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NBA Cats: The biggest storylines for the new season

A list of Kentucky Wildcats in the NBA and the biggest storylines to follow.

NBA: Preseason-New Orleans Pelicans at New York Knicks Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA is back in our lives, and with it comes the return of former Kentucky Wildcats now living out their professional dreams.

Kentucky has an unprecedented 31 players on an NBA roster for the start of the new year. There are actually fewer teams without a Wildcat (11) than there are NBA teams featuring Wildcats (19).

Of the 31 Wildcats on an opening-day NBA roster, head coach John Calipari has coached 29 of them. In just the 2018-19 season alone, UK players are slated to make almost $190 million.

Kentucky Wildcats in the NBA for 2018-19 Season

Now, here are the biggest storylines with former Wildcats in the NBA for the new season:

Breakout candidates

Between Jamal Murray, Julius Randle, and Bam Adebayo, Kentucky will have multiple ex-players looking at big years ahead. For Murray, he’s coming off a season where he scored 17 ppg. With Denver looking to make the playoffs this year, Jamal will be a big piece of that puzzle.

In Randle’s case, he joins Anthony Davis in New Orleans. After averaging 16 points and 8 rebounds last season for the Lakers, Julius has already made some preseason lists for Most Improved and even Sixth Man of the Year.

Finally, I think Bam Adebayo is a dark horse for a breakout sophomore season. In his preseason debut, he scored 26 points (11-17), 12 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 5 steals through 27 minutes in Miami’s 140-128 win over the Pelicans.

Hassan Whiteside and James Johnson are the likely frontcourt starters, but Adebayo will have a chance to make a role for himself if Erik Spoelstra rewards his energy and continues to lean away from Whiteside.

Wall and Noel must prove themselves

“Proving themselves” means two different things for these two players. John Wall is a top-tier point guard in the NBA, but missed half the season due to knee surgery and has missed time for plenty of injuries. Washington has been continuously stuck making the Conference semi-finals 3 of the last 5 years. Wall and the Wizards must bounce back with a strong year in a weaker Eastern Conference, especially with no LeBron James.

With Nerlens Noel, he may have made the worst financial mistake possible by declining the Dallas Mavericks’ 4 year, $70 million contract offer back in 2017. He instead bet on himself and signed a 1 year, $4.1 million deal in search of payday in 2018. After only playing in 30 games due to injury, though, Noel had to settle for a 2 year minimum salary deal in Oklahoma City.

Playing for his third team in his sixth season and benched behind Steven Adams, Noel will have to make an impact and show there’s still a place for him in the NBA.

Is the money REALLY worth it?

Karl-Anthony Towns and Devin Booker both signed max-extensions worth a total of $348 million over their next five years. In Minnesota and Phoenix’s current situations, it begs the question if the money truly is worth it. If the goal is money, fortune and endorsements, they hit the nail on the head.

If the goal is winning, I don’t see either team getting it done for these players in a continuously competitive Western Conference. Even with Minnesota’s 47-35 record last season after acquiring Jimmy Butler as an outlier, the Timberwolves and Sun’s combined records over Karl and Devin’s three seasons is 175-317 (a 0.355 winning percentage).

With Minnesota’s current toxic franchise and Phoenix being in the lottery the last 8 years, the money will have to do more than help them get over the extreme weather in both cities, but the losing as well unless something changes....

Cousins to Golden State

Any LeBron James free-agency decision would have won the media over in the summer. LeBron’s move to LA was the highlight, but the most controversial had to be Demarcus Cousins joining the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors on a 1-year, $5.4 million deal.

One spot Golden State has always been weakest at is at in their recent runs has been the center position. What do the Warriors do? Why, of course! They sign a Top-2 center whose career resume shows a 4x All-Star, a 2x All-NBA player and career averages of 25 points, 13 rebounds, and 5 assists. Seems like Golden State’s definition of fair right?

Although, Demarcus is coming off of an Achilles injury and has no timetable to return, he will be back this season and I don’t know who beats the Warriors with a healthy Boogie.

Anthony Davis for MVP?

Anthony Davis has become as tough a cover as there is in the NBA. At 6-10, Davis has all the moves in his bag offensively and defensively. After averaging 28 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 blocks last season, Davis does it all on both ends and he was rewarded by finishing third in MVP voting.

After replacing fellow Wildcats DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo with another in Julius Randle along with Elfrid Payton, we’ll have to see how New Orleans stacks up with the rest of the Western Conference. Russell Westbrook won an MVP with an average record but amazing statistics which will goes in Davis’ favor.

If the Pelicans can make a playoff push behind the monster numbers we expect from Davis, no one should be surprised if Anthony makes another case, or maybe even wins, the NBA’s most significant player award. I may have a slight Kentucky bias or maybe it’s because I just drafted him #1 in my fantasy league, but I’ll start the #Davis4MVP movement now and enjoy him living up to expectations in 2018-2019.