The Single Most Important Player On Every NBA Team
The Single Most Important Player On Every NBA Team
With the 2012-13 NBA pre-season underway, there are many and interesting storylines and angles that will keep even the most casual hoops fan intrigued.
Thanks to an off-season that would see the likes of Jeremy Lin, Andre Igudoula, Joe Johnson, Andrew Bynum, Steve Nash and Dwight Howard switch teams, expectations for teams such as the Brooklyn Nets, Denver Nuggets and the Los Angeles Lakers are raised even higher.
While the 2011-12 season would see LeBron James win his first-ever NBA title, the off-season additions of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis down in South Beach still make the defending champion Miami Heat the team to beat—and universally hate.
That being said, with the start of the start of the regular season about two weeks away, this slideshow will examine the single most important player on every team.
Various teams have either a quality big man, explosive swingman or a floor general of a point guard, each team has something that another doesn’t have.
Whichever team has the best point guard, best center or best player in the league can—and will be debated—well into June when either a new champion is crowned or the Heat successfully defend their crown.
While some players such as Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo and Deron Williams are easy to name as their teams most important player, other players such as Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jonas Valanciunas can make the case that they are the future of their respective franchises such as the Minnesota Timberwolves and Toronto Raptors respectively
Without further adieu, here are the single most important players for each NBA team.
Atlanta Hawks : SF Josh Smith
Perhaps one of the most underrated players in the NBA, Atlanta Hawks small forward, Josh Smith is one the cusp of being an elite player. Smith, 26, would post career bests in points per game (18.8), assists (3.9) and rebounds (9.6)
The 6’9, 225-pound Smith would also average a team-best 1.7 blocks per game.
With ex-teammate Joe Johnson now with the Brooklyn Nets, look for the eight-year veteran to take on more of a leadership role down in Atlanta and emerge into the real leader of the Hawks in 2012-13.
Boston Celtics : PG Rajon Rondo
A wily and slick ball-handler in the mold of former great, Bob Cousy, Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo may be the the best pure point guard in the NBA not named Chris Paul.
While many critics choose to point out Rondo’s 44.8 percent shooting from the field, there is no denying that with his ability to run an offense, pass and penetrate, Rondo is one of the most unique players in the NBA.
In averaging career highs in points per game (11.9), assists, (11.7) and rebounds (4.8), it was Rondo’s breakout 44-point, 10 assist performance against the eventual NBA champion Miami Heat, that truly put the former Kentucky standout on the NBA map of top-tier point guards.
With former teammate, Ray Allen defecting to the hated Heat, and Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce another year older, Boston is now truly Rondo’s team.
Brooklyn Nets : PG Deron Williams
Williams, who is often debated with Paul as to who the best true point guard is in the NBA, would lead the Nets in points per game (21.0) and assists (8.7).
After coming close to leaving the Nets for his hometown Dallas Mavericks, Williams would see Brooklyn acquire shooting guard Joe Johnson from the Atlanta Hawks and re-sign power forward Kris Humphries, giving Brooklyn a legitimate contender.
With Williams running the point in Brooklyn, expect the Nets to not only contend in the East, but for the crown of best team in New York City.
Charlotte Bobcats : SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
A surprise pick by the Charlotte Bobcats, small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist looks to be the future face of the Bobcats.
Selected second overall in the 2012 NBA Draft, the former Kentucky standout appears to have injected the moribound franchise with a sense of leadership and much-needed athleticism on the wing.
With a revamped lineup that features off-season acquisitions such as veteransRamon Sessions, Ben Gordon and Brendan Haywood, expect Kidd-Gilchrist to blossom in the “Queen City”
Chicago Bulls : PG Derrick Rose
If there is any ONE player that could be the thesis of this column, it would be the 2010-11 Most Valuable Player in Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose.
Rose, who would tear his right ACL in a 99-87 playoff victory over the Philadelphia 76ers, would end up missing the rest of the post-season and sit helplessly as the Sixers would upset the top-seeded Bulls.
Currently rehabbing at Athletes Performance out in Los Angeles, Rose is expected to out 8-to-12 months.
