By C. Jay Jones
The 2015-2016 NBA season is finally underway. Many people are expecting the Cleveland Cavaliers to repeat as Eastern Conference champs, but other teams will try to spoil their run. The Western Conference, however, is unpredictable with any team who can make it to the NBA Finals. For Nevada alumni, these current players will have a chance to make an impact for their respective teams while trying to survive another 82-game season.
Luke Babbitt is having his moment in the NBA having already made two playoff appearances in his five-year career (one with the Trail Blazers and one with his current team the New Orleans Pelicans). In the preseason for the ‘Big Easy’, he played the first three games with decent minutes (24.3 minutes per game) and performed well (Ten points, 39 percent shooting, 39 percent from three-point range, ten rebounds, seven assists and two steals) to prepare for the season before being out with a hamstring injury. Babbitt made his debut Saturday against the Warriors and contributed on the court for 30 minutes (four points and six rebounds) before losing 134-120. He will play limited minutes this season, but optimism is on his side due to the team’s injuries.
JaVale McGee had glimpses of success from the beginning of his career before being moved around by three different teams (Wizards, Nuggets and 76ers) before making his next stop in Dallas. He hasn’t played a single minute in the preseason since joining the Mavericks due to a left tibial stress fracture. According to Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban, McGee should return sometime in November. Once McGee is healthy to return, he should be a force to be reckoned with in the front court positions.
With seven preseason games in the books (average of 46 percent field goals and 82 percent free throws), Sessions is looking to be a big help off the bench in relief for any guard. The Wizards won Wednesday’s (88-87 at Orlando) and Friday (118-113 at Milwaukee) with Sessions being effective on offense (27 points and 75 percent for free throws in two games). He will play good minutes and could be a solid sixth man later on down the road.
Burton is still trying to progress at the next level. He played overseas last season for the ratiopharm Ulm of the Basketball Bundesliga League in Germany, but was limited by his performance. In July 2015, he joined the 76ers for the Utah Jazz Summer League and played three games during the tournament. He also had the opportunity of playing in the NBA again after signing with the Suns in August, but he didn’t show up to training camp and was waived on October 6th. Burton still has room for improvement and is projected to play for the Bakersfield Jam in the D-League in November. If he improves in his weak areas (dribbling with confidence, shot selection and shooting consistency), he could have another opportunity to get on an NBA roster.
There’s a long way to go in the NBA season with a chance for these players to get more game time minutes and become difference makers for their teams. There will be more to know about how they are progressing whether they become starters, out with injuries, go to another team, be in free agency limbo or play for another league.
C. Jay Jones can be reached at email@example.com an