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What (or who) will you be watching intently during the first 20 games of the season?
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Steve Aschburner: I’d be lying if I said anyone other than the New Orleans Pelicans and specifically Zion Williamson. Newness abounds in the NBA, but 20 games won’t be enough to evaluate most of it. That won’t stop a lot of us from formulating opinions and making quickie pronouncements about Harden and Westbrook in Houston, about the hobbled Warriors or the abandoned Raptors, about Leonard and George with the Clippers, and so on. But Williamson’s toe-dipping into NBA waters could be full of early surprises, even if we can’t lock in his future immediately, and the crowds in New Orleans and everywhere else the Pelicans play in the first 20 games will be primed to join in any fun. I’ll be honest and admit a little rooting interest, too, for a franchise that didn’t deserve to have its cornerstone guy tap out the way Anthony Davis did.
Shaun Powell: Love to see the early returns on the James Harden-Russell Westbrook combo in Houston. Do they mesh? Do they go overboard being too unselfish and sensitive about each other? Or do they click immediately and without much of a transition? Two superstars who need the ball are always tricky.
John Schuhmann: With all the player movement from this summer, the answer is ... a lot! In the East, Philadelphia is at the top of the list, mostly to see if Ben Simmons will shoot a jumper, but also to see what kind of shape Joel Embiid is in, how much the offense changes with the departures of Jimmy Butler and J.J. Redick, and if the Sixers can be the best defensive team in the league. In the West, the Rockets, Clippers and Lakers will be fascinating, but Utah is also really intriguing. If Donovan Mitchell (with the help of Mike Conley) can break out offensively (and he has shown signs of just that in national team camp), the Jazz could be this year's Bucks (though they're coming from a better spot), taking the leap from playoff team to title contender with top-five potential on both ends of the floor.
Sekou Smith: We shouldn't be surprised if all eyes lock in on the power struggle in the revamped Western Conference, where as many as six teams (Clippers, Lakers, Nuggets, Rockets, Trail Blazers and Jazz) fancy themselves as legitimate championship contenders. But I'll have my focus on Kyrie Irving's adjustment (and start) to the season in Brooklyn, which I believe will be as fascinating to watch as anything in the early going. Without Kevin Durant available and a confident supporting cast ready for the next step in their evolution, Kyrie will have a ton of added pressure to make sure what happened in Boston last season doesn't repeat itself in Brooklyn.