Even though we’re now a few days removed from the NBA’s big reveal of its full 2021-22 regular-season schedule, there’s still plenty to unpack about it. Will the Brooklyn Nets be 100% healthy by the time they play the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks on opening night? Did the league really leave off reigning MVP Nikola Jokic and his Denver Nuggets from the Christmas slate? How impressive is it that 22-year-old Trae Young is already leading the Atlanta Hawks to 19 nationally televised games?
But even beyond the macro look at the calendar, there are so many smaller things to analyze from a card-collecting standpoint. Take the three players singled out in this story. Steph Curry, Zion Williamson and Russell Westbrook all come into the new year with some questions surrounding their teams and lots of eyes on them individually. If these guys come out the gate firing in their enticing, early-season match-ups (which we fully expect), the following cards could really benefit.
Steph Curry, 2009 Prestige PSA 10
When it comes to Curry rookie cards, there are more attractive options (2009 Panini) and more valuable ones (2009 Topps Chrome), but this ’09 Prestige RC might be the best-looking choice for early growth this season. Currently selling for $650-670, the card lived around $900 as late as early July.
Curry is coming off a 32-ppg season where he was without Klay Thompson all season and No. 1 draft pick James Wiseman for roughly half the year. With these pieces likely back by the new year, Curry’s workload will be lessened. But that’s all down the road. Golden State’s first two games are nationally televised affairs against the L.A. Lakers (Oct. 19) and Clippers (Oct. 21), so Steph’s one-man show will be on full display for the hobby world to see. And listen, nothing gets transactions going quite like a few 45-point performances on a big stage.
Zion Williamson, 2019 Chronicles Luminance PSA 10
We’re sure you’ve seen the scary-high number of Zion Williamson 2019 Prizm cards (more than 35,000!) that have been graded by PSA. While that stat might steer some collectors away from the New Orleans sensation altogether, others have no plans of getting off the Williamson Express anytime soon. In fact, according to Sports Card Investor’s Market Movers database, the collective sales of Zion cards have gone up 15% in the past 30 days.
Only four of the Pelicans’ first 10 games are against teams that made the playoffs a season ago. Translation: we’ll see pretty quickly how far along New Orleans is in the rebuilding process. But win or lose, Williamson will be the centerpiece of nightly ESPN highlights. When hobbyists are reminded of his dominance, this relatively low POP beauty (only 1,300 PSA 10s) may catch some eyes. And it doesn’t hurt that the image of Williamson soaring for a dunk is pure fire.
Russell Westbrook, 2008 Topps Chrome PSA 10
Not that we’re keeping track or anything, but Westbrook’s new team, the Lakers, plays two of Westbrook’s old teams, the OKC Thunder (Oct. 27) and Houston Rockets (Oct. 31), in the same week. Who knows if Russ will have added motivation to shine on those nights? And what effect all the preseason poll disrespect will have on Westbrook’s performance — Hoops Hype ranked him as only the 10th best point guard entering the season while he earned a head-scratching 85 rating in NBA 2K22 — is yet to be determined.
What we do know is that L.A. will play more games on national television this coming season than any other club, eight of those by Thanksgiving. Brodie averaged 22 points, 11 boards and 11 assists a season ago. When he has a couple eye-popping outings next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis, interest will likely pique for this card, one of the most sought-after Westbrook RCs on the market. Back on July 31, a PSA 10 sold for $2,400. Someone grabbed another for $1,469 less than a month later. We can only imagine where this card will go once Russ goes on one of his trademark triple-double runs.
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