Old faces in new places for the 2017-18 NBA season

Anton Roxas
Denver Nuggets new forward Paul Millsap holds up his new jersey during his introduction to the media at a news conference, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The most eventful offseason in NBA history is about to come to a close as the 2017-18 season opens on October 18 (PHL time). While some of the league’s stars like Carmelo Anthony dramatically improved their chances of winning a championship, others quietly relocated to a different area code hoping for a fresh start. Just like the first player on this list:

Paul Millsap (ATL -> DEN)

His career epitomizes the famous phrase, “Hard work pays off.” Millsap was selected as the 47th overall pick by the Utah Jazz in the 2006 NBA Draft. But, it wasn’t until his fifth season with the Jazz that he became a starter. Since then, he’s been recognized as one of the most reliable power forwards in the league. In 2013, he signed with the Atlanta Hawks and was an All-Star in all the four seasons he spent with the team.

In 11 years in the NBA, Millsap has only missed the Playoffs twice. Now 32-years-old, Millsap joins a young Denver Nuggets squad led by Nikola Jokić, who’s ten years his junior. His arrival might just end the Mile High City’s four-year playoff drought. One thing’s for sure though. He’s part of a better frontcourt now than the one he was with in Atlanta.

(AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Dwight Howard (ATL -> CHA)

Atlanta didn’t just lose Millsap. They also lost Dwight Howard. But, not the eight-time All-Star and three-time Defensive Player of the Year Howard. They’re losing a downgraded version who averaged 13.5 PPG, 12.7 RPG and 1.2 BPG. Playing in his hometown was supposed to rejuvenate Howard. Instead, he is on the move again.

Being traded to the Charlotte Hornets for Marco Belinelli, Miles Plumlee and the 41st overall pick in next year’s draft seems like an insult to a player with a resumé like Howard’s. So, this should be enough motivation for Howard to redeem himself, as well as playing for team owner Michael Jordan. Howard hopes to be the defensive anchor that Kemba Walker and the Hornets need to return to the Playoffs.

Chris Paul (LAC -> HOU)

“A Hall of Fame point guard on the floor at all times for 48 minutes” is how Houston Rockets Head Coach Mike D’Antoni described the Chris Paul-James Harden team-up. By averaging 29.1 PPG, 8.1 RPG and a league leading 11.2 APG, The Beard proved that he can indeed play the 1. So, how will CP3’s arrival affect Harden’s numbers?

The majority of us were scratching our heads last season when D’Antoni announced that Harden would be running the point for the Rockets. But, now we know that it was pure genius. The offensive maestro has something up his sleeve and my guess is that when Paul is on the bench, we will see Harden back at the point. Having Paul will greatly ease the burden of Harden having to carry Houston for an entire season, and more importantly, help him become a better leader.

Jimmy Butler (CHI -> MIN)

There is a new Big Three out West. Heck, you can even call it a Big Four if you include Jeff Teague in the mix. After all, the eight-year veteran was an All-Star in 2015. The Minnesota Timberwolves have two recent number one overall picks in Andrew Wiggins (2014) and Karl-Anthony Towns (2015). They will finally know what it feels like to win now that Jimmy Butler has joined the pack.

Butler is not only joining a talented young team with savvy veterans like Jamal Crawford and Taj Gibson, he is also reuniting with his former coach, Tom Thibodeau, who developed him into a star with the Chicago Bulls. With all these pieces coming together, expect the Minnesota Timberwolves to reach the Playoffs for the first time since 2004.

(AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

Gordon Hayward (UTA -> BOS)

Another reunion is happening in Boston, and it’s a reunion that’s seven years in the making. In the 2010 NCAA Tournament Championship Game, Gordon Hayward nearly sank one of the biggest shots in college basketball history – a halfcourt heave that could’ve won the Butler the title against Duke. His coach at the university was none other than Brad Stevens, the same man who recruited Hayward when he was still 16-years-old in high school. Now, they have a great opportunity to reclaim lost glory.

Hayward is coming off his best season in the NBA. He averaged a career-best 21.9 PPG, 5.4 RPG and was named an All-Star for the very first time. I’d like to believe that these numbers will continue to rise with the Celtics not only because of the trust Stevens has in him, but because the team’s other newly acquired All-Star is going to improve a certain aspect of his game that will enhance Hayward’s scoring abilities.

Kyrie Irving (CLE -> BOS)

“You’ll see that he’s a better passer,” said Danny Ainge, President of Basketball Operations for the Boston Celtics.

Ainge was referring to Kyrie Irving, who averages just 5.5 APG for his career. Known as a scoring point guard, Irving is expected to unlock his potential as an elite passer in Brad Stevens’ pace, space and pick-and-pop offense. There will be less one-on-one plays with Irving taking contested jumpers, and more of him setting up the likes of Hayward and Al Horford.

Irving was criticized for not being able to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Playoffs before LeBron James returned to The Land. Like Hayward, he has a second chance to make up for a failed mission in the past. This time, I see him succeeding and leading the Celtics back to the Eastern Conference Finals, where a duel with The King awaits.

Isaiah Thomas (BOS -> CLE)

It’s a shame that Isaiah Thomas’ magical season had to end due to injury in just the second game of ECF against the Cavs. To make matters worse, there is no definite timetable for his return. The medical term for Thomas’ injury is a right femoral-acetabular impingement with labral tear. This is the reason why the trade with Kyrie Irving was nearly rescinded.

Despite all the doubt surrounding his health, Thomas confidently declared that he will come back the same 5’9” dynamo that averaged 28.9 PPG. It’s exciting to think of how a healthy Thomas will mesh with LeBron James, Kevin Love and the gang but for now, Derrick Rose will man Cleveland’s backcourt along with another familiar name.

Dwyane Wade (CHI -> CLE)

Yes. Dwyane Wade has reunited with LeBron James for another run at greatness. Although the three-time NBA Champion is now 35-years-old, he is still capable of turning back the clock on occasion to dazzle the crowd with a vintage performance. DWade is the best fourth option on offense in the NBA and that will make the Cavaliers an extremely difficult team to deal with, especially in clutch situations.

Adding Wade to a roster that already had JR Smith, Kyle Korver and Iman Shumpert is a major steal. While this move to Cleveland was expected, there was another star in the East who unexpectedly landed in a very interesting location.

(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Paul George  (IND -> OKC)

I don’t know anybody who predicted that Paul George would join the Oklahoma City Thunder. Because of this shocking development, the weather out West just got hotter as PG13 teams up with reigning league MVP, Russell Westbrook. Getting George is almost like getting Kevin Durant back. He’s an elite scorer whose athleticism can complement the explosiveness of Westbrook.

And just when you thought OKC was done, they got even better by acquiring another scoring machine to match the firepower of the Golden State Warriors.

Carmelo Anthony (NYK -> OKC)

Among all of these NBA stars in new places, I firmly believe that Carmelo Anthony will have the best 2017-18 season. For seven years in New York, Anthony had to carry the entire city on his back. It was not an easy move for Melo to leave the Big Apple, but at this point of his career, the championship window is closing, and it’s time to put himself in the best situation to put a ring on his finger.

Having Westbrook and George on the same team will result in the Anthony reverting back to “Team USA mode.” Remember, Anthony is the only player in US Men’s Basketball history to have won three Olympic Gold Medals. With Team USA, Anthony was a deadshot from anywhere out to 25 feet from the basket. Now that he longer has to find ways to score with opposing team’s defenses primarily focused on him, expect Anthony to thrive.

Barring injuries, I expect to see OKC and GSW in a WCF shootout for the ages. I can’t wait.

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