Observer NBA writer Rick Bonnell projects 10 intriguing storylines for the upcoming season, which starts Tuesday:
Will they stay or will they go? How well the New Orleans Pelicans and Milwaukee Bucks perform this season could have serious bearing on how interested their respective superstars - Giannis Antetokoumpo with the Bucks and Anthony Davis with the Pelicans - are in sticking around. It’s noteworthy that Davis switched agents to the firm closely associated with LeBron James, now hoping to build a super team with the Los Angeles Lakers.
What’s Love got to do with it? With LeBron departing Cleveland, the Cavs made a huge financial commitment to keeping around forward Kevin Love for the long term. Love is a five-time All-Star, but he’s never won big in the NBA in a role other than complementary player.
Merging Melo: Long past being a scoring machine, Carmelo Anthony now joins James Harden and Chris Paul in Houston, as the Rockets look to challenge the Golden State Warriors in the West. Is Anthony ready to accept a supporting role to maximize his chances of winning big? He did so during the Olympics, so there’s some supporting evidence.
The Lake Show: Rounding up some veterans on the quick to surround James as a Laker led to the signings of Rajon Rondo and Lance Stephenson. It sure won’t be boring, but the best way to platform a roster around LeBron is with great shooters.
A long, cold winter? Things got so out of hand with the yelling and cussing Wednesday, when Jimmy Butler returned to practice with the Minnesota Timberwolves, that the team canceled practice Thursday. Seems like the Wolves need closure on this sooner than later.
Long, cold winter, Part II: Granted, Kawhi Leonard isn’t a particularly boisterous guy in general, but the pictures when he arrived in Toronto following the trade from San Antonio could have been of a hostage situation. If the Raptors can convince him to stay beyond this season, it will be one of the great recruiting jobs in league history.
Pop quiz: The surest thing in recent memory about the NBA was the Spurs reaching the playoffs. Coach Gregg Popovich has been blessed with so much talent and so much character on that roster. The preseason injuries to Dejounte Murray and rookie Lonnie Walker will be tough to overcome for a team in transition.
If he only had a shot: Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons is a physical force in basketball the way Herschel Walker once was in football. But until Simmons develops some shooting range, there is a big hole in his game. Fortunately, shooting is the thing most fixable in a pro (not always, but frequently).
It’s (not always) good to be King: The Kings now have the new arena with all the revenue-generating extras. Time to reward one of the NBA’s most loyal, patient fan bases.
Labor pains: Next summer is a potential big one for free agency (including the Hornets’ Kemba Walker). How that plays out will have effects short-term and long-term, including how strenuously Commissioner Adam Silver eventually pushes for a harder salary cap.