1. Cleveland is unmatched in the East. LeBron James may not be getting any younger but he’s still King James – note I didn’t say best player. James went for a triple-double in the Cavs season-opening win against New York, contributing 19 points, 14 assists and 11 boards. LeBron is clearly the best player in a depleted Eastern Conference and his sidekick, Kyrie Irving, would quite possibly be the best player on most other teams in the East. No one can and no one will contend with Cleveland for the No.1 seed. Toronto and Boston finished second and third in the conference last year but neither one of their rosters is good enough to compete with Cleveland’s. Unless their first game was deceitful, expect to see the Cavs in the Finals once again.
2. New York is a playoff team. Fanfare aside, the Knicks are good enough to make the playoffs and should seed anywhere as high as No. 5 come playoff time. Phil Jackson’s team may have lost by 29 to Cleveland, but as was mentioned above the Cavs are on a different level in the East. New York just got Derrick Rose back full-time and is still learning the triangle offense together and learning to mesh. Carmelo Anthony is still an elite player. Rose showed some explosiveness that looked like his pre-injury self and Kristaps Porzingis is one of the most talented up-and-coming players in the league. The loss was ugly but it isn’t the end of the world.
3. San Antonio got considerably better. The Spurs held the defending Western Conference Champion Warriors to just 100 points. Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge picked up right where they left off last year. Leonard had a game-high 35 points and was an immaculate 15-of-15 from the free-throw line, while Aldridge chipped in 26 points and 14 rebounds. Their new acquisition, Pau Gasol, has accepted and understands his new role. He isn’t forcing the issue or trying to be a star, he’s simply settling in as a role player. Gasol is still good and his new role will make the Spurs even better than they were last year which is scary considering San Antonio went 67-15 last year.
4. The Warriors aren’t in any trouble. A 29-point loss is not a good loss for the team that went to the NBA Finals last year. Coupled with the fact that the Warriors added the NBA’s best player Kevin Durant, it’s especially ugly. But the Warriors have to find out who they are and the season is still very young. Green needs to accept his new role like Gasol has in San Antonio, a role player, and the other three need to share shots better. By sharing shots better that means taking less. Those three are all good enough to still average over 25 PPG and take fewer shots than they did last year. Curry needs to understand that he may not be the biggest superstar on the team anymore and play accordingly as weird and as difficult as that may be. While he is a two-time MVP, Durant’s been better for longer, has his own MVP award and is just a better basketball player.