A lot has happened in the NBA this offseason. Kevin Durant, Dwyane Wade, and Derrick Rose (leaving their old teams) have been at the center of the maelstrom. Anticipating how they and the other stars, such as Al Horford, Pau Gasol, Harrison Barnes, and Victor Oladipo will impact their respective new squads has built us one, massive hype machine.
However, aside from the big-time free agency signings, another intriguing angle from this hoops recess has gotten us all worked up. Several league hotshots have been preparing for a big showing in the upcoming season. Their hard work, dedication, and training videos have grabbed our attention.
On that note, meet the gym rats, sweating it out, raring to make noise all over the Association.
Working on: Three-point shooting
Our kababayan from the Purple and Gold hasn't been bad at all in his two-year NBA stint. Last season, he averaged 15 ppg—a four-point improvement from his freshman campaign. He's reached the 20 and 30-point plateau a number of times. But his production is often cut significantly when the D forces him to launch from long distance. Clarkson currently shoots 33.8 percent from deep, thus, his defenders have no problem sagging off him to clog the lane instead. Good thing he is on it, shooting the lights out in practice and the Drew League (33 points).
Now, Jordan just play for Gilas, will you?
Los Angeles Lakers
Working on: Handles
After a slow start, Russell had come on strong late last season, especially on offense. Still, it's plain to see that last year's second overall pick found it difficult to break the defense of the NBA elite. His unimpressive 3.3 assists per game mirrors his struggles when tightly guarded. He must be able to survey the floor wherever he pleases while orchestrating plays, so the 20-year old has been putting in work on his handles. The incoming sophomore has also showed flashes of his beefed-up game in the Las Vegas Summer League. Lakers Nation, get hyped.
Working on: Perimeter shooting (?!)
He can't make a free throw to save his life, shooting 48 percent from the foul line last season. Now, Howard is trying to defy logic by trying to become a legit outside threat. If he completes this improbable journey, he might just have more success in his hometown than in Houston, where he shared the spotlight with co-alpha James Harden. That is, of course, if Dwight turns into "Dirk Howard" and won't piss off Hawks stalwart Paul Millsap.
Working on: Post moves
The Sixers gambled on Embiid when the Sixers picked him third overall in the 2014 Draft. It's been a crazy ride for the both the franchise and their fragile selection. After two seasons of sitting out, recuperating from a bum foot, and unintentionally hilarious tweets, Philadelphia may be on the verge of winning big with their seven-foot project. Look at the former Jayhawk, all healthy with a killer physique, practicing Hakeem-esque post moves:
Now, let's see if he can spin around his fellow big men as smoothly as he did against his 4'11" practice buddy.
Working on: Pull-up and fade-away jumpers
The aerodynamic Canadian has made the rounds in the Internet with a 720 dunk attempt. But the facet of Wiggins' game that he is keen on improving and worth watching out for during the break are his pull-up and fade-away jumpers a la Kobe Bryant. Perhaps, the Timberwolves' leading scorer was inspired to practice those Mamba moves by Bryant himself when the latter dropped 38 on him last season.
We might still see someone drain those impossible mid-range shots even after Kobe's retirement.
Working on: Overall game
Wiggins' Bounce Brother Zach is spending his summer getting better at practically everything that he's already good at. From hitting the weight room, to pushing himself on the football field, and finally onto the hardwood to fine-tune his skillset, LaVine is laser-focused. He has the chance to become the first Timberwolf to shoot 40 percent from beyond the arc since 2011, after making 39 percent of his three-point shots last season. The two-time dunk champion should thank the cutting edge shooting machine Dr. Dish if ever he turns into a cross between a Bounce and a Splash Brother.
Golden State Warriors
Working on: Shooting
Apart from the top-level conditioning he has gotten from his tour of duty with Team USA, Durant kept the basketball blood flowing by stroking it in the gym early in the offseason. Below are the shooting drills that helped the Durantula become one of the deadliest scorers in league history:
A four-time scoring champion having no chill, sharpening his sniping skill. No wonder Durant is among the Top 5 ballers of his generation.
Working on: Outside shot
Another Olympian had a head start in whipping himself into tip-top basketball shape. George practiced his long-ball prowess at the Seattle Pro-Am Summer Basketball League before joining the national team. Against a relatively formidable opposition, the face of the Indiana Pacers exhibited serious concern for refining his three-point proficiency. He burned the opposing team, full of players fired up to stop him, with 40 markers.
Los Angeles Clippers
Working on: Handles and shooting
A regular at the Seattle Pro-Am circuit, Crawford is even responsible for bringing some of the NBA's brightest talents to the semi-pro basketball league. The spitfire sixth man didn't break that tradition this year, making his return to Rain City and dazzling the crowd with his crafty ball-handling and high-arching threes, spit-shine polished.
Working on: Overall game
We're expecting big things from Milwaukee's young forward in his third NBA season. The ACL injury in his rookie year once clouded his basketball future, but that's not the case anymore. On his way to recovery as a sophomore, Parker showed flashes of his All-Star potential, looking like a future franchise player by the tail end of the Bucks' run. During this summer, Parker was a man on a mission to fulfill his promise, going hard in his hometown's Nike Chi League:
He followed it up with a 31-point outing in a three-overtime game during the second day of the Chicago classic. Hide yo' kids!
Working on: Handles and rebounding
After Oladipo's split with the Magic (traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder), Gordon is counted on to fill the scoring void. He seems to be welcoming the challenge as he showcased his neat ball-handling and mad hops in the San Francisco Pro-Am. Relentless at offensive rebounds (automatic two points), and getting to the lane at will, Air Gordon is ready to embrace his new, bigger role in Orlando.
Working on: Getting dunked on Rim protection
Drummond took part at the Drew League in Los Angeles to sustain his ascend as one of the league's most menacing forces in the paint. But when his shot-blocking was tested by a couple of high-leaping playground ballers, it became obvious that he still has a long way to go before he matches the defensive ferocity of his predecessor, Ben Wallace. Still, we're excited for what he has to offer next season. Despite his constant progress, the 23-year old is still nowhere near his ceiling.
If there's a positive takeaway from those vicious facials, it would be his mastery of the "patay malisya" look after being on the wrong end of an embarrassing play.