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?
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.
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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).