ROUNDBALL DAILY

Zion Williamson, the Celtics and other things to watch as NBA season approaches

Zach Williamson 1

It’s late October, and where your boy is from, that means a few things.

The leaves are changing. The temperature should be falling but is instead stubbornly hanging around the 70’s, in what will certainly be remembered as an eerie precursor to the eventual horrors that will befall all of us thanks to climate change.

And the minds of sports fans across the country are focused on the World Seri— just kidding. Hahah. I know nobody cares about baseball anymore.

What people do care about though, to your boy’s great delight, is the NBA, which has become arguably the most talked-about league in American sports.

With that in mind, here are a couple of things to keep an eye on as the season begins:

Zion Williamson’s rookie year.

OK, so the rookie sensation and future member of the Avengers suffered a knee injury that could keep him out weeks, but when he finally does take the court, it will be fascinating to see how Zion Williamson performs. In four preseason games with the Pelicans, he looked revelatory– averaging 23.3 points, 6.5 boards and a steal and a half per game.

It would be hard for this kid to live up to the tremendous hype that has manifested itself surrounding him — but he’s probably going to do it. He’s the real deal, and if he can stay healthy (please, sports gods, don’t turn him into the next Bo Jackson), Zion might even be able to help push the Pelicans towards the playoffs. He’s that big of a difference-maker.

Even without Zion, the Pels should be good enough to hang around playoff contention, but his presence makes them one of the most interesting teams in the league.

The Atlantic Division race.

In what had become a fun little rivalry, the Celtics had gotten the better of the Sixers over the past few years, including knocking them out in the playoffs in 2018.

The C’s took a step back last season, as Kyrie Irving endured a quarter-life crisis and the rest of the supporting cast fought over shots and stats that would affect their future earnings. But this year, they’re back — and should be rejuvenated with a team-first guy and proven winner (Kemba Walker) leading the way. There will undoubtedly be more shots and more opportunities for guys like Jaylen Brown (who’s in a contract year) and Jayson Tatum, because Kemba is a little more unselfish and probably at a point in his career when winning is the highest priority.

The Sixers made a lot of noise in the offseason, adding Al Horford and Josh Richardson, and much in the way life may have been created on this planet, Ben Simmons developed a jump shot out of pure nothingness. Still, NBA sites handling betting odds all suggest that the C’s have a legitimate shot at being the better team, and depending on how Kemba fits into the mold, that’s definitely plausible.

New superteams and the Warriors.

The Clippers, with the addition of two-time Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, look like the favorite to win the NBA title. LeBron’s neighbors are stacked, especially defensively, with a starting lineup that reads like the first team All-Defense. Kawhi, Paul George, Patrick Beverley, and Montrezl Harrell are a formidable force.

The Lakers don’t have much to excite you outside of LeBron, Anthony Davis and Kyle Kuzma, though they are one of the biggest teams in the league and will undoubtedly make a run come playoff time. They thoroughly dominated the Warriors at times during the preseason, which is problematic for Golden State.

The Dubs are looking at a freefall, not just because of Kevin Durant’s departure, but more so because of the financial constraints they find themselves in when it comes to the salary cap. The sign-and-trade for D’Angelo Russell meant that Golden State lost the cap space to add any veterans, and instead had to fill holes emergency-style with a motley crew of fringe young players and borderline draft picks. How bad is it? They’re going to be starting Glen Robinson III at small forward. Yikes.

If Klay Thompson were available and Andre Iguodala didn’t need to be jettisoned in order to acquire Russell, you could have made the argument that Golden State was still a Finals contender. Now, they’ll have to hang on until Klay gets back, and hopefully they’ll remain a playoff contender.

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