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NBA: From LeBron James’ equation with Lance Stephenson to Boston Celtics’ calibre, biggest storylines of upcoming season

How will LeBron James to team up with Lance Stephenson, a man who made it mission until last season to get under the former’s skin? Can Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony finally make it to the NBA Finals with Houston Rockets? Just how better can DeMarcus Cousins make the Golden State Warriors?

With only a few days to go for the 2018-19 NBA season, here are the 15 most interesting storylines this season:

LeBron James to team up with Lance Stephenson 

As the offseason began, the entire league was gripped by the drama surrounding LeBron James’ next move. Will he stay at Cleveland? Will he move to Lakers? Will he pick a third team?

He finally chose the Lakers, but the upcoming season will be full of intrigue after the Lakers also brought in chief-LeBron-taunter Lance Stephenson into their fold a few days later. How they will co-exist in a team will form a big sub-plot of this season.

DeMarcus Cousins joins the Warriors

What happens when you add the might of DeMarcus Cousins to a team which has swept three of the last four NBA titles? We’re about to find out. But one thing is for certain, there will be times when the Dubs feature an All Star starting five once Cousins fully recovers from his Achilles tendon surgery. The Warriors mind you are vying to become only the second team in league history, after Boston, to appear in five straight NBA Finals.

Carmelo Anthony has a point to prove

Having averaged 16.2 points last season at Oklahoma City Thunder, he was traded on 19 July before being waived off by his new team Atlanta Hawks 11 days later. The 10-time All Star, who is 19th in the NBA all-time scorers’ list with 25,417 points, finally found a new home at Houston Rockets.

Having endured a woeful season, where he registered career lows in both scoring average and field goal percentage, he will look to make his mark on the upcoming season.

Unfortunate Denver Nuggets ready to make a splash

Last season, the Nuggets came agonisingly close to making it to the Playoffs. They needed to win their last seven games to seal a Western Conference playoff spot. They won the first six, but lost the last one. In overtime! Interestingly, they also lost out on a Playoffs spot the previous season by one game.

They will hope this season goes better for them.

Sacramento chase lucky 13

For 12 seasons now, the Sacramento Kings have not found themselves in the mix when the 82-game regular season has ended.

For a franchise which has had historically woeful drafts — they have passed on players of the calibre of Klay Thompson, Donovan Mitchell, Damian Lillard and Giannis Antetokounmpo among many, many others — they landed the highly-rated Marvin Bagley III in the draft this time around. But the real question is whether Bagley can inspire the franchise to live up to their name and become the ‘Kings’ of the league.

Star-less Clippers take court

DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin Chris Paul have left the franchise and the Clippers find themselves sans a star player for the first time in many years. Their season could have a bumpy start as 12 of their first 14 games come against teams which were in the Playoffs last season.

Mavericks rookies take centrestage

Luka Doncic’s rookie season is one of the more anticipated in recent memory. Last season at age 19, he won the EuroLeague MVP and EuroLeague Finals MVP awards while leading Real Madrid to the EuroLeague championship. And before last season, Doncic joined Heat All-Star and his mentor Goran Dragic in lifting Slovenia to its first European basketball championship. Simultaneously, the spotlight will also be on Kostas Antetokounmpo, the 60th and final pick of the 2018 NBA Draft, who signed a two-way contract with Dallas.

Kostas, 20, is looking to become the third Antetokounmpo brother to play in the NBA, joining NBA All-Star Giannis of Milwaukee and Thanasis, who appeared in two games with the Knicks in 2016 and now plays in Greece. Another Antetokounmpo brother, Alex, a well-regarded high school player in Wisconsin, recently participated in a Basketball Without Borders camp in Serbia.

Close friends undertake quest for maiden NBA Finals  

Close friends Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony are now NBA teammates for the first time after the Rockets’ acquisition of Anthony, which followed the departure of longtime starting forward Trevor Ariza. Paul and Anthony are both attempting to reach the NBA Finals for the first time; Paul came agonisingly close last season, while Anthony went to the Conference Finals once, a decade ago, as a member of the Nuggets.

Is this Anthony Davis’ year?

Will this be Anthony Davis’ year to win the NBA MVP Award? Davis, 25, is coming off a season in which he finished third in both the MVP and NBA Defensive Player of the Year voting and earned All-NBA First Team honours for the second year in a row. Davis, who last season became the first player to have at least 2,000 points, 800 rebounds, 150 blocks and 100 steals in a season since David Robinson in 1995-96, views himself as “the best player in the game.”

Businesslike DeMar DeRozan shoulders Spurs hopes

New addition DeMar DeRozan fits the mold of a San Antonio Spurs star: reserved and businesslike. LaMarcus Aldridge has a similar profile. Those two are now the bookends for the Spurs, who no longer have mainstays Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard on the roster. DeRozan and Aldridge both earned NBA All-Second Team honors last season. They are also both masters of the mid-range game. At a time when teams are heavily emphasizing the three-point shot, DeRozan and Aldridge continue to thrive without attempting very many.

Vinsanity and Linsanity for Atlanta

The Hawks have Vinsanity and Linsanity on the roster this season. Vince Carter will tie an NBA record by playing in his 21st season, while Jeremy Lin is looking to re-establish himself after sustaining a season-ending knee injury in Brooklyn’s first game of 2017-18. When it comes to dealing with NBA fame, Carter and Lin are ideal mentors for someone like a Trae Young.

Just how good will Boston be?

With the departure of LeBron James, the Boston Celtics have become the top dogs in the Eastern Conference. What’s more alarming for the East, is the fact that Boston’s players like Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving, who missed significant amounts of time due to injury, are back. With veteran All-Stars (Irving, Al Horford and Hayward), up-and-coming stars (Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum), quality bench players of all ages (Marcus Smart, Marcus Morris, Terry Rozier and Aron Baynes) and one of the league’s top coaches (Brad Stevens), Boston is well positioned to contend for a championship.

LeBron-less Cavaliers find some ‘Love’

With LeBron James’ departure, Kevin Love is set to reprise his role as franchise centerpiece. Love held that distinction for several years in Minnesota, where he twice averaged at least 26.0 points per game before being traded to the Cavaliers in 2014. Cleveland signaled its interest in building around Love by signing him to a contract extension in July.

Dwyane Wade’s ‘one last dance’

He almost quit the league after last season, but Wade announced last month that he would return in Miami Heat’s colours for ‘one last dance’. It will be an emotional season for the 12-time All Star.

“I feel like it’s right to ask you guys to join me for one last dance, for one last season. This is it. I’ve given this game everything that I have, and I’m happy about that. I’m going to give it for one last season, everything else I have left,” Wade said.

“This decision is bigger than the game of basketball,” Wade continued. “This decision don’t have nothing to do with the talent in my body.”

Fitter Myles Turner takes centrestage

Myles Turner, driven by what he perceived to be a lack of development last season, transformed his body in the offseason through yoga, boxing workouts and an improved diet. Former Pacers President Larry Bird once said that the multiskilled big man, now 22, eventually could become “maybe the best player” in Pacers history. Turner appears motivated to fulfill that vast potential.

Turner’s transformation looks similar to that of Victor Oladipo during the 2017 offseason. Oladipo got himself into tremendous condition and went on to have a career year that included his first All-Star and All-NBA selections. Minutes after Indiana lost to Cleveland in Game 7 of a first-round series last season, Oladipo had texted his trainer that he was ready to get to work on preparing for the 2018-19 season.

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