With his timetable of return unexpected, former NBA player Tim Hardaway suggested that Rose sit out the entire 2012-13 season instead of risking his career and re-aggravating his injury.
While he or may not decide to sit out the entire 2012-13 season, the absence of Rose shows his value as a player.
Cleveland Cavaliers : PG Kyrie Irving
Fully healed after a off-season right hand injury, Cavs point guard Kyrie Irving is the key to Cleveland emerging into a contender in 2012-13.
The 2011-12 NBA Rookie Of the Year, Irving would lead all rookies in scoring (18.5) and help Cleveland move forward post-Lebron.
If the Cleveland Cavaliers hope to take the next step, look for Irving to be more of a leader and facilitate the offense, which featured free-agent swingman, C.J. Miles, small forward Alonzo Gee, second-year power forward Tristan Thompson and Brazilian center Anderson Varejao.
With rookies Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller expected to contribute form the bench, look for Irving to once again lead the Wine and Gold, and for the Cavaliers to take another step towards becoming a legitimate contender in the East.
Dallas Mavericks : PF Dirk Nowitzki
Perhaps the best European player to ever play in the NBA, Dallas Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowitzki has enough offensive firepower to help lead the Mavericks back to the NBA Finals.
The 34-year-old German national led the Mavericks in scoring (21.7) in the 2011-12 regular season, now faces a new challenge in trying to lead a veteran team that would see the likes of Jason Terry, Jason Kidd and Lamar Odom leave in free agency.
The key for the Mavericks will be how well they mesh with new teammates such as O.J. Mayo and fellow German center,Chris Kaman.
If Nowitzki is able to replicate his 2010-11 NBA Finals MVP form, look for Dallas to be a contender in the Western Conference once again in 2012-13.
Denver Nuggets : SF/SG Andre Igudoula
Acquired in a four-team blockbuster trade that would send Andrew Bynum to the Philadelphia 76ers and Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers, Denver Nuggets swingman Andre Igudoula may be one of the most talented and under-appreciated superstars in the NBA today.
A reserve for the United States gold medal basketball team in London, Igudoula is the key reason why many have named the Nuggets one of the top contenders in the Western Conference.
Still young at the age of 28, the 6’6 209-pound former Arizona standout gives the Nuggets athleticism, defense and the ability to attack the rim, Igudoula and the Nuggets are going to be one of the teams to keep an eye on in 2012-13.
Detroit Pistons : PF/C Greg Monroe
Thanks to the selection of former UConn center Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons power forward Greg Monroe may be set for a All-Star like breakout season in 2012-13.
The second-year former Georgetown Hoya would post career highs in points per game (15.4), assists (2.3) and rebounds (9.7), tops on the team.
Monroe would also lead the Pistons in steals with 1.3
With the addition of Drummond along with the veteran presence of small forward Tayshaun Prince and shooting guard Rodney Stuckey, look for Monroe to have another solid year in the Motor City
Golden State Warriors : PG Stephen Curry
If he can find a way to stay healthy.
The third-year player out of Davidson, would miss 40 games due to an ankle injury in 2010-11.
Since being drafted seventh overall by the Warriors has missed a total of 50 games, after missing a total of ten games in his first two NBA seasons.
If Curry to find a way to avoid the injury bug in 2012-13, Golden State will be a dangerous sleeper in the top-heavy West.
Houston Rockets : PG Jeremy Lin
Perhaps the most over-hyped and most marketed athlete in recent memory,Jeremy Lin would parlay playing on the biggest stage in hoops--Madison Square Garden--into a rich multi-year deal by touching down with the Houston Rockets.
The former undrafted free agent from Harvard would go from benchwarmer to overnight sensation and in the process generate media buzz—aptly named “Lin-sanity”—not seen in the Big Apple that has not been seen at MSG since the days of Walt Frazier.
A restricted free agent, New York would decline to match the Rockets offer for the popular point guard due to a provision that would call for the Knicks to play an estimated $15 million luxury tax in the third year of the deal.
