With the new season, there are many players who are worth pay attention to. Either because they are new to the league or new to a certain team. Or maybe the are just poised to have break out season for whatever reason. I am staying away from LeBron, Kobe, Wade, the Celtics and everyone else we have heard about all summer and try to focus on players who we may get over looked, but could surprise this season. So here is my list of “Players To Watch” this season in the NBA, in no particular order.
Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls: Kirk Hinrich is gone and he finally has a legit post player to run the pick and roll with (Carlos Boozer). Rose is a better shooter than he was in college, and he still is one of the top five pure athletes in the league. His major flaw is his 3-point shooting and I would like his assist to turnover ratio improve. And with Boozer, I would expect to see an increase in his assist numbers. The Bulls will success will fall squarely on his shoulders.
Blake Griffin, LA Clippers: Last season’s No. 1 had high expectations prior to his knee injury, but now he is healthy and the Clippers are going to look to him even more. With a solid preseason, Griffin looks to prove he was worth the first pick and reassure Clippers-nation he is healthy, able to play, and the cruise is a thing of the past!
Richard Hamilton, Detroit Pistons: Hamilton played in only 46 games last season which was career low. Hamilton will be 33 on Valentine’s Day, is due to make $12.5M this season, and all signs are pointing to the trade of this crucial piece to the 2006 NBA Championship. I imagine he ends up with a team like the Thunder, Spurs, Jazz where he can help them win and play in the postseason again.
Eric Gordon, LA Clippers: After a very good, but injury-filled sophomore season, Gordon proved he is a capable NBA player. And players always seem to take a big step forward after playing for Team USA. After a season where Gordon played 36 minutes a game and scored 16.9 ppg, it would seem Gordon is maxing his potential, but I would imagine Gordon will continue to elevate his game as teams will have to decide where to focus their defensive attention.
Darren Collison, Indiana Pacers: When Chris Paul went down with injury, there was great concern whether Collison could hold his own or not. But Collison proved he was even more legit than most people gave him credit. Collison averaged 12.4 ppg and 5.7 apg for the season, but when he started get more minutes, his production rocketed. From Jan. 30th to the end of the season when he started averaging over 39 minutes a game, he scored 19.2 ppg and 8.4 apg. With the Pacers, he will get to run the show – and could be an all-star.
Houston Rockets Starting Back Court: Aaron Brooks had a spectacular season, after having a sensational playoffs, and the Rockets handed him the keys to the team and he did not disappoint. Then the Rockets traded for Kevin Martin. And both continued to be productive. Can that continue? How will the departure of Trevor Ariza effect them? More touches? The question which will need to be answered is “How will they work Yao?” And how do the initiate the offense? No matter the answer, this duo is going to give teams fits every night.
Mo Williams, Cleavland Cavaliers: Now that LeBron has taken “his talents to South Beach”, Williams will now have the ball in his hands much more and will need to score. But I fear he is going to be a great fantasy player which puts up numbers, which won’t equal wins. I don’t expect the Cavs to relevant in the Eastern Conference Playoff picture, but he will be out to prove a point.
Zach Randolph, Memphis Grizzles: Randolph comes off of a great season with the Grizzles where he was rewarded with his first All-Star game. Randolph seems to have found a home in Memphis, or maybe he has finally matured. Remember, he is only 29 and had been in the league since 2001. Where Randolph really shined was his offensive rebounding where he averaged a league high 4.1 a game. And he was tied for third for overall rebounding at 11.7 a game – a career high.
Andrew Bogut, Milwaukee Bucks: After only playing 105 games out of a possible 164 in the last two seasons, Bogut is playing to justify the 5-year, $60M contract extension he signed in 2008. He is due $12M this season alone. Prior to his season ending injury last season, Bogut was off to his best season as a pro; 15.9 ppg, 10.1 rpg with 2.5 blocks a game as well.
Gerald Wallace, Charlotte Bobcats: Can he improve on a season where he averaged 41 mins a game, 18.1 ppg, 10.1 rpg, shot 37% from distance, got to the foul-line 7.2 times a game? Other than ppg which was the 2nd highest or his career, all were career highs. Or will a whole season along side Stephan Jackson present the same opportunity? Wallace is a good player, not a great player, but he is the type of guy all teams need to win. And the Bobcats saw just want they have in Wallace.
Al Jefferson, Utah Jazz: I was sad to see him, but it was time. Jefferson becomes the primary low-block scoring threat and like Carlos Boozer, will not play defense. He is a player to watch as he moves further away from his ACL injury and in many cases it can take well over a season to get back to 100% after such an injury. My bet is he will get back to a double-double player and will love play with Deron Williams.