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NBA: Questions, questions, questions

  • Written by Ed Andaya
  • Published in Opinion
  • Read: 365

Kibitzer

WITH the 2017-18 NBA season finally  kicking off this week, a  few -- five to be exact --intriguing questions are now on  the  minds  of  avid  basketball fans.

Of course,  the  answers won’t be  known until at least the  first half of the  season  or even until the champion is crowned by June.

But looking at  the  revamped line-ups  of  all  30 teams and their performances during the offseason, we can surely predict.

1.Can the Golden State Warriors win  back-to-back NBA titles?

Well, there’s no doubt that the Warriors remain as the top favorite to win  the NBA title for the third time in the last four years.

Steph Curry and Kevin Durant, the two NBA MVPs on Golden State's star-studded  line-up, have shown they can play well together than most people expected.

Curry and Durant finished 1-2 in scoring with 25.3 and 25.1 points in a brilliant display of firepower by Steve Kerr’s team.

Klay Thompson, a close third in scoring with 22.3 ppg,  is also expected to play much better this year than he did last year or the year before.
 
Having 12 players back from last year\s championship team and  the  addition  of  prized Oregon rookie  Jordan  Bell  will also make  Golden  State  an  even better team than it was last year.

2. Can any team in  the East challenge  the Cleveland Cavaliers?
    
As long as LeBron James is playing  basketball, we  should all be  watching.
    
And as long as James is around, the Cavs will always be the  team to watch  regardless  of the supporting cast around him.     
    
This year, the Cavs should make their fourth straight finals appearance  in the East -- with ease.
    
After losing four-time  All Star Kyrie Irving in exchange for Boston superstar Isaiah Thomas (and Jae Crowder and  Ante  Zizic), Cleveland added more teeth with the acquisition of former MVP Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade.
    
The five new faces should have  no trouble  playing together with old reliables Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson and  JR Smith.
    
The Celtics (with Irving and Gordon  Hayward leading the way), the Washington Wizards (with John Wall and Bradley Beal)  and  Milwaukee Bucks (with Giannis  Antetokounmpo) should be fun to watch as they chase the  Cavs for the  East's top honor.
    
But they might  not be enough.

3. Can Houston's new 1-2 punch of James Harden and Chris Paul or  Oklahoma's ‘Big Three’ of Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and  Paul George  challenge the Warriors in the West?
    
Why not?
 
Paul's entry to Houston makes an already dangerous team that boasts of a do-it-all superstar even more deadlier.
 
Harden, who  finished second to Westbrook in the MVP race with an average of 29.1 points, 11.2 assists  and  8.1 rebounds per game, will shine even brighter with Paul on the floor.
    
Harden and Paul will easily figure out how to play together and  even make each other twice as good.
    
If  they play well together, the trio  of Westbrook, Anthony and George can really  be the biggest threat to the Warriors this season.
    
There is no doubt that Westbrook, who averaged 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists in 81 games last season, will have another MVP-like season even with new superstar friends again.
    
Anthony (22.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 2.9 apg) and George (23.7 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 3.3 apg) are expected to take some of the pressure off Westbrook come playoff time.
 
And  George’s A-1 defense will help a lot, too.    
    
4. Who will  be  Rookie of the Year -- Lonzo Ball (LA), Ben  Simmons  (Philadelphia), Dennis Smith  Jr. (Dallas),  Markelle Fultz (Philadelphia) or  De’Aaron Fox (Sacramento)?
    
Ball, who was drafted by one of the league’s most storied franchises this year, is understandably our sentimental favorite.
    
A personal pick of NBA legend and now Lakers president Magic Johnson, the 6-6 Ball had some exciting moments in the preseason and in fact, earned MVP honor in the Las Vegas Summer League,
    
And  if  Ball is really very good as advertised,  the Lakers will be very good again.
    
We’ve got to believe in Magic. It’s now Zo - Time in LA.
    
Simmons, who missed his rookie season due to foot injury last year, should also be in the hunt. The 6-10 Simmons was finally healthy heading into his first year in the league alongside top rookie Fultz.     
    
A darkhorse could be Smith, Jr., who was drafted No. 9 by Dallas but was voted by his peers as  “the player most likely to win the award:  during the annual Rookie  survey.

5. Who will  be the worst team in the NBA?
    
The Sacramento Kings and the  Phoenix Suns  in the West and the Chicago Bulls and  New Jersey Nets in the East are candidates for this  dubious distinction.
    
The Kings have lost their superstar  DeMarcus Cousins and even Sacramento  diehards admit there’s not enough talent left anymore to make any noise. It'll be ugly.
    
The Suns continue to rebuild. But at least they still have  Devin Booker in the lineup.
    
Former LA Lakers guard D'Angelo Russell can bring some excitement to New Jersey, but Brook Lopez will be sorely missed.
    
The Bulls, well, are even worse with the departure of Wade and Jimmy Butler. Period.
    
*   *   *    
    
Good luck to  the  University of  San  Jose   Recoletos, who will  represent  the  country in the coming  Xiamen International  basketball  tournament in China.
    
Headed  by  Atty. Baldomero  Estenzo, USJR athletic director Rev. Fr. Nestor Raras,  and  coach  Jun  Noel, the  Jaguars will compete against five  other  countries  in  the week-long competition arranged by the Federation  of School Sports Association of the  Philippines (FESSAP).
 
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