Five teams with a chance to knock off the Los Angeles Lakers

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The Lakers enter the coming season on their own tier. The defending champions already had the best duo in the league — two top five players in LeBron James and Anthony Davis — then upgraded the talent around them, especially at the point (Dennis Schroder) and at center (Marc Gasol and Montrezl Harrell). This is a better Lakers team than the one that just hoisted the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

Can any team knock the Lakers off the mountain top?

Australia is the largest country, geographically, and is a continent in itself. It lies in the southern hemisphere so the weather changes are opposite than those of India. Australia has five of the 30 best cities in the world for students to live in based on student mix, affordability, quality of life, and employment opportunities. The capital of Australia is Canberra. Education system Australia has the third-highest number of international students in the world after the United Kingdom and the United States. It also has seven of the top 100 universities in the world. Australia's national quality assurance system is unique in its structure and rigor. The Australian Quality Training Framework has been set up by the government to strengthen the quality assurance processes in education. College Fit: At the higher education level, students have a wide range of options when they choose a college or university. Although there are agencies that attempt to rank colleges and universities, the concept of “fit” is also important. The GPA* of admitted students are important, but majors offered, location, number of students enrolled, and campus culture are all factors influencing a prospective student’s decision. Some colleges and universities are publicly funded, while others are privately supported. *GPA means grade point average. It is the average of all grades received. Popular student destinations: The top universities in Australia are The Australian National University, The University of New South Wales, The University of Melbourne, The University of Western Sydney, and Monash University (in no particular order). The area of New South Wales on the east coast of Australia is the centre of all its renowned academic institutes. Most of the best colleges in the country are situated in cities like Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane, Melbourne, and Perth. About 107,673 Indian students are studying in Australia during the academic year 2018-19. Accounting, Master of Business Administration (MBA), Health Care, Information Technology, and Hotel Management are the popular courses Indian students pursue in Australia. Latest Update From November 16, 2019, Adelaide, Perth and Gold Coast are classified as regional by the federal government. This allows the cities' university graduates an additional year of post-study work rights (PSWR). Also, the graduates in Darwin city can stay for two more years and Ph.D. graduates can stay up to six years. Even after receiving the regional status for migration, all cities other than Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane will not be entitled to the Destination Australia scholarships. Only areas classified as 'Inner Regional Australia' to 'Very Remote Australia' remain eligible for Destination Australia. Darwin as the only capital city which has access to both the scholarship scheme and an additional two years of PSW. The number of visas set aside for regional migration will increase from 2000 to 25,000. Safety in Australia: Australia is a multicultural society that welcomes people from other cultures, countries, and backgrounds. While the majority of Indian students studying in Australia have a positive experience of living and studying in Australia, there were a number of incidents of assault as well as of robbery during 2009 and 2010, which affected not only Indian students but also members of the larger Indian community in Australia. Presently, no such incidents have been reported and active efforts have been made by the Australian government to prevent such untoward incidents from happening in future. Weather Australia is diverse in its geography and climate. The country is located in the southern hemisphere. This means Australia's summer starts in December and winter begins in June. Nearly a third of Australia is in the tropics where the average temperatures are in the mid 20 degrees Celsius. The southern areas are in a temperate zone. Australian Capital Territory – This region covers Canberra. It has hot, dry summers, and cold winters with occasional fog and frequent frosts. The average temperature in summers would be around 30°C to 15°C; in winters it would be around 11°C to 0°C. New South Wales – This region covers Sydney and its weather is very relaxing all around the year. The average temperature in summers would be around 22°C to 40°C; in winters it would be around 17°C to 8°C. Northern Territory – This region has a tropical climate, and has two distinct seasons, the 'Wet' and the 'Dry'. The Wet season spans from November until April and is characterized by increased humidity followed by monsoonal rains and storms. The 'Dry’ season, from May until October, is characterized by warm, dry sunny days and cool nights. This region covers Darwin. The average temperature in the wet season would be around 33°C to 25°C; in the dry season, it would be around 35°C to 21°C. Queensland - Warm summers and mild winters are what you can expect here. This region covers Brisbane. The average temperature in summers would be around 20°C to 30°C; in winters it would be around 20°C to 10°C. South Australia – This region experiences mild weather with sunshine all year round and covers Adelaide. The average temperature in summers would be around 17°C to 30°C; in winters it would be around 15°C to 6°C. Tasmania - Snow falls in the mountains in winter. However, most people in Tasmania live in towns and cities near the coast. The ocean moderates the temperatures there. It covers cities like Hobart and Devonport. The average temperature in summers would be around 25°C to 10°C; in winters it would be around 11°C to 