10 NBA Star Debuts Every Fan Can't Wait to See in the 2013-14 Season
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So many prominent NBA players changed teams this summer, and their first games in new uniforms will be events.
The league's landscape changed drastically this summer, separating teams into three tiers. There are the stacked contenders, the shameless tankers and a surprisingly entertaining middle class filled with squads whose performances will hinge on a few big names.
Right now, all these changes are abstract; we see the changed rosters, but we won't have a real sense of how the on-court product will look until the stars get back on the court. In the meantime, all we can do is hype their return to play.
On a scale of 1-10, with one being minimal anticipation and 10 being national news, let's rank the most anticipated debuts.
10. Monta Ellis
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The advanced stats community has destroyed Monta Ellis' reputation, though he certainly helped their cause. He's a notorious volume shooter and an atrocious defender, making him one of the least efficient players in the league.
However, he also has averaged over 20 points per game four times, and he has done so while shooting around the 45-percent range and even as high as 53 percent. It's risky, but put the ball in Monta's hands, and he is capable of great things.
That's why pairing him with Dirk Nowitzki on the Dallas Mavericks is so perversely exciting.
Dallas could be a train wreck in 2013-14; between Dirk, Monta and Jose Calderon, its three best players are all offense and no defense, yet the Mavs also won't tire teams out with up-tempo play. They could win or lose by double digits to anyone in the NBA and it wouldn't be that surprising.
The addition of Ellis doesn't push Dallas past the fringe of the Western Conference playoff picture, so no one will be waiting with bated breath to see him there. But it will be exciting if you're paying attention.
Hype Meter: 4.0
8. Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans (tie)
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Anthony Davis now has a backcourt to work with.
Even more surprising than Anthony Bennett going first overall in the 2013 NBA draft was the New Orleans Pelicans' trade for Jrue Holiday. The new-look New Orleans franchise seemed years away from the postseason prior to that move, but it's clear that the Pellies are aiming higher.
Between Holiday and fellow addition Tyreke Evans, New Orleans now has a surplus of combo guards.
Holiday can run the point well and finished fourth in assists last season; he is also 6'4" and is at his best with the ball in his hands. Pairing him with a former point guard in Evans and a smallish wing in Eric Gordon should greatly improve the Pelicans on both ends, though they will probably turn the ball over in bunches.
All three tweeners are very good, but by no means great players. They'll certainly help Anthony Davis' development, but in the stacked West, they might not lift New Orleans into playoff contention quite yet. Until those expectations become realistic, most of the hype will be for the future.
Hype Meter: 4.5
7. Andre Iguodala
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Andre Iguodala is a better player than most of the guys ahead of him on this list; he's just less interesting.
That's what happens when you're the best role player in the league.
Iguodala is bringing lockdown defense and a selfless brand of offense to the Golden State Warriors, but that hasn't garnered him too much attention over his nine-year career.
When it comes to the Dubs, the focus will always be on Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and the endless barrage of threes. Their new star made his name with his multifaceted game, but the one area he struggles is shooting beyond the arc.
Even so, the exhilaration in the Bay Area is less about Iguodala as a player and more about what he means to the organization. Adding him signaled the Warriors are serious about contending for a title now. That will make Golden State's first game big; true to form, Iguodala will have a quieter impact.
Hype Meter: 5.5
6. Andrew Bynum
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This one is two years in the making, and we still don't know when it will be.
Apologies to Philadelphia 76ers fans who were deprived of Andrew Bynum's 2012-13 debut, but there is still the potential that he will blossom as a great center as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Last time he was remotely healthy, Bynum averaged 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds per game for a Los Angeles Lakers team built around Kobe Bryant. If Bynum can complement Kyrie Irving with that kind of ability, the Cavs will suddenly be much more dangerous.
Of course, that's a lot to ask of a guy with severe wear and tear on both of his knees. In all likelihood, Bynum will return a diminished player, and there's no guarantee how long he'll last before he gets hurt again.
All these confounding factors make Bynum the most intriguing player to change teams this offseason. His situation raises so many questions; the only way to learn the answers will be to watch.
Hype Meter: 7.5
4. Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings (tie)
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The Detroit Pistons might be messing with everyone's heads.
Signing Josh Smith was a pure talent move, since his fit is very questionable alongside Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe. Even if Monroe isn't in the long-term plans, the Pistons are going to spend some time going with all three bigs on the floor, meaning they'll win every physical battle and have nonexistent spacing.
That last issue is key for a team clearly doubling down on post scoring. Brandon Knight wasn't the point guard of the future in Detroit, but at least he could knock down threes. So naturally the Pistons dealt him for Brandon Jennings, another great athlete with an erratic jumper to pair with Smith.
So the Detroit roster has significantly more raw ability now than it did entering the offseason, but it remains unclear how that ability will be utilized on the court in any coherent manner.
However this plays out for the Pistons, it will be spectacular. Smith and Jennings are too explosive for any mundane alternative; they will either develop improbable synergy or be comically dysfunctional with no in between.
Hype Meter: 8.0
2. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett (tie)
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Yes, the two new Nets will be a combined 73-years old when the season starts, but they are still among the better two-way players at their position. Pierce gives Brooklyn another shot maker on the wing to go along with Joe Johnson, while Garnett will ease the burden on Brook Lopez inside.
All five Nets starters are former All-Stars, but only Pierce and KG come with championship savvy and toughness. On top of that, the former Boston Celtics are reviled by New York Knicks faithful, bolstering the bad blood in the NBA's equivalent of the Subway Series.
With these additions, Brooklyn is the favorite to beat the Knicks out for the Atlantic Division title, putting the Nets in position to compete for the Eastern Conference crown. This organization already had marketing down; now it has the players to back up the branding.
Hype Meter: 9.0
1. Dwight Howard
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The Houston Rockets were already an exciting, sneakily potent playoff team last season. Now they have the best center alive and one of the most fascinating personalities in the NBA.
Dwight Howard was one of the most beloved players around before his Orlando Magic tenure was sullied by sulking and indecision. He squandered any remaining during his year with the Los Angeles Lakers, almost all of which was spent injured, bickering or both.
But even that baggage cannot overshadow Dwight's dominance. With the Lakers, he put up 17.1 points and led the league with 12.4 rebounds per game in what was clearly a down year for him. At full strength on a team more interested in playing to his strengths, he could be scary good again.
Think about his time with the Magic. With Howard and a bunch of shooters like Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis, Orlando advanced to the 2009 NBA Finals. In Houston, Howard will find himself as the lone big on the floor once again, only this time James Harden and Chandler Parsons will be on the perimeter.
At his best, Howard could make Houston the team to beat out West; at his worst, he could derail the chemistry the Rockets had in 2011-12. It won't likely be clear from the beginning of the schedule, but it will be compelling to watch from the opening tip.
Hype Meter: 9.5