The 2013-14 college basketball season should feature some of the best freshmen we've seen in some time, but Australian prodigy Dante Exum won't be among the lauded group of players. According to ESPN, Exum will not join an American college program this year and remains undecided on his future plans.
Expected to graduate from Australian high school in December, Exum could end up being one of the most talked about prospects in a highly praised draft class. As SB Nation's Jonathan Tjarks explained last month, he brings the kind of skills that would command a No. 1 overall selection in most drafts.
The 2014 draft obviously won't be a normal drafts, not with the likes of Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, Jabari Parker and others expected to be available, but Exum's potential greatness remains. Should he change his mind and take advantage of his college eligibility starting this winter, he could still have a huge impact on the upcoming season.
According to reports, Exum had been considering Indiana, North Carolina, Kentucky, Michigan and Oregon. He told ESPN he's 50-50 on playing college basketball beyond 2013-14, but he could bypass that route entirely by declaring for the NBA Draft next spring.
It might be easier to list the things Andrea Bargnani isn't good at, but the New York Knicks hope to be creative in using the big man's unique skill set. As Dylan Murphy at Posting and Toasting breaks down, there isn't a lot to love about Bargnani's game, but his ultimate value to the Knicks will be determined by how they use him.
Even if the former No. 1 overall pick no longer brings much to the table, Murphy points out the effect his reputation could have on spacing. While Bargnani hasn't shot above 35 percent from beyond the arc since 2009-10, teams continue to close out on his shot attempts like a player who actually hits these shots.
For New York, that defense-altering presence could make a difference even if Bargnani's actual results continue to disappoint. And while people have made a pinata of Bargnani in recent years, Murphy thinks a more refined role could actually turn around his career:
The constant comparisons to Steve Novak aren't mean to undervalue Bargnani's role; it's that in the Knicks offense, he'll never serve as a primary scoring option -- either on the first or second unit. But in the Novak role, Bargnani can be much more effective than Novak ever was.
When asked to be a primary scoring option for the Raptors, Bargnani generally struggled, but it's possible a transition to less responsibility could be just what the doctor ordered. By finding particular ways to use him -- Murphy shows some examples, ranging from basic pick-and-rolls to more complicated sets -- it's possible Bargnani could end up being a legitimate contributor next season.
When the Brooklyn Nets began their race towards title contention last year, guards Deron Williams and Joe Johnson were at the center of that plan. A pair of former All-Stars being paid like league royalty, it felt like the Nets would only go as far as those two could take them.
But after acquiring Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Andrei Kirilenko during the offseason, Reed Wallach of NetsDaily wonders whether frontcourt depth could separate Brooklyn from the pack. The Nets may boast a backcourt of big names with max contracts, but their teammates could end up having a larger impact:
A lot of writers focus more on the record luxury tax the Nets need to pay, but more importantly the biggest luxury the team and Jason Kidd have is the collection players they will have in the frontcourt. They have so many options to and can combine different players to find the winning combination. Will the distribution of minutes become a problem? Not if they're winning.
Beyond the new veterans, Brooklyn also has Brook Lopez, Andray Blatche, Reggie Evans, Mirza Teletovic and 2013 first-rounder Mason Plumlee to eat up minutes. If first-year coach Jason Kidd can figure out the right rotation and keep everyone happy, the Nets could be wearing teams out over 48 minutes.
Among the few legitimate title contenders, Danny Granger's return looms as one of the biggest remaining questions entering next season. With the Indiana Pacers hoping to make the next big leap from potential to reality after nearly upending the Miami Heat last season, Granger seems the most obvious way to facilitate that improvement.
"It's really exciting. Danny is on schedule, looks really good, he's making progress each week and we're hoping that were going to be having a full-strength Danny Granger this year to add to this team that made a lot of noise last year."
If the Pacers get back that kind of player, a high-level scorer like the Granger of past seasons, it could be a major boost to Indiana. The team would still have to figure out how to balance Granger and Lance Stephenson, long-term as well as in 2013-14, but it's the kind of problem you want to have.
Over at Fear the Sword, resident Cavaliers expert Conrad Kaczmarek took it upon himself Wednesday to explain his boundless optimism for the team's future. Describing the larger context of his devotion to Cleveland sports and the implications it has on his sports worldview, Conrad both captures the suffering and hope of a beleaguered fan base:
I'm not saying that I intend to be an over-the-top homer, but do I give the Cavs the benefit of the doubt sometimes? Sure I do. Have they earned the benefit of the doubt? Nope, not at all. I want them to do well so I center my analysis on the things that might work out and how the Cavs could come out on top. It's important not to mistake a positive slant for unwavering belief.
In an era increasingly devoted to fan-centric sports blogs and the like, Conrad's post is absolutely worth reading. We all want to be objective when we're analyzing anything, but as he so kindly points out, sports are about fun more than anything else. At the very least, it might make you consider why you love the teams you follow so much.