LeBron James’ shift to the lakers made for the most anticipated debut of the season.
By VINCENT CHUA
The 2018-19 NBA off-season was nothing short of spectacular, with big names signing to huge franchise teams, young prospects being introduced to the league, and a whole lot of drama in the locker room.
Questions were asked on how some players would fit in their new teams, and after the first week of games, some teams were beginning to experience the influences from their off-season signings.
Below is a list of players who garnered the most attention and have already had an impact on their teams.
LeBron James / Los Angeles Lakers
Let’s start with perhaps the most anticipated debut of the season.
Plenty of skepticism surrounded whether LeBron James would be able to adapt to the Lakers’ fast-paced playing style. Entering his 16th season at 33 years old, James is not known for playing a fast game.
However, he proved he could excel in the system, helping with fast-break opportunities and bringing in a new excitement to the game with flashy dunks and passes.
While James has established himself as the de facto leader of the team, questions of his fit in the new roster persists following a rough 0-3 start for the season.
James’ first two games were mediocre, putting up 26 points with six turnovers against the Trailblazers, and 24 points, five assists, and five rebounds against the Rockets.
The Lakers’ third game against the Spurs was a significant improvement, putting up a near triple double with 32 points, eight rebounds, 14 assists and a clutch three-pointer to send the game to overtime.
James did however miss two crucial free throws in the final seconds of overtime and a game-winning shot to cap off what could have been a magical night for the Lakers, losing 143-142 to the Spurs.
“It’s not [discouraging],” James said when asked about the Lakers’ 0-3 start.
“I know what I got myself into. It’s a process. I get it, and we’ll be fine. I didn’t come here thinking we were going to be blazing, storming right out of the gates,” he added.
The Lakers played against three solid playoff teams to start their season, and it might be too early to judge the team’s success.
James and the Lakers need to address their lack of chemistry and defensive inconsistencies soon or they might not survive in the West.
Kawhi Leonard was a prized target for the Raptors.
Kawhi Leonard / Toronto Raptors
The throne in the East is up for grabs and the Raptors have their eyes on the prize.
The Raptors’ front office made a huge decision in the off-season by firing former head coach Dwane Casey and trading for Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard in hopes of upping their chances in competing in the Finals.
The Raptors were fresh off a franchise-record 59-win season.
This move was controversial to say the least, with concerns over Leonard’s injury status and his willingness to stay and play for the team, given that Leonard has one year and a player option in his current deal.
Needless to say, the Raptors proved to be threat in the East by improving 4-0 after their recent win over the Hornets.
Along with his nightmarish laugh, the former MVP candidate brought his two-way game along with him to Toronto, creating a seemingly effortless transition to his new team.
While showing signs of rust, the star showed flashes of excellence and managed a double-double with 24 points and 12 rebounds in a win against the LeBron-less Cavs.
Against Eastern Conference rivals the Celtics, Leonard put on a clinical display dropping 34 points and 10 rebounds.
While the Celtics have the deepest team in the East, the Raptors proved to have plenty of pieces to compete in their Saturday win over the Celtics.
If the two teams were to meet in the Eastern Conference Finals, we would be in for a treat.
Carmelo Anthony attends the Black Ops Basketball Run in New York in September.
Carmelo Anthony / Houston Rockets
Carmelo Anthony was a huge question mark coming into the season.
With Mike D’Antoni favouring an offensive minded system, he was signed so he could thrive alongside Chris Paul.
However, the Rockets have faced some defensive issues with the crucial defensive pairing of Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute departing via free agency in the off season.
The Rockets also lost their defence-oriented associate head coach, Jeff Bzdelik.
Their first game of the season against the Pelicans saw Anthony coming off the bench, adopting a reserve role for the first time in his career.
Needless to say, the Rockets were unable to contend against the Pelicans, allowing the Pelicans’ three-man rotation of power forwards (Anthony Davis, Nikola Mirotic, and Julius Randle) to score a total of 87 points.
Their horrendous defensive performance was only made worse by their inability to generate points off the bench.
Anthony scored only nine points in an inefficient three-of-10 shooting.
This would be a trend for the next two games for Anthony, displaying his inability to score or defend adequately, scoring only in single digits with a rough 30 per cent field goal percentage.
Anthony acknowledged his lacklustre performance and said it was “mentally challenging” to come off the bench.
Trae Young in action.
Trae Young / Atlanta Hawks
Luka Doncic / Dallas Mavericks
It wouldn’t be surprising to see these two rookies being in the same discussion for the rest of their careers.
On the 2018 Draft Night, the Hawks drafted Luka Doncic at No.3 and Trae Young, who was drafted fifth by the Mavericks.
Doncic was a young prospect out of Slovenia who just led his team to a EuroLeague championship title and subsequently winning the MVP title before joining the draft.
Young was a guard for the Oklahoma Sooners in the NCAA, frequently compared to Stephen Curry for his quick handles and insane range from deep.
Luka Doncic comes to the Maverics after a big win in Europe.
Both players are crafty playmakers with incredible vision, and can take over the game by scoring at will.
The two players had a promising start to their careers, with Doncic averaging a team high 19 points per game, and Young being the first rookie with 35 points and 10 assists in a game since Stephen Curry in 2010.
When the two rookies went head-to-head, it was Young who came up on top, dropping 17 points and five assists in a 26-point comeback win against the Mavs.
Doncic put up 21 points and nine rebounds for the Mavericks, but fell short to the Hawks in 111-104.
Both rookies are clearly the primary playmaking/scoring options and their teams will most likely continue to look to them in providing offence for the rest of the season.