/ 22 December 2020

African Blogtable: Start of the 2020-21 NBA season

Dallas Mavericks V Milwaukee Bucks
Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks grabs the rebound against the Dallas Mavericks during a preseason game on December 14, 2020 at the Fiserv Forum Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

What would it take for LeBron James and the Lakers to go back-to-back and raise the Larry O’Brien Trophy in July?

What Christmas Day matchup are you looking forward to the most?

Refiloe Seiboko, Mail & Guardian (South Africa): The Lakers were already such a strong team and their offseason moves have not only maintained their strengths, but fortified them. If they can stay healthy, there’s a clear path to a repeat this season. Provided no Western Conference contenders make giant leaps, the Lakers only have to worry about the best in the East.

The Nets vs Celtics game is an exciting matchup. However, it would be more exciting if Kemba Walker wasn’t sidelined. Because of the unexpected upset during the playoffs last year, Nuggets vs Clippers should be an interesting watch.

Amine El Amri, Le Matin (Morocco): The worthy champions in the bubble, LeBron and the Lakers, have made a lot of changes to their roster. To win back-to-back championships, you need a motivated team throughout the season, especially on the bench. Bringing in Marc Gasol, Dennis Schröder, Wesley Mathews and Montrezl Harell (in that order) might just do it for the 17-time champions.

It’s gotta be the Golden State Warriors at the Milwaukee Bucks. I’m excited to see what Steph Curry has prepared for this season after being away almost since the 2019 NBA Finals. Even without Klay Thompson, the Dubs are always exciting to watch. Even more so when facing the Bucks, who, along with their leader Giannis, need to take a step further in the league hierarchy. The Nets at the Celtics will also be very exciting, with Kevin Durant back on the court against last season’s Eastern Conference finalists.  

Elias Makori, NMG (Kenya): Keep a healthy roster, especially the bench players. LeBron’s duo with Anthony Davis is almost unstoppable. The Lakers bench is stronger and deeper than any other in the league.

Lakers vs Mavs: It would be interesting to see how “heir apparent” Luka will cope against LeBron with all the preseason talk. Luka is getting into his third NBA season and has most certainly matured and all eyes will be on how he guns for a potential MVP award this season.

Mohamed Youssef, Filgoal.com (Egypt): I think If there are no injuries or surprises with the Lakers roster during the season, LeBron James and the Lakers can do it again, especially after they signed Montrezl Harrell, Marc Gasol, Wesley Matthews and Dennis Schröder. The Lakers did great trades in the last two months and they now have the strongest squad in the league, in addition to LeBron James, AD and Kyle Kuzma. They look unbeatable right now.

I’m looking forward to watching the Lakers vs Mavs to see Luka Doncic against LeBron James. It will be amazing to see them both facing each other again with Luka now being more experienced than the last time both teams met. This game will be a big show for NBA fans around the world.

Nafy Amar Fall, Wiwsport (Senegal): Right off the bat they are the favorites this season. Certainly, there have been departures, but given the recruiting process, the Lakers are clearly showing that they want to keep their trophy. Getting LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Montrezl Harrel, Dennis Schröder, Marc Gasol and Wesley Matthews together on a team is tough. And they will not hesitate to show their supremacy. They just need to forget about the title they won three months ago and focus on the new season.

Brooklyn Nets vs Boston Celtics. I can’t wait for Kevin Durant’s first outing. It will be a return of the great KD to the floor 18 months after his tendon rupture. Beside him will be superstar Kyrie Irving who promises to respond on the court as well. And Kyrie will face his old team. They will face the Celtics of Tacko Fall, who is followed by many in Senegal via wiwsport.com. And Boston is coming off of a good season.

PHOENIX, AZ – DECEMBER 18: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers handles the ball against the Phoenix Suns during a preseason game on December 18, 2020 at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)

Nicasius Agwanda, Clouds Media (Tanzania): LeBron James must be highly motivated heading into the new season. First of all, his team is stacked and in my personal opinion this might be the best squad he’s had his whole career. Maybe he had the best two supporting casts at the Heat, but this team is well spread out and the bench is solid. With his mentality, LeBron has a chance to win it all, but other than how other people feel, I have a different opinion on the Clippers. They had the best roster last season and every player thought it was big enough to hold a key part in every game. Now they’ll be competitive and can pose a great threat. Another threat for LeBron should be the Denver Nuggets, who are young and deep. One thing that I know for sure is, LeBron is looking at what KD does this season. That’s a matchup we need in The Finals.

Clippers vs Nuggets. This is the game I am looking forward to the most, the revenge game. The Clippers will come out with anger and the Denver Nuggets will want to use this as a proof that they’re still title contenders. The Clippers will want to make a statement that a lot was going on last year in that locker room and that they’re coming for everyone this season, especially how miserable Paul and Kahwhi played in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals.

Rotimi Akindele, Beat FM (Nigeria): A few days ago I listened to James giving a response to the above question where he said that the feat can be repeated provided they all have a clean bill of health and some luck. I agree! The Lakers have also consciously shown that they want that back-to-back win by improving their overall roster at almost every position – that means the support cast around James and Davis is a big plus ahead of the new season. I am expecting a tougher competition especially in the West, but the Lakers sure have what it takes.

Mostly looking forward to two games. New Orleans Pelicans at Miami Heat – I would love to see the Heat continue from where they stopped during the bubble. Some did tag it as a fluke, I disagree though. Golden State Warriors at Milwaukee Bucks – the Bucks are big favorites, no doubt, but it’s time to see a sleeping giant (the Warriors) get back up after the fall last season.

Tana Aiyejina, The Punch (Nigeria):  The last three times the Lakers won the championship, they did it back-to-back in 1987-1988, 2000-2002 and 2009-2010. I see this happening again with LeBron still as influential as ever and with talents like Anthony Davis, who led the Lakers in scoring last season, raring to go, and the acquisition of Dennis Schröder, the speedy point guard from Oklahoma City who averaged 18.9 PPG last season. It’s looking the way of the champions to clinch back-to-back victories once again.

I’m anxiously looking forward to the Milwaukee Bucks vs Golden State Warriors clash on Christmas Day. Warriors’ Stephen Curry returns to the court for a Christmas game after missing last year due to injury, and he’ll be coming up straight against Giannis Antetokounmpo! This is a matchup that features two of the NBA’s biggest stars in Giannis and Curry, and the two MVPs should make for an exciting game. I tip the Bucks to triumph in this one, considering they’re the home team and have finished with the NBA’s best regular-season record in each of the last two seasons.

Woury Diallo, Le Quotidien (Senegal): I think the Lakers will need to have the same start to the season as they had last year. With a 72-game shortened season, it is important not to lose the ground against other competitors. As the reigning champions, they will be the team to beat, but will have to fight to win the back-to-back title. Unfortunately, with the departures of Dwight Howard and Javale McGee, and despite the arrival of Marc Gasol, the Lakers are at risk of suffering on the defensive end of the floor. It is where Marc Gasol will have a very important role to play. It is up to him to quickly find his feet and make his presence felt.

Every month the African Blogtable brings together some of the top basketball minds from across the continent to answer some of the most pressing questions related to the 2020-21 NBA season.