The champagne corks are still being popped following the Golden State Warriors second NBA title following their 4-1 Finals victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
After a stunning collapse from 3-1 in front against the Cavs 12 months ago, the Dubs added Kevin Durant to their star-studded roster and the former Oklahoma City Thunder forward provided the star power en route to winning the Finals MVP award.
Most observers would suggest that the Cavs are the team best positioned to challenge the dominant Warriors again next season, but we have taken a look at five other contenders.
The obvious choice in the Eastern Conference is the Boston Celtics. Led by point guard Isaiah Thomas, the Celtics took advantage of a Cavaliers collapse at the end of the regular season to steal the number one seed and it looked as if there might be a changing of the guard.
Boston squeaked past the Chicago Bulls – who held a 2-0 lead and probably would have won the series if former Boston favourite Rajon Rondo had not broken his thumb in game two – before edging the Washington Wizards 4-3 and losing the Eastern Conference Finals 4-1 against Cleveland.
That being said, the Celtics clearly have a good thing going under coach Brad Stevens. A number one pick in the draft this year plus rumours that Gordon Hayward or Blake Griffin, who could help cure their rebounding woes – they averaged the fourth-fewest boards per game last season – lend further credence to the argument that they are in position to contend for titles.
San Antonio Spurs
The clear candidate to dethrone the Warriors in the West has to be the San Antonio Spurs. It's 20 years and counting since they last missed the playoffs, with the Spurs always a threat in the postseason under the guidance of probably the best coach in the game in Gregg Popovich.
This year saw them take down the Memphis Grizzlies 4-2, but they were struck a huge blow in the semi-finals against the Houston Rockets when veteran point guard Tony Parker ruptured a tendon in his left leg that forced him to miss the remainder of the playoffs and probably the start of next season.
Even without Parker, the Spurs won the series thanks to Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge leading the way, but it was not to be in the next round as Leonard injured his ankle in game oen and they were swept by the Warriors.
A healthy Spurs side can definitely challenge the Dubs even without any significant additions to their roster, given Pop's unmatched ability to seemingly get the best out of every single player he works with, and a Finals trip next year is certainly not beyond this talented team.
Not since the days of Hakeem Olajuwon in 1995 have the Rockets won an NBA title or a Conference title. MVP candidate James Harden averaged a league-high 11.2 assists this season, along with 36.4 points, but without any notable help, he was unable to lead them to glory despite recording 22 regular season triple-doubles.
In a much-anticipated first-round clash against the Thunder, Harden's former employers, Houston brushed Oklahoma City and Russell Westbrook - the first player in over 50 years to average a triple-double - aside 4-1, but they disappointing slumped to a 4-2 defeat to the Spurs.
The acquisition of Lou Williams in February will give them confidence going into his first full season as a Rocket, and if Harden enjoys a similarly dominant campaign, then the addition of another scorer will boost their prospects of stunning the Warriors.
If we face facts, it's obvious that Canada's only team are not going to go to the Finals while the Warriors and the Cavs exist in their current form. But let's dream a little bit. DeMar DeRozan poured in over 27 points per game last season and Kyle Lowry added 22 points and seven assists per game as the Raptors soared to a 51-31 record and third in the East.
The playoffs saw them survive a scare against the Giannis Antetokounmpo-led Milwaukee Bucks, winning three in a row to come back from 2-1 down, but they were no match for LeBron James and the Cavs, who swept them comfortably in the next round.
As for next season, Toronto absolutely have to fix their all-round game. They put up the least assists per game last campaign with just 18.5, and no-one except for Lowry averaged over four.
The Raptors were mediocre in both rebounding and blocking and need to make significant strides to reach the standard of Golden State and Cleveland, but Dwane Casey's men can afford to be optimistic if they make the required improvements.
The Jazz really are not that far away but must keep hold of Hayward, who put up 21.9 points a game in 2016-17. Star center Rudy Gobert averaged a double-double with 14 points and 12.8 rebounds per game, while George Hill, Rodney Hood and Derrick Favors all chipped in to give Utah a 51-31 season. The pieces are there.
A topsy-turvy series saw them beat the Los Angeles Clippers 4-3 in the first round of the 2017 playoffs, but the dream ended there as they were swept by the Warriors in the next round.
Improving their distribution is a must for the Jazz next season; an average of 20 assists per game is simply not good enough if they want to challenge. However, their young core of players should continue to blossom and a Conference Finals trip next season is certainly not out of the question.
