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Mountain West basketeball: Storylines for the New NBA Season

The NBA season just tipped off and former Mountain West players find expectations higher and more serious than ever. Below are four story-lines to keep you connected.

Former Mountain West players Paul George and Tony Snell hope to play a pivotal role in their teams' success this season.
Former Mountain West players Paul George and Tony Snell hope to play a pivotal role in their teams' success this season.
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Another NBA season of 30 teams and 82 games is underway, As a Mountain West Conference fan, it can be somewhat overwhelming trying to follow players that either played for your team or terrorized it. Though I won't be able to cover every player in this article, below are four of the more interesting story-lines for this season.

Can Anthony Bennett find redemption?

The 2013 first overall pick is on his third team in as many seasons and the end of the line may be drawing near. Bennett will most likely never live up to the number one billing (but here's hoping he does). He should've never been the first overall pick of the draft -- he was injured and most teams did not have him in their top eight. But after being bought out by the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves, Bennett can no longer focus on this narrative.

Instead, Bennett now finds himself on a league minimum, one-year contract at the end of the bench for his hometown Toronto Raptors. He had an impressive summer playing against lesser competition for the Canadian national team and the country's fan base will be supportive on both his best and worst days. In other words, being home will help keep his once-shaken confidence even-keeled.

This season, Bennett must prove to the world that he is an NBA player and in doing so, he will begin his road to redemption. However, it will be difficult as the roster is currently configured. He is the third power forward in the rotation chart (behind a barely-mobile Luis Scola and Patrick Patterson) and he did not play in Toronto's first game (though he is coming off of an ankle sprain). Bennett will have moments to prove himself this season and if there was ever a time for the former UNLV player to be aggressive and put it all on the line, this is the year.

Can Paul George Play Power Forward?

After a gruesome leg injury that cost George most of last year, the former Fresno State baller is healthy this season and finds himself starting at power forward for an Indiana Pacers team that no longer has David West or Luis Scola manning the position.

George, who has already played major minutes at shooting guard and small forward (his natural position) since entering the league in 2010, slides into the post as the Pacers attempt to shift offense to an up-tempo small ball attack in the vein of the Golden State Warriors. The problem is that while Draymond Green, a small forward, has willingly accepted playing power forward for Golden State, George has been critical of playing the four for the Pacers.

That was probably a knee-jerk reaction, but it will be interesting to see how this plays out because it is part of a bigger problem. In two seasons the Pacers went from one of the best in the East to a fringe playoff team. West is gone, as is former starting center Roy Hibbert. If playing power forward doesn't suit George, I wonder if other misgivings will surface.

Against Memphis last night, George started at small forward so as to not have to guard a bulkier Zach Randolph. The other side to this story then will be can George take the contact in the post or will the Pacers have shifting lineups all year depending on whom they play?

Can Tony Snell Help the Bulls Over the Hump?

Tony Snell starts for the Chicago Bulls. The former Lobo, who posted a career high of 24 points last year against Sacramento, will add perimeter shooting and defense to the Bulls lineup in his third season. Snell will never be the first, second, or third option on this team, but that doesn't mean he can't play a role in their success. Playoff games are often won by role players -- John Paxson, Steve Kerr, etc. -- and for the Bulls to get over the hump, they will need players like Snell, Doug McDermott, and Nikola Mirotic to step up and be those X factors at certain times. Will Snell be ready when his number is called?

The media will continue to invent friction between Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler and talk about Joakim Noah's sacrifice to come off of the bench, but if Snell can put up 12 points a game, play solid defense, and shoot the three-ball at a decent clip, he will cement himself as an integral player on this team.

Can Kawhi Leonard Take Over as Franchise Player?

Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker are still around. The Spurs scored big this off-season and added LaMarcus Aldridge. And yet the Spurs need Leonard to be the guy. The reigning defensive player of the year continues to improve his offensive game. In the first game of the season he effectively held Kevin Durant to 32 percent shooting from the field while responding with the following stat line: 32 points (career high), 8 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks. Those 32 points came on an array of post-ups, pick and rolls, isolations, etc. The Spurs won't need Leonard to duplicate that every night to be one of the NBA's best, but it does demonstrate a new level of aggression from the silent assassin.

He will share the spotlight going forward with Aldridge and the two should make a great tandem. With Aldridge the Spurs know that they have a 20 point per game scorer who can rebound. That's who he is. But Leonard is still growing and seemingly makes incredible improvements every year. As Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker take a backseat, San Antonio's relevance relies on Leonard taking another step and being healthy for a full season.

All four of these players are at different points in their career, but they all have something to prove this season. Which MW players do you check in on?