The 5-minute NBA season preview

Because A LOT happened in the past six months.

Maybe you played some high school or college ball and decided to live your hoop dreams vicariously through the pros this year. Maybe you’re the casual basketball fan who only watches when superstars play.

Or maybe you just saw how bananas the offseason was and want to catch up.

This NBA summer was wild, but maybe you missed it paying attention to other more important things. It’s all good, though. We’ll help you catch up on all the movement and lay out the stakes so you feel ready to take on the 2017-18 season.

How did last season end?

Russell Westbrook won MVP by breaking Oscar Robertson’s triple-double record. James Harden became the most dominant point guard in the league in Mike D’Antoni’s wild offensive system. Kawhi Leonard morphed into a robot that bleeds antifreeze. Giannis Antetokounmpo’s skill, size and athleticism put the league on notice. Five-foot-nine Isaiah Thomas averaged 29 points per game to lead the Celtics to the best record in the East, then played through his sister’s passing and his tooth being punched out in the playoffs.

None of it mattered.

As we all expected, the Warriors and Cavaliers breezed through the playoffs and met in the NBA Finals. As most expected, Golden State, led by Kevin Durant, pummeled Cleveland — and the rest of the league — to the tune of the NBA’s best playoff record ever.

Did I miss anything this off-season?

Did you what?

Let’s get you up to speed.

The draft was lit

After a massive race to the bottom to end the regular season, we welcomed one of the most exciting draft classes in a while.

  • The Lakers took Los Angeles native and UCLA star point guard Lonzo Ball No. 2 overall. Ball dominated Summer League as one of the most selfless, yet electrifying players to enter the league. I subsequently became SB Nation’s de facto LaVar Ball beat writer, losing bits and pieces of my soul along the way.
  • The Celtics, who owned the Nets’ pick as part of the Paul Pierce trade, stunned us all by trading it to Philly for the No. 3 pick and a future first-rounder. The 76ers drafted consensus top prospect Markelle Fultz out of Washington, while the Celtics nabbed scoring wing Jayson Tatum from Duke and immediately proclaimed him to be No. 1 on their board.
  • The Knicks took French point guard Frank Ntilikina at No. 8 while electrifying college guards Dennis Smith Jr. and Malik Monk were still on the board. Smith and Monk went to Dallas and Charlotte, respectively.
  • An NBA-record 16 freshmen were taken in the first round, including the first 11 picks. Only two seniors were taken in the first round, an all-time low. The league is getting younger, whether you like it or not.

But that was all a prelude to ...

SUPERSTAR ROULETTE!

Last year, the league’s stars were at least mildly split between the East and the West. This year? Almost every East All-Star outside of Cleveland and Boston jetted cross-country. Let’s take a look:

  • Kyrie Irving is now a Celtic and Isaiah Thomas is a Cavalier.
  • The Knicks tried to trade Carmelo Anthony to Houston, but sent him to Oklahoma City instead.
  • Chris Paul got out of Los Angeles and forced a trade to play with James Harden in Houston.
  • Paul George forced a trade and ended up with the Thunder, too. Cue Russell Westbrook dancing over the biggest contract extension in NBA history.
  • Gordon Hayward ditched Utah for Boston and old college coach Brad Stevens.
  • The Bulls traded Jimmy Butler — a whole all-star starter — to Minnesota for pennies on the dollar. Nobody’s really sure why. They also bought out Dwyane Wade’s contract, so he did what made the most sense and joined LeBron James in Cleveland.
  • Derrick Rose signed a minimum deal with the Cavs, too. Man the Cavs’ roster is weird.
  • Oh yeah, and Dwight Howard is in Charlotte now, shooting threes and dribbling coast-to-coast.

The end result of all of that ...

Look at all these new super teams!

If you thought the Warriors’ dominance would scare off the rest of the league, think again. They’ve got some serious competition now. It includes:

  • The Celtics, who now have a legit Big 3 of Irving, Hayward and Al Horford.
  • The Thunder, who somehow have Westbrook, George, and Anthony on the same team.
  • Houston, which has has two of the game’s five best point guards — Harden and Chris Paul — playing for a coach who historically maximizes the talents of his point guard.
  • Minnesota, which has Karl-Anthony Towns, Butler AND Andrew Wiggins ALL ON ONE TEAM, with Jeff Teague, Taj Gibson and Jamal Crawford to help.
  • The Spurs, who are the Spurs.
  • The new-look Cavaliers, who still have James and Kevin Love, supplemented by Thomas and key depth pieces like Jae Crowder, Rose and Wade.

Oh yeah, one more thing ...

NBA jerseys are now made by Nike, not Adidas. Here are all of them.

Are we gonna see another Cavs vs. Warriors Finals?

Yes. Yes, we are.

But the Warriors are probably gonna win again, right?

Yes. Yes, they are.

Did any rules change?

Yes. The All-Star Game recently changed formats. There’s no more East vs. West. Instead, there will be team captains who pick their own teams, just like the playground. That should make it more competitive, right?

Speaking of competitive, there shouldn’t be as much tanking after this season. The NBA altered the lottery odds so the worst teams have less of an advantage in securing the No. 1 pick. Let’s see if that works.

Are NBA players sticking to sports?

Nope.

On the heels of the NFL’s struggle with players kneeling during the national anthem, the NBA sent a memo to players encouraging they use their platform to start conversations about issues that matter to them.

Thing is, these guys have been using their platform to spark conversations already:

Milwaukee’s Malcolm Brogdon called the protection of a Confederate statue in Charlottesville, Va. “white supremacy” and “domestic terrorism.”

After President Donald Trump rescinded a Golden State Warriors White House invitation that he never actually sent, LeBron James called the president a bum.

Kobe Bryant said he would kneel during the national anthem if he was still playing today.

That was just the tip of the iceberg.

The NBA, though, has a rule specifically against kneeling during the national anthem. Nobody’s challenged it yet, but what happens if they do?

Who will win MVP?

Either Kawhi or Giannis. Why? They’re the only candidates without a legitimate co-star on their team.

But if you disagree, there’s always Steph, KD, Harden, Russ, and dark-horses like Kyrie, Butler, and of course, Dion Waiters. Also, that LeBron guy over in Cleveland is pretty good, too.

Which young players should I be watching?

Towns, New York’s Kristaps Porzingis, Antetokounmpo, Denver’s do-it-all Nikola Jokic, and Philly’s entire core of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, and Fultz are all must-see TV.

You’ll also want to watch Lonzo as often as you can.

Which teams should I keep an eye on, besides the obvious ones?

Minnesota found a way to put Towns, Wiggins, Butler, and Teague on the same team, with Tom Thibodeau coaching them. The Wizards’ backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal is always fun to check out. Antetokounmpo gives Milwaukee a chance to win every time he steps on the floor.

If you’re into heartbreak, pull for the Knicks every once in awhile.

But seriously, is anyone beating the Warriors?

Nah.