The 2021-22 NBA season is upon us!
Before looking too far ahead to opening night on Oct. 19 (ET), we've got a few weeks of preseason action on deck to satisfy our basketball appetite. As the preseason gets underway, our NBA.com Staff talks through what they're most excited to see.
Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): Year in and year out, I always get excited to see familiar faces in new places.
This year, it will almost be surreal to see Russell Westbrook in a Los Angeles Lakers uniform and it will definitely be strange seeing Kyle Lowry playing in a Miami Heat uniform. The same even goes for DeMar DeRozan, whose new look in a Chicago Bulls uniform will take some getting used to.
DeMar DeRozan on what he's learned about Chicago so far:- Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) September 27, 2021
"Just being around and seeing how energetic of a sports city it is, not just basketball but baseball & football... the appreciation for sports is on a higher level than I thought before I came here." pic.twitter.com/9JAUGzZrYe
Of course, the above three names are established veterans of 12-plus years, so what actually happens on the floor is largely inconsequential for them as it relates to their prevalence within the team's system, but don't underestimate the impact the preseason can have on their getting comfortable in new systems.
Each of DeRozan, Lowry and Westbrook find themselves in situations where they'll be sharing the spotlight with other All-Star calibre players, and we should get a small glimpse of how those units will look to balance things out as the season approaches.
If they play 12 minutes or 32, it'll be a good exercise to start getting accustomed to stars in their new digs.
Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_): I know we just got to see them in Summer League, but for me, it's the rookies.
This year's rookie class is going to be special, and we already caught a glimpse of that in Vegas. But up against real NBA competition - albeit the preseason - I'm excited to see what some of these guys can do.
We'll get to see Cade Cunningham go up against players like Dejounte Murray, Ja Morant and RJ Barrett. We'll get to see Jalen Green go toe-to-toe with hard-nosed defensive players like Jimmy Butler and Fred VanVleet.
And speaking of the Raptors, we've already heard head coach Nick Nurse talk about Scottie Barnes' "huge" role for this upcoming season, which will be unveiled during the preseason. Players like Jalen Suggs and Josh Giddey, who had their Summer Leagues cut short due to injury, will be back in action, too.
They're still just exhibition games, but I can't wait to see this rookie class on full display in preseason as an appetizer to the regular season.
Yash Matange (@yashmatange2694): For me, it's just the return of NBA basketball.
Although just tune-ups, these games are the first time we see the superstars go up against each other and put up highlights we might not have seen for months - since the NBA Finals. That includes Gil's point of seeing familiar faces in new places, but it's also including seeing how newly former superstar duos or trios play alongside each other, how rookie head coaches operate, how players primed for a bounce-back season look and many more.
It's just the sound of the basketball in an NBA arena. That's really nice to hear after a long period of the offseason.
Kane Pitman (@KanePitman): I'm similar to Kyle on this one. For me, it's second-year players looking to make their mark.
Anthony Edwards, LaMelo Ball and Tyrese Haliburton are just a few of the rookie that impressed last season. They now come into their second year in the league on everyone's radar. Do they take another step or is year two a challenge?
Preseason basketball can be navigated in cruise control for many players. But for these young guys, it's a chance to tune-up and prepare to take the next step.
The three mentioned players are on squads looking to make it to the postseason in 2022. It all starts now.
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