The good fortune of a NBA team is determined by many different factors but some players hold the key for a positive season. They might be the heart and soul of a team, that missing piece required to go all the way, a defensive specialist needed for playoff battles. These are the key players for the upcoming NBA Season:
ATLANTA HAWKS – Dennis Schroder
Denis Schroder was a revelation last season. An elusive, fast, skilled guard able to attack the paint, assist and shoot reasonably well from outside. In only 6 more minutes per game from 2013-14 season, he was able to almost triple his points production, while doing it almost effortlessly. His potential is far from being reached. We all know what Horford, Millsap, Korver and Teague bring to the table. Dennis Schroder is the diamond disguised as a “good player”. If the Hawks bet on his development and give him space and time to grow, the future is bright for this young man and for the Hawks franchise.
BOSTON CELTICS – Marcus Smart
The Celtics already have a very good scorer in Isaiah Thomas and a proven inside-outside threat in Jared Sullinger. Moreover, the franchise presents a collection of skillful young players wishing to leave their mark on the amazing Celtics tradition of success. RJ Hunter is very promising but, from what we saw last season, Marcus Smart is, indeed, the key for the next step on the Celtics climb in the Eastern Conference. A rare combination of suffocating defense mindset (in a strong body for his position, especially now that the NBA point guard is going back to skillful artistry players a la Steve Nash, Chris Paul and Stephen Curry), linked to an above average offense package. The NBA Scholar didn´t like his outside shot in the beginning but he managed to address that issue, becoming a more reliable mid-range shooter. The Boston Celtics fans hope to see a Rondo 2.0 in this kid, that is, ensuring that trademark excellent D, with a more varied and effective offensive game. Marcus Smart can take this new Celtics to new heights if he manages to progress and enhance his skills.
BROOKLYN NETS – Brook Lopez
Maybe it´s because of the name. Maybe it´s only a funny coincidence. In any case, the success of Nets season relies, once again, on the shoulders of Brook(lyn) Lopez. Nets haven´t made significant changes to their team. They hope the pillars of the team (Joe Johnson and Thaddeus Young) remain healthy throughout the season while two young players (hopefully) take a step forward – Thomas Robinson and Donald Sloan. Brook Lopez makes this a complicated team to defend, adding a much needed inside presence that is quite effective on both ways of the court. Brook Lopez is one of the most skilled centers in the game. His health will determine if the Nets go forward or remain a common team aspiring no more than making the playoffs.
CHARLOTTE HORNETS – Nicolas Batum
Last season was the first time since the rookie year that Batum couldn´t reach double digits on scoring per game. A minor slump, some will say. Batum is a very unique player, with his length and ability to play either the fast break running game or the 5 on 5 half-court game, where he excels as a 3-point spot up shooter. He is the definition of a Jack of all trades: he can rebound, assist, steal and block as good as any in his position. His presence in this roster is a fantastic upgrade, complementing the tandem of Kemba Walker-Al Jefferson. Kidd-Gilchrist, Lin and the newcomer Frank Kaminsky forecast another interesting chapter on MJ´s attempt to construct a more competitive Eastern Conference team. Batum will be the key to unlock the potential of his team. His value became overlooked in Portland but he is one of the best and most complete players at his position. It will be up to him, the Hornets coaching staff and his health to see if Charlotte can keep improving.
CHICAGO BULLS – Derrick Rose
Last year was a positive year for Derrick Rose and the Bulls. Although the point guard didn´t quite get to that MVP kind of play on a consistent way, there were many moments that reminded us the best of D. Rose. If he stays healthy and manages to get even closer to his previous MVP version, the Bulls have a real chance to get to the NBA Finals. With Noah and Gasol assuring dominance in the restricted area and with Butler playing at star level with the help of a very capable and talented Bulls bench, this might be the year Bulls return to the NBA Finals.
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS – Kyrie Irving
In Lebron James the Cavaliers trust. In Kyrie´s health the Cavaliers success might become a reality. We all know Lebron James is an amazing physically gifted player, it is hard to see him go down. Kevin Love, with his recurrent problems, became almost “forgotten” as Tristan Thompson emerged from the bench to help the Cleveland fans discussing the NBA title with two of their superstars out. The good health of Kyrie Irving is key for the Cavs upcoming season. By now, he has already figured out how to play alongside LBJ. When Kyrie is on he can light up an arena with his mesmerizing dribbles and dead-eye shooting. A rare combination of quickness, skill and above average outside shot. Some Cleveland fans say (to this day!) that if he stayed on court the Cavs would have won. It is a case for a nice “what if” debate. In NBA Scholar´s opinion, Kyrie is “the” key for a successful Title run this season. The western teams got even better. Even some Eastern teams will pose more complicated problems next season. If Kyrie isn´t healthy in playoffs time it will be “maybe next year…” time. You can count on that. Kyrie is that important for the Cavs.
