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The Gamut

The Gamut

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Last year’s NBA underdogs, this year’s contenders

Breakout Season: The NBA’s most electrifying and exciting stars take the stage for another season. Expect this to be a season for young superstars to make leaps and bounds to contention.

The NBA season kicked off on Oct. 18, pitting big-market superteams against one another. The Philadelphia 76ers took on the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers took on the defending champions, the Golden State Warriors. 

Although veteran teams like the Warriors and Bucks remain expected contenders, this season will feature more than just the usual suspect powerhouses. Last season, more young upcoming teams overturned the status quo in multiple playoff upsets, and the way is all but set for rising stars to take over the league. 

The Memphis Grizzlies, composed of a young cast led by rising superstar Ja Morant, had pushed the Warriors to six games in a seven-game series. The Mavericks also advanced to the Western Conference finals, behind high-scoring performances from young MVP candidate Luka Doncic. Considering the room for growth as young teams in the league, the Grizzlies and Mavericks will surely be contenders in the years to come.

While young talent in the league has rapidly risen, many title favorites last year have crumbled and are facing uncertainty. Despite coming off a Finals appearance, the recent suspension of head coach Ime Udoka leaves questions for the Boston Celtics this year, especially after his coaching was a key factor in the Celtics’ success. Along with starting forward Robert Williams III’s nagging knee injury, their return to the Finals is all the more unlikely.

Another expected contender for this season, the 2021 Western Finalists in the Phoenix Suns have also had internal issues. On top of last year’s demoralization of being blown out by over 30 points in their elimination game, last season’s starting small forward Jae Crowder has requested a trade from the organization after having his starting position replaced. 

Starting center Deandre Ayton has also had conflicts with coach Monty Williams, being benched in the playoffs and signing with the Indiana Pacers during the offseason. Although the Suns matched the offer and kept Ayton, his future role with the Suns remains in question.

“I haven’t spoken to [Williams] at all, ever since the game,” Ayton told reporters on Aug. 27 via ESPN. “I can show him better than I can tell him. […] It’s how you perform and what you bring to the table. What’s said is already said.”

This season is likely to be a turning point for the league. After years of failed superteams over the past seasons, injuries and the successes of young homegrown teams have flipped the narrative. 

The Lakers, Clippers, and Nets, all teams who acquired their respective stars over trade, have failed to make an impact in the playoffs, and anticipated contenders are self-imploding. This season will determine what direction the league is heading in, whether proven superstars can regain their footing or will have to pass the torch on.

“As you can see now, with how we were improving, how we became one of the top teams in this league, we’ve started getting that recognition […],” Morant said via the online newspaper the Daily Memphian. “We’ve gotta go earn even more respect. Because there’s still some that don’t believe in us.”

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About the Contributor
Theoden Melgar
Theoden Melgar, Digital Content Editor
Although his initial reason for joining the Gamut was because his friends were applying, veteran writer Theo Melgar is now serving his fourth and final year in the Gamut as Digital Content Editor for the 2023-2024 school year. Formerly the Gamut’s illustrious Sports Editor for two years, you won’t necessarily catch Theo on his way to varsity basketball practice afterschool — instead, you might find him constructing robots in the engineering building as FTC Head of Technical for OA Robotics. When he’s not villainously editing his fellow staffers’ drafts, Theo can be found devouring fried chicken from Jollibee (don’t forget the gravy) and watching his favorite episodes of The Amazing World of Gumball. With newfound responsibility as Digital Content Editor, Theo is committed to incorporating fresh, interactive digital content such as in-website games and hopes to make improvements to the Gamut website. Yet as his time at Oxford Academy nears close to an end, Theo plans to pursue greater ventures that tie to his passions of computer science and cybersecurity, but most of all, is looking forward to graduating. 
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Last year’s NBA underdogs, this year’s contenders