Last year, Kawhi Leonard's laugh became a major talking point at the Toronto Raptors' media day, and he finished the 2018-19 season able to mock himself with the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
This year, recognizable faces in new places will generate the buzz when players speak to the media before preseason action begins. Leonard should have the fans' attention again—this time with the Los Angeles Clippers alongside Paul George.
Still, the Los Angeles Lakers hold the biggest spotlight in the city.
Spectators can't wait to see LeBron James team up with new teammate Anthony Davis. General manager Rob Pelinka ditched the youth movement and decided to build a veteran roster around his star player; Kyle Kuzma needs to grow up fast with playoff expectations for the Purple and Gold.
The Lakers sent young core talent to the New Orleans Pelicans, with whom they will start new chapters alongside this year's No. 1 overall pick, Zion Williamson. What should we expect from the club that lost a star but acquired a load of potential?
How will ball-dominant guards James Harden and Russell Westbrook coexist in Houston? Who's going to step up for the Raptors following Leonard's departure?
Check out key dates below to track opening days for training camps and the start of preseason action.
Key NBA Dates and Schedules
Saturday, September 28: Training camps officially open for clubs that will play in the 2019 Preseason NBA Global Games. The Brooklyn Nets, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Lakers, Sacramento Kings and Toronto Raptors are in that group.
Monday, September 30: NBA preseason games begin for teams competing globally (Houston Rockets vs. Shanghai Sharks).
Tuesday, October 1: Training camps open for the other 24 NBA teams.
Friday, October 18: Preseason ends.
Tuesday, October 22: Regular season begins.
Full schedule via NBA.com.
Pascal Siakam Ascending After Kawhi Leonard's Departure from Toronto
Toronto celebrated its first NBA title for about three weeks before Leonard decided to sign with the Clippers. Danny Green, the Raptors' most reliable three-point shooter during the 2018-19 campaign (.455), inked a deal with the Lakers.
Head coach Nick Nurse must fill two voids on the wing. In the big picture, he's probably going to rely on Pascal Siakam to take another step forward in his third season. The 25-year-old earned Most Improved Player honors in the last term, averaging 16.9 points and 6.9 rebounds per outing while increasing his shooting range.
According to Frank Urbina of HoopsHype, a Western Conference coach suggested the Raptors should offer Siakam a max deal:
"With Toronto in the situation that they're in, no longer having Kawhi Leonard or Danny Green, Pascal Siakam may be a safe bet for them and they may want to give him a max extension to lock him up. I've been impressed with his development; he's improved into a highly, highly serviceable player who's very efficient and does a lot for that team."
That's an aggressive plan for a player who's still developing, but Siakam may soon become the new face of the Raptors. Guard Kyle Lowry is going into the final year of his deal and turns 34 in March.
James Harden, Russell Westbrook Join Forces in Houston
After the Oklahoma City Thunder traded George to the Clippers, general manager Sam Presti sent Westbrook to the Rockets in exchange for Chris Paul and protected first-round picks in 2024 and 2026—also pick swaps in 2021 and 2025.
Westbrook and Harden played together for three seasons in Oklahoma City before the team traded the latter to Houston, where he immediately became an All-Star.
Now much older, with MVP honors in their homes, they will attempt to push the Rockets over the hump. Houston has made seven consecutive trips to the postseason but only reached the conference finals twice and lost to the Golden State Warriors both times.
Eric Gordon, P.J. Tucker and Clint Capela will play supporting roles, but like with most of the top teams in the league, the Rockets' star power will determine their chances at a run for a title.
Westbrook and Harden let off some steam at the gym. Perhaps it's a prelude to their joint relentless attack on opponents in the upcoming season.
Harden's ability to play on and off the ball should allow Westbrook to seamlessly insert himself into the Rockets' lineup—much like Paul did two years ago.
2 Stars Align for the Los Angeles Lakers
LeBron James goes into the 2019-20 campaign following an unusual year in which his team didn't qualify for the playoffs; he suited up for the fewest games during a single campaign (55) because of a groin injury.
As James approaches 35, many are wondering whether he's headed toward a steady decline for the remainder of his career. The Lakers superstar made a post on Instagram to let critics know he hears their doubtful words.
Thanks to Pelinka, James isn't the only Lakers star who will attempt to bounce back from an injury-riddled 2018-19 season that ended without a playoff appearance. Last year, Anthony Davis played 56 games—a season low for the six-time All-Star.
Furthermore, James seems ready to somewhat step aside and allow his co-star to take the spotlight in Los Angeles, per Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.
"I've kind of been a focal-point player my whole career, especially in New Orleans," Davis said. "But first off, to have a guy like LeBron, someone of his caliber, go tell management and ownership and the coaches that he wants me to be the focal point is an honor."
Perhaps it's age or James coming to the realization that Davis could reach another level with more talent around him as the go-to guy on the floor. With that said, we will see James take over several games, especially if the Lakers reach the playoffs in the upcoming campaign.
A Fresh Look for the New Orleans Pelicans
One of the most intriguing NBA storylines doesn't involve a star duo or group of All-Stars. In fact, the Pelicans' starting nucleus will only feature one player, guard Jrue Holiday, with such an accolade.
On the other end of the Davis deal, New Orleans acquired Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart after taking Williamson with the No. 1 overall pick. Team president David Griffin made some shrewd offseason moves that heightened expectations of his squad in the West.
The hype around Williamson, combined with the fact that Ball and Ingram came into the league as No. 2 overall picks in their respective draft classes, has heightened expectations in New Orleans.
Griffin's 2019-20 outlook feeds into the win-now feel around the Pelicans. He spoke to Jake Fischer of SI.com's NBA Crossover about a plan and the DNA of his players.
"We don't have guys that are complacent champions," Griffin said. "We've got really f---ing hungry winners."
Griffin told Fischer he wants to make moves at the trade deadline as a buyer, which prompted him to say, "we're trying to win basketball games!"
The Pelicans don't seem like a team that's going to settle for a growth year with several new acquisitions, which also include forward Derrick Favors and sharpshooting guard JJ Redick. They could emerge as a sleeper team in April.