With the NBA season beginning on Oct. 10, there has been almost three weeks of basketball and many developments to discuss. The defending champion Golden State Warriors may look vulnerable, the Boston Celtics lost one of their star players for the season and a new MVP candidate has emerged. The Observer gathered the writers in the sports section to talk about all of this and more in this week’s installment of Beyond the Arc. As always, the transcript has been lightly edited.
Eddie Kerekes, Sports Editor: What were your overall takeaways from the first few days of NBA action? How much will Gordon Hayward’s injury impact the Eastern Conference battle for the chance to face the Golden State Warriors? Speaking of the Warriors, is their opening game loss to the Houston Rockets just a blip or are there real problems for the NBA champs?
Sanjay Annigeri, Staff Reporter: The first few days of NBA action were some of the best games ever (besides Portland Trail Blazers vs. Phoenix Suns, sorry Andrew). The Celtics seemed strong enough to compete in the East, but without Hayward, I think they will struggle finding another consistent scorer (even with Jaylen Brown stepping in the first game). As I am from Houston and am a huge Rockets fan, I think the game was an overall win for them, especially since they were using a new system with more defensive players and sharing a backcourt with Chris Paul. I want to say–as an optimistic Rockets fan–that there are problems with the Warriors, but actually I have to say that there’s nothing wrong with the Warriors. This same thing happened last year when they were blown out on opening day by the Spurs.
Also, an under-the-radar team that should get consideration is the Milwaukee Bucks. They play two of the East’s top teams this opening week, with a statement win over Boston and Giannis Antetokounmpo going crazy as usual. Today they play the Cavs so that will be a good test for this young Bucks team potential.
Niko Kamlet, Contributing Reporter: Giannis Antetokounmpo is winning the MVP.
Andrew Ford, Staff Reporter: Sanjay is right, the Warriors are fine. They have the most complete team in the NBA and have nothing to worry about. The Rockets are alright but I’m not a fan of the Paul/James Harden combination because they play too similarly. In my opinion, the Oklahoma City Thunder are the second best team in the West now after adding Carmelo Anthony and Paul George. That team will be tremendous on both sides of the floor and I believe they have a shot to compete in a seven-game series with the Warriors. Melo looks rejuvenated and is playing with a purpose again, and Westbrook is as good as ever and has help now. The Suns look really good–at tanking. Number one pick, here we come.
As for the East, this is the best roster LeBron James has ever had. They’ve looked very solid in their first two games and will only continue to improve. Jae Crowder is such a difference-maker for them because he is so versatile. The same can be said about Jeff Green, who will be an X-factor eventually because of his potential on offense as well as defense. Everyone else in the conference has no chance against them.
Sanjay, who is your MVP favorite at this point? I predict James this year because he wants to spite Kyrie Irving and show the kid what he’s missing. Oh, and he’s the best player in the world.
Annigeri: As of now, I think Antetokounmpo will be MVP, to answer your question Andrew. He was the Most Improved Player last year and every season he gets better. He made the Bucks a force in the East and even may be a challenge for the Cavaliers. The Bucks are in serious contention for one of the East’s top 3 spots.
Ben Resnick, Staff Reporter: Don’t sleep on the Washington Wizards in the East. John Wall and Bradley Beal are legit. Don’t be surprised if they are the team coming out of the East this year. In the West, it’s the same old story with the Warriors and then everyone else.
Jacob Rayyan, Staff Reporter: I’ve lost a lot of interest in the NBA ever since the regular season became irrelevant. Admittedly, I had a mild interest in a potential Eastern Conference Finals matchup between Boston and Cleveland, but those hopes and dreams died with Hayward’s entire leg. Despite a possible surprise in the east we all know full well who the two teams are going to be in the Finals.