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Previewing the NBA: Philadelphia set to repeat as champion

By Phil Elderkin / October 24, 1983

The established power structure isn't apt to change much this year in the National Basketball Association - that is, barring unforeseen trades or other player developments.

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While no NBA team in the past 15 years has been able to repeat as league champion, the tremendous team balance of the 1983-84 Philadelphia 76ers is hard to ignore. So possibly all it would take for Philadelphia to win again would be another MVP season by center Moses Malone, who could dominate King Kong.

With the season scheduled to open Friday, here are the scouting reports: Atlantic Division

Head Coach Billy Cunningham's biggest problem probably will be keeping his stellar cast in Philadelphia interested until the playoffs start. Fortunately he has a self-winding center in Malone; the inherent pride of Julius Erving; and the steadiness of playmaker Maurice Cheeks to keep his club going. The 76ers also play extremely hard on defense. Boston, under new coach K. C. Jones, will proably win a ton of games and is expecting a great year from ex-Phoenix guard Dennis Johnson. The backcourt picture still looks a bit too uncertain overall, however, to offer much hope of catching the 76ers. The New Jersey Nets have a fine new coach in Stan Albeck and will probably run more and score more than they have in the past. But when you have to rely on centers like Darryl Dawkins and Mike Gminski, titles are not easily secured. ''We have improved our situation since last year,'' said Head Coach Hubie Brown of the New York Knicks. Translation: We can play top defense for 48 minutes, but we still can't rebound as a team. Gene Shue will do his usual fine coaching job with the Washington Bullets and probably finish last in his division because he still doesn't have enough of a bench. Central Division

Milwaukee, the only team to record a playoff win against Philadelphia last spring, probably has a chance for another division title if center Bob Lanier can play 70 games, but could finish as low as third if he doesn't. To give Lanier some help on the boards, the Bucks drafted 7 ft. 3 in. Randy Breuer of Minnesota. It wouldn't take much for Atlanta to win this division. The Hawks play one of the best trapping defenses in the league, and they have two powerful big men in Tree Rollins and Dan Roundfield. They also have a new coach in Mike Fratello, a former assistant to New York's Hubie Brown. Detroit, a team on the upswing, should continue to improve. The Pistons' new coach, Chuck Daly, plans to move forward Kent Benson back to center and has been pushing for more togetherness on defense. New Chicago Coach Kevin Loughery is good with distressed merchandise. And while the Bulls' 28-54 record last season might suggest the need for a wholesale housecleaning, Loughery's personnel isn't really that bad. In fact Chicago, with three first-round draft picks this year, now has 10 such players on its roster. There is so much work to be done at Indiana that Pacer Coach Jack McKinney is the envy of no one. His biggest job will be teaching rookie Steve Stipanovich the mysteries of playing center in the NBA - and it could take most of the season. Midwest Division