After the sizzle of free agency fades, teams must integrate new players into their respective organizational cultures. Oftentimes these players must come to grips with an entirely different role from years past. Of course, someone like LeBron James will be featured in the same manner in Los Angeles as he was in Cleveland. But for others, successfully adjusting to a new role will be a key driver in their franchise’s success next season.
Today we’ll look at five players in these situations, with three being future Hall of Famers:
Tony Parker, Point Guard, Charlotte Hornets
A four-time NBA champion who has started 1,151 out of 1,198 career regular season games, Parker heads to the Queen City as the backup to rising guard Kemba Walker. Parker, up until this point, had played his entire career in San Antonio, amassing almost 19,000 points in the process. But at 36, with questions swirling about how much he has left in the tank, Parker will suit up for the Hornets and attempt to help the squad get back into the playoffs. Last season was the first that Parker averaged less than 20 minutes of court time per game, which will likely be a similar workload if Walker remains healthy.
Dennis Schroder, Point Guard, Oklahoma City Thunder
Schroder became expendable when the Atlanta Hawks traded for the rights to guard Trae Young on draft night. There were already rumors regarding Schroder’s future with the organization after general manager Travis Schlenk came on board to lead the franchise, but the acquisition of Young and trade for veteran Jeremy Lin sealed the guard’s fate in Atlanta.
Schroder averaged 17.1 shots per game last season, but joins the Thunder with former league MVP Russell Westbrook and All-Star forward Paul George running the show. Schroder will likely serve in a high minute role off the bench in Oklahoma City, which is a considerably different role than he had in Atlanta the past two seasons where he routinely was among the team’s top offensive options.
Carmelo Anthony, Small Forward, Houston Rockets
The curious case of Carmelo Anthony continues. A future first-ballot Hall of Famer, Anthony has been criticized as of late for his unwillingness to accept a smaller role despite diminishing skills. Anthony never meshed in Oklahoma City with Westbrook and George and has stated numerous times he made the most sacrifices of the group.
But in all of the criticism a stranger thing has occurred. Anthony has actually become a little underrated in the process – especially at the veteran’s minimum salary next season. Anthony is one of the best scorers of his generation and the Houston Rockets, well, love to score. Still, Anthony will need to adjust after being in a leading role all of his basketball life to becoming more of a supporting cast member with the Rockets behind reigning MVP James Harden and guard Chris Paul. Can he do it, seamlessly, is the question.
Dwight Howard, Center, Washington Wizards
For all of the criticism and flack Dwight Howard receives, he is a future Hall of Famer that has never averaged less than a double-double in any of his 14 seasons in the league. Howard is also coming off of a bounce back year offensively after averaging 16.6 points – his most since 2014. In Washington, he’ll need to adjust to the backcourt of John Wall and Brad Beal and fend off Ian Mahinmi for minutes in the frontcourt. The Wizards have been restricted by the cap in recent years and are hoping the integration of Howard is enough to propel them to a deeper playoff push.
DeMarcus Cousins, Center, Golden State Warriors
Cousins ruptured his Achilles last season and likely won’t return to action until January 2019. The Warriors are defending champions and loaded. The franchise won’t rush Cousins back, but the question is, can he adjust to a much lesser role? If he can, the Warriors are poised to run roughshod in 2019. If Cousins struggles to naturally adapt, Golden State’s chemistry could be disrupted while trying to make the big fellow feel at home.
This isn’t a video game. Just inserting Cousins into the lineup won’t be easy. The Warriors’ previous centers were Zaza Pachulia and JaVale McGee, two guys known to bring their hard hats into the arena and do the dirty work inside. Cousins gives Golden State more offensive power and overall talent, but the dirty work must still be done.
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