5 biggest homecomings to look forward to in 2021-22 NBA season
With NBA free agency coming to a close, we saw a lot of teams beef up their rosters. Some notable move include Kyle Lowry joining the Miami Heat, Russell Westbrook getting traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, and DeMar DeRozan inking a deal with the Chicago Bulls.
Free agency offers teams the chance to retool their rosters for the upcoming season. While some teams reinforced their rosters with stars, others brought back old-timers with open arms. Although this isn’t common, it does bring in some advantages.
Old-timers are well-acquainted with the franchise, which makes adjustments to systems much less of a problem. Aside from this, with more experience under their belt, these players are now more seasoned and matured to help out in the team’s lacking departments.
For this piece, let’s take a look at five biggest homecomings we can look forward to for the 2021-22 NBA season.
Al Horford – Boston Celtics
The Celtics have dealt with frontcourt issues in their recent campaigns. Because of this, they’ve moved on from their notable big men in Daniel Theis, Tristan Thompson, Enes Kanter, and 7-foot-5 behemoth Tacko Fall. With Brad Stevens elevated to president of basketball operations, one of his notable moves was bringing back Al Horford. In exchange, the Celtics unloaded veteran All-Star Kemba Walker.
Al Horford shared his excitement to be back in Boston today 💪☘️
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) June 24, 2021
Horford was one of the stars for the Celtics from 2016-2019. In three seasons, the five time All-Star averaged 13.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game. Since then, he has suited up for the Philadelphia 76ers and Oklahoma City Thunder. Before choosing to return to the Celtics, Horford averaged 14.2 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game in just 28 games for the tanking Thunder. He was essentially sent home for the second half of the season.
Now at 35 years old, it’s hard to expect Horford to play like his peak. But despite this, his return to Boston is notable. The Celtics are trying to bounce back after a disappointing 2020-21 season. With Horford’s return, the Celtics have a reliable veteran, who can space the floor and give the team a boost in the froncourt. Horford can also mentor young bigs Robert Williams and Grant Williams.
With the return of a five-time All-Star, Horford could be the missing piece that will elevate the squad to deeper waters in the postseason, with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown leading the way.
Eric Bledsoe – Los Angeles Clippers
Eric Bledsoe is a familiar name for Clippers fans. He started his NBA career with the infamous Lob City squad that turned the Clippers into a legitimate contender for the first time in franchise history. Serving as a backup to Chris Paul, Bledsoe averaged 6.7 points and 3.0 dimes per game in three seasons. As we all know, the Clippers failed to capture a championship during that era.
Fast forward to today, and the Clippers and Bledsoe will be reuniting once again. The Clippers moved on from Patrick Beverley and Rajon Rondo and traded them in exchange for Bledsoe.
This time around, Bledsoe will surround a different group of stars. Spearheaded by Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the team has consistently threatened the West as a championship contender. So far, the All-Star duo has failed to reach the NBA Finals.
Bledsoe will be entering this Clippers squad as a different player, too. Since his initial stint with the Clippers, Bledsoe has had solid stints as a legitimate starting guard with the Phoenix Suns, Milwaukee Bucks, and New Orleans Pelicans. He has also racked up a pair of All-Defensive honors since then. Last season, Bledsoe averaged 12.2 points, 3.8 assists, and 3.4 rebounds per outing.
With the return of Bledsoe, the Clippers have a solid point guard to support their All-Star duo. Should Bledsoe be a good fit and Kawhi comes back healthy from his ACL injury, the Clippers might have a decent shot at finally realizing their championship desires.
George Hill – Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks finally ended their championship drought by capturing their first title in 50 years. To reinforce their roster for their upcoming title defense, the Bucks called up a familiar face in George Hill.
Hill was a reliable backup guard for the Bucks for part of the 2018-19 season and then the entire 2019-20 season. In those seasons, he averaged 8.2 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game. Since then, he spent last season with the Thunder before being traded to the Sixers. His best numbers from last season came with the Thunder. In his brief stint with them, Hill averaged 11.8 points and 3.1 assists per game.
The return of Hill will give the Bucks some much-needed depth in their backcourt. As a backup to Jrue Holiday, Hill will reinforce the second unit with his defense and shooting. Last season, he made 38.8% of his 3-pointers.
More importantly, Hill’s familiarity with NBA Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and two time All-Star Khris Middleton will be key, especially in the postseason.
Andre Iguodala – Golden State Warriors
The Warriors took over the league for the most part of the past decade. However, they’ve missed the playoffs twice since their injury-riddled NBA Finals run in 2019. Fortunately for them, the road back to championship glory might be in sight. Aside from the return of Klay Thompson from injury, the team is also getting back Andre Iguodala.
Iggy was a crucial piece in the Warriors’ championship runs. His defense and veteran presence impacted the team in ways that transcend the box score. In fact, he was even their 2015 Finals MVP in their first of three championships during the past decade. With Iggy on their roster, the team has another elite defensive stopper that can slow down opposing wings.
With his return, it is obvious that Iggy won’t score a lot of points, especially now that he’s 37. However, Iggy’s defense will be crucial in their quest for another championship. Furthermore, with the team parading some young wings, his mentorship will bear fruits in the long run.
The Los Angeles Lakers Reunion Tour
The Lakers made a lot of noise during free agency. After a disappointing NBA title defense, the team loaded its roster by surrounding their superstar duo with big names. Headlined by the acquisition of Russell Westbrook, the team also signed a slew of former Lakers in Dwight Howard, Kent Bazemore, Trevor Ariza, Wayne Ellington, and Rajon Rondo, with DeAndre Jordan on the way as well.
It will be interesting to see how the Lakers will make it work with these seasoned veterans. Given that most of them are way above 30, the Lakers became the oldest team in the league with an average age right around 31 years old.
DeAndre Jordan joining the Lakers confirms that they are going straight Uncle Drew with this squad.
Put some Ensure in them Gatorade bottles 😂😂😂 pic.twitter.com/OBBkRcIrWN
— J. Cold (@iamchaddeshawn) September 3, 2021
Although age can be a bad thing, it also brings some benefits. Most of the Lakers’ returnees know how to win. Howard and Rondo were part of the squad that won the Lakers’ championship in 2020. In addition to this, Ariza was part of the 2010 squad that raised the trophy.
Furthermore, Bazemore and Ellington certainly address one of the Lakers’ weaknesses from last season, which was perimeter shooting. The former knocked down 40.8% of his triples while suiting up for the Warriors last season. Ellington, on the other hand, has made 38.2% of his treys over the course of his 12-year career. He also knocked down a career-high 42.2% of his shots from rainbow country last season with the Detroit Pistons.
Sure enough, the Lakers still have a lot of questions to address. However, at least on paper, the team has the tools to position themselves for its 17th NBA championship.