There will be few players around the NBA capable of making a splash like 7-foot-5 center Victor Wembanyama. The once-dominant San Antonio Spurs had one of the worst seasons in franchise history last season. The Spurs were rewarded with good lottery odds and were able to select Wembanyama.
But there has been plenty of player movement since the Denver Nuggets captured the franchise’s first-ever NBA title last season. Now, with many players settled into new places, it is interesting to take a look at the NBA’s landscape as we get ready for the 2023-24 season.
Victor Wembanyama Tries to Restore Pride
The Spurs landing Victor Wembanyama feels suitable for San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich. The Spurs have missed the playoffs in four consecutive seasons and bottomed out after only winning 22 games last season. Popovich’s coaching career took over when Tim Duncan was chosen No. 1 overall by San Antonio in 1997.
Victor Wembanyama will need to do a lot to match Duncan’s success. Duncan helped San Antonio win five NBA titles. What Victor Wembanyama has going for him is that playing at the professional level shouldn’t spook him. He spent three years playing professionally in France. Coming into the league with a rebuilding team should help him build solidarity with his teammates.
Paul Tries to Fit In With Golden State
Chris Paul has fit into many different systems in the NBA. Playing with Golden State this season may indicate that the Warriors may be changing their style of play a bit. Golden State previously had an up-and-down style that relied on ball movement and setting screens effectively to put up points with strong 3-point shooting.
The problem for the Warriors is that Golden State is getting older. Steph Curry still looks good and helped carry the Warriors to a series win over Sacramento in the first round last season. Golden State struggled in the next round against the Lakers. Klay Thompson struggled last season for Golden State. The Warriors need to develop more big men to support the guards if they are going to win games.
Beal Ready to Show What He Can Do
Bradley Beal didn’t often get an opportunity to show what he could do on the playoff stage as a guard for the Washington Wizards. During 11 seasons in Washington, Beal only played in 45 playoff games and averaged 23.5 points per game. Now, Beal will try to navigate how to play in an offense without a true point guard alongside Kevin Durant and Devin Booker.
What will be excellent for Beal is that he doesn’t have to carry the scoring load for Phoenix. Durant and Booker will be counted on to lead the team. Beal will need to be healthy for the Suns. Beal hasn’t played more than 60 games since the 2018-19 season.
Harden’s Motivation Will Make for Entertaining Theater
The Philadelphia 76ers didn’t honor James Harden’s wish to be dealt to another franchise. Harden is seeking a new contract and didn’t feel the numbers would work out in Philadelphia. Expect Harden to attempt to force his way out and land somewhere else.
Getting that done won’t be easy for Harden, who has developed a reputation as a diva but also isn’t as productive as he’s been in the past. Harden can be counted on to put up more than 20 points per game, but he doesn’t have the same shooting touch he had during his peak seasons in Houston. New Philadelphia coach Nick Nurse has his work cut out to try and get this team past the second round.
Brandon Miller Tries to Right Charlotte’s Ship
LaMelo Ball had the Hornets looking two seasons ago like they would be the next big thing. However, Ball was slowed by injuries last season, and the team cratered. Charlotte was willing to look past Alabama product Brandon Miller’s involvement in an off-court controversy to bring him on board.
Miller lent his friend a gun last year, and it was later used in a murder on the Alabama campus. While Miller wasn’t charged in the incident, he faced a lot of scrutiny from opposing fan bases and the media. Miller, a 6-foot-9 forward, showed that he was capable of big things in college. Miller averaged 18.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 2.1 assists for Alabama and was bounced into the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
Henderson Takes New Age Route to NBA
Scoot Henderson didn’t want to go the college route when coming out of high school in Georgia. Instead, the 6-2 guard decided to play for the NBA G League Ignite. During one season in the G League, Henderson scored 14.7 points per game and handed out 4.8 assists.
Getting drafted by Portland adds some more pressure on Henderson. Henderson may be asked to fill in for the role left by Damian Lillard if Portland can trade the start guard somewhere else around the league.
The 2023 draft showed teams placing less importance on college basketball — two international players, along with two players from Overtime Elite, were chosen in the top 10 along with Henderson.
Gay Reunites with Old Coach
Former Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder took over as the Atlanta Hawks coach last season. With a new offseason to remake the roster with his input, the Hawks have already brought in one of Snyder’s former players, veteran forward Rudy Gay. Atlanta dealt away John Hollins, a previously highly-thought-of player in Atlanta, to bring him aboard.
While Gay isn’t young, at 37, he could be an essential veteran voice for Atlanta. Fiery guard Trae Young leads the Hawks and could use someone with more experience to take some of the onus off Young to be focused on being the leader all the time.
The Hawks are looking to take a step forward to being a legitimate title contender. While this move didn’t put Atlanta over the top, Gay should bring valuable experience.