The upcoming NBA campaign is set to be one of the most intriguing in a long time, given the early free-agency moves we’ve seen. As such, we take a look at some of the top players to watch next season
The Los Angeles Lakers have wasted little time stacking up, bringing the likes of Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony to the Staples Center. Westbrook, still one of the most explosive players around, is going into his 13th season in the league and will be desperate to win a championship as this may be his last opportunity to do so.
What’s interesting about him, though, is the fact that this will be a very different season in terms of dynamics. Known to be a ball-dominant player, there’s every chance that this might not work. It did not work with James Harden in Houston and he will have to defer to LeBron James and Anthony Davis in L.A. in order for him to win a ring. As to whether or not that will happen, NBA fans are already sharing their picks.
If anything, though, it’s going to make for a great story.
A hobbled James Harden was not enough to get the Brooklyn Nets past the Milwaukee Bucks last season yet Kevin Durant most certainly would have had his foot not been on the line when he drained the shot that should have sent them to the NBA finals.
Harden started last season with the Houston Rockets but, having demanded a move, forced his way to the Eastern Conference to join Durant and Kyrie Irving. As it turned out, the team lost another newcomer in LaMarcus Aldridge to retirement while Irving fell to injury. Harden got injured too and was forced to take the court as a shadow of himself.
The Bucks ended up in the finals and have since won their first championship in 50 years. But it was Harden who was tipped to win his first and the feeling is he would have done so had the Nets not found such poor luck with injuries. The team will hope to have everyone healthy as they gear up for another run at a title. Given that he doesn’t have a ring, Harden needs this more than Durant and Irving; all eyes will be on him come next term.
Kendrick Nunn’s NBA career is a great story. Coming into the NBA undrafted, the four-time state champion made quite the name for himself in Miami with the Heat, establishing himself as a starter last year before the season was derailed by COVID-19. Nunn contracted the virus himself and, by the time he returned to action, was clearly not himself and lost that starting role to Goran Dragic.
The point guard proved he wasn’t a one-season wonder this year, although his scoring average went down to 14.6 points from 15.3 points per contest. And, as it turns out, he’s already found his way out of Miami. The Heat rescinded their qualifying offer to the player on Tuesday, making him an unrestricted free agent. He’s since agreed to a two-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers and, while he will play second fiddle to Westbrook, his development could be pretty interesting to watch.
Kyle Lowry has joined the Heat on a three-year deal after spending the last nine years of his career with the Toronto Raptors. The guard will undoubtedly go down as Mr. Toronto after helping the team secure its first championship in 2019. Lowry is now set to play alongside one of his best friends in Jimmy Butler and is coming to one of the hardest working organizations in pro basketball.
The Heat parted ways with Goran Dragic and Precious Aichuwa to get the deal over the line and have also added P.J. Tucker to the mix. They are now very likely to be a contender in the East, especially if they add more pieces.
While Lowry is an upgrade on Dragic, there are doubts that he could be the difference-maker for the Heat. At least that’s the way ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith sees it. Lowry, though, is an accomplished point guard in the NBA and is one of the best in his position. The only thing he has going against him is age – he’s 35. He will be one of the players garnering the most interest in the wake of this move.
Chris Paul is coming off his first trip to the NBA Finals and will be sorely disappointed to have lost after helping his team go up 2-0 in the series. The Phoenix Suns are looking to run it back and it will be interesting to see how best they can make a push to return to the final hurdle.
Paul transformed this Suns team last season and has now committed his future to the team after opting out of his final year to sign a four-year deal. There’s every possibility of the Suns reaching the finals again and they will need Paul at his best to do so.