Ranking the Most Anticipated NBA Star Debuts of the 2013-14 Season
Who doesn't love something new?
Fortunately, the NBA will be providing us fans with plenty of novel experiences during the 2013-14 season. We'll see stars break out and start to decline. New teams will rise to the top of the league, and others will slowly begin to slide down into the cellar.
Plus, at the beginning of the year, we'll get to see stars making their debuts in bunches. But as exciting as it is to watch someone like LeBron James open his newest tour of dominance in thrilling fashion, there can be just as much anticipation for seeing an old face in a new place.
Those are the types of debuts that populate these rankings as we count down to the star debut that you simply can't miss.
Get your DVR ready. There's a lot you'll simply have to watch in order to keep up with the festivities.
Honorable Mentions: The Injured Players
We're keeping players returning from big injuries in a separate category, as the purpose of these rankings is to highlight the stars who are wearing new uniforms for their season debuts.
But, of course, there are a few prominent players whom you'd undoubtedly be wondering about, so we're covering them here. Below you can find the five most anticipated returns from injury, along with a list of other notable players who fit into this category.
5. Andrew Bynum, Cleveland Cavaliers
4. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
It'll be a breath of fresh air for Thunder fans when their star point guard returns to action after undergoing arthroscopic surgery to repair a loose stick pushed back his expected debut.
That first explosive dunk will be greeted with so many cheers that the Chesapeake Energy Arena might need to have some repairs done.
3. Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics
Rondo hasn't missed enough time to challenge the top two here, but he's still in a class well above everyone else.
After witnessing Avery Bradley playing point guard and Jeff Green serving as the team's best player throughout the start of the season, Boston fans might be begging for Rondo to come back and play on one leg.
2. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers just won't be the same until the Mamba is back in action.
There's been plenty of speculation about when he'll return, but no one is certain yet. Here's hoping that when he's ready to go, he doesn't even announce his plans and just steps onto the court after warm-ups to surprise everyone.
1. Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
This should be pretty obvious.
Derrick Rose is a former MVP, one of the most popular players in the NBA and a point guard capable of pushing the Chicago Bulls past the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference. And he's sat out for an entire season.
Forget about the roof repairs that the Chesapeake Energy Arena would need when Westbrook dunks at home. Bulls fans might end up blowing the roof entirely free from the United Center when Rose's name is announced for the home opener.
Others worth mentioning: Lou Williams, Atlanta Hawks; Danilo Gallinari, Denver Nuggets; Brandon Jennings, Detroit Pistons; J.R. Smith, New York Knicks; Trey Burke, Utah Jazz
7. The New Backcourt Stud in the Desert
Debut: Oct. 30 vs. Portland Trail Blazers
Eric Bledsoe thrilled captive audiences whenever he came off the bench for the Los Angeles Clippers, but he was never really the reason that anyone visited the Staples Center. He was a luxury, the icing on top of an already delicious cake that featured Blake Griffin and Chris Paul as the main ingredients.
Bledsoe is the main attraction for the Phoenix Suns, and he'll prove that his "Mini LeBron" moniker is worth using even when he's playing much larger stretches of the game. Bledsoe is a sensational athlete, and that's translated into a starting job alongside Goran Dragic, with whom he's enjoyed much success throughout the postseason.
There will be struggles along his path to stardom, but you won't want to miss his first game as a Sun. He and Damian Lillard will provide quite a few highlights, and Bledsoe will be so motivated to impress his new fans that he might throw down a dunk or two that makes it onto SportsCenter.
6. Monta Have It All
Debut: Oct. 30 vs. Atlanta Hawks
In the past, Monta Ellis had it all. He even said so himself!
But he can't have it all with the Dallas Mavericks. If he does, that'll be a disaster, as Dirk Nowitzki must continue to be the best offensive player and top scorer for the team.
Instead, Ellis needs to shift his mentality, becoming more of a pass-first player instead of a guy who looks to shoot as the No. 1 and No. 2 option. He's done a nice job of this throughout the preseason, but he's still far too prone to pulling up from beyond the three-point arc and clanging a shot off the rim.
Shooting 30 percent from downtown is not acceptable.
From the very first game, an inter-conference showdown with the Atlanta Hawks, Ellis will be changing his style of play, and it's going to be fascinating to watch. He can single-handedly control whether this team overachieves or flops its way to a better set of odds in the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes.
And if the latter ends up becoming a reality, Monta Ellis have all the splinters on the bench stuck in his rear end.
