NBA: Old faces, new places around the NBA

We’ve got less than a week to go before the New Orleans Pelicans visit the Toronto Raptors to tip off the 2019-20 NBA season, and fans will finally be able to see just how successful each GM has been at manoeuvring their franchise towards the top of the pile.

Sean Marks has received plenty of plaudits for convincing Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to join forces in Brooklyn (as well as getting Caris LeVert to sign an extension), while Jerry West has once again shown that he is, perhaps, the best GM in all of sport, by rebuilding the Clippers around Paul George and current finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. 

Beyond the big-name all-stars however, there have been a number of potentially vital off-season acquisitions that have received far less attention. Not only are each of these acquisitions great in terms of value, but they also have the potential to move their team to the next level.

Jeremy Lamb
There were high hopes for Jeremy Lamb when he was selected 12th overall in the 2012 NBA. He was seen as one the drafts best shooters, and overall wing players, but struggled to make an impact in Oklahoma City and in his first two seasons at Charlotte.

Over the last two seasons, however, he has developed into a more potent offensive player, hitting career-highs in almost every major statistical category (15.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists per game).

Now he finds himself on a Pacers team that is, with all-star Victor Oladipo out until at least January and Bojan Bogdanovic now in Utah, sorely lacking in wing scoring. This leaves the door open for Lamb, 27, to firmly establish himself as one of the primary options on a Pacers team that is looking to surprise the rest of the league again this season.

After the Bucks and 76ers, the Eastern Conference feels wide open and Lamb is just the player to help the Pacers pull ahead of the rest of the chasing pack.

Quinn Cook
When LeBron James signed with the Lakers back in 2018 offseason there were many (Laker fans) who were quick to announce the return of the Lakers as the NBA’s premier team. As we know, the reality of having a paper-thin squad was too much for LeBron to overcome single-handedly and their season quickly became about preparation for the 2019-20 season.

While Anthony Davis was front and centre of those preparations, the Lakers have also made a shrewd backcourt acquisition in the shape of a two-time NBA champion point guard.

Quinn Cook, who went undrafted in 2015, may not be quite as much of a household name as some of his more illustrious teammates. However, he will have a vital role to play for a Lakers squad that, once more, is coming into the season with questions being raised about its depth. Unlike many other newly acquired Lakers, whose careers are either on the way down (Dwight Howard) or seriously faltering (Avery Bradley), Cook is a player who not only has a bright future in the league but also has a track record of playoff success.

He played an important role for the Warriors back in 2018 when Steph Curry was forced to miss time with injury, and the Lakers will be hoping that he can harness that experience as they go in search of a 17th NBA championship. 

Brandon Ingram
There is something special about David Griffin. Wherever he goes, the first-overall draft picks seem to follow. Having won three lotteries while in Cleveland (which turned into Kyrie Irving, Bradley Wiggins, and…Anthony Bennett), he performed his greatest piece of magic back on May 14, when the Pelicans somehow ended up with the opportunity to draft a certain Mr Williamson.

Quite rightly, Zion is going to be THE man in New Orleans for the foreseeable future and has already got every single NBA fan salivating after some monumental preseason performances.

But, in Brandon Ingram, the Pelicans have another new player who could be set to turn heads.
The second pick of the 2016 draft, Ingram flattered to deceive during his three seasons playing in forum-blue and gold. Fantastic performances were interspersed with frustrating patches of inconsistency that brought about the occasional whisper that Ingram would never make good on his potential. Coming to New Orleans as a part of the Anthony Davis trade could be exactly what the North Carolina native needs.

Indeed, the narratives that surround him now are already far more favourable than at any point of his time in LA. Playing under less scrutiny, Ingram could well have a vital role to play in this young and exciting Pelicans team gate-crashing a loaded Western conference playoff. 

Josh Richardson
We have finally reached the zenith of The Process, Philadelphia’s long-term rebuilding strategy. They possess the leagues most talented and devastating starting line-up that every basketball fan should be clamouring to watch in action and rightly enter the 2019-20 season as one of the favourites to lift the Larry O’Brien trophy next June.

While casual NBA fan will be well aware of Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Al Horford, and Tobias Harris, they might be less familiar with the final man of Philly’s very own fab-five.

Josh Richardson, the 40th overall pick in the 2015 draft, arrived in Philadelphia as part of the trade that saw Jimmy Butler head to South Beach. He is a player that, year on year, has been turning heads for his play on both ends of the court for a Miami team that always seemed to be greater than the sum of its parts.

By the 2018-19 season, where he was arguably the best player on the team, Richardson was averaging 16.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game. While he may be getting paid just a fraction of what his co-starters will be receiving for their efforts, Richardson’s contributions to the 76ers this season may be what propels them to a first title since 1983. 

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