The NBA calendar has finally flipped to the regular season with the reigning champion Cleveland Cavaliers raising their banner en route to a 117-88 over Carmelo Anthony and his “superteam” New York Knicks. Melo is one of 11 former Orange hoopers playing in the Association this year.
Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks: Anthony is clearly the cream of the ‘Cuse crop and is the lone member of the 2003 championship still playing in the NBA. At this point, Melo is building statistically upon his already Hall of Fame caliber resume with his championship window just about sealed shut. He is working with a much different team than in previous years. He has plenty of talent surrounding him with the acquisitions of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Brandon Jennings. Despite this, many are skeptical on how that dynamic plays out.
Michael Carter-Williams, Chicago Bulls: MCW’s production has steadily dipped which led him to his second trade in three seasons. The Bulls are not a good jump shooting team and Carter-Williams certainly contributes to that. However, if the 2014 Rookie of the Year can change that under offense-savvy head coach Fred Hoiberg, Carter-Williams could contend as Chicago’s point guard of the future.
Rakeem Christmas, Indiana Pacers: Christmas is getting his first real chance to latch onto an NBA team after spending last season in the D-League. He sits third on the Pacers depth chart at power forward, but could contend with Lavoy Allen for the second spot and crack the rotation midseason.
Tyler Ennis, Houston Rockets: Ennis was on the brink of being cut by the Rockets, but a last second audible by Houston management opted to keep the Canada native and cut Pablo Prigioni. The former first round pick has yet to find his footing in the NBA, and needs a strong season this year after getting a second chance in Houston.
Michael Gbinije, Detroit Pistons: Gbinije gets his first crack at pro basketball. After playing with Nigeria in the Olympics, Silent G has faced some of the NBA’s brightest stars. His five year college experience should benefit him, especially after playing under two of the greatest coaches of all-time in Jim Boeheim and Mike Krzyzewski.
Jerami Grant, Philadelphia 76ers: Grant is one of the many exciting young pieces in Philadelphia. Grant scored in double figures in nearly every preseason game and should be a crucial piece off the bench for Philly.
Wesley Johnson, Los Angeles Clippers: Johnson’s role will once again be limited to a bench player. However, Doc Rivers calls his number quite frequently as evidenced by his 20 minutes per game last season. The former lottery pick has two very seasoned veterans in front of him this season, but Johnson is no spring chicken himself having just turned 29. With Paul Pierce entering his final season, this is Johnson’s time to establish himself as a formidable role player in LA.
Chris McCullough, Brooklyn Nets: McCullough is entering his second season in the league after appearing in just 21 games in his rookie campaign. The Bronx native was in line to be the starting power forward for the Nets until the team signed Trevor Booker this summer.
Arinze Onuaku, Orlando Magic: The journeyman is getting his first taste of the pros after countless stints overseas and in the D League. However, don’t expect much of the 29-year-old rookie. He is stuck behind two established veterans in Serge Ibaka and Jeff Green.
Malachi Richardson, Sacramento Kings: Last year’s March Madness hero slipped in the draft, but now gets his chance to prove those who passed on him wrong. This may not be the year for Richardson to show off his talent, but with a bottom tier Sacramento team, don’t be surprised if Dave Joerger does some lineup shuffling.
Dion Waiters, Miami Heat: After seemingly nobody wanted him on the open market, Waiters finally signed with Miami in late July. The fifth year veteran has predominantly been a sixth man throughout his career with spot starts due to injury. The guard is known for his need to have the ball in his hands, and that could certainly come to fruition in South Florida with Dwyane Wade’s unexpected departure.