Ten NBA storylines to watch as 2018-19 season approaches
Ten NBA storylines to watch as 2018-19 season approaches
The Golden State Warriors may be the clear favorite to three-peat, but there's no shortage of intriguing storylines entering the 2018-19 NBA season.
This NBA offseason featured plenty of fireworks, and there are still some going off as training camp begins, particularly the ongoing Jimmy Butler saga. While the Golden State Warriors seem destined to win a third straight championship, there's still a lot to look forward to as we get closer to the 2018-19 NBA season. Let's take a look at 10 key storylines. *All win totals and odds via the Westgate LV SuperBook unless otherwise noted.* ### 1. Where's Jimmy Butler going? Butler's next team isn't the biggest story of the season, but it's the most pressing piece of business. He reportedly told the Minnesota Timberwolves that his new preferred destination is Miami, and the Heat [are the now the favorites](https://www.betchicago.com/jimmy-butler-news-odds-miami-heat-trade-rumors) to land the 29-year-old. The Heat are currently priced at -200 odds to have him to start the regular season, [per Bovada](https://www.bovada.lv/sports/basketball/nba-specials). The Wolves don't have to honor Butler's request, though the Heat have apparently been the most aggressive team in trade discussions. Tom Thibodeau is hesitant to trade his star player after acquiring him the Chicago Bulls, but you have to think this situation gets resolved soon. If it doesn't, things could get real awkward. ### 2. LeBron James and his funky band of Lakers The *biggest* story of the season is, of course, LeBron James heading to Hollywood. What makes the year all the more interesting is the cast of characters around The King. There's a mix of young and old, with the enigmatic group of veterans a truly funky group: <a href="https://twitter.com/ESPNLosAngeles/status/1044308750276775936" class="embedly-card" data-card-width="100%" data-card-controls="1">Embedded content: https://twitter.com/ESPNLosAngeles/status/1044308750276775936</a> The Lakers' season win total is set at 48, which would be a 13-win increase over last season. It wouldn't be a surprise if they struggle to start the year as they mesh, but if LeBron is LeBron and the youngsters develop, don't be surprised if they get stronger as the year goes on and get to 50 wins. ### 3. Boogie Nights DeMarcus Cousins stunned the world by joining the Golden State Warriors on a cheap deal to help them try to three-peat (1/2 odds to win the title). Cousins isn't healthy yet as he recovers from a torn Achilles, but his rehab is going swimmingly: <a href="https://twitter.com/anthonyVslater/status/1044704868173152257?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1044704868173152257&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.goldenstateofmind.com%2F2018%2F9%2F25%2F17903552%2F2018-nba-injury-update-warriors-demarcus-cousins-pre-practice-drills-training-camp" class="embedly-card" data-card-width="100%" data-card-controls="1">Embedded content: https://twitter.com/anthonyVslater/status/1044704868173152257?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1044704868173152257&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.goldenstateofmind.com%2F2018%2F9%2F25%2F17903552%2F2018-nba-injury-update-warriors-demarcus-cousins-pre-practice-drills-training-camp</a> It will be fascinating to see how the Warriors work in Cousins to their already stacked lineup. Meanwhile, get ready for a full season of whispers [that this core is going to break up next summer](https://www.goldenstateofmind.com/2018/9/24/17897948/2018-nba-media-day-warriors-talk-dynasty-kevin-durant-klay-thompson-draymond-green-free-agency). ### 4. A new favorite in the East Without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, the Boston Celtics made an incredible run to the Eastern Conference Finals. Young studs Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier blossomed, and Irving and Hayward are back to lead this talented squad to the NBA Finals. Boston has the second-highest win total in the league at 59.5 and the second-best odds to win the title at 5/1. Winning the title may be a tall order with the Warriors around, but a healthy Celtics team should win 60-plus games and are correctly priced as the clear favorite to win the East. ### 5. Kawhi so serious? The Kawhi Leonard situation last season was one of the more bizarre stories of the year. He missed all but nine games due to a mysterious quad injury and then demanded a trade in the offseason. The Toronto Raptors made a bold move by trading away All-Star DeMar DeRozan in order to get Leonard, who seems to be feeling much better about things heading into this season: <a href="https://twitter.com/SNFaizalKhamisa/status/1044242676948713472?