Players to Watch This Season Pt.II: Eastside Edition

Updated: September 26, 2021

If you haven’t already, please check out Part 1: West Coast Edition


If not for Cade Cunningham I’m not sure how much anybody outside of Detroit would be watching the Pistons this year. But with the number pick and all the hype around this 6’8 point guard, I have to say I’m quite excited to see how his game immediately translates to the NBA. Much has been made over this last year and this “historic” draft class and so much of it is tied together with the number selection that his overall production in the next few seasons will inevitably affect how it is all remembered.  


Honestly, the Magic must be one of the most underwhelming franchises heading into the 2021-22 season. Jalen Suggs has to be the pick and possibly the sole reason why anyone will be tuning in to watch Orlando. Hopefully, he will be able to remain healthy throughout the entirety of the season. His stock is an interesting one to buy into as he was selected after Scottie Barnes and there appear to be several candidates to surpass him at 5 in a redraft year down the road.


Many have been preaching the mantra of not taking centers in the top 3 and Wisemen has not helped this case thus far with Golden State’s selection. However, with the recent success of #1 draft pick DeAndre Ayton, it appears 7-foot centers are back in style. Evan Mobley is a part of a much bigger case study than he probably is aware of and will heavily affect how franchises draft in the upcoming years. Although the Cavs are projected to be as awful as they were the last two seasons, the glimpses shown this year of Mobley should give us a clearly projection ceiling will be worth watching once in a while.


The variance of what analysts believe about the Raptors can be discussed elsewhere in detail; however, the future of ex-most improved player Pascal Siakam is intriguing on a multitude of levels. If Siakam is back to All NBA levels as he appeared to be ready for in the departure of Kawhi, then who knows what Toronto could be moving forward. However, it appears they are ready for a soft-rebuild, and Siakam is the big trade piece that has been rumored to be on the block. It is hard to tell which version of spicy P would stimulate a trade more…the poor version of his game where he shoots south 35% from 3, or him lighting it up averaging 23+ after returning from the shoulder surgy?


Unfortunately for the fans in Chicago, along with ownership that is spending a significant amount of cash on a roster that may average more points allowed than any other in the NBA, what Zach LaVine decides to do with his extension is probably more important than anything the Bulls do as collective this season. If his numbers are near what they had been this last season and he does not at the very least verbally commit to remaining in the Windy City, there may be some fireworks coming out of Chicago come the trade deadline.


I have yet to be a convert when it comes to the Hornets as a serious playoff contributor, however, sign me up for all the LaMelo highlights I can get my hands on. He more than exceeded expectations last year while he was healthy and everyone around the league is anxious to find out if he should’ve gone number 1 over Wisemen and Edwards.


I had Sabonis because I’m a fan of his game, but I’d be lying to say I’m watching any Pacers games that aren’t conveniently against the Warriors midday on the weekend.


Similar to the situation in Chicago, Brad Beal’s mentality is far more intriguing than even the highest ceiling imaginable for Washington. Sure they could slip their way into the playoffs I suppose, but everyone including some fans in the nation’s capital are hoping the relocation of their 30 point scoring guard will just happen already.


Finally, without a father figure in the backcourt confusing now 6’10 wing Jason Tatum of his role on this Celtics squad, is this year he finally decides that the 4th quarters are his? As high as I am on Jason I have yet to buy into that notion and I hope to be proven wrong over and over again this season.


I will diverge from my own selection and put Tyler Herro in the slot for all my ESPN and Ringer talking heads. I have already accepted that the Bubble was similar to the courage men get away from their families in VEGAS, but it seems on all of the pods people are waiting to see if he will redeem himself after last year. With Lowry now on the books for the foreseeable future, I would hope that they are starting to groom Herro into his 6th man role that he was born to play as so many guards are.


I could’ve pick a handful of players from Atlanta, and I am excited to say it was a team I had very little interest in prior to the playoffs and love to be proven so wrong. I have dozens of their games circled as much watch TV and I am going to pick John Collins as my player to watch. There are two ways this goes, the paycheck makes him soft or lights a fire within him and hopefully, it’s the latter.


To be honest I’m quite low on New York repeating their success story from last season. But I am quite curious on periodically checking in on my man Julius Randle who I’ve had stock in all the way back LA. Now, I can’t pretend I knew he was going to adopt the feathery jumper from the free-throw line that made him absolutely lethal in the regular season, but I hope to see it continue nonetheless.


Going into last season, everyone had the same narrative about the 2-time MVP, until he shows it in the Playoffs he’ll never win MVP again. Well, you can take him off the James Harden blacklist with Giannis’ Finals MVP on the mantle, what is stopping him from getting his 3rd regular season most valuable player award with how historic the Bucks have consistently been in these last two regular seasons? The answer is easy, not a damn thing.


Especially considering that so many analysts have chosen the Nets as their title favorites for the 2022 Finals; if Harden does his famous disappearing act in the playoffs and it results in them getting knocked out in the East, he’ll have to change his jersey to 1 in honor of the great ex-rocket Tracy McGrady…


If somehow Simmons is still on the Sixers after training camp, there will be news reports about every word said about the situation until he’s moved. Most likely whatever player he is exchanged for will become the player to watch and their fit with Embiid, but until then, it is without a doubt the Ben Simmons Saga that will be having people following Philly closely.


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