Basketball is by far the most captivating and hyped sport in the Philippines. While the world has their eyes set on the clear contenders of the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers, we’re focused on the development of these up-and-coming teams as the new kids on the block, in addition to players we expect to shine through following the influx of trades and moves made during the offseason. Despite their lack of experience, we’re anticipating an exciting future for the players of the next era of basketball.
1. The Milwaukee Bucks
Though they did not make any big moves this summer, the Bucks still probably have one of the most athletic (and not to mention the one the lengthiest) teams. With the Greek Freak - a legitimate freak of nature who’s bound for a breakout year - rookie of the year Malcolm Brogdon, skilled scorer Khris Middleton, and (hopefully) a healthy Jabari Parker leading the team, the Bucks can catch the league by surprise with their tremendous athleticism and youth. Playing in a weak Eastern Conference, it's time to start fearing the dear again.
2. Kyrie Irving
After one of the most shocking revelations of the offseason, Kyrie Irving was traded to the Boston Celtics. While his offensive prowess is well-known around the league, many are questioning his lack of defense and ability to lead a team without the enormous presence of Lebron James. However, being the most talented player on the Celtics roster, Irving is expected to be the cornerstone of the franchise for the coming years. Along with the addition of star forward Gordon Hayward and playing under (arguably) the best coach in the league in Brad Stevens, the future looks bright for Kyrie Irving, both in terms of his statistical impact this year and his overall legacy as a Celtic. An opening night win against former team Cleveland Cavaliers would set a precedent for what is to come in the season and would be the proverbial cherry on top for Uncle Drew.
3. The Denver Nuggets
Things in the Mile High City have never been this bright since the days of Melo. After what seemed like forever, the Nuggets have finally established a solid young core. Adding to that, they have skilled veteran Paul Millsap, pairing him in the backcourt with one of my personal favorites and arguably the best passing big in the league, Nikola Jokic. Rounding up this fearsome backcourt would be athletic young wings Gary Harris and Jamal Murray, who I believe are potential future all-stars. The already Wild West is ‘bout to get even wilder with the Nuggets
4. Avery Bradley
One of the most beloved Boston Celtics of the past decade was recently traded to the Detroit Pistons in a straight swap for PF Marcus Morris. While the move has caused excitement in the Pistons camp and distraught among Celtics fans, it has been a quiet one relative to the other high-profile acquisitions across the league. Averaging 16 points per game on 39% three-point shooting last year, Bradley has proven has ability as a reliable source of offense. Combined with his NBA All-Defense ability on the other end of the court, Bradley has established himself as one of the most feared defenders in the league and a nightmare for the likes of Steph Curry and John Wall.. Bradley’s ability to add incremental improvements to his game every year has seen him rise from someone who was almost unplayable because of his lack of offensive input to a fringe All-Star. Who knows? The addition of Avery Bradley may just lead Motor City to a playoff spot and an unexpected playoff run in what many consider to be a severely weakened Eastern Conference.
5. The Philadelphia 76ers
It is no surprise to see the young 76ers in this list. After trading for the 1st pick of this summer’s draft, Philly adds yet another young deadly scorer with sky high potential in Markelle Fultz. Combining him with last year’s 1st pick Ben Simmons, who, despite not playing a single game last season due to injury, looks a lot better (or so he claims to be) and last year’s ROY contender and social media diva, Joel Embiid, the Sixers could makes some real noise in a weaker Eastern Conference. Not to mention a supporting core of Saric, Okafor, and Covington. Better get used to seeing these young fellas real soon.
6. The Miami Heat
After the departure of the G.O.A.T. (though some may beg to differ) Lebron James, the Heat weren’t looking too bright like the fabulous South Beach Miami. The Miami Heat only managed to win 11/41 games in the first half of the 16-17 season. However, they were able to turn their season around by winning 30/41 games in the second half of the season. Their successful end to the season was due to the hard work of Dion Waiters hitting big shots, Hassan Whiteside as a double-double machine, and Goran Dragic as their most well-rounded and complete player. With the young talent of Justise Winslow and Edrice Adebayo and the potential return of hometown hero Dwyane Wade, the Miami Heat will be threat in the Eastern Conference sooner rather than later.
7. The Los Angeles Lakers
Arguably the most iconic franchise in the history of the NBA, the Los Angeles Lakers haven’t exactly set the world alight in recent years as they’ve struggled to make the playoffs. Despite the Lakers’ exciting 20-20 start, the Lakers went on to win only 6 more games for the rest of the 16-17 season. However, things are looking brighter in LA as Brandon Ingram is set to have a breakout year as fans are anticipating a most improved player of the year season. The Lakers also managed to draft Lonzo Ball, the biggest story in LA since Kobe Bryant, as he’s set to change Laker culture entirely. Surprisingly however, the biggest story after the draft was Kyle Kuzma as the summer league finals MVP as he’s looking like the biggest steal of the 2017 Draft. Brook Lopez as the best 3-point shooting big man in the NBA and lockdown defender Kentavious Caldwell-Pope were also acquired via trade. With all the new offseason acquisitions and a returning core of Randle, Clarkson, and Nance Jr, the Lakers are back and it’s showtime.
8. Lonzo Ball
The 19 year-old from UCLA is as hyped a player as there has ever been; a shoe endorsement in college, a TV series centred around his family and being drafted by the most famous franchise in basketball has done nothing to quiet down the hype. Despite this, many pundits and fans agree that his potential will be realised in the long term. However, Ball will undoubtedly be the centre of attention for the team that finished 2nd last in the Western Conference last season. Additionally, the signing of former All-Star Brook Lopez will complete a formidable duo that, hopefully, will not be cursed (see also: Steve Nash and Dwight Howard). Ball’s quick release and unparalleled vision in a young Lakers roster will allow him to establish himself as a leader. Under the tactical and man-management prowess of Luke Walton, I am expecting Lonzo Ball to shine and be a premier contender for the ROTY award.