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1044242676948713472&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fftw.usatoday.com%2F2018%2F09%2Fkawhi-leonard-laughs-laughing-toronto-raptors-other-examples-videos" class="embedly-card" data-card-width="100%" data-card-controls="1">Embedded content: https://twitter.com/SNFaizalKhamisa/status/1044242676948713472?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1044242676948713472&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fftw.usatoday.com%2F2018%2F09%2Fkawhi-leonard-laughs-laughing-toronto-raptors-other-examples-videos</a> The assumption is that Leonard won't stay in Toronto, but the Raptors should be a terrific team and arguably the biggest challenger to Boston in the East. The Raptors' projected win total of 55 is the second-highest in the East and fourth-highest in the NBA. Don't rule out Leonard going the Paul George route and sticking around. ### 6. A Melo resurgence? The Carmelo Anthony experience in Oklahoma City didn't go well, and it failed spectacularly in the playoffs. Now, the Houston Rockets are taking a chance on the future Hall of Famer after they fell one win shy of the NBA Finals in heartbreaking fashion. I'm skeptical of Melo making a positive impact, but I'd also be surprised if the Rockets take a nine-win dip as Vegas is projecting. Getting to 65 wins again may not happen, but beating 56 is easily attainable given the immense talent on the roster. ### 7. Rolling Thunder Speaking of the Thunder, they scored a coup by getting Paul George to re-sign on a long-term deal. After a disappointing campaign last year, George, Russell Westbrook and Co. will be out to prove they belong in the contender conversation. The Thunder are down to 48.5 wins after opening at 50.5, which makes some sense in light of Westbrook's recent knee surgery and Andre Roberson's uncertain return from a ruptured patellar tendon. If these guys get and stay healthy, though, watch out for OKC. ### 8. Trust The Process? The Philadelphia 76ers shocked the world last season by winning 52 games and reaching the second round of the playoffs. The Sixers did it despite No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz being a zero in a campaign that ranked up there with Leonard's in term of weirdness. It's only natural to expect the young Sixers to take another step forward and hit their 54.5 win total, but Fultz is a question mark and Embiid's health still can't be trusted. While Philly is an NBA Finals contender, that win total is scary for OVER bettors. ### 9. Browbeating Anthony Davis had a monster year while leading the New Orleans Pelicans to the playoffs and a first-round sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers. The Brow is back to take over the league: <a href="https://twitter.com/PelicansNBA/status/1045030828101623809" class="embedly-card" data-card-width="100%" data-card-controls="1">Embedded content: https://twitter.com/PelicansNBA/status/1045030828101623809</a> Davis made waves by changing agencies and going with Rich Paul at Klutch Sports, LeBron's agency, fueling speculation he may be preparing an exit strategy from New Orleans with an eye on the Lakers. There's no indication of that happening yet, [but expect the chatter to persist](https://clutchpoints.com/lakers-news-jalen-rose-predicts-anthony-davis-will-be-traded-to-lakers-after-this-season/). ### 10. Awards Watch This season should bring another terrific MVP race. LeBron is the [favorite at +333 odds](https://www.betchicago.com/nba-mvp-odds-lebron-james-favored), per Bovada, but Davis is hot on his heels at +400. Giannis Antetokounmpo (+500), reigning MVP James Harden (+600) and Kevin Durant (+950) round out the top five, with Leonard just behind Durant at +1000. LeBron will get plenty of love if he has a huge season and the Lakers win 50-plus games, but Davis and Giannis are intriguing young options with potential narrative helping them. The Rookie of the Year race should also be fun after last year's dramatic Donovan Mitchell-Ben Simmons battle. Luka Doncic (+333) and Deandre Ayton (+350) are neck and neck, with Collin Sexton (+700), Kevin Knox (+750) and Marvin Bagley III (+1000) next on the oddsboard. Doncic is the most NBA-ready prospect and will get plenty of minutes, but Ayton is bound to put up big counting stats on a young Phoenix Suns team. Sexton and Knox could be fun plays, as the Alabama product joins a LeBron-less Cavs team and the Kentucky forward gets a big opportunity in New York with Kristaps Porzingis recovering from a torn ACL. At +1100, Trae Young is also intriguing based on the notion that he'll likely have the ball in his hands a ton with a perpetual green light on a rebuilding Atlanta Hawks squad. __Also read:__ [Ayton opens as ROY favorite, Bulls’ Wendell Carter Jr. a longshot](https://www.betchicago.com/nba-rookie-of-year-odds-2018-deandre-ayton-wendell-carter)2018-09-27T14:13:08.823Z2018-09-27T10:12-04:00