2018 NBA Story Lines

The NBA season is finally here, let’s explore a few topics to keep an eye on before October 17th.

President Problems

bal-under-armor-s-stephen-curry-no-donald-trump-is-not-an-asset-to-country-20170208

President Trump has caused uproar amongst NBA circles with many of his comments surrounding both the Warriors invitation to the White House and the anthem protests in the NFL.

On Warriors media day when asked about visiting the White House Stephen Curry informed the media that he had zero intention to attend.

The next morning Donald Trump tweeted that due to Steph’s hesitation, he was rescinding his invitation.  These two have a bit of history. Curry previously responded to comments from Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank describing Trump as a real asset to our country, by adding that you can describe Trump by removing the “et” in asset.

Trump’s recent tweets set the twitter storm off. Chris Paul chimed in. Lebron got in on the action, calling Trump a “bum.”

Warriors coach Steve Kerr wrote an excellent letter to Trump asking for the President to bring us together as a country not divide us. Greg Popovich, not one for press conferences, was outspoken on his disapproval of the president. Victor Oladipo even teamed up with 2 Chainz to give his thoughts.

Social Media has given stars an ability to interact with fans, and Commissioner Silver and NBA owners have done an excellent job keeping an open dialogue for players to express themselves.  

We believe it’s absolutely what these stars should be doing, because their voice matters and they can affect change in society.

First Time All Stars

With the new All-Star rules in mind and the migration of talent to the West, we think there are a few players who have a shot at making their first All-Star appearance.

Bradley Beal

Washington Wizards

bealForbes.com

Beal played at an extremely high level last year, and given his improvement every year, there’s no reason to think he can’t be an All-Star in 2018.

While playing in 77 games, the most in his career, Beal averaged 23 points per game and career highs in assists, leaving people very excited about the young nucleus in Washington. At the request of coach Scott Brooks, Beal upped his three-point attempts from 5 to 7 last season while still shooting over 40%.

If he continues to shoot the ball at such an efficient rate and helps lead Washington to a high seed in the East, Beal should see his first All-Star action.

Myles Turner

 Indiana Pacers

With superstar teammate Paul George gone, Turner should see his role expand in Year 3. With George as the primary scoring option last season, Turner only saw 10 shots a game, which would figure to increase drastically this season in Indiana.

We covered Turner in more depth here, but if he can maintain his efficiency and  build on his 14/7/2 line he could wind up joining George at the All Star Game in Los Angeles.

Kristaps Porzingis 

New York Knicks

Another player who will benefit from the departure of a veteran, KP is now the focal point of the Knicks offense.

With Phil Jackson and Carmelo finally gone, the hope is that Jeff Hornacek can implement an offense that fits Porzingis’ stellar inside out game. The talent around Porzingis is uninspiring, particularly with questions at point guard.

Having shaky point guard play can really limit a big man’s offense, but Porzingis is so talented that we believe an All Star berth is on the table for the 22 year old.

Mike Conley

Memphis Grizzlies

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Memphis Grizzliesnba.com

The fact that Conley has never made an All Star team is less about his ability, and more a about the intense competition for spots in the West.  Don’t belive us? Just ask Damian Lillard

After a stellar season where Conley averaged 20 points per game and increased his production in the playoffs (25ppg), he remains overlooked.

Last season Conley was Top 20 in the NBA in Player Efficiency Rating (20th), Win Shares (18th), Plus/Minus (14th), and Value over Replacement Player (19th), while still falling short of the All-Star game.

Conley should have a chip on his shoulder coming into 2018.  He looks to lead the Grizzlies to the playoffs in a tough conference, while making an All-Star game in the process.

Players with something to prove

New teams, new players, new roles.  These players all have something to prove in 2018.

Kyrie Irving

Boston Celtics

Kyrie-Irving (1)Brian Babineau/Getty Images

In case you live under a rock, Kyrie was traded to Celtics this offseason.  

Kyrie asked to be traded in order to be a “complete point guard, on a good team,” but more importantly to get out of Lebron’s shadow.  NBA personalities, players, and media outlets largely questioned Kyrie’s move away from a team that had been to the finals each of the last three years.  

The outside noise aside, Irving finds himself on a budding young Celtics team co-starred by Gordon Hayward.  Coming into this year in a golden situation, Kyrie looks to find a new dimension to his game to compliment his already-lethal scoring and ball-handling.  

Similar to Westbrook after Durant’s departure, Kyrie has a chance to showcase his full potential.

Victor Oladipo

 Indiana Pacers

Oladipo was the main piece in the OKC/Indiana trade that sent Paul George to the Thunder.

Victor has yet to live up to the gaudy expectations as the number two pick in 2013.  He has improved his three-point shooting each year in terms of total makes and percentage jumping from 1 to 2 makes, and 32 to 36%.  Although his shooting has improved, Oladipo has actually regressed from year two in scoring and playmaking.  Perhaps, some of these regressions can be chalked up to playing next to superstar and usage monster Westbrook, but perhaps they are a sign of his plateau in the league.

Either way, Oladipo has large shoes to fill in Indiana and he will look to make a leap in his 5th year as a primary option.

Rodney Hood

Utah Jazz

hood.jpgMatt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Rodney Hood needs to improve across the board if he wants to be a go-to scorer for the Jazz.  Hood has demonstrated his ability to knock down threes at 36% but he has yet to show a well-rounded offensive skillset.  From year one to year two Hood improved his scoring from 8.7 to 14.5 points per game…  Last year, however, he regressed and missed multiple games due to right knee issues.

Injuries have been a recurring issue for Hood but with Hayward out of the picture, his fourth year presents a golden opportunity to prove what he is capable of.

Anthony Davis

New Orleans Pelicans

Entering his sixth year in the league, AD finally has a healthy and capable squad to work with.  At 24 years old, Davis is still scratching the surface of his potential which includes averaging 28 points and 12 rebounds while shooting 50% from the field.  

His numbers are insane, but with only one playoff appearance in five years Davis still needs to prove he is not just stuffing stats on a bad team.  

Aging Stars in New Roles

In the arms race to win a championship, teams have rushed to add talent and starpower to compete with the loaded Warriors.  

Carmelo Anthony

Oklahoma City Thunder

Age: 33

meloNew York Daily News

In 2017-18 Melo will finally have a chance to play in a complementary role where he can offer a scoring punch without being the focal point of the offense.  

Billy Donovan plans to use Melo at the four in an attempt to match up with the new age small-ball lineup.  Melo actually shot 42.6 % from 3 on spot ups last year(better than any OKC player last year) which bodes well for his new role next to superstar slashers Russell Westbrook and Paul George.  

Now that Melo is no longer has to carry the load on offense, will team USA Melo return?  

Dwyane Wade

Cleveland Cavaliers

Age: 35

Wade is no longer the scoring champ we saw in 2009 but he is still an extremely talented player with a championship pedigree.

 Oh, and he’s also playing next to his ‘best friend’ Lebron on the most dangerous team in the East.  

We are interested to see how the lineup shakes out in Cleveland with JR Smith playing some of the best two-way basketball of his career last year.  But even if Wade is playing 25-30 minutes a game, expect him to play a prominent role as a closer for the Cavs going forward.

Rudy Gay

San Antonio Spurs

Age: 31

Pop plans to bring Gay along rather slowly coming off an achilles injury that kept him out of action at the end of last year. Rudy could see a diminished role on the Spurs given his age and health concerns.  

However, even at 31 Gay still possesses the tools to be reliable wing scorer with above average height and length to make an impact on both ends of the floor.  With Lamarcus Aldridge’s inconsistent play as a second option, Gay is weapon for Pop to deploy.  

Playing in an extremely efficient system, don’t be surprised if Gay improves his style of play to fit with the Spurs’ winning formula.

Rookie Excitement

Evidenced by the popularity of this years Las Vegas Summer League, the NBA world is giddy for a chance to watch this rookie class in action. Many fanbases and front offices are optimistic that their rookies are going to emerge as stars, and validate their draft selection.

Here is a look at 5 Rookies we are excited for!

Markelle Fultz

 Philadelphia 76ers 

2017 #1 overall pick

NCAA BASKETBALL: NOV 30 Washington at TCUAndrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire

The number one overall pick is an obvious choice, but Philadelphia has to be anxious to see what the 19-year-old looks like next to NBA talent.

Fultz is a dynamic offensive point guard with an ability to score in multiple ways. Many scouts expect his athleticism and college production of 23 ppg to translate to the next level.  The biggest questions Fultz needs to address are his leadership and inconsistent defense, but those will come with time.

Philly has loaded up on young talent and should be excited about what Fultz can bring to the table.

Lonzo Ball

 Los Angeles Lakers

2017 #2 pick

lonzo deniisGetty Images

Love him or hate him, you should be intrigued by what Lavar’s son will do in the NBA.

Lonzo Ball is an excellent playmaker, setting up his teammates all over the floor in his only season at UCLA. Ball led the Pac 12 in assists, besting Fultz, at 7.6 per game. Ball, and his funky jumpshot, managed 2 threes per game on 41.2% shooting, many out around NBA range.

There’s a lot to like with Lonzo but we still have questions about his unconventional jumpshot and average athleticism.

Dennis Smith Jr.

Dallas Mavericks 

2017 #9 pick

dennis

Dallas is thrilled to have Dennis Smith Jr, and it’s hard to blame them.

Head coach Rick Carlisle told NBC5’s Newy Scrugg, “Absolutely. We’re extremely excited. For some reason, he fell to [No.] 9, which was surprising to us.”

Smith is an incredible athlete, who attacks the basket with force. He is good in the pick and roll, which should be a perfect fit for the modern NBA point guard.

Smith fell in the draft due to concerns about injury history and maturity, but we are very optimistic that with the good system in place in Dallas, Dennis Smith Jr can thrive.

Ben Simmons

 Philadelphia 76ers 

2016 #1 overall pick

Have we forgotten about Ben Simmons? The number one overall pick in 2016 missed all of last season with a foot injury suffered during training camp.

Simmons, a versatile 6’10” player, is a fantastic playmaker and passer for his size. He brings excellent athleticism and defensive upside to the table, giving Philadelphia fans even more reason to Trust the Process. Where Simmons really struggles is jump shooting, defenses don’t respect his jumper and he has yet to make them pay for it in college and Summer League.  Simmons’ lack of shooting has led Philadelphia head coach Brett Brown to hint at the idea of playing Simmons as a point guard, allowing him to play in the open court where his jump shooting is less of a constraint to Philly’s spacing.  

With a healthy Embiid and their two new rookie toys, Philly has a lot to be hopeful for.

De’Aaron Fox

Sacramento Kings 

2017 #5 pick

The fifth overall pick out of Kentucky, De’Aaron Fox is just a kid who you want to see succeed.

A hard worker who plays with tons of competitive fire, the Kings took a bet on the raw Fox. His athleticism and defense are already at a high level, and if the jumper comes around Fox could live up to his Top 5 pick billing.

The 19 year old may struggle to contribute immediately at the NBA level, but it’s going to be fun to watch for the flashes of upside that Fox shows.

Other Rookie Thoughts:

Zach Collins (R1,P10)

Jordan Bell (R2,P38)

This is going to be a fantastic NBA season, and we’d love to hear your thoughts on the different guys we covered here.

 

 

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