Wednesday 13 December 2017 / 06:07 PM

NBA 2017/18 SEASON PREVIEW: OLD FACES, NEW PLACES

The recruits and additions that will have a major impact on the trajectory of their franchises this season.

Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving (Celtics)

Boston’s return to the top of the mountain has been downright incredible, their most recent off-season the crown jewel of one of the finest rebuilds in sports. General Manager Danny Ainge holds his cards tight to acquire stars, and he managed to pick up two of them here.

Hayward is the perfect glue guy: a flawless game that makes him among the most adaptable elite players in the game (seriously, pick out a flaw). He and coach Stevens’ relationship was a big factor in his recruitment, but it’s even more of a perk once they go to battle together for the first time in nearly a decade. His versatility on both ends of the court opens plenty of options, and his sturdy playmaking should make him the perfect foil for his new superstar teammate.

There remains a somewhat mixed opinion on just how good Kyrie Irving is, but his scoring prowess isn’t up for debate. With plenty of capable ball-handlers, Irving should be freed up to pick and choose the areas that best suit his game and attack in the ‘head of the snake’ role that Tony Parker perfected in his peak years at San Antonio. If he finds his feet, matching Isaiah Thomas’ huge production seems like a reasonable expectation.

Also, don’t ignore the potential impact fellow recruit Marcus Morris could have, especially on the switch-y, small-ball lineups available to Stevens.

Avery Bradley (Pistons)

A fascinating gamble on Detroit’s behalf, cashing in on the Celtics’ cap manoeuvring and picking up a useful player in Bradley. Immediately, he helps shore up their perimeter defence, and will fill virtually the same role he excelled in for Boston last season, locking down opposing point guards for the less-able Reggie Jackson.

Offensively, his requirements will be simplified to floor spacer, more or less due to the awkward fit and lack of spacing throughout the rest of the roster. Whilst that may be marginalising his many talents, his constant darting off-ball movements and cutting ability offer something the Pistons haven’t had since Rip Hamilton hung up the face mask years ago. Whether they can keep him past this season remains the biggest outcome.

Omri Casspi (Warriors)

This is a move that’s seemed equally inevitable and desirable for years, for both parties. It would be remiss to not point out the mistake the entire league made — especially the Pelicans — in leaving Casspi available for the reigning champs to scoop up on the cheap.

From a fit perspective, this one’s a dream: Casspi is an underrated 3-and-D contributor, happy to play off the ball and feed on open space, whether that be via open jumpers or sharps cuts. An intelligent player who rarely oversteps his mark, he’ll make a welcome addition to the Warriors’ rotation, and expect plenty of minutes for him as they rest guys and blow out majority of their games. Don’t sleep on his range – he’s always happy to bomb from deep, so he’ll fit right in.

Brook Lopez (Lakers)

The Lakers are going to suck defensively – don’t even think twice about it – but their offence is going to be a fun watch. Walton is a silky tactician who did about as well as he could with the weapons at his disposal last season.

Lonzo Ball is a fun piece, but the best player they brought in is the big man from Brooklyn, with his fresh 3-point range and ability to feed smaller defenders in the post making him an impossible cover for even the best defenders at his potion. Emerging from basketball purgatory, Lopez will surprise plenty.

JJ Redick (76ers)

The process for the Sixers was primarily focused on developing and realising potential franchise stars, but additions needed to be made in the name of progress, and adding veteran Redick to the roster is a giant leap forward.

His value as one of the most heralded hard-workers and characters active in the league is a huge aid to continuing to build towards a winning culture in Philadelphia. Having been through both the struggling cellar-dweller in Orlando and perennial playoff contender in LA, his experience covers the entire spectrum. That’s before we even get into his on-court production, one of the finest floor spacers in the game.

Paul George and Carmelo Anthony (Thunder)

An obvious talent upgrade for the Thunder, and ideal fits together — hypothetically at least — but I’m not as certain on the personalities meshing over the course of the season. Russell Westbrook is barely removed from the highest usage rate ever and growling teammates for missing shots, Melo has a career’s worth of whining in the books and PG hung his teammate out to dry after missing an open shot in the playoffs – not for the miss but for not passing the ball back despite PG being double-teamed.

Their playing styles should come together fine, but after the initial glow wears off, we need more reason to believe the egos won’t be a problem. A pessimistic take no doubt, but you’ve been warned. If they managed to sidestep that hurdle, they’re a sneaky contender out west and rival Houston as Golden State’s primary competition.

Rudy Gay (Spurs)

Historically refused to play power-forward, but that’s where his minutes, and advantages, now lie on the Spurs. Most of the intrigue lies around how quickly Gay, a noted ball-stopper, buys into the Spurs’ system that has managed to bring the best out of his mould of player for years. Of course, questions about his health, and how much of his previously springy athleticism remain after his season-ending ACL tear.

PJ Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute (Rockets)

Enough has been made about the momentous Chris Paul acquisition, but the Rockets added some integral pieces and much-needed depth on the wings with two bulldogs in Tucker and MAM. This will allow them to supplement Trevor Ariza at the 3, whilst opening up small-ball options that will be available for essentially the whole game.

Their defensive acumen is a welcomed addition, now leaving them with three legitimately competent perimeter defenders on the wings, ensuring this squad is built to compete with the league’s elite.

Jae Crowder (Cavaliers)

There were plenty of moves the Cavs made that we don’t like (and that was before the Jeff Green addition), but picking up Crowder in the Kyrie trade makes for a welcome and much-needed addition. Aside from his insanely valuable contract figure ($6 million a year – for THREE more years!), Crowder brings all the tools you want in a supplementary role player — gritty defence, game awareness, shooting and willingness to move the ball.

As a secondary benefit to his own talents, his arrival has shifted LeBron to the four, and subsequently Love to the five, which opens up the floor entirely. In the preseason already, we’ve seen Crowder wisely use the space to flash his combination of cutting and drive-and-kick that helps facilitate a flowing offence.

CJ Miles (Raptors)

The shooter the Raptors need, especially in losing Pat Patterson. A nice back-up option if Norman Powell doesn’t click. Provides Dwayne Casey an option he clearly lacked in their previous two playoffs runs — a rotation piece to play alongside Lowry and DeRozan to space the floor, and more specifically play off-ball when they go to lineups that features only one of their stars.

An under-the-radar signing that could go a long way to aiding the Raptor’s quest to maintain their success.

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About the author

Brayden Issa

Brayden is a Sydney-based sports management student and sports fanatic, specialising in rugby league, basketball, football and cricket. He is concerned with everything related to professional sports performance and management.

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