The 2020/21 NBA season is here. It’s been the shortest offseason in league history, but the excitement levels are as high as ever for opening night. Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant matchup for the first time since Durant played for the Thunder as the Golden State Warriors and Brooklyn Nets get the season tipped off on December 22nd. The Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers follow up at Staples Center.

A long draft process resulted in Anthony Edwards going first overall ahead of James Wiseman and LaMelo Ball. Free agency flew by with both Los Angeles teams making notable additions.

The Warriors traded for Kelly Oubre, committing to an historic tax bill. Brooklyn has been the centre of James Harden rumours, but their roster hasn’t experienced many major changes.

All three teams harbour title ambitions. All three will be the centre of media attention throughout the season. There are narratives to be reinforced or broken on Tuesday in two mouth-watering season openers.

Here are three players to watch out for on opening night…

       

Talen Horton-Tucker

Talen Horton-Tucker was hyped up more than any other NBA player in preseason. Horton-Tucker got some surprise playoff minutes in the bubble, but he was right down the end of Frank Vogel’s rotation. There’s every chance he has a major role to play in 2020/21 despite the Lakers’ improved depth with the arrivals of Dennis Schroder, Montrezl Harrell, Wesley Matthews and Marc Gasol.

Even as they were trouncing the West, there were questions asked about the Lakers’ scoring beyond LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Spark plug scorers are always nice to have, but there aren’t many minutes up for grabs, particularly on the back of Kyle Kuzma’s contract extension. Horton-Tucker will likely get a few minutes on Tuesday – can he earn more game time?

Scoring in preseason is one thing. Hitting shots, creating his own offence, against the elite Clippers defence will change the perception of THT.

Andrew Wiggins

The ceiling of this Warriors team could be dictated by the development of Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins, playing on a contender with a big contract, was already under pressure. The spotlight got brighter still when Klay Thompson was ruled out for the season.

Defence and shooting are the two biggest questions about this Golden State roster. Wiggins being a reliable catch-and-shoot guy from three and stepping up his defensive effort will go a long way to addressing those concerns. How big an impact can ‘culture’ have on Wiggins? Can Draymond Green and Steve Kerr help him fulfil the potential that made him a first overall pick?

There will be no definitive answer for months, but opening night is an opportunity for Wiggins to prove he can be more than the player he was alongside Karl-Anthony Towns in Minnesota. It’s a chance to do it on the big stage, a chance to justify all the speculation, all the optimism, about how the Warriors can unlock a new version of Wiggins.

Paul George

This is a chance to make a statement for Paul George. George has been vocal all offseason, including taking swipes at former coach Doc Rivers. He was handed a huge contract extension. There are bigger stars than George in action on NBA opening night, but none are under the same pressure.

Recovering from injury and load managed in the regular season, George never hit a rhythm in 2019/20. He played some good basketball against the Nuggets, though it has been lost in the mist of NBA history amid the infamous side-of-the-backboard shot and the Clips’ meltdown.

An opening night win over the Lakers would mean a lot for the Clippers. It would help to rid the memories of the postseason. A big performance from George, though, is every bit as important.
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