Goodbye 2016, you wretched old thing. You took so much from us. You broke Ben Simmons' foot, you made me read through a new CBA, and you gave George Karl a book deal. Good riddance. On to 2017. May the Basketball Gods grant us some beauty on the hardwood to soothe the sting left by last year.

Here's a look at some things to look forward to in the new year.

Warriors-Cavs three-match. Barring some serious upsets, we are almost undoubtedly headed for a third straight year of Golden State vs. LeBron James. If the Christmas Day game between the newly created rivals is any indication of what's to come, then we're in for more of the same. It will be a tight race to the Larry O'Brien trophy as it was last year and the year before.

This time around, the Warriors will have Kevin Durant to hurl at the Cavaliers, but something tells me that King James and Co. are up to the challenge. 
Of course, it would be nice to get some new blood in the NBA Finals, but it's incredibly entertaining to watch these teams learn more about each other, learn to hate each other even more, and use everything they physically and emotionally have to try and wear each other out. A new era of rivals. I love it.

Playoff race in the West. There are a few teams that you can completely ignore as far as the "race" is concerned. The Warriors and Spurs are obviously in. The Clippers, Rockets, and Thunder are going to be the middle of the pack and jockeying for position. But it's the race for the last couple of spots that intrigues me the most.

As it stands right now, Sacramento, Portland, Denver, and New Orleans are all in position to take the eighth seed come playoffs. And these are all teams that could use a playoff spot. Not only would it be intriguing to see these teams play a series of post-season basketball and learn what their mettle is really made of, but also, a playoff berth is a sign of things on the rise, it's a good bargaining chip in free agency, its a thing to remind players who might be thinking of jumping ship that there is a reason to stay, and its lucrative as all get out.                                                     

As a native Californian (a Northern Californian at that), I would absolutely love to see the Warriors play the Kings in a playoff series, for the pure joy of celebrating California pride (I have no other loyalties to either of them). The Warriors will certainly sweep the Kings, but I'd still like to see DeMarcus Cousins get a little taste of some playoff ball and maybe help the Kings pay for that shiny new arena in the Golden State capital.


New era of All-Star voting.​ First thing's first. This is not how you get people to vote for you.    Oh Kemba. Don't...just don't.

The 2017 All-Star Game will be decided, not only by the fans as in previous years, but also by players, and members of the NBA media.  This is the first year that the players and media will have a say in the All-Star roster. Players and media will have the chance to complete one full ballot, with three frontcourt players and two guards from the Eastern and Western Conference. The players can even vote for themselves.

Now, I'm not sure exactly how this will shake out. We might just end up with the same thing we always have — the most popular players making the team. But it's possible that with players voting for people who they truly think deserve it and with media members that are more familiar with particular teams and matchups, we might see a bit of a shakeup in the way the roster plays out.

But even if we don't, the players at least will feel like they have had their voice heard, since their votes will count as 25 percent of the total vote.
If you are interested in voting there are a bajillion ways to do it, start here.

See you in 2017!

Must Watch List. All times are Eastern.

Clippers at Thunder.  Saturday, 8 p.m., NBA TV. Russell Westbrook lost his cool on Thursday night and was ejected after arguing with a ref. The triple-double tornado now has to go against one of the teams that threatens position in the Western standings, and Chris Paul could be back on the court for L.A. AND, you can be done with the game before the big ball drops at midnight. Happy New Year!

Bulls at Cavaliers. Wednesday, 8 p.m., ESPN. Eastern playoff teams, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade. This will be a good one. The last time they met (Dec. 2) the Bulls came out on top. This time they're in Cleveland and the Cavs will be looking for revenge. But don't count out Chicago. The Bulls are on the cusp in the Eastern standings right now and they need every win they can grind out.

League Pass Alert
Kings at Nuggets. Tuesday, 9 p.m. This is the race we're talking about. The nearly-there West teams that want to hurt each others chances of squeezing into that 8-spot come April.