has a trickle down effect for the entire NBA. The team most affected, obviously was the Oklahoma City, and the player most outraged by the deal was Russell Westbrook. Sparking the Thunder guard to, what for me, was an MVP season and something we may never see in history. He seemed to use the entire NBA as a punching bag this year, releasing his feelings of resentment and betrayal in the form of points, assists, and rebounds. Averaging 31 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, he is the first player to average a triple double since Oscar Robertson did it in a drastically different NBA than the one we tune into every night. Not only did he put up incredible numbers, but he played all 1 game in the regular season. Although the Thunder were knocked out in the early rounds of the playoffs, you can´t take anything away from the historic season we witnessed by the NBA´s most complete player.
This year´s biggest breakout performer came out of one of the NBA´s smallest markets. If it wasn´t for his name, which is impossible to pronounce, or his team, which is impossible to find on TV, he would be in the discussion amoung the league´s top 5 players. Giannis Antetokounmpo dazzled in his fourth season in Milwaukee. Not just with his gravity defying dunks, but his all around game that has made him one of the most exciting players to watch in the league. Averaging 22 points and 9 rebounds the Greek has skyrocketed to superstardom although he has yet to become a household name for NBA fans around the world.
It´s not secret, the NBA has developed a recent trend where the biggest stars in the league link up to form super teams. And whether it is for the good of the league or not is something that will be debated for a long time. It started with LeBron and the Big 3 in Miami in 2010. Since then, the offseason has often become as important as the actual season in determining who will be the eventual champion. Last summer was Kevin Durant, who went on to not only win his first title, but took home the Finals MVP on a team loaded with superstars. This summer we will have to keep our eyes and ears open for rumblings in the transfer market. The Cavs will be looking to refurbish the artillery, and if you believe early rumors, all signs point to Paul George joining forces with the King in Cleveland.
Despite the disparity, the NBA is in a good moment. There are superstars blanketed all over the country, attracting big crowds and wide ranging audiences that span around the globe. If there is one concern for commissioner Adam Silver and the NBA it is this recent trend that coaches have adopted, in benching their star players unexpectedly. This not only hurts television ratings, but angers fans. Some who come from far and wide to watch the NBA´s biggest and brightest stars, only to find their favorite players on the end of the bench in street clothes once they have bought their $10 beer and $8 hot dog. Rest is important during a long 82 game regular season, the NBA wants their best players healthy at the end of the season, but this has tainted the reputation of the NBA
If we take a look at the early odds for next year, Golden State is a heavy favorite to win their 3rd title in 4 years. They are paying 1.55 and if they can keep the same core for next year I don´t see any team in the NBA that can stop them. We saw a great Cleveland Cavalier team who was obliterated in a 5 game Finals by one of the best teams we have seen in history. Now there is a lot of time between now and the start of the season, much will happen. Teams will make trades, sign free agents and draft as best they can. Cleveland, at the moment, is paying 4.50. But after a devastating end to a promising season we may see them make major moves this offseason and that quota could very well drop with some key additions. If I had to pick right now I would take Golden State to repeat.