Here are the 10 most intriguing -- not necessarily the best -- players who will create buzz and possibly impact the basketball culture this season:
Kristaps Porzingis, Dallas Mavericks: He has played 48 games the last two seasons -- none last season -- after his knee injury and rehab. Curiously, he now attempts to recapture the “unicorn” impact in Dallas, where he was considered The Next Dirk before the injury. Now more chiseled and healthy, Porzingis plus Luka Doncic hopes to give Dallas a championship-quality duo for the future.
Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat: Only Butler would bail on a title favorite (Philly) to join a club (Miami) that’s not exactly in the hunt, because Butler thinks that much of his ability to transform a franchise. That’s a tough proposition, but Butler seems happy and motivated to follow in the footsteps of his mentor, Dwyane Wade. Will the process give him the superstar status he craves, or merely frustrate him again?
Kyrie Irving, Brookyn Nets: Tarnished by a deflating experience in Boston last season, Irving seeks higher ground and redemption in Brooklyn, and if he can energize the Nets while Kevin Durant heals up, he might get it. His first game back in Boston will be worth watching.
Chris Paul, Oklahoma City Thunder: He’s saying all the right things now being in Oklahoma City, but if you put his hand on a Bible or fed him truth serum, what might he reveal? Basically, Paul and OKC know, deep down, that he’s better off elsewhere at this stage of his career, so there will be drama between now and the trade deadline. He’s still a solid point guard but oh man, that contract.
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors: A 40-point game in the preseason seems to be the prelude of what’s coming from the two-time MVP, who’ll have the green light flashing all night until Klay Thompson returns from injury. And that may not happen until after the All-Star break if at all this season.
Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers: He’s now in a good place, geographically and otherwise, now that he’s with a team of his choosing. Kawhi seems healthy and settled and equipped to take the Clippers places they’ve never been before, and may give himself what he lacks: A regular-season MVP.
LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers: Here on the verge of turning 35, he’s embarking on the Forgot About Me tour, where he reminds folks how he ruled the league until the groin injury shortened his debut season in Los Angeles and forced him to miss the playoffs. Amped with the addition of Anthony Davis, LeBron is focused on seizing the opportunity to grab another title before his time runs out.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks: Is this the year he shows complete confidence in his jump shot and does a full league takeover? Because that, and a championship, is all he’s missing. Oh, and when’s the countdown on his re-signing in Milwaukee begin?
Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans: Fresh off a sensational exhibition season, the Zion Experience should play to sellout crowds and raised expectations for a franchise all but left for dead just six months ago. Weak defenders and unstable rims should beware of what’s coming.
Mitchell Robinson: The Knicks haven't had an intriguing young player under their control since Porzingis was around, and that didn't end well. They're trying again with Robinson, the springy 21-year-old seven footer who represents the club's future and New York's best hope to achieve a degree of respectability. For that to happen, Robinson must make the All-Defensive team and develop a go-to move good enough for the Knicks to call his number often.
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