17 de agosto 2017
|Yankees star Judge sets dubious strikeout record|
|Nadal maintains flawless record against Gasquet in Cincinnati|
|Brady: Watson has a great future|
|Steinbrenner: Yankees season a failure if they don´t make playoffs|
|Montreal Impact 3 Chicago Fire 0: Piatti double sinks slumping visitors|
|Cavs can´t trade a legend - Durant on LeBron´s future|
|McGregor aiming to ´put away´ Mayweather in 10 seconds|
|Pique: This is the first time I´ve felt inferior to Real Madrid|
|Asensio: Madrid played better and deserved Supercopa title|
|Barca star Suarez to undergo tests on knee injury|
|Barca close to signing Coutinho and Dembele - Segura|
|Valverde: Madrid aren´t invincible as Barca boss laments Neymar loss|
|Zidane lauds ´spectacular´ Madrid after Supercopa triumph|
|PSG troll Barcelona over Supercopa loss to Madrid|
|Real Madrid 2 Barcelona 0 (5-1 agg): First-half Barca failings settle Supercopa|
|Champions League Review: Mertens stars as Napoli put two past Nice|
|Kirwan: Wallabies could benefit from Bledisloe Cup thrashing|
|Rodgers eyes Liverpool reunion after ´perfect´ Celtic hammer Astana|
|Demebele can´t just do whatever he wants - Dortmund team-mate Sokratis|
|Championship Review: Norwich off the mark, Sheffield Wednesday hold Sunderland|
16 de agosto 2017
|Bae Sang-moon set for pro golf return following military service|
|Celtic 5 Astana 0: Sinclair double helps put Rodgers´ men on brink of qualification|
|Sigurdsson to Everton joins Lukaku, Torres and Sterling among biggest all-Premier League deals|
|Barty stuns Venus Williams in Cincinnati|
|Hull captain Ellis to retire at end of 2017|
|NFL and NFLPA in extraordinary row over Ezekiel Elliott appeal|
|Sigurdsson completes club-record move from Swansea to Everton|
|Izquierdo granted work permit ahead of club-record Brighton switch|
|Van Persie and Babel win Netherlands recalls|
|McKenzie earns surprise start for All Blacks´ Rugby Championship opener|
|Byrd named as referee for Mayweather-McGregor showdown|
|Ronaldo brands five-match ban ´exaggerated and ridiculous´|
|Djokovic, Wawrinka, Nishikori - who else will join the US Open injury list?|
|Only the fittest will survive - Shastri makes fielding a top priority for India|
|Bayern in ´good rhythm´ after poor pre-season - Ancelotti|
|Van Dijk not for sale, says Southampton chairman|
|Unstable sternum joint sidelines Snedeker for ´indefinite period´|
|Liverpool loan Ojo to Fulham|
|Suzann Pettersen out of Solheim Cup, Matthew drafted in by Europe|
|Eli Manning believes he can play until 40|
|Ronaldo´s appeal against five-match ban rejected|
|Lynagh: Lions provided blueprint to beat All Blacks|
|Laura Davies to make history on European Senior Tour|
|Nishikori´s season ended by torn wrist tendon|
|PSG´s Matuidi arrives in Turin to complete Juventus switch|
|Barcelona threaten legal action over Paulinho deal allegations|
|England erring on side of caution with Woakes, explains Root|
|Sigurdsson undergoes Everton medical, Koeman lavishes praise|
|Boateng leaves Las Palmas for personal reasons|
|Sprint king Kittel agrees Katusha switch|
|Coutinho one of the best in the world, says Liverpool team-mate Can|
|Mark Stoneman handed England debut for day-night Test with West Indies|
|Pulisic staying at Dortmund despite Liverpool speculation|
|Gundogan not rushing Premier League comeback|
|Williams hatches ´outrageous´ Australian Open title defence plan|
|Carlos Bacca joins Villarreal from AC Milan|
|After Mayweather v McGregor, will it be Bellew v Bisping?|
|Wenger happy Sanchez & Oxlade-Chamberlain have not followed Coutinho path|
|Lehmann hopeful over Warner fitness|
|Beale eager for Wallabies comeback outing|
|Newcastle land Joselu in £5m deal|
|Jese Rodriguez joins Stoke from PSG|
|Edwards takes on Blues consultancy role|
|No progress on Alexis Sanchez contract, admits Arsenal boss Wenger|
|Garner backs Windies to surprise England|
|Klopp excited by ´incredible´ Alexander-Arnold after starring role in Liverpool win|
|Judge, Stanton, Votto nearing historic marks|
|Melbourne Victory confirm Sanchez signing|
|Bairstow: England must focus on West Indies before turning attention to Ashes|
|Goffin, Berdych bundled out in Cincinnati|