Lin would end up signing with Houston—who originally waived him—to a three-year $25.5 million deal.
Back in Houston now, Lin will be counted on to run Houston’s offense as well as provide leadership for a young team that has young talent in Kevin Martin, Chandler Parsons and talented rookies in Terrance Jones, Jeremy Lamb and Royce White.
With Lin in the Lone State State, watch for the Rockets to take off in 2012-13.
Indiana Pacers : C Roy Hibbert
With all due respect to Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum, but at 7’2 and 280 pounds, Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert maybe the best big man in the NBA.
The fourth-year big man out of Georgetown has helped continue the tradition of dominant Hoya centers in the NBA, following in the footsteps of Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutumbo.
Hibbert would take his game to another level in helping lead the underdog Pacers to a near upset of the eventual champion Miami Heat by averaging 12.3 points, 11.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks.
For the 2011-12 regular season, Hibbert averaged a career best 12.8 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.0 blocks.
If Hibbert can continue to dominate in the paint for the Pacers, Indiana could very well give any team in the east more than they can handle.
Los Angeles Clippers : PG Chris Paul
While many may try to argue that Brooklyn Nets point guard Deron Williams is the best pure point guard in the NBA, Los Angeles Clippers point guard, Chris Paul has more than a legitimate claim to the title.
Paul, who would be acquired by the Clippers from the New Orleans Hornets, firmly established himself as the best point guard in Los Angeles, and in the NBA in helping lead the Clippers from perennial laughing-stock to bonafide contender.
Paul, 27, would average 19.8 points, 9.1 assists and 3.6 rebounds in helping the Clippers become relevant again in the Southern California sports scene.
With a full year in Los Angeles, and a fully healed Chauncey Billups in the backcourt beside him, look for Paul to lead the Clippers deep into the postseason.
Los Angeles Lakers : C Dwight Howard
While it may have be the obvious choice to have “The Black Mamba” in this slot, the recent acquisition of Dwight Howard and the defensive presence he gives the Los Angeles Lakers, makes him more important—not valuable—than Kobe Bryant in this case.
The six-time All Star and three-time NBA Defensive Player Of the Year, the 6’11, 265-pound Howard gives the Lakers some much needed defensive help in the post.
While some may say that former center Andrew Bynum is a better offensive player, Howard is more vital in head coach Mike Brown’s defensive-minded system.
Before going down with a back injury in 2011-12 while a member of the Orlando Magic, Howard would average 20.6 points, 14.5 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game.
In Los Angeles, Howard will be counted on to guard the paint and improve the Lakers otherwise-shoddy defense down low. If—and when—he comes back fully healthy, watch for the Lakers to come out of the West.
Memphis Grizzlies : C Marc Gasol
Gasol, 27, would post career highs in points per game (14.6), assists (8.9) and blocks (1.9) in helping lead the Grizzlies to a playoff berth 2011-12.
If the Grizzlies hope to return to the playoffs in 2012-13, Look for the younger Gasol to once again lead the way.
Miami Heat : SF LeBron James
What else can be said about this generation’s most polarizing sports figure, in winning his first title, Miami Heat small forward LeBron James would finally be able to silence his many critics and enter the discussion of one of the all-time best NBA players.
The three-time NBA Most Valuable Player, James would have the 2011-12 season—his second in Miami—in averaging 27.1 points, 6.2 assists and 7.9 rebounds and a 2012 NBA Finals MVP.
Now with a revamped roster that features sharpshooters in Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, there is a very good chance that James will have a legitimate chance of winning his second NBA title in June.
Milwaukee Bucks : PG Brandon Jennings
For all the talk of Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Derrick Rose, Jennings may be the best point guard that few talk about.
The third-year point guard out of Italy would post career highs in points per game (19.1) and assists (5.5).
Truly one of the best young point guards today, the 6’1, 169-pound Jennings is a sleeper that may very well wake up and take the NBA by storm in 2012-13.
Minnesota Timberwolves : PG Ricky Rubio
While it may be easy to put power forward Kevin Love as Minnesota’s most important player, with the NBA being a point-guard driven league, Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio is the more logical choice.
