The 5 NBA Players Who Can Change Their Career Narratives This Season | Legacy Reconstruction Time For Zion Williamson, Others

The 2023-24 NBA season tips off on Oct. 24, and there are so many storylines for casuals and diehards to immerse themselves in. A new season also presents an opportunity for players to change the narrative around them for better or worse. Here are five players who can change their personal narratives this season.

Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans

In four seasons in the league Zion has played in 114 regular season games out of a possible 308. That’s 37 percent availability. The 2019 No. 1 overall draft pick was heralded coming out of Duke University and widely seen as a franchise player.

Despite his limited play, he’s been a two-time All-Star and has been a net positive player since day one in the league. He ranked in the 97th percentile in EPM last season in his limited action. This man when on the floor is unstoppable.

His offseason diet and commitment to being a professional have been severely questioned by the Pelicans, yet they still gave him a five-year, $197 million rookie max extension that begins this season. That’s what you do to with super talented players.

This is a crucial year for Zion to prove that he is serious about living up to his talent.

Ben Simmons, Brooklyn Nets

What if I told you there was a 6-foot-10 super-athletic 26-year-old that is a three-time All-Star, two-time All-Defense, All-NBA, who led the league in steals, could be your lead ball handler, is an elite passer and playmaker, elite in transition, can attack downhill off the bounce, can guard one through five, and is under contract for this year and next. Would you want that player on your team?

That’s Simmons.

He hasn’t been that player the past two seasons for a variety of reasons that have been exhaustively debated all over the sports media landscape. Most fans and media members are out on him as a functioning player, let alone star. But the word out of Brooklyn is he’s healthy this year and can do the aforementioned things that made him one of the most exciting young players in the league.

Bradley Beal, Phoenix Suns

A good player whose name somehow always seems to be mentioned with players a tier or two above him. When the Washington Wizards signed him to a five-year, $251 million supermax extension in 2022-23, he became a $50 million-a-year player. That’s perennial All-NBA and MVP caliber money. He’s not that.

In 11 NBA seasons he’s been an All-Star three times and made one third-team All-NBA. He’s been to the playoffs five times, only advancing to the second round three times. We’ve seen him score a lot of points, but how much does he contribute to winning?

We’ll find out this year in Phoenix. He’s on the best team of his entire career, with a proven two-time champion in Kevin Durant and an elite playoff performer in Devin Booker. Let’s see if Beal is more than a good stats on a bad team player.

James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers for now…

Say what you want about “The Beard,” but at his peak he is one of the greatest offensive players this game has ever seen. Ten-time All-Star, seven-time All-NBA, three-time scoring champ, led the league in assists twice, and finished top-three in MVP voting four straight years winning in 2018.

It’s strange that such an accomplished player would be on this list. But the exits from his last two teams have been anything but graceful and he’s doing it again for a third time. He forced his way out of Houston to Brooklyn and then from Brooklyn to Philadelphia, and now he wants out of Philly for his hometown of Los Angeles.

These were not ideal ways to get his desired result. But they all ended up working. For many people that, combined with his postseason failure (terribly overblown, though he has some stinkers), takes a lot of shine off of his Hall of Fame career.

If he somehow winds up on the Clippers, it’s his last attempt at playing a key role on a team that could win a championship.

Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks

The 25-year-old is a three-time All-Star and made third team All-NBA. He’s an elite offensive player and dynamic with the ball in his hands. He’s horrendous on defense and hasn’t made significant strides on that end of the floor.

In five seasons he’s had three different head coaches. The label coach killer might be a little harsh. But the facts are what they are. Young is also not the easiest teammate to play with, according to sources.

Young is in year two of a five-year, $215 million max extension. This is a show-me year for Young, as there is a new front office regime in Atlanta and new head coach in Quin Snyder.

The team has already been listening to offers for Young over the past year and a half. If he plays well and matures into a leader they want to build around they keep him and he gets the image rehab. If he continues to be who he is but plays well, he can be moved and the Hawks can get a haul in return.

Either way, it’s a pivotal season.

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