DALLAS MAVERICKS – Deron Williams
Dirk Nowitzki, arguably the best foreign player ever to play in the NBA – is getting too old to single-handedly carry his team. He will demand support from Chandler Parson and the newest backcourt additions, a 2 way extremely valuable player in Wesley Matthews and the enigmatic Deron Williams, whose “exile” in Brooklyn was mediocre, to put it mildly. The best version of Deron Williams, the Utah Jazz one, shows a player able to change the course of the game. He can be creative and decisive, while going into scoring sprees. If he plays well, Nowitzki, Matthews and Parsons will contribute for a positive Mavs season. After the Rondo disaster experiment, the Mavs are hoping the point guard position is finally locked (and loaded). What Deron Williams is showing up in Dallas? The mild, impassive Nets Deron or the flamboyant and effective Utah Jazz D. Will? His individual performance will determine Mavs make or break next season.
DENVER NUGGETS – Jusuf Nurkic
From the same “school” as Mozgov, this eastern European player has many intriguing attributes. He showed some glimpses of brilliance last season on limited minutes, trying to adapt quickly to the frantic NBA style of play. In this next season he can become a dominant center for the Nuggets, who are terribly flawed at that position. Having lost Ty Lawson, Denver hopes the return of a healthy Danilo Gallinari sparks a better season for Chandler, Faried and the experienced Jameer Nelson. There is also a big expectation to see if Mudiay corresponds to his promised value. In any case, a lack of a reliable and secure inside presence will make this another erratic season for the Mile High team.
DETROIT PISTONS – Andre Drummond
The first to exit was Josh Smith. Now Greg Monroe is gone. Therefore, Andre Drummond is free to rule and conquer in the paint without having to share valuable minutes. Despite having played 2 less minutes than in the season before, Drummond maintained his steady evolution, improving in practically all categories. These are exciting times for the Pistons franchise. They now have 2 explosive backcourt scorers (Jennings and Jackson) plus a myriad of options, able to make them play in different styles during the game. Marcus Morris, Jodie Meeks, Ilyasova, KCP and Steve Blake are all good solid players. With a less talented Baynes and an old Joel Anthony, Andre Drummond can finally unleash his finest basketball, now that he is free from “competition”. His dominance in the paint will limit other teams inside scoring and make him a player with the potential to demand for a double team (if he manages to work on his offensive low post play). The future is bright for Drummond and the Pistons. Let those drumrolls get loud in the motor city.
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS – Stephen Curry
The Warriors will go as far as his leader will take them. It is very important that Stephen Curry maintains his health throughout the season. The Warriors have a very deep team but Curry has elevated his game to MVP form. Is the better Curry still hidden from us? Will he get better this season, adding new moves to his “bag of tricks”? With the inclusion of Steve Nash the future is definitely bright for this young man. A few weeks ago he stated he is still far away from being considered one of the best ever. The NBA Scholar respects this attitude. It shows both respect and admiration for older players and the history of the game. Will he be able to give the Oakland team a second Title in a row? Or will he succumb into the “temptations” of stardom and let his basketball focus go down? The Warriors will be as good as Curry will take them.
HOUSTON ROCKETS – Dwight Howard
Now that Josh Smith has left, the health of Dwight Howard becomes even more decisive. If the Rockets want to have a good season and seriously compete for the Title they need a strong and reliable commanding presence in the paint. Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan are the 2 best defensive centers in the league right now. Montejunas and Clint Capella will, hopefully, provide good solid minutes when the Rockets big man is resting. However, an injury to D. Howard could have seismic proportions in that already questionable Houston defense. The departure of Josh Smith will be costly down the line. The Houston Rockets roster isn´t as deep as beforehand at the frontline. Hence, Howard´s presence on court is vital for a good Rockets season.
