The 2019 NBA offseason has been arguably the craziest in history, as just about every major contender made a significant move this summer in the form of a free agent signing, trade, or both.
The league is going to look very different next year, and with that is an air of excitement for the regular season we haven’t had in recent year thanks to the ever present feeling that the outcome is, at least to an extent, predetermined. This year, there is no super team lording over either conference as the clear big boss, as the era of superteams has apparently given way to dynamic duos throughout the Association.
With so many new faces in new places, and with intrigue for the regular season at an all-time high, we decided to take stock of the most interesting player (or, in some cases, players) on each team entering the 2019-20 season. Some of these are big signings with something to prove, young players hopeful to take a leap into superstardom, or simply the player/players that have the most to prove to determine their future with that team.
We start in the Eastern Conference, where the reigning champs lost their top star, the reigning league MVP resides, and, much like a year ago, things feel wide open for the taking.
Atlanta: Trae Young
The Hawks are a very interesting young team as a whole, but the runner-up for last season’s Rookie of the Year award remains their player to watch this season. After early struggles, Young was spectacular offensively once the calendar flipped to 2019, and with more young pieces around him — and key veterans removed from the roster — it’s going to be a year where Young has to take a leap as a leader and player in 2019-20. He’s a dynamic playmaker and passer, and if he can be a more consistent shooter/scorer, he could have a special offensive season. The coaching staff wants better effort defensively and conditioning as they try to get him to 35 minutes per game, but Atlanta feels they have a star in the making.
Boston: Gordon Hayward
We can debate for days if the Celtics got any better by swapping out Kyrie Irving for Kemba Walker — Irving is better, but the apparent drama that consumed Boston because of him won’t exist with Walker around. What we cannot debate is that if Hayward plays up to the max contract he was handed by the team back in 2017, it’s quite possible the drop-off in productivity from Irving to Walker won’t matter. It’s been somewhat lost since he got injured, but Hayward is really, really good, a high-scoring, playmaking wing who gives Boston a second All-Star next to Walker (or, potentially, a third All-Star next to Walker and Jayson Tatum, should he make a leap). If he can’t be that post-injury, that’s fine, but there’s a reason the Celtics were at their best last year when Hayward looked like his old self.
Brooklyn: Caris LeVert
The narrative around the Nets all offseason was that they got two stars, one of whom probably won’t play this season. This means there is a window for someone to be the team’s second star this season and third star when Kevin Durant gets back, and no one fits that bill better than LeVert. Prior to his dislocated right foot last season, LeVert was on the verge of a monster year, averaging 18.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 1.2 steals in 29.7 minutes per game.