By: Joe Cardoso
Can you hear it? What is it? It’s the sound of squeaking sneakers and basketballs hitting the hardwood as the 2019-20 NBA season is set to get underway. We just saw the most movement we have ever seen in the league with MAJOR power shifts and a deep draft class. What will Lebron James and the Lakers season 2 look like? How long will it take for the Clippers to gel? Players like Ben Simmons, Giannis Antetokounmpo and others had a summer to work on their games, what results will we see? Are the Orlando Magic the real deal and are the Maimi Heat back? Can Zion Williamson live up to all the hype? That is just a few of the questions this upcoming 82 game marathon will answer. Looking at the leagues landscape a fun way to start things off is picking ten players I feel are ones to watch this year. The list is made up of ballers who have been injured, not lived up to expectations, or taking on a new role.
- Markelle Fultz Guard Orlando Magic: It has been a strange first two years for the former Washington Husky and number one draft pick. As a local guy from the DMV, I want to see this kid come back and come back BIG. Orlando is perfect for this, low profile organization who made the playoffs last season and has a solid young core. By all accounts, the physical issues are under control, and Fultz is in the right place mentally. Playing and being a big part of the Magic season would be a win/win.
- Anfernee Simons Guard Portland Trailblazers:
Now one thing every real NBA fan knows is you never assume a guy will have a big season based on Summer League. But as I sat in Las Vegas and watched him play I can’t help myself, another scorer off the bench would be tremendous for Rip City. Picked 24th overall in the 2018 draft out of high school not much run last year for Simmons. What I saw was a quick first step and solid shot, and he has bounce for days. Look for Simmons to be the backup point guard for Portland and instant offense.
- Myles Turner Forward Indiana Pacers:
The game has changed and the days of throwing the ball in the post, and watching a big do work are over. It is now a free-flowing, ball movement type of hoops in this era. Myles Turner has done a great job of adjusting his game to fit today’s game. He had a strong season a few years back, and we put a ton of expectations on him, and he didn’t live up to them. This offseason being a member of TEAM USA it appears this may be the season he plays the type of basketball the Pacers and their fans have been waiting for. Hitting three-pointers at a near 40% clip as well as his shot-blocking the signs of a boom are there. With a whole new cast of character this year he is needed now more than ever.
- John Collins Forward Atlanta Hawks:
As a member of one of the most exciting young teams in the league Collins put the league on notice last year with almost 20 points and ten rebounds per game. With his road dog Trae Young, the Hawks are poised to be a legit factor in the east. As his shot improves, we saw him hit almost 35% from three-point range. With another summer under his belt and the pieces placed around him, things are looking good in the ATL.
- Brandon Ingram Guard/Forward New Orleans Pelicans:
Is this FINALLY the year for the potential to be somewhat reached? A lot like Markelle Fultz we have seen a bumpy start for Ingram. Blood clots in his shoulder kept him out for most of the season last year. With his height and skill set, we have been teased for three seasons, and now a fresh start in New Orleans. Healthy and around a group of exciting young players in a new city may be just what he needs.
- Dejounte Murray Guard San Antonio Spurs:
Last year the Spurs had things set up to be a player in the west. DeMar DeRozan was added to the fold along with LaMarcus Aldridge. With his lightning speed and ever-improving game, Murray would lead them. Weeks ahead of the season tip-off Murray suffered a horrible torn ACL injury. Murray had a solid 2nd year, and you can see his talents and how he could be Russell Westbrook like in terms of triple-doubles. Spurs fans hope he hasn’t missed a beat.
- Ben Simmons Forward Philidelphia 76ers:
The word is out 76ers fans, Ben has NO jump shot or at least not a reliable one. So with a summer to work on his craft and the 76ers are showing once again they are all in the time is now. Simmons is an all-star and has a game most would die for, but in the playoffs when things get tight, and weakness is exposed a jump shot helps. If he can at least pose a threat to teams, his game will be on a whole new level.
- Luke Kennard Forward Detroit Pistons:
If you watch Luke play, there isn’t too much not to love about his game. He can do it inside or outside as well as hit the boards. His level of defense improved towards the end of the season and must continue. He will be the lead dog off the bench with Derrick Rose. Don’t let the herky, jerky style fool you kid gots game.
- Lonzo Ball Guard New Orleans Pelicans: Enough of dad all over TV, enough of the Lakers stumbling all over the place with roster moves and drama. New Orleans is home for Lonzo, and I want to see UCLA Lonzo pushing the ball and setting up teammates. Look at the Pelicans roster, and it is set up for him to shine. His father being his hype man aside he can play ball, we saw an improved shot and a bigger Zo now it needs to all come together. If he can shake the injury bug and just play basketball, a lot of people will have crow for dinner.
- Kristaps Porzingis Forward Dallas Mavericks:
When we last saw Kristaps ON the court, he was set to be the savior of the New York Knicks. He then tore his ACL and things with the franchise turned sour, and a trade to the Dallas Mavericks took place. It didn’t stop there as we all saw the video of him fighting outside of a nightclub in Europe and the legal issues he faced as well. When the ball tips off to start this season, it would be 622 days since he stepped on the floor. With Luka Doncic coming off an impressive rookie season if the unicorn is healthy this team will surprise many. I’m interested in seeing how the former All-Star and the new euro kid on the block play together.
These are just a few of the many players and questions the upcoming 2019-20 NBA season will answer. What players are you looking to step up and improve your team? Safe to say the Toronto Raptors are not repeating as champs, what do the Warriors look like; the Nets set to burst on the scene? Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn without KD so does his leadership bloom? Make sure to checkout Buckets and Dimes the TEAM NBS podcast on all things NBA. It has been a long time the league has been this wide open let the good times roll!