INDIANA PACERS – Paul George
What Paul George are the Pacers getting back? Will he be physically and mentally prepared to withstand a very strenuous season in a totally different Indiana team? Will he be able to play at the 4 position, as it has been reported? The Pacers current roster is a shadow of its older self. No Hibbert, Stephenson, David West… the core of the older Pacers team is gone, only Paul George and George Hill now. Will they be able to form a good enough trio with Monta Ellis, managing to somehow “stay afloat” in the weak Eastern Conference? Paul George is the key to this equation. There is no doubt he is as good as it comes. Will he be motivated to play for this somber version of the Pacers? That – even more than his physical condition – is the biggest question mark for the Pacers…
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS – Lance Stephenson
Lance Stephenson?? You might be surprised with this choice but this is the reasoning: Lance is the best perimeter defender right now, alongside with CP3. However, CP3 lacks size to defend certain players, hence making Lance too valuable for this squad. In addition, Stephenson didn´t quite fit the more rigid Hornets schemes and it will be interesting if he can sustain a high production in such a diverse and starred roster. Without a doubt, this is the most talented Clippers team ever. With the inclusion of Paul Pierce and Josh Smith, Clippers solidifies the 3 and 4 position with 2 extremely talented players. Josh Smith adds a new dimension as he is able to defend multiple positions and players. Having said this, Lance Stephenson defense on the perimeter and the “gelling” with his teammates will play a bigger factor than most would assume. Chemistry and defense: two keys for any team that wants to really compete for a NBA Championship. Lance is “the” factor in this equation. His excellent D and jovial relationship with his new colleagues can set the Clippers to new heights. The reverse might… well, “sabotage” their season.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS – Kobe Bryant
The NBA Scholar could enunciate 1000 reasons on why a healthy Kobe Bryant is absolutely key for a successful Lakers Season. Here are the Top 2: with him Lakers have a chance to get one of the final playoff spots on the West. Moreover, with him embracing the role of teacher and mentor, preaching Lakers greatness to the younger kids (eager to adopt the Lakers honorable History principles), he can become instrumental on shaping the future of this successful Franchise according to his very own greatness standard. In short: with him Lakers can maybe make the playoffs this year and model the Lakers young promises according to his highly demanding work ethic, hence assuring a proper continuation to the purple and gold victorious tradition.
MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES – Jeff Green
By now, we all know what can be expected from Gasol, Randolph and Conley. They are as consistent as it gets. With Vince Carter (half elderly, half still able to make amazing shots), Tony Allen (1s TEAM ALL DEFENSE!), Matt Barnes, Courtney Lee and Brandan Wright the Grizzlies got better and more balanced. The key for them to go past the latest “roadblocks” on the western conference relies on Jeff Green´s ability to return to his best version, somehow lost on the last season. His drop from 17.6 ppg to 13.1 can be explained by the lack of shots he was given. It is true the Grizzlies have a more diverse roster now but there are few players on their roster with the offensive potential of Jeff Green, who has the ability to become a more productive element of this team, hence giving them a nice alternative to the usual grind, inside scoring first style of play deployed by Memphis. This is the most balanced roster the Grizzlies have had in recent years. Great defense, check. Great Rebounders, check. Great Point Guard, check. Now just give Jeff the Green light to provide that extra offensive spark necessary to become formidable.
MIAMI HEAT – Dwyane Wade
Similar to Kobe Bryant situation, except from the fact Miami Heat have become the most complete team in the Eastern Conference. Once again we could witness Pat Riley’s magic in orchestrating amazing trades, making this team (who many regarded as a possible wasteland after LBJ´s departure) a title contender again. It can be said they have many new players and that it takes time for them to get used to each other, to form that required chemistry. Although that is an undeniable fact, the truth of the matter is that there is an abundance of talent in this team. The ways in which they can attack and defend their opponents are almost endless. A rare combination of smart, savvy players with explosive youth makes this a very dangerous team. Having said all this, Dwyane Wade plays the role – at this stage of his career – of the spiritual leader, an already cult figure within the Miami Heat organization, a player willing to sacrifice for the greater good. Will he double the number of rings of the highly praised LBJ who is failing to win multiple titles? Wade health and intelligent playmaking is absolutely key for this revamped Heat roster to flourish. Will he be able to get to 4-2 vs LBJ 2-4 NBA Finals record? https://www.nbascholar.com/2015/07/27/4-2-vs-2-4-thirteen-years-after-the-2003-draft-wade-can-overthrow-the-king-in-2016/
MILWAUKEE BUCKS – Greg Monroe
Perhaps the most intriguing team in the NBA, presenting a collection of very young and talented players. Jabari Parker, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Michael Carter-Williams, Khris Middleton have already made a name for themselves. Bayless, Henson, Copeland, Ennis, OJ Mayo, Plumlee and Vasquez make for a solid rotation. The key player in this roster becomes the newcomer, a robust yet skilled big man, able to dominate in his restricted area while causing havoc on the opposition board. Approaching the 20pts/10rbs plateau, the Bucks have everything in place for a great season. Can Monroe mesh quickly with this group of young guns? Will he assimilate quickly all the X and O created by one of the best young coaches of the NBA, the one and only Jason Kidd? With Monroe fully acclimated to the Bucks environment, their rise to the top of the Eastern Conference will become a reality.
MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES – Karl-Anthony Towns
Garnett and Pekovic are as good as it gets when it comes to teaching the noble art of dominating the paint. The path for relevance has been a bumpy one but slowly the Timberwolves are beginning to realize they have a good thing going. Rubio, Wiggins, Lavine and K. Martin provide a good core. If you add the experience of Prince, Andre Miller and the above mentioned Garnett and Pekovic, you can start believing in this Timberwolves team. Scoring Karl-Anthony Towns would not harm their dream to get back to prominence in the daunting western conference. If Towns unleashes his potential as many expect under the guidance of Garnett, the Timberwolves might have a word to say this season. Maybe not a playoff place yet but definitely another great stepping stone to a brighter future. Building organically, a la OKC, who saw their young guns Durant and Westbrook become NBA Superstars. Karl-Anthony can be the piece that elevates this franchise, this town (had to mention it! 🙂 to another level. Let´s see if the future brings what is promised.
NEW ORLEANS PELICANS – Anthony Davis
Already hailed as a once in a lifetime player, the upgraded modern version of Tim Duncan, and many other significant references, Anthony Davis is, by this time, in a league of his own. In only 3 seasons, his improvement has been almost exponential. It is amazing how good he has become in such a short period of time. He says he wants to be in the discussion of one of the greatest ever. The NBA Scholar likes that. Unlike many young players that throw these words without having the proper repertoire to achieve it, this is a podium within his reach. He is that good. Now it all depends on his own will and ambition, plus the ability to withstand the average roster at his disposal. It´s not that the Pelicans don´t have good players. There are some interesting pieces but no one that can (at least from a short distance) rise into the level required to make some noise in case they reach the playoffs. Will Anthony Davis be able to temper his own expectations when results aren´t coming? Will he become irate and frustrated like many young players do? Will he take it as a necessary stepping stone, a step required to enter the pathway of greatness (Jordan had to wait 7 years and then he denied everyone around him a Title: https://www.nbascholar.com/2015/08/04/jordan-waited-7-years-to-win-several-trophies-he-then-denied-7-superstars-a-chance-to-win-at-least-one/ Time will tell. And you know what? There is plenty of time. You had Shaq, Duncan and Kobe Bryant as the 3 players who ruled and dominated the NBA, winning multiple titles since the beginning of the 21st century. Being only 22 years old, Anthony Davis has a lifetime to rule and conquer. If he keeps improving and is inserted in the right position to “prosper” (translation: a really competitive roster) maybe he can get 4 or 5 NBA Championships. Or maybe even more.
NEW YORK KNICKS – Carmelo Anthony
The Zen Master hopes to attract major talent to the Big Apple next season. Unfortunately for Knicks fans, that means they will see another season of mediocre results, trying to stay positive in the numerous losses already “booked” for them. Quite simply, the Knicks roster lacks talent. Their only superstar will be the key for some smiles and what the Knicks might become in 2016-17. There are a few bright spots, some players that can make for competitive games (Calderon, Afflalo, Lopez) but the rest of the team is made by subpar players, whose only motivation might be staying in this roster when it gets – hopefully for Knicks fans – upgraded with a star or two. Another long season is expected for New York Knicks fans. Carmelo Anthony and his attitude will define if they somehow can get some W´s and stay combative or just fold and “pass” on this season. Maybe Porzingis will provide a spark. In any case, this team will go as far as Carmelo´s determination will take them. If the general quits, then this battalion of hopefuls will make for a sad spectacle until the end of the season.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER – Kevin Durant
Can we say the return of Kevin Durant is the most awaited return since Jordan came back from his baseball journey? That might be debatable but not for the faithful Thunder fans. Last season interrupted a process of consistent winning, with several presences in the latter stages of the playoffs. The OKC team has managed to salvage the season by watching the evolution of Westbrook into a full grown superstar player and by “patching” some issues in that flawed roster. All the pieces are in place. Two amazing superstars are set to enter the storm of this defining OKC season. If Durant wins, he will surely stay. If he loses, it´s bye bye Durant: https://www.nbascholar.com/2015/09/27/next-okc-season-a-victorious-ok-to-c-durant-staying-as-champion-or-a-sad-ok-to-c-durant-leaving/ All the pieces are ready, the board is set. Only one question remains? Will Durant play at his regular MVP level again? Some Thunder fans are worried if he won´t be the same. That maybe he will lose a step or two like Derrick Rose. A healthy MVP Durant can guide this team to glory. As simple as that. If so, he can claim his long due NBA Title and probably stay in Oklahoma City for a few more years.
