Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
Give us something under-the-radar that you’ll be keeping an eye on in the early going this season.
Steve Aschburner: This would be more north-of-the-border than under-the-radar, but I like the Toronto Raptors to take another big step in their rebuilding, possibly all the way to a No. 8 seed. Under coach Dwane Casey, Toronto discovered last season what it means to play defense – not just for 24 minutes or 36 but for the proverbial 48. Its attack will get more attention, and direction, with Kyle Lowry at the wheel at point guard (while Casey and GM Bryan Colangelo sort out what to do with Jose Calderon). Big-man import Jonas Valanciunas should be able to help more quickly than many Euro newbies, and Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan have plenty of room to grow.
Fran Blinebury: He barely talks, let alone self-promotes. But I’ll be watching the progress of Kawhi Leonard as he tries to live up to Gregg Popovich labeling him the future of the franchise in another season when Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili gobble up most of the headlines.
Jeff Caplan: This was supposed to be the breakthrough year for the Minnesota Timberwolves. But, with emerging highlight-reel point guard Ricky Rubio still rehabbing from last season’s discouraging knee injury, double-double machine Kevin Love disappointingly benched by a broken hand and guard Luke Ridnour nursing a herniated disk in his back, the Wolves can’t fall into an inescapable hole in the first four weeks of the season. The Wolves have pretty good depth in the frontcourt to withstand Love’s absence, but in the backcourt, pressure shifts to Brandon Roy in his comeback bid and J.J. Barea, who has always played a supporting role and tends to need time to find his shooting range.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Andre Drummond and his progress as a rookie. He dropped to No. 9 in the draft over questions about his focus and passion to play, then turned in a very encouraging preseason with the Pistons. Drummond still has a long way to go before his basketball skills catch up to his athleticism and potential. But if he continues to bring the proper mindset, Detroit takes a giant step forward.
Sekou Smith: The other Los Angeles team, the Clippers, make the Western Conference finals and not the Lakers. Write it down in ink!