The NBA 2018/19 season has just started with the Celtics overcoming the promising 76ers and the Warriors recording their first win of the season against Thunder. But, apart from the obvious questions–can the Warriors make three straight championships?–there are other points worth looking at. We take a look at a handful of things worth watching in the NBA this season.
Can the Lakers live up to the hype?
The Los Angeles Lakers recently finished the preseason in second place, a trend that, should it suffice, would allow the Lakers to resort less on their half-court offensive sets. This may take some time to develop as Lonzo Ball and the rest of the team are yet to completely gel with LeBron James.
L.A. will almost certainly perform in transition this season. But, the most certain way for the franchise to up its pace is to secure defensive rebounds. This may be a problem as they lack depth at center and are likely to display small-ball lineups in the coming games. In addition, expect to see some drag screens or an occasional give-and-go.
Can the Spurs make the playoffs again?
Some continue to question the Spurs and their chances of making the playoffs for the 22nd straight time. The San Antonio Spurs are still in the works after major changes that feature injuries and departures. Given that Kawhi is now a Raptor, Tony Parker is a Hornet, and Manu Ginobili recently hung his jersey, this suggestion isn’t exactly surprising. Additionally, the Spurs have lost three guards, including all-defensive second-team Dejounte Murray, 2018 first-round pick Loonie Walker, and backup point guard Derrick White–to long-term injuries, leaving the bench shallow.
On the bright side, the Spurs still have a number of capable players who can shine, such as LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay, Patty Mills, and veteran Pau Gasol. Also, with the addition of DeMar DeRozan, who came over in the Leonard deal, the Spurs can get up to speed on the team’s offensive concepts and propel the Spurs to the playoffs. Provided that Popovich can force another elite defensive out of this unit, the questions surrounding the team could easily be erased after all.
Who can force Golden State out of contention?
Even though the Lakers are now a force to be reckoned with, realistically, there are only a few teams in the West that could make last season’s champions uncomfortable in a seven-game series.
Houston is one of the teams that can threaten the Warriors after how they performed in the previous postseason when they forced Golden State to seven games in the conference finals. They might have snatched the final game if not for the absence of Chris Paul or the 3-point shooting drought.
Next in line is Utah Jazz, which is a compelling pick for many. Their noteworthy defense can give trouble to the Warriors. But just like Houston, the Jazz have to be more consistent to make a real run at the West. In particular, they have struggled to produce steady, consistent offense against giants Golden State and Houston.
The Thunder can also produce a best-case scenario where they threaten the Warriors, despite losing their opening game to the Warriors. But, that’s if Andre Roberson overcomes his injury from last year. Should he come close to form on defense, he and Paul George could produce the best defending wing duo in the league.
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