4°C. Victoria – This region covers Melbourne. It enjoys warm summers, pleasant springs, mild autumns, and crisp winters. The average temperature in summers would be around 26°C to 15°C; in winters it would be around 13°C to 6°C. Western Australia - This region covers Perth and is famous for its long days of sunshine, spotless blue skies, and brilliant beaches. The average temperature in summers would be around 31°C to 18°C; in winters it would be around 17°C to 7°C. Lifestyle tips Australians are known to be friendly and helpful people, with a great sense of humor. Australia is considered one of the most competitive nations on Earth. This covers all areas of life including the workplace. While English is Australia’s national language, there are certain words and expressions that have come to be regarded as uniquely Australian through common usage. Some of them might seem strange to non-Australians. Australians love their sport, both playing it and watching it. The most loved sports in Australia include Australian football, rugby, and cricket. This relatively benign climate has resulted in a country where people spend a good deal of time outdoors at beaches, in the countryside or on sporting fields as either spectators or participants. Indians living in Australia There were nearly 592,000 Indian immigrants living in Australia in 2018. They represent the second-largest immigrant group by country of origin, after China. Almost one-third of all Indian immigrants resided in Victoria. Student life Accommodation Firstly, you need to decide whether you want to live in university managed accommodation, or with a private landlord. Choosing university managed accommodation can also give you a catered or self-catered option. Catered accommodation offers the benefits of your meals being cooked for you and a degree of certainty with meal costs. If you have an idea about what you prefer, the accommodation office at your university will be able to tell you what accommodation they have available - so that’s the place to start. If you are thinking of renting from a private landlord or if your chosen university can’t offer you anything in its own residential facility, the accommodation office should be able to provide you with a list of private properties and landlords in the area. Wherever you choose to live, you should make sure that you know your contractual rights and responsibilities. In most cases you will be asked to enter into a tenancy agreement, which you should read thoroughly before you sign. Orientation Orientation week is mandatory for international students so ensure that you arrive before it starts. This is the time where you will be introduced to the university and its services, as well as enroll in your classes. It is essential that you read your guidebook, which is provided by the college. The guide explains each part of the admission process. Activities Along with sport, colleges offer extra-curricular activities that provide students a wide range of experiences. Music, drama, science and literary societies in colleges offer opportunities for outdoor education and other leisure activities. Visits to theatres, concerts, and places relevant to the courses of study such as art galleries and museums, religious centres or historical sites, scientific companies and projects are all part of college life. Admission process Requirements These vary between study programs and levels. For each course, Indian students will need to meet a minimum English language requirement. Along with that, a minimum academic record of 65% and above in class XII will be required. Foundations and Diploma programs are available for students who have secured below 60%. The student should have completed 18 years of age before joining a degree program. It is important to note that these numbers are just for reference purposes, the actual numbers may differ from university to university. The following documents also need to be submitted: • Attested copies of mark sheets of class X, XII, and the Bachelor's degree (if applicable) • At least, two academic reference letters from professors who have taught you most recently • If you have work experience then two letters of recommendation from the employer/manager who knows you well and can comment on your professional abilities • Statement of Purpose (SOP) • Resume • Photocopied score reports of GMAT / IELTS / TOEFL • Portfolio (in case of Students applying for art and design courses & architecture programs) • Others (certificates/achievements at the state and national level and extracurricular activities) • Proof of funds Timeline Most of the colleges in Australia accept online applications. You will have to visit each college's website to apply. In most cases, you will have to make an account on the college website to provide your basic information, submit the scanned version of your documents, and pay application fees. You will be informed about the application process and its stages through this account. Please refer to the website of the colleges of your choice to know the process of applying. Application fee: All colleges require that you pay an application fee while applying. The fee amount will differ depending upon the college and course being applied to, so check with individual colleges about their application fee. Steps: The common steps to applying for admission are as follows: • Search for colleges and courses • Contact schools and visit websites for information • Narrow down your list of schools • Take the entrance exams like SAT, GMAT, GRE, TOEFL, IELTS • Write SOPs and ask for LORs • Apply to the colleges which fit your interests • Appear for video interviews to the colleges who shortlisted you • If accepted, apply for a student visa SOP: A Statement of Purpose (SOP) is your introduction to the college and admission officers. It is always written in first person and describes the reason for applying to a particular college. It needs to highlight why you are a perfect fit for the college and why the college should accept you. The style of writing could differ from formal to casual, but it is important to remember that it should reflect your personality as well. Essay: Essays are also required to be submitted by a