By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.
The 2021-22 NBA season is here! The regular season officially tips off this afternoon with the defending league champion Milwaukee Bucks hosting the Brooklyn Nets. As always, ESPN Honolulu and sister station CBS 1500 will bring you the best NBA action as the season progresses. In the meantime, here’s a quick primer on what you need to know about the season:
MOST INTRIGUING STORYLINES:
- THE KYRIE CONUNDRUM: Nets guard Kyrie Irving remains at the center of the NBA’s vaccine mandate controversy. How much will he play this season, if at all? Brooklyn’s championship hopes may depend on the answer.
- BIG (HEADACHE) BEN: After demanding to be traded and alienating his teammates, Ben Simmons returned to the 76ers in time for the start of the season. But he still wants out, even going so far as to practicing with his phone in his pocket. Think he’s waiting for that trade?
- CHEMISTRY EXPERIMENT: The Lakers have added some talented veterans to help LeBron and A.D. Maybe “too” veteran. In the end, can they all co-exist and share the ball?
- BUCKS STOP HERE?: It took 50 years, but Milwaukee finally won another NBA title. Now the question is, can they do it again? Don’t bet against the “Greek Freak.”
- SUN SETTING?: Phoenix center Deandre Ayton was hoping for an extension on his rookie deal that would land him a max contract, but the two sides couldn’t come to terms. Ayton, the top pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, is a key figure in the team’s championship aspirations. Now he could be a restricted free agent next summer.
TOP FIVE FAVORITES TO WIN IT ALL:
- Brooklyn Nets (+250)
- Los Angeles Lakers (+375)
- Milwaukee Bucks (+900)
- Golden State Warriors (+1000)
- Phoenix Suns (+1500)
TOP FIVE FAVORITES TO WIN THE MVP AWARD:
- Luka Doncic, Mavericks (+400)
- Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks (+650)
- Joel Embiid, 76ers (+750)
- Kevin Durant, Nets (+750)
- Steph Curry, Warriors (+750)
TOP THREE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR FAVORITES:
- Jalen Green, Rockets (+250)
- Cade Cunningham, Pistons (+325)
- Jalen Suggs, Magic (+800)
KEY DATES TO REMEMBER:
- Feb. 18-20, 2022: NBA All-Star Weekend
- March TBA: Trade Deadline
- April 10: End of Regular Season
- April 12-15: Play-In Tournament
- April 16: NBA Playoffs Begin
- June 2: NBA Finals Begin
- June 23: 2022 NBA Draft
KEY FREE AGENT/TRADE ACQUISITIONS:
BOSTON: Enes Kanter, Dennis Schroder
BROOKLYN: LaMarcus Aldridge, Paul Millsap, Patty Mills
CHARLOTTE: Kelly Oubre Jr.
CHICAGO: Lonzo Ball, DeMar DeRozan
CLEVELAND: Ricky Rubio, Lauri Markkanen
DENVER: Jeff Green
GOLDEN STATE: Andre Igluodala, Otto Porter Jr.
L.A. CLIPPERS: Eric Bledsoe
L.A. LAKERS: Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, Ramon Rondo, Dwight Howard, Trevor Ariza
MIAMI: Kyle Lowry, Markieff Morris, PJ Tucker
MILWAUKEE: Grayson Allen, George Hill
MINNESOTA: Patrick Beverley, Taurean Prince
NEW ORLEANS: Jonas Valanciunas
NEW YORK: Kemba Walker, Evan Fournier
OKLAHOMA CITY: Derrick Favors
ORLANDO: Robin Lopez
PHILADELPHIA: Andre Drummond
PHOENIX: JaVale McGee
PORTLAND: Ben McLemore, Dennis Smith Jr., Larry Nance Jr.
SACRAMENTO: Tristan Thompson
TORONTO: Goran Dragic
UTAH: Rudy Gay, Hassan Whiteside
WASHINGTON: Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope