The former number two overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Lakers was traded to the Brooklyn Nets prior to the 2017-2018 season. Russell’s first season in Brooklyn was an injury plagued year as he only appeared in 48 games. In his absence, the Nets saw improved production from Spencer Dinwiddie. The Nets also added another guard, Shabazz Napier, who had his best season as a pro in Portland last season. If a loaded backcourt wasn’t enough pressure on Russell, let’s add the fact that he is on the final year of his rookie contract. As of right now, an extension seems unlikely until the offseason as the Brooklyn Nets GM Sean Marks was quoted saying, “If I was to say right now, I’d probably say we’ll let it ride out. But things change in this business pretty quickly, so we’ll adjust as we go.” Russell is now set on a mission to prove to the world that he can max out his potential and that his contract should be maxed out as well.
The number one selection in the 2014 NBA Draft will be task with returning to the role of the number two man for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Wiggins has been criticized in recent weeks as lacking work ethic and his effort on the defensive end by teammate (for now) Jimmy Butler. While speaking on the Butler-Wiggins/Towns drama, former NBA player Stephen Jackson said Wiggins “plays with no heart.” If all of the criticism isn’t enough, Andrew Wiggins role will be increasing this season as Jimmy Butler is separated from the team as he awaits a trade. Wiggins signed a five year deal totaling $148 million last season. Along with the deal, Wiggins ensured the front office that he will work to improve his three point shot. Wiggins fell short of that goal as his three point percentage actually decreased by two percent. Hopefully with less pressure of a luring contract, an increased role, organizational support, and harsh criticism can fuel Wiggins to a breakout season.
One of the most dominant scorers of the 21st century, Carmelo Anthony, finds himself in a new city with a chance at his elusive first championship. Last season in Oklahoma City, Anthony did not perform as expected as the Thunder made a first round exit losing to the Utah Jazz. Anthony’s time in Oklahoma City was ended shortly after as he was bought out of the remainder of his deal and was free to join another team after clearing waivers. Anthony then signed a one-year, $2.4 million deal to join James Harden, Chris Paul and the Houston Rockets, a team who last year was one game short of going to the Finals. Speculation has grown about the possibility of Anthony coming off the bench which he has never done, starting in all 1,054 games of his career. Anthony has remained open about any role he receives in Houston. While I doubt we will see the 28 PPG Carmelo of the past, but we will see an improved and more comfortable player than last season.
After giving his heart, soul, and everything he had to the Toronto Raptors organization, the city of Toronto and the country of Canada he was swiftly traded to the San Antonio Spurs as apart of a deal for Kawhi Leonard. DeRozan, who was the biggest basketball star in Canada since Vince Carter, was seemingly traded without any notice. DeRozan goes on to discuss the trade and days before saying “I asked, ‘Was I going to be traded? Was there anything going on, was there a chance I’d be traded?’ And on multiple occasions it was, ‘No, it’s nothing.’ If it is, then we will your agent know.” DeRozan will enter this season with a large “chip on his shoulder,” determined to prove wrong Masai Ujiri (Raptors GM) and any naysayers who don’t believe in his significance and skill. In San Antonio, he will be coached by arguably the greatest coach of all time, Gregg Popovich. DeRozan should be on near the top of most lists of players to watch this upcoming season.
Kawhi Leonard was one of the top storylines of last season and will continue that trend as he begins this season on a new team, the Toronto Raptors. Injured or not active all but nine games last season and with his relationship reaching rock bottom with the San Antonio Spurs, it was time for a fresh start. Kawhi was traded to Toronto for a package which included Demar Derozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a protected 2019 first round pick. Kawhi is joining a team that was the number one seed in the Eastern Conference last season. With LeBron going west and joining the Lakers, many view Kawhi as the face of the Eastern Conference. According to OddsShark, the Toronto Raptors have the second best odds to win the East and reach the NBA Finals. With virtually a year off, we welcome back one of the best two way players in all the NBA, in hopes of him returning where he left off.