prospective student. Essays are an important part of the university admissions process. Students may be required to write one or two essays, along with a few optional essays too. Common topics include career aspirations, strengths and weaknesses, skills, experiences, and reasons for considering a particular school. LOR: A letter of recommendation (LOR) is a reference letter written by a third party describing the qualities, characteristics, and capabilities of the prospective student to recommend him to the college in terms of that individual’s ability to perform a particular task or function. The third-party could be a professor, direct manager, etc. Intake seasons Australia generally has two intakes i.e. February and July, with few universities offering multiple intakes in September & November. You should start your admission process around six months before the application deadline. Typically most universities have three deadlines, during one intake. It is up to the convenience of the students, which deadline to aim for. You should be done with your language and aptitude tests by three months before the deadline. The last three months should be dedicated to filling out the application form properly. It is essential to ensure that the ‘complete application process’ along with appearing for interviews and visa application procedures should be complete by Nov-Dec for the February intake. If you are looking to get admission into vocational courses, then some courses may have admissions open in January and perhaps even May or July. Exams Language exams International English Language Testing System (IELTS), Test Of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and Pearson Test of English (PTE) are all standardized language tests, which are required to be taken for the purpose of getting admission into colleges. These follow different formats, structures, and result bands. These tests are different in various ways but many colleges ask for anyone of the results. So it's up to the student to decide which exam to appear for. Repetition of exams: IELTS can be taken an unlimited number of times. TOEFL can be retaken as many times as wished, but cannot be taken more than once in a 12-day period. Same with PTE, it can be taken as many times as desired. You must wait to receive your scores before you can book your next test. Fee: The fee for these exams is INR 14,000 for IELTS, INR 13,625 (US $180) for TOEFL, and INR 13,300 for PTE. Time to apply: Ideally, if you are aiming at the September intake you should appear for these exams by November so that you can apply before the first deadline. The universities you will be applying to will mention which exam results they will accept. But if they give a choice to go for either of these, then the choice depends on you. The time required to prepare for IELTS/TOEFL/PTE would depend on the existing English language proficiency. You may require 2 to 4 months of preparation before the exam date. General exams GMAT - The Graduate Management Aptitude Test is used to measure the abilities of the potential MBA aspirant to undertake higher education in the field of business or management. It measures the mathematical, English, and reasoning skills of the student. GRE - The Graduate Record Examination is another test required to be taken by students applying to graduate schools to pursue MA or MS. Increasingly many business schools are also accepting GRE scores for the purpose of granting admission for an MBA. Repetition and Fee: You can give GMAT an unlimited number of times, subject to five times a year, and a gap of 30 days between two tests. You can take these tests with a gap of 30 days from the first time. The cost of GMAT is Rs 18,797, and GRE is Rs 14,44. Ideally, if you are aiming at the September intake you should appear for these exams by November so that you can apply before the first deadline. The preparatory duration generally ranges from 4 to 6 months. Average Scores: The average GMAT accepted across universities is 520. The average GRE score is 145 for Verbal, 160 for Quantitative, and 4.0 for Writing. It is important to note that these numbers are just for reference purposes, the actual scores may differ from university to university. The first condition to start your Study in Australia process is to have an English language test like IELTS or PTE- Academic as a proof of your English language skills. Once you have this you need to follow below 7 steps for your Study in Australia Application Apply for offer letter The first and foremost step is to apply for a offer letter in a university or a college you choose to study. One of the most crucial factors here is to choose a course relevant to your previous studies and any work experience you may have. Prepare for your GTE Assessment GTE is very important to clear. If you fail GTE criteria your Study in Australia application will be refused. So prepare this document with utmost care. Mention all the points which indicate that you are a genuine student whose only intention to go to Australia is o study. Pay for your Tuition fees Once you have prepared your GTE documentation and got it approved by the University you pay your tuition fees to get COE to apply student visa to Australia. COE is confirmation of Enrollment for Australia Prepare your visa file Once you get your COE from The University you prepare for your visa documents, arrange for your medicals and any other paperwork relevant for your Study in Australia visa application. Lodge your application After preparing your visa file you lodge your Australia student visa application with Australian Embassy online. You pay your embassy online at this stage Wait for the decision After lodging your Australia student visa application you wait for the decision of your application. The current processing time for Higher education student visa applications to Australia is about 18 days to 1 month. For any further query you may have about Australia student visa application please contact West Highlander. West Highlander based in Chandigarh is the best study In Australia consultant. Ms Parwinder Kaur one of the key team members of West Highlander is a MARA agent registered with office of Mara Australia

