The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors collided in June for the second year in a row, this latest Finals topping the 2015 version in drama and historical significance.
Golden State needed to rally from 3-1 down in the Western Conference Finals before blowing a 3-1 lead with the Larry O’Brien Trophy on the line. Kevin Durant decided that fourth win was an easier get in Northern California than Oklahoma City.
The NBA season begins Tuesday.
Here are five storylines to watch:
Does LeBron have the stamina to make it seven consecutive Finals appearances?
Since his first season in Miami — Dallas Mavericks fans remember that one — James has played in 567 games and logged 21,664 minutes, including playoffs. That’s an average of 94.5 games per year (NBA season is 82) and 38.2 minutes each night. LeBron is super human, but at some point he’s got to wear down. Right?
How long until the Warriors reign supreme again?
Groupthink suggests that LeBron’s Cavs just rented the title for a year from Golden State. While the odds are with the league’s latest Super Team, history reminds us the last such collection needed a two full seasons before scaling the mountaintop. Durant is going to snag his title piggybacking off Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and friends. It just might not be this season.
Some big names called it a career. Who are the next wave of Hall of Famers?
We waved goodbye to Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett. Paul Pierce is gone after this campaign and Dirk Nowitzki is nearing his finish line. If you’re looking for future icons with more than a decade left in the tank, try this collection of ballers on the fresh side of 25: Anthony Davis, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Karl-Anthony Towns, Kyrie Irving, Andrew Wiggins, Kristaps Porzingis and Andre Drummond.
Besides the Durant move, what transplants will have the biggest impact on their new teams?
Al Horford completely revamps the Boston Celtics’ frontline with toughness and shooting touch. The San Antonio Spurs landed the perfect Duncan replacement, as far as skill set, in Pau Gasol. Dwyane Wade has something to prove in hometown Chicago. Don’t forget those former Mavs who jumped ship. Chandler Parsons (Memphis) and Zaza Pachulia (Golden State) should fit in swimmingly in their new digs.
What teams are primed to surprise?
In a star-driven league, there is no deeper team around than the Jazz. Utah could use a breakout star — Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert — to elevate to West contender status. Minnesota has its collection of young studs in Towns, Wiggins and Zach LaVine, plus a proven coach in Tom Thibodeau. Don’t sleep on Oklahoma City, even without KD. A seething Russell Westbrook is something to fear.