The NBA wrapped up their special, one-of-a-kind 2019-20 postseason bubble on Oct. 11. Now, just over two months later, the new season is already underway, while a host of players have debuted with new teams. From the obvious like Kevin Durant to the not-so-easy additions to championship contenders, there are loads of great faces in new places. But who has looked the best in their new threads?
Basketball Insiders is investigating the Best New Faces in New Places – so let’s get to it.
Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets
Kevin Durant isn’t technically on a new team, but this was his first time taking the floor for the Brooklyn Nets. Durant is a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and one of the best scorers the game of basketball has ever seen. The forward has not lost a step since tearing his Achilles in the 2019 NBA Finals for the Golden State Warriors and has looked just like he always has. The Nets completely changed the landscape of the NBA by getting Durant and Kyrie Irving, and the former could be in the MVP conversation this season if the Nets perform the way they have in their first three games. The former MVP brings an elite scoring option to Brooklyn, giving the Nets realistic title aspirations moving forward.
Chris Paul, Phoenix Suns
After a rocky-ending in Houston, Paul came into a young Oklahoma City Thunder team and led them to an unexpected fifth-seeded playoff berth. He averaged 17.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 6.7 assists per game last year, while also earning his 10th All-Star appearance, his first since the 2015-16 season. Paul is a nice addition to the Phoenix Suns as they have struggled to find a competent point guard to run their offense.
The future legend brings experienced veteran leadership and adds spacing to their offense, thus giving Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton more room to operate. The Suns went 8-0 in the bubble, showing the potential of this team under head coach Monty Williams. Expectations in Phoenix are higher this season with Paul now on the team, and Booker ascending as a lethal offensive threat. With the expansion of the playoffs this year, the Suns look poised for at least a play-in game – but potentially more.
Christian Wood, Houston Rockets
The Detroit Pistons agreed to send the 25-year old forward in a sign-and-trade with the Houston Rockets after a very solid season coming off the bench. Wood averaged 13.1 points with 6.3 rebounds per game while also averaging only 21.4 minutes. He shot the three at 38.6 percent for the season, but the thing that stands out about Wood’s season is his per 36 minutes numbers of 22 points and 10.6 rebounds, so it was obvious that Wood was poised for a starting position somewhere. With the Rockets’ future uncertain due to James Harden wanting out, Wood adds a legit scoring threat to the offense at the forward position.
In their first game of the season Rockets, fans got a glimpse of how important he will be to their success when he dropped 31 points and grabbed 13 boards with three assists. If Harden is to remain with the team, and alongside the newly-added John Wall and Wood, the Rockets should be among the top teams in the Western Conference once again.
Dennis Schroder + Montrezl Harrell, Los Angeles Lakers
The acquisitions of Schroder and Harrell were understandably huge for the reigning NBA Finals Champions in Los Angeles. Schroder has been a serviceable point guard throughout his seven-year career to this point by averaging 14.1 points and 4.6 assists per game.
Even better, Schroder and Harrell should be very good at running the pick-and-roll together, giving the Lakers another good scoring tandem. Harrell did not have to travel very far in his free agency move to sign with the Lakers, signing a two-year, $19 million deal to join the champs after winning Sixth Man of the Year with the Clippers.
The Lakers are your defending champions and likely got a little stronger this fall – how is that fair?
Bogdan Bogdanovic + Danilo Gallinari, Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks made it clear that they are trying to build a playoff roster around their star, Trae Young. Bringing in the two international stars in Bogdanovic and Gallinari adds spacing and three-point shooting to a team that struggled from range last year. The Hawks shot the three-ball at the worst percentage in the NBA in 2020 and finished their shortened season at 33.3 percent. Bogdanovic and Gallinari are 37.2 and 38.0 percent shooters from deep, respectively, for their careers, so they should be great shooting options for Young to look for on the floor.
The pair own some incredible positional versatility too, allowing the Hawks to get different and stronger looks on offense depending on the mismatches. Suddenly, Atlanta is dangerous.
Josh Richardson, Dallas Mavericks
The Mavericks shipped Seth Curry to the Sixers to acquire the 3 -and-D specialist in Richardson. Dallas did lose their best shooter with Curry, but Richardson is a consistent shooter from long-range and an even better defender. Richardson is known around the league for his defense, so it’s a clear upgrade for a Mavericks side that ranked 18th with a 112.53 defensive rating. Richardson has looked like a very good piece for Dallas, and he’s already averaging 16.7 points per game and had the second-highest scoring total on the team during their nationally-televised beatdown of the Los Angeles Clippers. With Richardson in the mix, the Mavericks are going to be much better on defense as they attempt to rise higher in the Western Conference standings this season.
These players are going to play big roles on their new teams, and the question remains to be answered, will they help improve their new team from this past season? We did not see any major changes to the NBA landscape via superstars switching teams, but these players are going to be essential in their new roles. From Durant to Richardson, big and small changes can make all the difference – so are they ready to elevate their respective franchises?
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