Here are five teams with a chance, but they have questions to answer in each case, and they need some breaks to go their way.

1. LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS

The second most talented roster in the NBA on paper, the problem is they were exactly that last season but never developed the chemistry or grit needed to live up to that potential. In Kawhi Leonard, the Clippers have the one player who has shown in recent years he can reach LeBron levels of postseason play (at least for a stretch). We know he can lead a team to a title if healthy. Paired with Paul George, the Clippers have an elite duo, plus around them there is quality depth with Lou Williams, Marcus Morris, Patrick Beverley, plus Serge Ibaka and Ivica Zubac at center. Now add in the shooting of Luke Kennard.

The questions with the Clippers are health — George missed time with shoulder issues last season, Leonard needs load management during the season — and if this year they can build that chemistry and show that grit they lacked blowing a 3-1 series lead to Denver. New coach Tyronn Lue has to demand more accountability from Leonard and George, then and he’s going to have to get the team’s best players on the court at the same time to build good habits and unity (something Rivers was limited in doing because of injuries). If it all comes together, the biggest threat to the Lakers’ supremacy could come from down the hall in their own building.

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2. MILWAUKEE BUCKS

The Bucks still have the two-time reigning MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo and a cast of shooters around him, which will likely land them on top of the East in the regular season. The questions come in the second round of the playoffs and beyond when Milwaukee runs into defenses that will take away most of the easy transition points and form a wall in front of the Greek Freak — for two years in a row the Bucks have not had an answer for that.

Will the addition of Jrue Holiday — with his shooting and being a floor general — be a better playoff fit next to Antetokounmpo than Bledsoe? Will the depth the Bucks gave up to get Holiday come back to bite them? Will coach Mike Budenholzer make the adjustments needed to get All-Star Khris Middleton into better positions to lift this team in the postseason? Will Brook Lopez keep knocking down playoff threes? Maybe the biggest adjustment needs to come from Antetokounmpo himself — a reliable 15-foot jumper from his spot on the floor taken over the top of the defensive wall teams form in front of him would change everything.

Finally, can the Bucks handle the incredible pressure to win if Antetokounmpo does not sign the supermax extension in front of him before Dec. 21 and sets himself up for free agency next summer? That question will be a black cloud that follows them all season (unless he signs).

3. BROOKLYN NETS

Brooklyn is this high on the list because if it all comes together, this may be the second best team in the league in terms of talent. But there are so many questions, starting with the big one: Just how good is Kevin Durant coming back from his torn Achilles? In the two playoffs before that injury he was the Finals MVP and the best player on the planet, out-dueling LeBron on the NBA’s biggest stage. Is Durant that player again, or 85% of that guy?

If Durant is his old self, if Kyrie Irving can stay healthy and be the No. 2 (or, No. 1A) next to Durant, if first-year coach Steve Nash can layer those stars on top of a strong rotation of role players — Caris LeVert as the No. 3, followed by Joe Harris, Spencer Dinwiddie, Jarrett Allen, and more — this team can be a threat to knock off the Bucks, Lakers, and everyone else. However, history suggests it often takes a season or more of the players adjusting to each other (and a couple of roster tweaks for fit) before it all comes together. The Nets are on the clock and want to beat that timeline.

4. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

Like Brooklyn above, this is about the potential ceiling, but with reservations about their ability to meet it. Philadelphia has its own elite duo with Joel Embiid as potentially the best center in the game, with Ben Simmons as the shot creator driving the lane. Brett Brown never quite got them to mesh, but also took the fall for questionable roster building decisions by Elton Brand (going big, no shooting).

Philadelphia will space the floor better with Danny Green and Seth Curry. New coach Doc Rivers will bring both accountability — particularly to Embiid and Simmons, they will not be handled with kid gloves — and some of his Lob City sets that helped use Blake Griffin and others as playmakers in L.A. Tobias Harris thrived under Rivers before. If Rivers gets this roster to mesh, if the 76ers reach their potential, they are a real threat to come out of the East and win it all. But if Simmons and Embiid just don’t fit together, this is the season Philadelphia needs to acknowledge it, and Daryl Morey will have to get busy with the trade machine and some tough decisions.

5. DENVER NUGGETS/MIAMI HEAT/BOSTON CELTICS

Yes, it is cheating to put three teams on one tier, but these squads are all on about the same level and in the same place — one player away.

Miami made the Finals last year but put me in the camp that thinks the Heat are a good team that was also suited in temperament for the bubble. Can Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and company replicate that success in a more traditional format this season? In Denver, Jamal Murray made a leap and Nikola Jokic is an elite talent, but is Michael Porter Jr. or someone else the No. 3 option they need on the biggest stages? Boston still has Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, but Gordon Hayward is gone, Kemba Walker is starting the season recovering from knee surgery, and this team feels like it took half-a-step back in talent on the floor.

Maybe one of those teams will prove that assessment wrong — or an aggressive front office will make a move that better completes the roster. Denver, Miami, and Boston are close, but can they make the leap needed to truly threaten the Lakers this season?

Can anyone?

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Five teams with a chance to knock off the Los Angeles Lakers originally appeared on NBCSports.com