Western Conference’s Biggest Storylines for the 2021/2022 Season
The NBA off-season is well underway. Recent trades, as well as free-agent signings, have been made official. The NBA draft concluded and many teams are getting their first view at their prized rookies in the NBA Summer League. Basically, it’s the slow point of the NBA media season, where there are not very many storylines to discuss. It is the perfect time to catch up on some movies and other forms of entertainment, at least, that’s what the novices believe.
A casual NBA viewer does not realize, is that the off-season is where the biggest storylines are generated. Wild opinions, followed by hot take after hot take, cover our social media timelines. Usually, nobody tends to push back, at least with a factual rebuttal that does not reveal any bias. Frankly, these few months between the conclusion of the NBA Finals and the start of the new season, are where the many “I told ya so’s”, are formed.
Well, since we’re fully invested in this period of NBA takes, what better time to throw a few more out in the mix to try and stir the pot. Here are a few of the biggest storylines heading into next season that will probably shape the Western Conference.
What to Expect Next Season Coming From the Western Conference
Will Brodie and the King Work in LaLa Land?
The Lakers’ acquisition of Russell Westbrook is one of the biggest storylines of the off-season. The one-time MVP is heading home to team up with LeBron James and Anthony Davis to try and bring the Larry O’Brien trophy back to Staples.
This trade is taking over social media. From LA Lakers 2022 NBA CHAMPS Twitter handles, to Instagram video edits of Brodie throwing lobs that end up in LeBron’s hands for a thunderous dunk. Basically, the NBA world has declared the 2021/22 season over, and they are planning the parade in Los Angeles. However, this trade looks amazing on paper or in NBA2K, but will it result in success?
Honestly, this new super-team could either be an unstoppable force or fail miserably. The determining factor will be the acceptance of roles.
Russell Westbrook has been the alpha of his team, as well as the primary ball-handler throughout his entire career. Westbrook does most of his damage with the ball in his hand, getting to the rim and creating opportunities. This worked in Oklahoma City with Durant, and somewhat in Houston with Harden, but will it work with LeBron?
LeBron loves to be a facilitator. Outside of his strength and athleticism, passing is probably his most polished asset to his game. Knowing that, and that he also does most of his damage as the primary ball-handler, a slight dilemma is formed. Who will be the Laker’s primary ball-handler when both players are on the floor together?
Surely most people will argue that Frank Vogel and the team will try and split up the minutes between the two. Westbrook will do most of his ball-handling damage when LeBron is out, and vice-versa. Yeah, that all sounds great, but what will happen in crunch time, or the playoffs? It looks like only time will tell the answer to this storyline.
Will the Return of Klay Thompson Make the Warriors Title Contenders Again?
The Golden State Warriors have not been serious threats in the Western Conference since 2019. Since then, Kevin Durant has become a Brooklyn Net, the team drafted James Wiseman and Steph Curry is still playing like Steph Curry. However, one thing that has not happened since 2019 is star guard Klay Thompson has not played in an NBA game.
Klay Thompson tore his achilles in the 2019 NBA finals where the Warriors lost to the Toronto Raptors. He is expecting to be ready to go this season. Instantly giving the Warriors one the deadliest backcourts in the NBA. With those two alongside, Draymond Green, and potentially another star (Ben Simmons??), the Warriors are looking like their old selves. Going into the season, one of the biggest storylines will be whether the Warriors are back in contender status?
Honestly, the answer is easy. It should be a resounding yes. The Warriors’ core next season is the same core that went 73-9 in 2016. That team was arguably the greatest regular-season team ever constructed, and now they get the chance to avenge the 3-1 Finals loss to the Cavaliers in 2016. As long Thompson can find his jumper and Steph can play similar to the level he played last year, the Warriors will be a tough out in the Western Conference.
Can the Nuggets Survive Until Jamal Murray Returns?
The Denver Nuggets were seen as the Western Conference favorite for about 3 weeks last year. The team had recently acquired Aaron Gordon at the trade deadline. The team was starting to gel and actually play some quality defense. Oh, and they had the soon-to-be NBA MVP running their offense.
However, disaster struck when star guard Jamal Murray tore his ACL, and the Nuggets failed to make it past the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference Semi-Finals.
Fast-forwarding to this year, the Nuggets are in survival mode. They will be without Murray for most, if not all of the first half of the season. An ACL recovery time usually hovers between 9-12 months and the nine-month mark falls around mid-January. That will most likely be about 40 or so games into the season, and many teams could already see themselves falling out of contention by then. Do the Nuggets have enough fire-power to withstand a very competitive Western Conference?
The answer is an undoubted yes. The Nuggets may be without Murray, but when you have the NBA MVP orchestrating the offense and a rising star in Michael Porter Jr, your chances of success increase. Do they have what it takes to navigate through the West without Murray? Not at all, but just the ability to stay afloat, allowing Murray the chance to heal could push Denver back into contention status instantaneously. Regardless, this will be a storyline the NBA will follow much into the regular season!
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images