The mornings have been getting colder, the sun has been setting sooner, and sweater weather is upon us. Don’t look now, but the NBA season is officially here again.
It may feel like the Toronto Raptors walked away with the Larry O’Brien Trophy just yesterday, but there are more than a few reasons to get excited for the 2019-20 season. With the departure of Kevin Durant from the Warriors, Kawhi Leonard from the Raptors and others, the NBA landscape is open for the taking.
Thus, there are many franchises are primed to shock their opposition in 2019.
With the fourth-worst record in the Eastern Conference in 2018, the Atlanta Hawks were better than their 29-53 record. In fact, Atlanta has been silently piecing together one of the NBA’s brightest young rosters, full of upside and dynamic playmakers.
At the heart of the Hawks’ core, point guard Trae Young was a runner up for Rookie of the Year last season. He averaged 19.1 points per game, 8.1 assists per game, and exploded for the second half of the year. Paired with John Collins, who nearly doubled his scoring average from year one to two, Atlanta has a combo that it can build around for years to come as it proved to do in this past draft.
The Hawks were able to snag two top 10 talents in the 2019 NBA Draft, adding Virginia forward De’Andre Hunter and Duke forward Cam Reddish. Atlanta is a team that could see a drastic increase in wins over last season; it all depends on how well, and quickly, their young pieces can come together.
Losing an, arguably, top-five player in the NBA is never a good look for a franchise. Could the New Orleans Pelicans be better for it?
Anthony Davis forced his way out of New Orleans, being traded to the Lakers. In the process Los Angeles sent a treasure chest of assets, including Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and three first-round picks. One of those picks turned into Texas center Jaxson Hayes from the 2019 draft.
The irony is that the Pelicans were also fortunate enough to secure the first pick in the draft, landing Duke phenom Zion Williamson. Considering how New Orleans tied for the second-worst record in the West last season, the sky is the limit for this young roster. Improving on a 33-49 record isn’t as crazy of a bet as it may have looked immediately following the Davis’ trade.
Finally, another team from the West makes the cut. The other half of the second-worst record in their conference last season, Dallas looks to make a run in 2019.
Also finishing with a 33-49 record, owner Mark Cuban had to make a splash. That’s why he pulled the trigger on a trade, last season, that landed them Kristaps Porzingis from the Knicks. The “Unicorn” will be joined by 7-foot-4 Boban Marjanovic, Tim Hardaway Jr., Seth Curry and, most notably, the Rookie of the Year, Luka Doncic.
The Mavericks will have a reputable combination of length, young talent, veteran experience and potential heading into 2019. The Western Conference is no walk in the park, but Rick Carlisle has the pieces to surprise more than a few teams this season.
All in all, the NBA has the chance to be entirely different than it was a year ago – and that’s a good thing for the league.
Anthony Talarico can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Find him on Twitter @ant_tal.