With around two months remaining until the NBA season tips off, the downtime between now and then can be tedious for fans of this great sport. There are only so many highlight reels and re-runs of favourite games you can watch without craving the real thing – live action before your eyes.
The NBA is awash with fantastically talented individuals who can marvel and entertain its fans almost at will it seems, with magical moments of skill. Here below we will look at five of the sports top stars who can potentially turn the season in their respective teams favour, or be tipped as a leading candidate for Most Valuable Player honours.
Cleveland Cavaliers kingpin LeBron James is currently at the peak of his powers. James helped his hometown club secure last season’s NBA Championship in a final game showdown over the Golden State Warriors and become the first team since 1978 to win a Finals Game 7 on the road. It was also the first time since 1964 that any Cleveland team has won any major league championship. James has since signed up to a mega $100m contract with the Cavs to remain in Cleveland for at least the next three seasons. With James earning $31m in his first year of the new deal, that reportedly makes him the highest paid player in the NBA. With four seasonal MVP’s already in his back pocket, it would come as no surprise if LeBron galvanised his team to yet another Championship push in 2017.
After recently helping the USA to its third straight Olympic basketball title at Rio 2016 – it’s sixth from the last seven Games, the Warriors’ biggest offseason acquisition, Kevin Durant will now be focusing his thoughts towards returning his new team to the pinnacle of basketball. Durant, a former MVP winner in 2014 with the Oklahoma City Thunder is yet to taste NBA Championship glory in his career, but his move to the Warriors makes the Golden State outfit strong favourites for the coming season. The 27 year-old’s scoring prowess is without question one of Durant’s biggest assets considering he has already won the NBA scoring crown four times in his stellar career – all that is missing now is that NBA title on his burgeoning resume.
Three-point-machine Steph Curry will be a fellow team-mate of Durant next season, in what could be a ‘Golden’ year for the Warriors franchise. Curry, 28, has taken the art of three-point scoring to a level beyond any comparison in recent seasons. The point guard set a new NBA regular season record of 272 three-point shots back in 2013, but exceeded those numbers by shooting 286 in 2015, followed by an incredible 402 successful shots from distance last season. Curry, who has been widely recognised as the ‘greatest shooter in NBA history’ led the Warriors to their first NBA Championship for 40 years back in 2015, together with MVP honours in that year. Few would bet against Curry doing it again soon.
Kevin Durant’s former team-mate Russell Westbrook is now the flag bearer for the Thunder franchise after KD decided to leave for pastures new. Westbrook has recently signed a new deal with the Thunder that ties the 28 year-old down for at least the next two seasons. Point guard Westbrook was the league’s Top Points Scorer back in 2015, but he faces a tough task to return his franchise to their only NBA title back in 1979 – as the then Seattle Sounders. Westbrook is a fierce competitor however, who gives everything on the court and is without question a major star of the league – despite the Thunder missing Durant - so one to keep a close eye upon.
New Orleans Pelicans star, Anthony Davis is the most youthful selection of the quintet – but far from a back number. Now into his second year of a huge $145m five season contract extension with the Pelicans, the 23 year-old Davis is a fast-improving talent, who could go right to the very top of the game in seasons to come. Davis showed his huge potential with a franchise breaking performance of 59 points and dragged in 20 rebounds in a victory over the Detroit Pistons back in February. Davis’ feat also made him the youngest player in NBA history to score 59 points in one game. Sadly knee and shoulder injuries put paid to his season in March, but a healthy Davis in 2016/17 will be a wonderful sight for Pelicans fans, but perhaps not for his future opponents.