ORLANDO MAGIC – Victor Oladipo
As he prepares to enter his third NBA Season, Victor Oladipo is no longer a promise or a player with “an amazing upside”. Right now, he is the best player of this franchise. He will need Vucevic and Tobias Harris to keep on producing at a high level as well as hoping that Payton “grows up fast” in this predatory NBA environment. The Orlando Magic isn´t a very talented team. Their goal is to keep improving as their youngsters mature. Oladipo is the brightest star of this lot. His improvement will be key for this team next year.
PHILADELPHIA 76ERS – Jahlil Okafor
Can Okafor be the savior Philadelphia so desperately needs? The 76ers have become the unwanted team of the NBA, the desert where players are shipped for a long and depressing losing routine. Their only hope is the resurgence of a real franchise player, someone who can not only get the desired wins but, more importantly, raise the spirits. Maybe Okafor can form a good partnership with Noel. In any case, the confirmation of this player as a future star might motivate this team to uncharted waters in the mild Eastern Conference sea. Maybe they will manage to stay afloat, be competitive and watch their youngsters progress as the season goes along. Okafor can become the face of this franchise. He will have all the opportunities. In this 76ers team, you sure won’t find stars around to steal your minutes…
PHOENIX SUNS – Eric Bledsoe
It seems the Phoenix Suns will have a huge drop in the standings this year. Their very explosive talented backcourt has vanished into ashes… Somehow this roster seems quite unbalanced and badly built. Chandler as a center doesn´t offer much confidence as father time is catching up on him. Brandon Knight and P.J.Tucker assure some effort and points but if you look closely to this team there aren´t many reasons to be excited in Phoenix. Maybe Teletovic or Goodwin surprise us and give the Suns some needed offense… in any case, their fate depends on the best player of this team. Eric Bledsoe has become one of the best offensive point guards of the League. This is his team now. He can make them interesting and competitive or he might just play for his numbers, calculating a route out of the Arizona desert. In all fairness, the NBA Scholar thinks this season has all the signals predicting a painful journey through the desert of consistent losing for these players…
PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS – Damian Lillard
How hard will it be for the amazing Damian Lillard to look around and realize his buddies of recent years are gone? The good Blazers days are dead and gone. With Matthews, Batum and especially LaMarcus Aldridge out, the Blazers find themselves in rebuilding mode. When you look at the Portland options, you fail to see outstanding talent, apart from Lillard. It is a very similar case from the Bledsoe/Suns situation: both were playing for an exciting competitive team which, all of the sudden, will fall down dramatically in the standings. This will be an excellent time to assess what this awesome player can do when facing adversity. The good times are gone for Lillard: multiple losses are coming his way. The way he will deal with them will define a painful but hopeful season or a total disaster for these surprisingly average Blazers. In the incredibly competitive western conference the flawed Blazers team will have a difficult season.
SACRAMENTO KINGS – Rajon Rondo
Which Rondo are the Sacramento Kings fans getting? The loose “who cares” Rondo or the sharp distributor and floor general Rondo? Slowly, the Sacramento Kings have managed to temper the volatile personality of Cousins, while surrounding him with very interesting pieces. Rudy Gay, McLemore, Collison, Bellinelli and Butler provide some backup and experience to a team that will revolve, as always, around Cousins. If Rondo enters “self-destruction” mode as he did in Dallas it can get ugly. Just imagine DeMarcus Cousins losing the patience with his antics and indifference… not a pretty picture. Therefore, it all falls on the hands of Rondo. The Kings are DeMarcus Cousins team at this moment but he never had the privilege to be served by a guard of Rondo´s caliber. What Rondo will show up? Sacramento fans wish he plays to relaunch his career this year. Maybe a not so high-profile team like this one will be a blessing for Rondo and, consequently, for the Kings.
