Brian Markley
Associate Sports Editor

Basketball is back! The most exciting league is turning it up a notch.

The landscape of the National Basketball Association has been totally overhauled, and the league is as balanced as its been in a long, long time. Dynamic duos are the new big threes, and this looks to be one of the most exciting NBA seasons in a while.

Being a Toronto Raptors fan, I decided to invest in NBA League Pass so I could watch every game. However, there are plenty of other interesting up-and-coming teams that I am really excited to watch and keep an eye on throughout the season.

The Chicago Bulls are one team that I think will surprise the entire league. The Bulls went 22-60 last season, and they were one of the worst teams in the league. However, they were plagued by injury for most of the season, and it was a forgettable season for one of the NBA’s marquee franchises.

The Bulls drafted North Carolina point-guard Coby White with the seventh pick in the 2019 NBA draft. White has had a promising preseason and he looks to eventually crack the starting five for the Bulls.

Aside from White, the Bulls have a lot of young talent in players like Zach Lavine, Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr.

The big question for the Bulls is health. They were devastated by injuries last season, resulting in a forgettable one for Bulls fans. If they are able to stay healthy, I firmly believe that they can sneak into the playoffs as a seven or eight seed in the Eastern Conference.

Staying in the Eastern Conference, my second league pass team this year is the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks were a spot above the Bulls last year with a record of 29-53, but they were much more exciting to watch despite what their record might show. 

Led by rookie of the year candidate Trea Young, the Hawks, much like the Bulls, have an exciting, young roster. They added Virginia guard De’Andre Hunter with the fourth overall pick in the 2019 draft and would turn eyes later in the draft with their selection of Duke guard/forward Cam Johnson with the tenth overall pick.

The Hawks projected starting line-up looks like Young at point-guard, Kent Bazemore at shooting-guard, Taurean Prince at small forward, Vince Carter at power forward and Alex Len at center.

It’s important to note that there is a chance Hunter or Johnson takes over a starting spot as the season progresses. However, having their top picks coming off the bench adds depth to a Hawks team that has a good mix of youth and experience. They’ll be in the conversation for the final playoff spot in the east. 

The first team from the Western Conference that I’m excited to watch this season is the Sacramento Kings. The Kings surprised everyone last year, finishing with a record of 39-43 and barley missed out on the playoffs. 

Led by their young point-guard De’Aaron Fox, the Kings look to claim a playoff spot this season. It’ll be difficult considering that the Western Conference only got deeper and more competitive after free agency.

However, the Kings added center Dewayne Dedmond at the five and are hoping for a jump forward from their young power forward, Marvin Bagley. Buddy Hield wants a new deal and is threatening to request a trade, and rightfully so. 

Hield was one of the most efficient three-point shooters last year, shooting 42.7%, which ranked seventh in the NBA last season. The Kings should ante up and secure their young sharp-shooter for the future. However, threatening with “I’ll find a new home” seems a bit bold from Hield.  

The Kings will secure the seventh seed in the West this season off the strength of their youth.

The final team that I am ecstatic about watching this season is an obvious one: the New Orleans Pelicans.

Whoever says they aren’t excited about the Pelicans is lying to you. How can you not be excited about this team? 

Firstly, there is the Zion factor. Zion Williamson is one of the most exciting rookies to debut in the league in a while. He is a freak of nature, and it’ll be fun to watch him go up against some of the NBA’s best. Unfortunately, Williamson will miss six to eight weeks of the season due to a right knee injury.

There’s also the angle of a rejuvenated franchise and fan base. After the falling out with star center Anthony Davis, this marks a fresh exciting start for the Pelicans. They got a top-notch haul for Davis in Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart. Out of all three, I believe Ball benefits the most from the trade. 

Being able to get out of the spotlight of Los Angeles and playing with LeBron, Ball will be able to get back to his game and lead a team that will no doubtably be competitive.

The Pelicans also added veteran sharp-shooter J.J Reddick from the Philadelphia 76ers. If there was a weakness with the Pelicans it was their shooting, but Reddick helps fulfill that role along with bringing in some experience to a very young group.

The Pelicans will narrowly miss the playoffs, but it also would not surprise me if they end up sneaking in.

There are plenty of other storylines that are interesting in the NBA, but these are the ones that I will be keeping a close eye on throughout the season.