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NBA Season Preview

Deep Dive

October 19, 2021
SOURCE: NBA/GIPHY
SOURCE: NBA/GIPHY

The WNBA season has come to a close (congrats again to the Chicago Sky!), but men’s basketball is here to fill some of the void. It’s time for the NBA season.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"When you're in the championships, it's never about what you do. It's always about what other people do."

— Four-time NBA champion-turned-basketball analyst Shaquille O’Neal on winning the Larry O’Brien trophy. Wonder what his NBA on TNTfrenemy and two-time WNBA champion Candace Parker has to say about that.

⚙️ Season setup

SOURCE: SARAH STIER/GETTY IMAGES

The last pro league to return to normal, the NBA is tipping off its October-to-April regular season tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET with a match between the reigning NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and the Brooklyn Nets.

But before we look ahead, here’s a quick overview of how the season is set up. The NBA is split evenly into two conferences — 15 teams in the Eastern Conference (EC) and 15 teams in the Western Conference (WC).

  • From there, each conference has three five-team divisions: The EC’s Atlantic, Central and Southeast, and the WC’s Northwest, Pacific and Southwest.

Each team will play 82 games — 41 at home and 41 away. The six teams with the best regular-season records in each conference move on to the playoffs, while the seventh through 10th seeds compete in a play-in tournament for the last two remaining playoff spots in each conference. Bring on the drama.

🏆 Reigning champs

SOURCE: JONATHAN DANIEL/GETTY IMAGES

Milwaukee Bucks: The defending champs are in a prime position to do it all over again, and that’s because their core roster hardly changed in the offseason.

  • Most importantly, NBA Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (pronounced YAH-niss ah-det-oh-KOON-boh) is back to lead his team to greatness with the help of his brother and 2020 Olympic gold medalists Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday.

💪 The contenders

SOURCE: MITCHELL LEFF/GETTY IMAGES

Brooklyn Nets: According to the annual NBA general managers’ survey, the Nets are the team to beat, and TBH, we agree. Kevin Durant (KD) is somehow still at the top of his game as he enters his 15th year in the league, James Harden and Blake Griffin continue to produce, and unvaccinated Kyrie Irving can’t be a distraction if he’s not allowed in the locker room.

LA Lakers: With so much star power they could make NASA jealous, the best team in SoCal (sorry not sorry, Clippers) is looking to repeat their 2020 success. They have LeBron James at the helm, Anthony Davis at his side and former Washington Wizard Russell Westbrook set to make his hometown debut.

  • All the tools for a championship...as long as they stay healthy.

Utah Jazz: The good news? The Jazz haven’t missed the playoffs since the 2015-2016 season. The bad news? They haven’t made it past the conference semifinals (aka the second round) during that time.

  • But after posting the NBA’s best regular-season record last season, Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert (pronounced goh-BEAR) and the boys have what they need to make a deep postseason run.

👀 Storylines to watch

SOURCE: CHRISTIAN PETERSEN/GETTY IMAGES

Swan songs: The Phoenix Suns’ Chris Paul is 36 years old. So is LeBron James, and his Lakers teammate Dwight Howard is 35. The Miami Heat’s Kyle Lowry, too. Some of the game’s best may play like they’re still in their prime, but their NBA days are numbered. Could this be the last season for some of these legends?

Trades: There are a lot of unhappy men in the NBA these days, meaning we could see some big-name trades early in the season. Kyrie Irving can’t play with his team at home, Ben Simmons wants out of Philadelphia ASAP (maybe), and the yet-again-injured Zion Williamson’s family is reportedly done with New Orleans. Spicy.

📺 How to watch

SOURCE: SARAH STIER/GETTY IMAGES

All the fun starts tonight. Tune in to TNT in the U.S. and TSN in Canada for the opening tip-off at 7:30 p.m. ET, and then check out the full schedule here to find out when your favorite team is taking to the court.