2nd May 2017.The squeak of sneakers and the rapid thudding of the ball are the hallmark sounds of any professional basketball game ? as is the roar of a crowd full of NBA fans. There's no better showcase of basketball talent than in the American NBA, and the 2016-2017 season is no exception. The 2015-2016 season closed out with thrilling Finals that went the distance, going all the way to Game 7. Last season saw the Cleveland Cavaliers come out on top after a gruelling battle with the Golden State Warriors. This year, both teams remain in the playoff hunt after a long season. Unfortunately, it's not always easy to catch every game when you don't live in the USA. Whether you're a new fan or someone with a long-lived love for basketball, you might want to know what happened during this year's season. With the playoffs right around the corner, which teams look like they might make a run for the championship? Were there any stand-out performances or incredible games in this year's regular season? Let's quickly break down what happened this year and what you can expect to see when the playoffs, slated for April 15, finally begin.

The major players this season

Due to the length of the NBA season, it's always hard to make predictions early on about who can make it to the playoffs. However, that doesn't stop commentators from making guesses based on performance from the previous season. For example, the Portland Trail Blazers ? a team that rarely makes headlines ? Overview of the 2016-2017 NBA Season Cleveland Cavsmade a splash in the '15-'16 season when they finished with a record slightly better than .500. For a team that traditionally doesn't make much of a splash, eyes were on their growing pool of young talent. Though they kicked off the season with a win, it was unfortunately downhill from there afterwards; the Blazers are close to missing the playoffs and may finish the season with a losing record.

Meanwhile, the Cleveland Cavaliers continue to be in top form, led by all-star Lebron James. After departing the Miami Heat to return to his home team, James led the Cavaliers to its stunning Finals victory last season. Having played in every Finals series for the past six season, many wonder if a seventh appearance ? and perhaps even a repeat championship ? are in the works. With only a few games to go, the Cavaliers lead the Eastern Division Conference with a record of 51-27. Meanwhile, the Celtics, at 50-29, trail just behind, battling back from an uneven start to their season. In the Western Conference, the competition is even fiercer. What about the Warriors, though? Despite being one of the toughest teams in the entire league last season, their defeat in the Finals stunned fans back home in California. Despite the loss, the team continues to perform incredibly. Last year, they posted a league record with the best win-loss ratio ever at 73-9. While they won't break their own record this year, Overview of the 2016-2017 NBA Season Warriorsthey still boast an impressive 65-14 ratio right now. That's not only enough to secure their place in the playoffs, but home court advantage throughout, too. Despite their star player, Kevin Durant, suffering a sprain late in the season, the Warriors continue to advance. Durant plans to return before the end of the regular season where he will be a valuable asset throughout the playoffs.

The San Antonio Spurs, second in the Western Conference, aren't far behind at 60-18. Kawhi Leonard, the team's highest-scoring player, started in almost half of this season's games. As a serious contender for the title, the Spurs will need his agility and ball-handling skills on the court to face down tough opposition from teams as tough as the Warriors. Not everyone can win, though. Several teams have struggled throughout this season, including the Miami Heat. Previously one of the best teams in the NBA, the Heat will put up a losing season and miss the playoffs after placing third in their division last year. At the bottom of the barrel, the Brooklyn Nets (19-60) and the Phoenix Suns (22-57) will need to take a tough look at their coaching staff and playing ability now that their season is over. However, the Suns have one thing to be proud of this year: their player Devin Brooker scored 70 points in one game. That's a rare feat!

The names to know: rising stars and major players

Though Lebron James remains a strong contender in the league, as do players from the same "class," like Dwayne Wade, their age becomes more apparent with each season. Now, we're seeing the rise of a new group of players. Who should you know about from this past season based on their performance on the court and overall ability? There are a few whose names you should remember. One, Kevin Durant, is a player we've already mentioned. Hailing originally from the Oklahoma City Overview of the 2016-2017 NBA Season Kevin DurantThunder, he is now a part of the formidable Golden State line-up. Why should you know about him? He's putting up incredible numbers across the board, including a shooting percentage of nearly 60% in the field. In other words, almost two-thirds of the time he takes a shot at the basket, it scores! Similarly, Durant's three-point percentage is hovering around 43%, the best of his career. Look for him to be a serious threat to any opposing defensive player on the court. The Houston Rockets also fielded a strong bench this year, including James Harden. Leading the league in assists, he also puts up nearly 30 points each game. His game continues to evolve this year, as does his team-mate Clint Capela who sinks 66% of his field goals. Russell Westbrook, of the Oklahoma City Thunder, currently leads the league with about 32 points per game.

What will the NBA Playoffs look like this year?

First, let's consider a basic overview of how the playoffs work in the NBA. After the six months of the regular season, in which teams play 82 games against one another, the playoffs last for two more months. The eight best teams from both conferences come together for a 16-team playoff. The NBA draws tournament seeds based on their record, with tie breakers in place in the case of an identical record. Unlike other American sports leagues, like the NFL, each tournament match-up then plays a best-of-7 series against one another, just like in the Finals. At this point in the season, with the play-offs underway the line-up is complete. In the Eastern Conference, Cleveland, Boston, Toronto, and Washington were the first to clinch playoff berths for their teams. The Atlanta Hawks, the Milwaukee Bucks, the Indiana Pacers and the Chicago Bulls filled the four remaining spots. In the Western Conference, The Warriors, Spurs, Rockets, and the Jazz were the first to clinch their berths. All have home court advantage, except for the Jazz. The rest of the bracket consists of the Clippers, the Thunder, the Grizzlies and the Trail Blazers. Who will make it to the Finals? The ideal story would be a clash of the Titans in a rematch between the Cavs and the Warriors, who have both made it into the conference semi-finals to date. Will that happen though? It's hard to say, but with so many strong teams in the playoffs this year, an exciting series seems certain. With potentially dozens of games to play through in the playoffs, NBA fans still have plenty of basketball to watch. After all, a surprise upset victory is always a possibility in the high-stakes atmosphere of the playoffs.

Prepare for another exciting playoff run

No matter which team you're a fan of, the NBA playoffs are an exciting time for any sports fan. Why not fill out a tournament bracket and make your own predictions about who will win? While the Golden State Warriors and the Cavaliers look poised to make another deep foray into the playoff field, there's no telling whether this will be another team's year yet. Could the Celtics rise to the top and claim the championship title again? Will we see record-breaking performances from Stephen Curry or another one of the league's biggest stars? Only time will tell! Be sure to keep an eye on the upcoming results for the 2016-2017 NBA season.