Who is under the most pressure heading into this NBA season?

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Ben Simmons looks on during the 76ers pre-season game against the Long Lions. (Photo by: NBA)

From newly acquainted star-studded duo’s to team mates who have been re-united once more, this season looks as unpredictable as it does exciting.

With an unforeseen amount of changes occurring in the off-season due to player movement, some of the NBA’s biggest names are finding themselves under the microscope of the NBA fraternity heading into this season, but who finds themselves under the biggest expectation to perform?

The list could be extensive, but here are six players in no particular order that enter the upcoming NBA season with a statement to make.

LeBron James – Los Angeles Lakers

It’s the obvious one, last playoff series was a rare one that saw LeBron the playoffs following a disappointing first season with the Lakers.

It’s now a new season, and James will enter his second year in the purple and gold with all-star and arguably the most talented player he’s ever played with, Anthony Davis, by his side.

The Lakers have added shooting and height to their line-up which will trouble a lot of teams in the NBA, and ‘King’ James will be hungry to get his crown back after watching Kawhi Leonard dominate on the NBA finals stage last season.

James Harden/Russell Westbrook – Houston Rockets

Harden is arguably the best scorer in the league, and without doubt one of the best players in the NBA, but he is still yet to make it to the NBA finals.

Chris Paul has left Houston, and has been replaced by Russell Westbrook, the two are friends and are re-united after playing out the first few years of their career together in Oklahoma City.

The Rockets couldn’t get it done with Paul and Harden running the show in previous seasons despite making it close to the NBA finals in 2018, but now they have two MVP’s in their starting five and both will be aware this is the best opportunity they will get to making a championship run.

Both polarize opinion at times with their style of play, but they must find a way to make this work if the Rockets are too perform this season.

Kyrie Irving – Brooklyn Nets

Like I said, this list is in no particular order, but even if it was Kyrie Irving’s name would be prominent.

Irving’s desire to get out of Boston was well-documented last season, the relationship between himself and the franchise turned sour as the Celtics failed to live up to expectations as a championship contender.

His wish to join the Brooklyn Nets was granted, and friend and fellow superstar Kevin Durant joined him, which makes them as damaging as any duo in the league, that is assuming Durant recovers well for his achilles injury.

With Durant missing this season, it’s all down to Irving to lead his franchise from the front in his first year in a Nets jersey and it simply has to go better than it did in Boston.

Ben Simmons – Philadelphia 76ers

Simmons hasn’t changed teams nor been accompanied by an out and out superstar this off-season, but the expectation for him to take his game to the next level is certainly high.

The huge question on everyone’s lips is, when will Ben Simmons start hitting that jump shot?!

We saw him hit a three-pointer in a pre-season game and everyone went into meltdown, but until he starts doing this in the regular season, it’s hard to see the 76ers contending in an NBA finals series.

The 76ers signed Al Horford in the off-season which rounds out a strong starting five, and along with superstar Joel Embiid, Simmons should lead the 76ers to a high seed in the East; but they will struggle to reach championship contention until Simmons adds that extra element to his game.

Giannis Antetokounmpo – Milwaukee Bucks

We all know how brilliant Giannis was last season, he won the MVP, before his team was overrun by the Kawhi Leonard led Toronto Raptors in the playoffs.

The Milwaukee Bucks finished as the number one seed in the East last season, and after being 2-0 over the Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals, they should have made it to the NBA finals, which means they have a point to prove this season.

Giannis has been vocal in stating that he’s only getting better as a player, which if true, is absolutely terrifying for the rest of the league.

The Bucks are expected to be strong again this season, but it will be what happens in the playoffs, and how good Giannis can be this season that will determine how far they can go.

Anthony Davis – Los Angeles Lakers 

Davis’ made his intentions clear to join LeBron James at the Los Angeles Lakers whilst he was still on the New Orleans Pelicans, and despite an awkward situation last season where a trade couldn’t get done, he now finds himself alongside James in a Lakers uniform.

Davis is the missing piece LeBron has been waiting for, and a lot rides on him to be that man to compliment LeBron and ensure they are the most damaging one-two punch in the NBA.

If LeBron and Davis perform at their best when it matters, they will be unstoppable, but there isn’t much room for error for them with how open and even this season is set to be, especially with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George suiting up for the Clippers in the same building.

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