Expect drama and fireworks in new NBA season

New Orleans forward Anthony Davis dunking over Toronto centre Greg Monroe in last week's pre-season game at the Smoothie King Centre.
New Orleans forward Anthony Davis dunking over Toronto centre Greg Monroe in last week's pre-season game at the Smoothie King Centre.PHOTO: REUTERS

A new National Basketball Association (NBA) season is upon us, and all 30 teams start on a blank canvas, with the script yet to be written.

What's certain is that there will be no lack of drama and fireworks in the next seven months.

Here are five key storylines to keep your eye on as the new season unfolds.

CAN THE WARRIORS BE STOPPED?

The all-conquering Golden State Warriors added centre DeMarcus Cousins to their four other All-Stars, making them the overwhelming favourites for a third consecutive title.

LeBron James' Los Angeles Lakers team are a work in progress, and it remains to be seen how 10-time All-Star Carmelo Anthony - told to wean himself off his favourite isolation mid-range jumpers - will mesh with the Houston Rockets' top dogs James Harden and Chris Paul.

A potential Cousins meltdown might end up being the toughest challenge for Golden State to surmount in what will probably be another regular season on autopilot.

CAN LEBRON BRING LAKERS' GLORY DAYS BACK?

Whatever your opinion on "The King", James' move from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Lakers set into motion a series of aftershocks that continue to reverberate league-wide.

He enters an already crowded Western Conference where his Lakers will have to beat Golden State or Houston for him to return to the NBA Finals for the ninth consecutive time.

Conversely, his exit from the East opens up a vacuum for all the past pretenders to his throne.

After negotiating a toxic Cavaliers locker room last season that ended with guard Isaiah Thomas getting traded, James has another eclectic group of teammates on his hands.

Will young upstarts and former No. 2 draft picks Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball be content with following his lead?

Can he wring the best out of the Lakers' erratic veteran spine: Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee and Michael Beasley? Stay tuned.

WHO WILL BE KINGS OF THE EAST?

The Eastern Conference is wide open following James' departure and the likeliest candidates to replace the Cavaliers at the summit should be the Boston Celtics.

The Celtics pushed Cleveland to seven games in the Eastern Conference finals last season and have Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving back.

The forward spots may be a bit crowded with both Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum in the mix but Brad Stevens is one of the canniest coaches around and he can be expected to find minutes for all his best players.

The Philadelphia 76ers are young and talented but have not made significant improvements to the squad that were soundly defeated by Boston in the play-offs.

The Toronto Raptors could be dark horses if Kawhi Leonard can return to his best physically and mentally.

ANTHONY DAVIS FOR MVP?

The New Orleans Pelicans power forward has gone on record to say that he is the NBA's best player ahead of James, the Warriors' Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry, and reigning MVP Harden.

It is a reflection of his supreme confidence that he has dared to broadcast his self-belief.

Still only 25, Davis has managed to stay relatively healthy the past two seasons (played 75 games in each term) and last season compiled formidable averages of 28.1 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.5 steals and 2.6 blocks.

WHICH ROOKIES WILL SHINE?

There were some drafts which completely failed to live up to the lofty expectations, most notably Cleveland's No. 1 in the 2013 draft Anthony Bennett, who is out of the NBA.

But that is unlikely to be the case with the 2018 draft. The Phoenix Suns appeared to have found a franchise centre in No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton, who averaged 20.5 points and 11.3 rebounds in four pre-season games.

And, in Slovenian player Luka Doncic, the Dallas Mavericks may have landed this draft's most exciting talent, an all-round playmaker with the size of a forward and passing ability of a point guard.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 16, 2018, with the headline 'Expect drama and fireworks in new NBA season'. Print Edition | Subscribe