The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

Big Headlines Emerge as the NBA Returns to the Court

The 2023-24 NBA season is upon us. A new year brings us untested rookies and aging veterans, hated superteams and beloved underdogs, reigning champions and emerging competitors; there are a lot of storylines to follow. Here are five of the biggest ones:

Wemby’s Arrival

After years of exciting mixtapes, interviews and anticipation, comparable to the 2003 arrival of LeBron James, Victor “Wemby” Wembanyama – the 7’4″, 19-year-old French rookie – has finally made it to the big stage. 

He looked great in his four preseason games, averaging 19.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.8 blocks – despite playing an average of only 21 minutes per game.

During preseason play, NBA fans got a firsthand glimpse of the elements that make Wemby’s game so special: his casual three point shot, his surprisingly smooth handle of the ball, his otherworldly shot-blocking ability (including a superhuman one on Andrew Wiggins) and some smooth assists that reflected his court vision and basketball IQ.

The arrival of Wemby is exciting for a few reasons. For one, the San Antonio Spurs have missed the playoffs for four straight seasons after having a streak of 22 consecutive playoff appearances prior to their slide. With Wemby and other additions like Cameron Payne and Cedi Osman, the Spurs might finally have a chance to sneak back into the playoffs.

What is perhaps most exciting about the arrival of Wemby is his potential to be a superstar. His height and wingspan, his shooting and handling abilities and his defensive prowess could very quickly elevate him to become one of the best players in the NBA. If he is able to stay healthy and consistent, time and experience could see him rise to the level of the greats. This is what really gets fans going – the idea that they might be watching the genesis of a generational superstar. 

LeBron’s Quest for One More Ring

LeBron James, now 38 years old, is the oldest active player in the NBA. One might expect “The King” to be slowing down, scoring less and dealing with the other unfortunate byproducts that come with age, but James averaged 28.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game last season, surpassing his point and rebound career averages and nearly matching his career assist average. James is, by and large, the most resilient, durable and consistent player the NBA – and perhaps any sport – has ever seen.

For the aging James, the focus is all on winning now, and the Los Angeles Lakers team he looks to do that with has a lot of promise. They added Christian Wood and Taurean Prince over the offseason, re-signed the scrappy trio of Austin Reaves, D’Angelo Russell and Rui Hachimura and also extended star Anthony Davis’ contract. 

It certainly seems as though the Lakers have improved since getting swept by the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals last year, but James and Davis will both need to remain healthy and productive to keep the team at the top of the conference. In the past, that has been a big question mark: both of the stars missed significant time last season due to injuries. However, if they can stay healthy, perhaps James can make one more title run before his career comes to a close.

The Giannis and Dame Show

Giannis Antetokounmpo has never played with another superstar, and he won a ring regardless back in 2021. Now, he gets to play with recently-acquired Damian Lillard – one of the best players in the game. The Milwaukee Bucks are going to be a scary opponent this year.

Acquiring Lillard wasn’t cheap: among many important but smaller set pieces, the Bucks had to give up the always-underrated Jrue Holiday, who put up close to 20 points per game last season. Holiday is also a 3x All-Defensive First Team selection, so his departure is going to be especially felt on the defensive side of things. 

Lillard is, undoubtedly, going to be a big-impact player for the Bucks – especially on offense. In his previous 11 seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers, he averaged 25.2 points, 6.7 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game. He has graced basketball fans with numerous buzzer beaters, staggering poster dunks (incredible, considering he stands at just 6’2″) and a 71-point masterpiece against the Rockets in February of last year that will go down as one of the all-time offensive performances from a point guard.

Despite Lillard’s incredible performance as an individual player, the Blazers never made it to the NBA finals. The furthest they got were the Western Conference Finals in 2018-19, when they were quickly swept by the Golden State Warriors. Now, though, Lillard and the Bucks are one of the favorites to win the Eastern Conference. 

It will be fun to see how Antetokounmpo and Lillard play together. Ideally, they learn to work with and benefit from each other’s talents rather than fighting for possessions like we have seen from other superstar duos. It will take some time for the two to learn how to share the ball and the court, but, if they can figure it out, this Bucks team will be incredibly dangerous down the stretch.

The Revamped Celtics

The Boston Celtics – despite having superstars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown for numerous seasons – have not won a title since 2008. They came close in 2022, when they lost to the Warriors in six games, but they are still hunting for that ring.

Over the offseason, the Celtics made two big moves in acquiring Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday, both of whom are top 50 scorers in the league.

Porzingis – who has bounced around from the New York Knicks, to the Dallas Mavericks, to the Washington Wizards, while also dealing with several injuries over the years – is still a great addition. Last season on the Wizards, he quietly averaged 23.3 points and 8.4 rebounds per game – 21st and 26th in the NBA, respectively.

Porzingis is also a threat beyond the arc – something that is particularly special considering his 7’2″ frame. He is solid on the defensive end, averaging 1.8 blocks per game over his career.

Jrue Holiday adds even more talent to this already stacked Celtics team. He is a proven scorer, averaging 16.4 points per game across his 14-season career, and an elite defender. With quick hands and feet and an elite basketball IQ, there is a reason that he’s averaged 1.5 steals per game across his career and been elected to the All-Defensive First Team three separate times.

The addition of Porzingis and Holiday make the Celtics one of the frontrunners in the Eastern Conference along with the Bucks.

The Nuggets’ Title Defense

For the most part, this year’s Nuggets team looks very similar to the squad that dismantled the Miami Heat in five to win the championship last year: same superstars, same coach, same game plan. If anything, they are even more dangerous this season because they know what it takes to win. 

The Nuggets let Bruce Brown and Jeff Green go, but they also re-signed Reggie Jackson and added a few other role players, including Justin Holiday.

With more confidence, experience and swagger, the Nuggets are certainly one of the favorites in the West – the pressure to defend their title is on.

There are plenty of other big storylines heading into the new NBA season: the new in-season tournament, the James Harden drama in Philadelphia, the arrival of Chet Holmgren in OKC, the aging Warriors, the new Big Three in Phoenix – the list goes on. Regardless of the storylines you choose to follow, it’s clear that we are in for another electrifying season of basketball.

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