SAN ANTONIO SPURS – Tony Parker
The Spurs got even better. In fact, one might argue if this isn´t the best team ever assembled: https://www.nbascholar.com/2015/07/28/thesis-2015-16-spurs-are-the-best-team-ever-assembled/ The fact they now have David West and LaMarcus Aldridge to help decreasing Tim Duncan´s usage makes them even more dangerous. Served by a basketball genius called Popovich, these Spurs will be a jigsaw not so many teams will be able to solve. Too many options. Too many styles. They can do pretty much whatever they want: slow, fast, small ball, go big, whatever. As always, there will be two priorities for Popovich: assuring a decent (which in Spurs tradition should be around 55-60 wins or more, give or take) regular season while resting their old yet mighty effective weapons in the postseason. What is key to kick start this magnificent engine? Tony Parker! Without him at his best, the Spurs won’t go far. He is the player the Spurs depend the most. If he is not at tip top shape in the spring, it will be quite difficult for the Spurs to go all the way, even with Duncan, Aldridge, Leonard, Ginobili, Diaw and West. At this point in time, Parker is instrumental to make this amazing machine go to “warp drive” and obliterate all the competition. The NBA Scholar doubts if anyone can defeat this version of the Spurs in a 7 games series if all of them are fit. It´s just a remarkable collection of talented players. Which other team has 3 different NBA Finals MVP’s playing at the same time? Possibly 5 future HOF’s (Duncan, Parker, Ginobili, Leonard and Aldridge)… It is only fitting that the Spurs/Popovich (possible) final chapter will produce the most fascinating basketball stories… could this be the perfect headline for (probably) Timmy D last season? In Tony Parker they trust.
TORONTO RAPTORS – Demarre Carrol
The Raptors took a step back last season. When everyone was expecting them to progress even further they disappointed their awesome fans. This year they can mend that. The signing of Demarre Carrol is much more important than some people think. He became one of these unique players which excels at both ends of the court. Plus, he brings something to the table that cannot be measured. It doesn´t show up in the stat sheets: passion! When you looked at the Raptors last season this was exactly what they were lacking. Someone who inspires the colleagues with a sheer will to win! Lowry, Derozan and Valanciunas are already very good players. Scola, Patterson, Byombo and Bennett will play their part capturing rebounds and playing D. Carrol can become that glue player, that combative player ready to lead by example and push this team to new heights. He is arriving from a team that, against all odds, managed to obtain an amazing Regular Season record. He is someone who can “unlock the secrets” to make such a jump and become one of the best teams of the Eastern Conference. Carrol will be decisive to convert this team into a real contender. To become a real threat. To finally make the most all that hidden potential.
UTAH JAZZ – Rudy Gobert
Rudy Gobert was one of the biggest revelations last season. Stat lines like 19pts/22rbs/4blocks or 18pts/17rbs/6blocks got a lot of well-deserved attention. Gobert has become one of the best centers from a defensive standpoint and better than expected on the offensive board. This Utah Jazz isn´t ready to go after a playoff spot but if they maximize the potential of Hayward and Favors, plus this amazing center in the paint, then the stage is set for a very interesting season. One could argue they can maybe discuss the final spot… with the Burks+Burke combo and the development of Exum, there are reasons to be confident this season will be better than last year. In addition, a lot of interesting young players might become more relevant as the season goes on. As long as Gobert keeps rebounding and blocking like there is no tomorrow, the Utah crowd will become even more enthusiastic about this exciting Jazz team and their basketball “beats”!
WASHINGTON WIZARDS – John Wall
Last but not least, the Wizards. Now that the injection of “winning and defying all odds – the Paul Pierce attitude” has been seen, it is up for the Wizards to carry on their path into the top of the Eastern Conference. They only made slight adjustments, banking on the continuation of their project. Gortat, Nene and Beal will assure this Wizards teams many wins, especially against eastern conference weaker opposition. The Washington team has become more versatile with new quality shooters. As the NBA keeps evolving to a more “small ball” style of play, the Wizards have tried to address this issue by providing John Wall & Co. some pieces to make the game easier for them. Spacing is key in today´s NBA. And so is John Wall. His lightning speed and ability to create by attacking the paint makes him quite an unique player. For the first time, he averaged double digits in assists per game last season. His characteristics and willingness to win can make this Wizards team enter the next stage of their evolution, into a real contender. He will need help (and, more importantly, health) from his colleagues but if all the stars are aligned in late April, this Wizard might offer to the Washington crowd his best act so far.