Incredibly, the NBA season begins in just 50 days.
If this sounds like a historically short offseason, that’s because it is. While not as short as last year’s 72-day hiatus in action, this year’s 91-day span between the end of the NBA Finals and the start of the season on October 19 is the second shortest in league history.
Not only did the draft and free agency fly into the background, the hoops never really stopped with 50 active NBA players competing in the Tokyo Olympics.
If you’re hungry for basketball when the schedule goes from August to September and you can’t get enough of it, we’ve got you covered. These aren’t bold predictions or burning questions, but the 50 most exciting but unsolved stories to watch that will define the season ahead.
Today is part 1. Come back Tuesday for part 2.
1. I am delighted to see Giannis Antetokounmpo reinvent possibilities and reach new heights after his “Billy Madison Learned to Put” moment in the 2021 NBA Finals.
2. I am delighted to see LeBron James – well rested and motivated more than ever – send a resounding message that he is still the King even in his 19th NBA season.
3. I am delighted to see Kevin Durant accomplish his seemingly endless quest for peace by delivering his masterpiece in the wake of an astonishing display in the playoffs and at the Olympics.
MORE: Five Burning Questions At The Heart Of KD’s Signature Season
4. I am delighted to see the Philadelphia 76ers complete the oldest soap opera in the NBA and give Ben Simmons the chance to make a fresh start in a new city.
5. Glad to see #NBATwitter, podcasters, blogosphere and TV talkers collectively lose their minds with the unveiling of the 75 Greatest Players. The 24/7 NBA content machine as we know it today was not there when the NBA released the 50 Greatest Players in 1996. I’m sure everyone will keep a cool head.
6. I am delighted to see Chris Paul, 36, well beyond the point where 6’0 “guards typically produce at All-Star level, attempt to dive into the fountain of youth and deliver a third top 10 consecutive MVP finish.
7. I am delighted to see Klay Thompson – an extraordinary sniper, beloved teammate, and true national treasure – soar from space-less screens and money in 27 feet with two hands to his face.
8.I am delighted to see Detroit basketball fans rallying to Cade Cunningham with a sense of proud, long-term hope that feels far more real and lasting than any false hope generated during the Blake Griffin and Andre years. Drummond.
MORE: Who Will Win Rookie of the Year Award?
9. I’m delighted to see Zion Williamson level up following a season in which he simultaneously played point guard and became the most devastating paint scorer since Shaq.
10. Speaking of Shaq… I’m delighted to see Joel Embiid stay on the pitch and deliver his version of Shaq’s 1999-00 season in which he stayed healthy and pummeled everyone who stepped on. his way to winning the MVP. (Aside: Embiid was the favorite MVP last year before injuries piled up and is now the same age Shaq entered the 1999-00 season).
11. I’m excited to see the Sacramento Kings attempt to end the NBA’s longest playoff drought, 15+.
12. I’m delighted to see Billy Donovan and the Bulls move up the NBA League Pass rankings and light up the scoreboard with Lonzo Ball and DeMar DeRozan joining the Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic combo.
13. I am delighted to see LaMelo Ball injecting the whole city of Charlotte with a mind-blowing flair and buzz that has been lacking since Michael Jordan took over.
14. I can’t wait to watch the Jalen Suggs Revenge Tour. The Orlando Magic could be a solid bet to finish with the worst NBA record, but Suggs is already hinting at a return on investment for the four teams that let him go in this year’s draft.
15. I am delighted to see Luka Doncic continue to follow in LeBron’s footsteps. Heading into his fourth season, Doncic is at the same stage of his career as James when he coached the 2007 Cavaliers in the NBA Finals.
16. Glad to see Ja Morant build a “hello everyone!” moment of his playoff debut and graduated into the inner circle of the Curry-Lillard-Paul-Kyrie conversation.
17. I’m delighted to see Masai Ujiri shoot his next masterpiece in Toronto after agreeing to a long-term extension that keeps the NBA’s first front office manager north of the border for the foreseeable future.
18. I am delighted to see the Knicks embrace the long game and practice patience on the way back to respectability.
19. I’m delighted to see Trae Young continue to embrace his inner Reggie Miller while transforming into the Knicks’ biggest villain since the 1990s.
20. I am delighted to see Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown become legitimate superstars. A real question worth thinking about: given Brown’s immense progress every year, are we 100% sure that Tatum – and not Brown – is ultimately THE TYPE from Boston?
MORE: Free agency winners and losers
21. I am delighted to see Kyle Lowry showcase his robbery and win at all costs mentality to an ultra-competitive Heat team tailored for a player like Lowry.
22. I am delighted to see an extremely talented group of freshman coaches finally get their chance: Willie Green (Pelicans), Wes Unseld Jr. (Wizards), Jamahl Mosley (Magic), Ime Udoka (Celtics) and Chauncey Billups (Trail Blazers)
23. I’m delighted to see Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s low-key shine, although the rebuilding Thunder seem far more interested in acquiring future draft picks than actual victory.
24. I am delighted to see the curious Collin Sexton case unfold in Cleveland. He’s one of 10 goalies to average over 24 points per game at the age of 22 or under, and yet his name continues to be the subject of potential rumors ahead of a potentially important payday l ‘next summer.
25. I am delighted to see Nikola Jokic’s push for back-to-back MVPs. I find it incredibly bizarre that the reigning MVP only ranks 8th in the preseason MVP ratings. Yes, Jamal Murray is out indefinitely as he recovers from a torn ACL. But Jokic led Denver to a 13-5 record after Murray came out, which in an 82-game season equals 59 wins. If Jokic leads the Nuggets anywhere, even from a distance, nearly 59 wins, he will lead the conversation. Put some RESPECT on Jokic’s MVP ratings.
Check back on Tuesday for Part 2 as we continue to explore the 50 best storylines that will define the NBA season.