Player you’ll be buzzing about: WR Devin Funchess — The Panthers needed another wide receiver for Cam Newton, and they got one when they drafted Funchess. He’s a big, capable receiver who could end up being Newton’s favorite target this season.
What to watch: The NFC South will be up for grabs this season, and the Panthers simply need to execute better to ensure they’ll take the title again. They have a talented roster from top to bottom, though there are battles to be solved along the offensive line, at wide receiver, defensive end and outside linebacker. Where the Panthers wind up playing Shaq Thompson — he can play safety or linebacker — is something on which to keep an eye.
Most important position battle: Defensive end — The Panthers haven’t found a way to replace Greg Hardy’s production, but they’re hoping Kony Ealy, Frank Alexander and Wes Horton can try to get them there.
Nope. Nope, nope, and nope. The Spurs are 33-9, third in points allowed per possession and fourth in offensive efficiency. The bench whips the ball around as if Boris Diaw were still there. Patty Mills and Manu Ginobili have a special mind-meld, and when your two lead ball handlers dish and move like they do, the vibe is infectious. Nobody stands still. Jonathon Simmons has seen it up close for two years now, and both David Lee and Dewayne Dedmon have fit right in on the bench mob — one expert passer, one above-the-rim finisher type the Spurs haven’t had in a while. (Lee may have to start for a bit with Gasol nursing a broken finger.)
The starting five has always been able to slow things down and pound the ball to Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge. But now that they’re more comfortable with Gasol, they can pivot into a slower, calmer version of that whirring Spursy hyperactivity. Gasol and Aldridge are on fire from midrange, Danny Green has rediscovered his stroke, and Kawhi Leonard … my god, Kawhi Leonard.