5. Iguodunkas by the Bay
Debut: Oct. 30 vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Andre Iguodala is a fairly known commodity at this point in his career, but that doesn't make him any less exciting.
Now playing for his third team—he began his career with the Philadelphia 76ers and played a season with the Denver Nuggets—Iggy is set to impress a whole new set of fans with his trademark versatility and breath-taking athleticism.
It's almost guaranteed that at some point during a game, he'll make a pass that convinces you he's a point guard before he throws down a monstrous slam dunk that reaffirms his status as a swingman once and for all.
Trust me, it's just about inevitable.
Iguodala is an established star playing for a contending team, but he can't rank any higher because he isn't really the main reason fans are coming to games. As long as Stephen Curry is suiting up for the Dubs, he'll still be the man whose name you see in the crowd most often.
4. The Bayou Ball-Handlers
Debut: Oct. 30 vs. Indiana Pacers
It's a two-for-one special here, as both Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans will be debuting with the New Orleans Pelicans in a tough battle against one of the Eastern Conference's elite teams.
I've tried to avoid letting the matchups impact the rankings much, but it's hard not to get excited about seeing these new additions go to work against one of the most suffocating teams in basketball. The Pacers allowed only 99.8 points per 100 possessions last season, courtesy of Basketball-Reference, and that made them the only team in the NBA that avoided triple figures.
Holiday and Evans are hoping to blend in seamlessly with the rest of a talented starting lineup, one that will also feature Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis, who has to be considered one of the preseason MVPs.
Can they accept sharing the ball? Will Holiday take control and average nearly a dozen assists per game? Has Evans developed a jumper? Are the Pelicans a playoff-caliber squad?
We'll start getting the answers to all of these questions and more right before Halloween is upon us.
3. Will Everything Run Smoove in the Motor City?
Debut: Oct. 30 vs. Washington Wizards
So far, adding Josh Smith into a mix that already included Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe hasn't been very successful. That will be aided by Brandon Jennings' eventual return to the lineup—albeit with less wisdom—but Monroe has struggled without the benefit of much floor spacing.
Drummond has continued to look like a breakout candidate while Smoove hits shots from everywhere on the floor, but the other big man just hasn't been able to find the bottom of the net with any semblance of consistency.
That could change in the regular season after a little more tinkering during the week leading up to the opener against the Washington Wizards. And regardless, fans will still be thrilled to see Smith suiting up for the first time.
The uber-athletic forward has spent his entire career with the Atlanta Hawks, and no one did a better job of helping Philips Arena live up to its "Highlight Factory" nickname. No such nicknames exist for The Palace, but maybe they will after Smith makes it a constant presence on SportsCenter.
2. The Brooklyn Duo
Debut: Oct. 30 at Cleveland Cavaliers
Did you ever think you'd see Kevin Garnett in a uniform other than the ones belonging to either the Minnesota Timberwolves or Boston Celtics?
Even though he spent only a few years of his stellar career in Beantown, he truly became a member of the C's. KG was undoubtedly part of that special group of players whom you just couldn't imagine wearing different colors, and it seemed far more likely that he'd retire before going anywhere else.
Did you ever think you'd see Paul Pierce in a uniform other than the one belonging to the Boston Celtics?
That should be even more of a definitive "no," as The Truth has spent his entire career in Boston and emerged as one of the greatest—and most popular—players in the franchise's storied history.
And yet, here we are.
Both Pierce and Garnett are going to play for a different team.
Boston fans may end up crying. Brooklyn supporters will rejoice. The rest of us are just going to feel strange.
1. Dwight Howard Part 3
Debut: Oct. 30 vs. Charlotte Bobcats
Yep, the Charlotte Bobcats are part of the most-anticipated debut in the NBA this season. Just don't tell them they aren't the main attraction, as that franchise desperately needs something to feel happy about.
It all revolves around Dwight Howard, just as it always seems to do.
D12 was the main star of the offseason for each of the past two summers, dragging out his free-agency decisions until they became "Dwightmares." His debut with the Los Angeles Lakers was a huge event, and his first real game playing alongside James Harden for the Houston Rockets will be quite similar.
I mean, his first preseason game was a big enough event, even though it wasn't nationally televised. Just look at how much interest his first three quarters as a Rocket drew.
The rest of the stars debuting in new locations around the Association will all draw lots of hype, but nothing will be covered ad nauseum like D12's first game in Rocket red. He'll be feeling lots of pressure, but this is the first chance for him to change public perception and start to get back in the average fan's good graces.
Simple as it may be, torching Al Jefferson and Cody Zeller would be a great start on his path to both redemption and an NBA title.