Finally putting to bed the much-sneered fad of big threes that reduced the NBA's allure to just the playoffs for most parts of the 2010s, the league is all about star duos now.
The 2019 free agency was definitely the most narrative-altering start to the NBA offseason in recent years, and arguably so in the league's entire history. We witnessed free agent movements that were unprecedented. We gasped at trades that were unheralded. We spectated superstar sagas that were unexampled.
In what is certainly a new-look league, some things still haven't changed in the NBA. And that's the spotlight to which certain superstars are subject to - more so this time around - thanks to the tectonic developments around them.
While it is certainly ironical, it's the established stars who have to prove themselves time and again in this unforgiving league. These are players whom we've come to expect great things of, year after year. And it's because of these great expectations, that tongues start wagging the moment they fall short of the same.
Having said that, let us now look at these five NBA superstars who will be expected to showcase to the world yet again just why they're put on such a high pedestal by the basketball cognoscenti.
#5 Ben Simmons
At just 23 years of age and given the things that he has already accomplished, there's no limiting the highs that Ben Simmons can achieve in his career. Argue all you want about the verbatim meaning of the term 'rookie', the Australian more than deserved the Rookie of the Year honor he was awarded in 2018.
Capping off a brilliant sophomore year with a maiden All-Star selection last season, Simmons contributes to the Philadelphia 76ers in manifold ways. He has the motor in transition, the vision to dissect the opponent's defense, and the drive to perform on both ends of the court. In addition to 8.8 rebounds and 7.7 assists, Simmons averaged 16.9 points per game in his last campaign, that too without a jump shot. But that's exactly where the problem lies.
In a league that's always inching more and more towards scoring from distance, there's only so much that Simmons can do through layups and post moves. The fact that he isn't adept at making jumpers also allows the opposition to leave him unmarked near the perimeter and focus on restricting the primary scorer on the court, who is Joel Embiid in most cases.
Philly has already renewed their faith in the 6'10 point guard by offering him a 5-year $170 million max extension, a move that fans are still not sold on. While I'm one of those guys who believe that Simmons absolutely deserves this contract, he must prove it himself by developing a reliable jump shot this offseason. He must prove that he can take his game to the next level.