The Starting 5: A look at some of the best hoops content from around the Internet
Tristan Thompson was a major player in last year’s NBA Finals. With injuries to Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, the Cavaliers had little room to spare, and Thompson provided the spark needed to help keep the team competitive against the eventual champions. With the news breaking that Thompson was considering taking the qualifying offer to become an unrestricted free agent next summer, there is a strong possibility that he won’t return to Cleveland next year, which could upset the most powerful man in the NBA.
The 76ers have received negative attention – much of it is probably unwarranted – for the way they have handled their young draft picks. Nerlens Noel missed his first season with a torn ACL, Dario Saric will spend his first two seasons of NBA eligibility overseas and Joel Embiid is expected to miss his second full season due to a bone in his foot not healing correctly. Embiid was the most interesting prospect in the 2014 draft due to his combination of size, athletic ability and untapped potential. While the draft selection may be criticized, the hope for Embiid is to fully heal and tap some of his potential.
Kawhi Leonard may be the most unassuming superstar in any professional sport – and yes, a very good offensive player combined with an elite defensive player is a superstar. Although the Spurs just signed LaMarcus Aldridge to a maximum contract, Leonard is still the team’s best and most important player. His quiet demeanor may not be the marketable player the NBA wants to carry the torch through the next generation, but he’s exactly the type of player the Spurs want to be the face of their team for the next decade.
Jabari Parker might be the most important player to the Bucks’ success. Although he’s only in his second season – and his first season was cut short due to injury – Parker could be the player that saves the Bucks from their offensive struggles of last year. Milwaukee became an elite defense last season surrendering 102.2 points per possession (third in the league according to basketball-reference.com) because of the length and athleticism the team can throw out in almost any combination. But for what the team brings on defense, they lacked that much and more on offense. Parker should be able to do a passable job guarding smaller big men, and showed flashes of brilliance on the offensive end last year.
The Phoenix Suns are one of the most interesting teams in the league with their young prospects, established players and with their difficulties within the conference. The team had an interesting offseason trading Marcus Morris, but acquiring Tyson Chandler and Mirza Teletovic. Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe will have to share ball-handling responsibilities much like Goran Dragic and Bledsoe did last year. With the possibility of a playoff spot opening up (Portland and possibly Dallas might miss the playoffs), the Suns will need Chandler to produce his defensive presence to secure one of those spots.