The NBA season tips off Tuesday night, starting with the reigning champions Spurs taking on the rival Mavericks and Houston's Dwight Howard returning to L.A. to face the Lakers. In a sport so full of storylines, here are the top five to follow this season.
First, how will the vaunted rookie class perform? The 2014 NBA draft was one of the most hyped drafts in NBA history — featuring a cavalcade of big-time prospects including the Timberwolves' Andrew Wiggins, who was acquired in the Kevin Love blockbuster trade with Cleveland.
Though the early rookie of the year favorite is Jabari Parker, who was taken second overall by Milwaukee after Cleveland drafted Wiggins.
That duo was followed by Joel Embiid, who might not see the court this season due to injury. His Sixers teammate Nerlens Noel, however, will get his first taste of NBA action after missing his first season with a leg injury.
Next up: How will former MVPs Derrick Rose and Kobe Bryant play after missing a majority of the past two seasons due to injuries?
Rose's Bulls rank fairly high in early power rankings because, as the New York Post points out, "Derrick Rose's health will decide who rules the NBA," writing that "If the version of Rose that showed up in Columbus – or at least something close to it – can be there for the Bulls come April, May and June, Chicago is the best team in the Eastern Conference."
Meanwhile, Bryant attempts to return from a torn Achilles tendon that ended his season last year. The NBA legend is 593 points from passing Michael Jordan for third all-time on the NBA scoring list — he's also 36 and in his 19th season.
In its annual NBA player rankings, ESPN ranked Rose as the 28th best player in the league and the Black Mamba as the 40th.
Rose responded to the ranking by saying, "I know I'm not a top 30 player, I know I'm much higher."
But Bryant was a little more aggressive in calling out ESPN.
REPORTER FOR LAKERS NATION: "Kobe, was it motivating to you at all that ESPN ranked you the 40th best player in the league?"
BRYANT: "Nah, not really. I've known for a long time they're a bunch of idiots."
For our next storyline, how will Russell Westbrook lead the Oklahoma City Thunder now that reigning MVP Kevin Durant will be sidelined for six to eight weeks with a stress fracture in his right foot?
According to ESPN, Westbrook only played 41 minutes last season without Durant on the floor. In that time Russ attempted 35 shots, scored 46 points and took 45.5 percent of the Thunder's shots. When Westbrook missed time last year, Durant averaged 35 points and 6.3 assists as the Thunder went 20-7. Can Westbrook match his co-star's solo production?
And can the Spurs hold off father time for one more year? As Tim Duncan enters his 17th season, the NBA's model franchise is the favorite to repeat as NBA champions, which would give The Big Fundamental his sixth ring, tying him with Michael Jordan.
The Spurs and their 2014 NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard are trying to reach a contract extension agreement before the Oct. 31 deadline, though no progress is being made. The Spurs will also have the first female assistant coach in NBA history as former WNBA star Becky Hammon has joined Gregg Popovich's staff. (Video via ABC)
And finally, like the past few seasons, LeBron James is the most interesting story of the season. The King has returned home to Cleveland after four seasons playing for the Miami Heat. (Video via Sprite)
As was the case in Miami, James has established a new big three, this time featuring Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. James' hometown team is seen as the favorite to win the Eastern Conference, though most power rankings have them beneath the Spurs. The NBA GMs picked James as the early favorite to win the MVP award, which would be his fifth, tying Jordan for most all time.
After an exciting NBA offseason of trades, power shifts and predictions, I think it's safe to say NBA fans are excited to see it all unfold. I know I am.
This video includes images from Getty Images.