Adam Lindner | Sports Editor
The 2017-18 NBA season will be remembered for many things. Philadelphia, led by Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, made the postseason for the first time since 2012, while Victor Oladipo was an All-Star for the first time in his career thanks to a breakout season with the Pacers. James Harden and the Rockets pushed reigning champion Golden State to the brink of elimination in the Western Conference Finals, just as an undermanned Celtics squad managed to take LeBron & Co. to seven games in the East Finals.
In retrospect, we now know the ‘17-18 season to be the last of LeBron’s second stint in Cleveland. It saw Golden State win its third NBA title in four seasons, with Kevin Durant winning his second straight NBA Finals MVP Award, too.
What the 2017-18 NBA season really might be remembered for, however, is the rich amount of talent that broke into the league during its tenure. Top overall pick Markelle Fultz disappointed in his injury-riddled first season in Philadelphia, but that didn’t stop another Sixer from taking home Rookie of the Year honors — Philly point guard Simmons narrowly beat out Utah standout Donovan Mitchell and Boston scorer Jayson Tatum for the award.
Big Baller Brand made its grand entrance into the NBA, too, in the form of Lonzo Ball, who the Lakers selected No. 2 overall behind Fultz. No. 27 overall pick Kyle Kuzma ended up being the one really turning heads in Hollywood last season, though, making it all the way to a spot on the 2018 NBA All-Rookie First Team.
This year, excitement abounds again as a new NBA season is underway. Free agency moves and other transactions dominated headlines leading up to the season’s starting point, but there seems to be a good amount of talented rookies entering the league this season, as well.
Who will manage to steal the spotlight during their first season on the game’s biggest stage? Here are several newcomers to keep your eyes out for on the hardwood as the new season commences.
Deandre Ayton, C, Phoenix Suns
The top pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, Ayton remains in the Grand Canyon state following a sole season at the University of Arizona under Sean Miller in 2017. Now with the NBA’s Suns, Ayton is a bright spot for a franchise that has a lot of them in its possession. Playing alongside star scorer Devin Booker and intriguing prospects in Josh Jackson, Mikal Bridges, T.J. Warren and Elie Okobo, as well as veterans Trevor Ariza and Jamal Crawford, Ayton has a prime opportunity to impress early on in his career in the desert this season.
Luka Doncic, G/F, Dallas Mavericks
19-year-old Slovenian Luka Doncic comes to America this season as one of the most storied European prospects in recent history, and joins none other than Dirk Nowitzki, one of the greatest European basketball players ever, in Dallas.
While the Mavs shouldn’t even be close to pushing for a postseason spot this year, Doncic should have plenty of time to shine for the Mavericks, alongside Dennis Smith Jr. and DeAndre Jordan. If those who revered him so much overseas are even somewhat correct, watch for Doncic to run away with this award.
Trae Young, G, Atlanta Hawks
One of the most electrifying college basketball players ever, Young enters the NBA with outlandish expectations, and it’s unlikely he’ll be able to come close to meeting them in his first season in Atlanta. While Young does have solid big man John Collins and 3-and-D specialist Taurean Prince with him, the Hawks’ cupboard is basically bare, and it’s mostly up to Young in deciding how far Atlanta will go this season.
Miles Bridges, F, Charlotte Hornets
Several other players were taken before Bridges in this summer’s draft, and it’s quite possible that half of them put together better rookie seasons than the Michigan State product does. However, not many players possess such a strong opportunity to contribute right away with their new teams quite like Bridges does, who should receive quality minutes in the Queen City this season.
A strong defender and superb dunker, Bridges provides the Hornets with some of the versatility that they so desperately needed over the course of the past few seasons. Now, time will tell how new Charlotte Head Coach James Borrego deploys Bridges on the court.