After a preparation that was dominated by a rising argument with China, the start of the regular season in the NBA should provide the desired distraction. A preview in five parts of a season that, after the many player changes, starts for the first time in years without absolute top favorites.

1. LA Clippers winner of the summer

Kawhi Leonard came with good news to the home of Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers in Malibu in early July. The 28-year-old American, who had led Toronto Raptors to the first NBA title a few weeks earlier, was the most important transfer-free player in the NBA and wanted to return to his hometown to play for the Clippers.

"But I will not come if your team is not good enough, or if you do not change anything about your team," Leonard said to the Clippers quota, Rivers told the LA Times last month.

The demand of the usually little talkative Leonard is indicative of the power that players nowadays have in the NBA. Increasingly, top basketball players are enforcing where and especially with whom they want to play.

The Clippers now know that game and immediately showed Leonard a list of players that might have been available. The most valuable player (MVP) of the NBA Finals did not hesitate and pointed to the name of Paul George. Get it and then I'll sign, was the clear message.

A few days later the Clippers reached an agreement with Oklahoma City Thunder about an exchange for George and in one fell swoop the team had two of the ten best basketball players in the world under contract. Furthermore, with many returning players from the team that won 48 of its 82 matches last season, the former ugly duckling of LA and the NBA are among bookmakers' favorites for the title.

Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers (second from left) alongside his new players Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. (Photo: Pro Shots)

2. Davis must make James's second Lakers season a success

It is no coincidence that a game between LA Lakers and LA Clippers is scheduled on the first day of the NBA season on the night of Tuesday to Wednesday. After a summer in which many top clubs changed clubs, Los Angeles promises to become the epicenter of the world's largest basketball competition.

In recent decades, this was much more often the case due to the successes and charisma of the Lakers, but the sixteen-time champion fell into disrepair after his last title in 2010. In the past six years, the Lakers have even missed the play-offs, a series that fatist LeBron James couldn't break through last season.

In his second year with the Lakers, however, 34-year-old James receives help from another superstar. Anthony Davis (26) came over from New Orleans Pelicans this summer and made the team of the new coach Frank Vogel the biggest title favorite after the Clippers.

Los Angeles Lakers duo LeBron James and Anthony Davis. (Photo: Pro Shots)

3. Golden State Warriors is looking for a new identity after a difficult summer

Golden State Warriors has consistently been in the NBA final for the past five seasons and has won the title three times. Certainly since the arrival of Kevin Durant in 2016, the Warriors were considered one of the best teams ever collected in the NBA, but after a difficult summer, the team of success coach Steve Kerr is not the house-high favorite for the first time since the 2013/2014 season.

In fact, due to the departure of the heavily injured Durant to Brooklyn Nets, the severe knee injury of Klay Thompson and the departure of the important routiniers Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, several experts wonder if the Warriors are good enough to be among the first eight teams in the Western Conference and thus secure a place in the play-offs.

"But it remains our goal to win the title," Stephen Curry told Yahoo Sports last week. The double MVP of the regular season is, together with Draymond Green, the only Warriors star that is left. With D'Angelo Russell, who was elected All Star on behalf of the Nets last year, as one of the many newcomers, it is mainly looking for a new identity.

Last ten NBA champions

  • 2018/2019: Toronto Raptors
  • 2017/2018: Golden State Warriors
  • 2016/2017: Golden State Warriors
  • 2015/2016: Cleveland Cavaliers
  • 2014/2015: Golden State Warriors
  • 2013/2014: San Antonio Spurs
  • 2012/2013: Miami Heat
  • 2011/2012: Miami Heat
  • 2010/2011: Dallas Mavericks
  • 2009/2010: Los Angeles Lakers

4. Defending champion Toronto Raptors without Leonard no favorite

The joy of the first NBA title was soon filled in at Toronto Raptors by Leonard's departure for the Clippers. The forward was the main reason why the Raptors made the move from subtopper to champion last season and without him the team of coach Nick Nurse seems to be back.

Point guard Kyle Lowry, who is starting his eighth season in Canada, has other plans. "I want to be a champion again," he said last month. "I know what it feels like now, so I am more motivated than ever to keep winning."

Nevertheless, it promises to be hard enough for the Raptors to finish in the top of the Eastern Conference. Milwaukee Bucks was the best team of the previous regular season with sixty victories and still has MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, Philadelphia 76ers attracted an experienced topper with Al Horford and Boston Celtics hopes that the disappointing last season can be swept away by exchanging Kyrie Irving for Kemba Walker.

Toronto Raptors was honored by millions of fans for the NBA title in June. (Photo: Pro Shots)

5. Hyped Zion Williamson is not flying yet

Zion Williamson is already a superstar before he has played one official NBA game. The 19-year-old American is considered the most hyped "rookie" since James made his entry into the NBA in 2003.

The 2.01 meter long and 129 kilo Williamson is mainly known for its unprecedented athletic ability; videos from his dunks have been viewed millions of times on YouTube. New Orleans Pelicans did not hesitate for a second to choose him in June in the 'draft', the annual event in which clubs in turn can incorporate the greatest talents.

The long-awaited debut of Williamson in the regular season of the NBA, however, is still awaiting. The forward got injured in his right knee in preparation and was operated on Monday. It is expected that Williamson will only be able to fly again in six to eight weeks.

Important dates NBA season 2019/2020

  • October 22, 2019: Start of regular season
  • February 16, 2020: All Star competition in Chicago
  • April 15, 2020: End of regular season
  • April 18, 2020: Start of play-offs
  • 4 June 2020: Start of NBA final