The NBA Is Back: 5 Questions That Need Answers

LeBron is Worth the Hype But Are the Lakers?

The Lakers, if nothing else, will be interesting. They have assembled a group of characters who may or may not gel with one another but no one watching will be bored by the plots and sub-plots and drama. First up are the young guys and how much they have matured since last season. Is Lonzo Ball a genuine offensive threat- we know he can defend? Can Brandon Ingram be consistent and not a jack of all trades, master of none? Is Jason Hart the best shooting guard on the roster?

Second, the vets. When will Lance Stephenson implode?-oops, wrong question. When will Lance’s head blow up, how many games will it take? Michael Beasley looked lost in preseason so is he first man out? Does Kentavious Caldwell-Pope have a purpose? Is JaVale McGee better than his 14 minutes a game getting lobs says he is or is his mediocre footwork going to doom him to the bench while Kyle Kuzma takes over at center.

Finally, LeBron. He wanted L.A. and he has it. But can his brilliance elevate the sum of all parts. Will the center hold? This is the biggest challenge of his career. There is no Dwyane Wade or Kyrie Irving to his left and right. The next man up is Rajon Rondo, a great team guy but no scorer so who then?

The Lakers will struggle and then they will look good and then they will struggle again. It’s inevitable when you have the very young and the old with a little bit of salt and pepper in the middle. LeBron makes it all worthwhile. Their early chemistry looks promising, no Benedict Arnolds on board. So expect an okay team until January and then LeBron will go full throttle LeBron so the Lakers are in the playoffs for their first round exit and LeBron hoisting the regular season MVP trophy.

First 3-Peat since 2002 a formality?

The Warriors are the best team in the NBA. They have the best collection of perimeter shot makers. They are the most experienced at winning when it counts. They are the toughest team. They are the most glamourous team. They know how to demoralize the league. They are trying to win their third straight, fourth in five years.

But 3-Peating is hard. The last to do it was the Shaq-Kobe Lakers 16 years ago. LeBron tried and couldn’t get it done. The Warriors have a lot of things to their advantage; being the defending champions is one of those things. The other being the league has copied them but no one can do it like the original.

Still. They have played a lot of games. Kevin Durant has one foot in San Francisco and one foot somewhere else. This is the last year at Oracle which they are ditching to make more money in San Fran. Befitting who they are they Warriors, like usual, have a lot of drama and I haven’t mentioned DeMarcus Cousins in the second half giving the Warriors more.

So, will they 3-Peat? Probably.

Carmelo In His First NBA Finals?

Carmelo Anthony has had a rough time in OKC because he just did’t fit in with their Big 3 concept. The Thunder misused Melo and he was frustrated and not himself. Or, he was an old player who didn’t have skills left. This season with the Rockets and buddy Chris Paul will say all there is to say about Melo. If he can’t get his game right with D’Antoni and CP3, then Melo really is old.

But it’s an enticing idea. Melo as a third option, playing off James Harden. It is a catastrophic defensive thought. Melo trying to guard _______ fill in the blank. In his prime, he didn’t defend. Not much is expected now which is the Houston Rockets problem. They’ll score 130 points a night and give up 120 to the elite teams that have big time scorers. Carmelo makes them better and makes them worse.

As has been the Melo career, it will be love and hate in Houston.

Gordon Hayward makes the Celtics the big favorite right?

Hayward has had a year to sit out and watch and rest and rehab. The Celtics are counting on a return on their investment and it is all in the hands of Brad Stevens who has to figure out how to fit Hayward with Jayson Tatum.  Hayward has all the pressure on him to prove he was worth what he got paid and that his addition makes sense. He has to answer the chemistry question.

On paper, the Celtics are stacked. Hayward gives the C’s one more three point shot maker, ball mover, athlete in transition. Hayward’s defense is so-so and we’ll see by January if he has any limitations in lateral movement on defense. Every coach would wish they had Danny Ainge problems. The Celtics have the most talent in the east. They have the best roster.

They should be in the Finals. But should won’t buy you a cup of coffee.

Markelle Fultz, Explain Please?

Markelle Fultz is starting for the Sixers instead of JJ Redick.  So for Fultz, this is when the real pressure begins. Fultz is going to have to justify the Sixers not drafting Jayson Tatum and choosing him instead. Sixers fans are not patient.

Fultz’s shot has to be somewhere close to 40%-ish. To be fair, this is his rookie year. The problem is the Sixers are dark horses to win the East with an inexperienced two guard in Fultz. Can Fultz give the Sixers somewhere close to 14 and 6 and will he stay healthy? The Sixers say yes.

Ben Simmons feeding Fultz so he has easy baskets is a big plus but a lot is on Fultz himself. There were so many stories last year about his toughness or lack thereof, of his injury, of his fragility. The back chatter hasn’t disappeared but everyone is ready to turn the page and will, unless Fultz reminds us he can’t rise to the level the Sixers thought he’d be.

Keeping it real, he is a shooting guard in a league of shooting guards. To distinguish himself, to make his draft slot matter, he has to be special. He may never be able to rise to that level but the Sixers are asking something simpler: be better than Redick. Meaning, come off screens, make jumpers, take your time with your offense.

Markelle Fultz may have it in him to win Most Improved. Or win,  not all that- I told you so.