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New basketball season presents exciting opportunities

Opinions Column: The Morant

This past Tuesday, for the first time since the Golden State Warriors held the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy, the NBA tipped off with the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Chicago Bulls. Last year, in LeBron James's return home to Cleveland, his team came up two wins short of the championship. He was without 2 of 3 of the Big Three as Kyrie Irving dislocated his knee cap and Kevin Love had his shoulder dislocated, more like pulled out of it’s socket. The Champion Golden State Warriors had the more complete team that included league MVP Steph Curry, along with his splash brother Klay Thompson, “Mr. Do It All,” Draymond Green and Coach of the Year Steve Kerr. This is a new season — nothing is guaranteed or given to a team. It is earned with their play on the court. Oh wait, never mind, the Cavaliers making it back to the Championship is guaranteed. Put your money on them in Vegas.

In a weak and mediocre East, the Cavs have only gotten better. They get back a healthy Kevin Love. They resigned all their key players, although I think they gave Iman Shumpert and Tristan Thompson $20 million more than they deserve. Mo Williams was a sneaky good and cheap pickup. In a conference where maybe their biggest competition are the Raptors, Wizards and Bulls, they should have no problem repeating as Eastern Conference Championship. The Bulls have a new coach, Fred Hoiberg, and of course the man made of tissue, Derrick Rose, who hasn’t looked the same. If he can regain form, stay healthy and everything goes right under Hoiberg, they still have no chance.

The Raptors have an interesting nucleus of Kyle Lowry, DeMar Derozen, Jonas Valanciunas and DeMarre Carroll, but are a year away. The Wizards have a top-five backcourt combo that should always keep them in contention with John Wall and Bradley Beal. Now on to the fun stuff — the Western Conference. It’s a crazy conference year-in and year-out, where the seeds aren’t decided until the last day of the season. A conference where a first-round matchup is as good as watching the Western Conference Finals, like the Clippers and Spurs matchup last season that went seven games and was decided on a Chris Paul game winner.

Kevin Durant returns after playing barely any games last season, which will be a big boost to the Oklahoma City Thunder, Russell Westbrook and new head coach Billy Donovan. That duo automatically puts you in championship conversation. The Spurs, known as the “white walkers” of the NBA, signed the ultimate prize on the free agent market in LaMarcus Aldridge. With Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli, Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard and the best head coach, Gregg Popovich in tow, look for the Spurs to make one more run before their old trio hang up the laces. The Rockets acquired the point guard they’ve been missing in Ty Lawson. With a team that came close to making the finals last year, look for James Harden and company to make some noise.

The Grizzlies are the Grizzles. They are consistent, will make the playoffs and find themselves on the couch come championship series time. The Pelicans, if they can stay healthy, are an interesting team. That’s a big "if." Anthony Davis is the best young player and will be an MVP candidate. Jrue Holiday will finally be healthy. They’ll be a fun team to watch.

The Clippers were a part of the biggest offseason storyline when their center DeAndre Jordan broke his word of signing with the Mavericks and resigned with the Clippers. They added Lance Stephenson, which was one of my favorite moves of the offseason, as well as Paul Pierce and Josh Smith on dirt-cheap contracts. But, the same question as every offseason remains: Will the chokers finally put it together?

Really quick before my predictions: 1. The Lakers are going to suck. 2. Seeing a kid I played basketball and baseball with, Karl-Anthony Towns on TV as the No. 1 overall pick is going to be really cool. 3. The Nets have no future and will lose their top-five pick they are destined for because of a really bad general manager and owner. 4. I’m saying Derrick Rose gets injured 20 games in. 5. Repeating as champions is really really hard.

Prediction time! The Easton Conference Finals will be played between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors and the Cavs will win in five. The Western Conference Finals will be played between the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers and the Spurs will win in seven. The Spurs will defeat the Cavs in seven games to win their second title in three years and send out Ginobli and Duncan on a positive note. The MVP will be won by Russell Westbrook who showed us just how good he is with that outrageous second half of the season last year, and I think Durant’s will only help him. The Rookie of the Year will be D’Angelo Russell. The Coach of the Year will be Alvin Gentry. Buckle up for an exciting season.

Ryan Moran is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in journalism and media studies and economics. His column, “The Morant,” runs on alternate Fridays.

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