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Six storylines to follow for the 2021-22 NBA season

Andrew Buller-Russ
Zach Lavine, six nba storylines to follow
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA regular-season opener is less than a week away, taking place on Tuesday, Oct. 19. As with every basketball season, there are several intriguing storylines to follow along with as the year plays out. As the season nears, more drama continues to unfold, such as the latest Kyrie Irving situation with the Brooklyn Nets.

Here are six more NBA storylines to keep track of during the 2021-22 season.

The debuts of the 2021 NBA Draft class

NBA: Detroit Pistons-Media Day
Sep 27, 2021; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Cade Cunningham (2) poses for a photo during media day at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The 2021 NBA Draft featured several star basketball players fans have been excited about for a long time. Cade Cunningham only needed one year at Oklahoma State to show he was worthy of being the No. 1 overall pick, now he gets a chance to show what he can do with the Detroit Pistons, teaming up with Killian Hayes and Jerami Grant.

Houston Rockets rookie Jalen Green had an unconventional path to the NBA, becoming the first player to bypass college, choosing to play in the G-League instead. It worked wonders, as he parlayed his year in the development league to become the second overall pick. Green should be able to put up plenty of points, playing along with Christian Wood.

Jalen Suggs seems to win everywhere he goes, can he find some similar success with the Orlando Magic? Australians will love being able to watch Josh Giddey playing stateside in the NBA with the Oklahoma City Thunder. He should form a fun backcourt pairing with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

There’s also Jonathan Kuminga from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Franz Wagner from Germany, all drafted in the top ten.

With some of the game’s biggest stars originating from outside of America, it’s always great to see the NBA continuing to be represented more throughout the world. You never know where the next Dirk Nowitzki, Luka Doncic, or Giannis Antetokounmpo will come from.

Watching the drama unfold in Philly

NBA: Playoffs-Atlanta Hawks at Philadelphia 76ers
Jun 20, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons warms up before game seven of the second round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

In a somewhat surprising, but also not surprising move, Ben Simmons finally reported to the Philadelphia 76ers. What does that mean for his future in Philly? Probably not much, but it should help them reach a trade, or come to some sort of conclusion on the status of Simmons.

There’s no word yet if Simmons plans to play, but at least he will be around the team. The Sixers are at their best with him playing, otherwise, a trade needs to happen. The sooner the better, for their playoff chances. Whatever it is, the 76ers need to move past this cloudy situation as soon as possible.

Related: NBA games today – Full offseason schedule, including start of NBA free agency

Which NBA star will be traded first?

Jun 5, 2021; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving (11) reacts after making a basket against the Milwaukee Bucks during the second quarter of game one in the Eastern Conference semifinals of the 2021 NBA Playoffs at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 5, 2021; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving (11) reacts after making a basket against the Milwaukee Bucks during the second quarter of game one in the Eastern Conference semifinals of the 2021 NBA Playoffs at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

With the season so close, it’s appearing unlikely that any NBA stars will be traded before their first game. However, we can’t rule it out completely. We still don’t know the exact status of Kyrie Irving or Ben Simmons. It seems to be evolving by the day, sometimes by the hour.

The Portland Trail Blazers made major changes this offseason with the hopes of ascending into a legit title contender. If Damian Lillard doesn’t like what he sees, or if the team experiences some early struggles, Dame Time could very well blaze another trail.

A similar situation could play out with Bradley Beal in Washington. Maybe he somehow lands in Brooklyn as part of a Kyrie trade? Or maybe he finds his way to another contending team like the Mavericks or Blazers.

Then, if we want to get nuts, the rumors of Zion Williamson being unhappy with the New Orleans Pelicans, maybe there’s some truth to that, despite the explosive star turning them down. Or if the Minnesota Timberwolves continue down the path of being terrible, could Karl-Anthony Towns eventually want out? The NBA season could bring many surprises once the games get rolling.

How do the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns respond to reaching the NBA Finals?

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks-Media Day
Sep 27, 2021; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Thanasis Antetokounmpo (43) and forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) and forward Jordan Nwora (13) have some fun during Media Day at the Fiserv Forum. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The Phoenix Suns weren’t expected to make it all the way to the NBA Finals, yet they proved to be one of the best teams in the Western Conference last year. How can they build off that performance and take it up another notch in 2021?

Many analysts are skeptical of their ability to reach the Finals with the targets on their backs. What did the Suns really do to improve? Landry Shamet? Is he a gamechanger? Probably not.

The Milwaukee Bucks won their second NBA Championship last season. Giannis Antetokounmpo isn’t going anywhere. He’s not regressing, if anything he probably added something else to his game this offseason. The Bucks should be considered a strong bet to at least make it to the Eastern Conference Finals. There’s no reason why this team can’t run it back and repeat. Fear the Deer.

Related: NBA playoff predictions – Bracket picks & 2023 Finals champion

Can the new-look Chicago Bulls be playoff contenders?

NBA: Preseason-Chicago Bulls at Cleveland Cavaliers
Oct 10, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine (8) drives beside Cleveland Cavaliers guard Dylan Windler (9) in the second quarter at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

It’s hard to look at the Chicago Bulls roster and not get excited about this team. The electrifying Zach Lavine leads this pack of Bulls, but he’s joined by stars Nikola Vucevic, DeMar DeRozan, and Lonzo Ball. They also have last year’s fourth overall pick in Patrick Williams, who could take a leap in his second season.

This roster appears to have a strong starting five and solid depth on the bench. After going 31-41 last season, the Bulls finished in 11th place in the Eastern Conference. On paper, this team appears ready to compete for a playoff seed, it’s more of a question of how high can they go?

Will the experience do the Los Angeles Lakers well?

NBA: Preseason-Golden State Warriors at Los Angeles Lakers
Oct 12, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) shoots the ball against Golden State Warriors forward Juan Toscano-Anderson (95) during the third quarter at Staples Center. The Warriors won 111-99. Mandatory Credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re an NBA fan, you’ve heard the jokes. The Los Angeles Lakers have assembled a roster currently collecting social security checks. The reality is, they have practically an Olympic squad’s worth of experience.

My biggest question mark surrounding this current roster is whether they have enough outside shooting to space the floor. For most, they wonder how healthy a team with ten players 32 or older can be for a full 82-game season plus the playoffs.

While they should have plenty of wisdom beyond my years, the LA Lakers also have plenty of questions to answer, and a fair share of skeptics. Not to mention the haters. Yet, maybe this veteran bunch prefers it that way.