Another factor is Love inking a four-year $60 million deal with a opt-out clause in his third year, which makes the possibility of him leaving The Twin Cities in 2015 very possible, the main reason why the most important player at this time is Rubio, instead of the gold-medal champion from UCLA.
Rubio, who would be drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2009 in the first round from Spain, would come over to the Wolves from Spanish club, F.C. Barcelona and average 10.6 points, 8.2 assists and 4.2 rebounds in his first NBA season in 2010-11.
With early reports that his recovery from a torn ACL and LCL last spring are on schedule for a December return, Love will have to shoulder the offensive load in the post.
Once Rubio is fully healed and healthy, look for the Wolves to emerge as a dangerous sleeper out West.
New Orleans Hornets : C Anthony Davis
The top overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft out of Kentucky, center Anthony Davis, figures to the be the cornerstone of a young—yet dangerous—New Orleans Hornets team that features one of the best backcourts in Eric Gordon and fellow rookie Austin Rivers.
While Davis is still a rookie, he will be counted on to be the face of a franchise that would see Chris Paul leave via trade and center Chris Kaman leave via free agency.
With the off-season pickup of center Robin Lopez from the Phoenix Suns, Davis will have a quality backup and the Hornets will have some much needed depth down low.
In Davis, New Orleans finally has a foundation to build around and a much-need defensive upgrade as well.
New York Knicks : SF Carmelo Anthony
Often overlooked as a MVP candidate, thanks to his stellar performance for Team USA in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony has the perfect platform to enter the 2012-13 discussion for MVP.
While Lebron James and Kevin Durant are considered to be early favorites, Anthony practically willed the Knicks into the playoffs in averaging 29.8 points and 7.3 rebounds in April.
While the Knicks would eventually lose to the eventual NBA champion Miami Heat four games to one, Anthony would average 27.8 points and 8.2 rebounds in the series.
If Anthony can replicate his late-season and Olympic form in 2012-13, not only will the Knicks contend again in the East, but Anthony may claim his first MVP award.
Oklahoma City Thunder : SF Kevin Durant
The youngest scoring champion in NBA history, Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant may be the most gifted player—not named Lebron James—in the league today.
Durant, who would help lead the former Seattle SuperSonics to their third NBA Finals appearance, would fall short to James’ Heat in five games.
With a team loaded with playmakers in Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka, it is Durant who is the undisputed leader in OKC.
With an off-season to refocus and bulking up, do not be surprised to see Durant and the Thunder back in the NBA Finals once again.
Orlando Magic : PG Jameer Nelson
Thanks to the departure of former big man in center Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers, the onus falls on eight-year veteran point guard Jammer Nelson to become the new leader down in the Magic Kingdom.
The 30-year-old out of St Joseph’s, Nelson is now in charge of running an offense that no longer goes thru Howard on the block, and will focus more on a perimeter-oriented game reliant on outside shooting.
Yes, while Orlando will still shoot the three-pointer, the Magic’s offense will now run thru Nelson with the new main scoring options being Glen Davis on the block and Hedo Turkoglu on the wing.
With the loss of Howard and shift in offensive strategy, look for Nelson to emerge into a real floor general.
Philadelphia 76ers : C Andrew Bynum
In Philadelphia, you have a team that has young talent in the form of Spencer Hawes. Evan Turner, Jrue Holiday and newly-acquired shooting guard—who would come over with Bynum—in Jason Richardson.
A gifted offensive player in the post, Bynum averaged 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks for the Los Angeles Lakers in 2010-11.
If Bynum an find a way to avoid the injury bug and play up to his full potential, Philadelphia could make for a very dangerous team in the East.
Phoenix Suns : PG Goran Dragic
A two-time member of the Phoenix Suns from 2008-10 and 2010-2011, point guard Yugoslavian-born Goran Dragic has the unenviable task of replacing local icon in Steve Nash.
Dragic, who would play for the Houston Rockets in 2011-12, averaged a career best in points (11.7), assists (5.3) and rebounds (2.5) in 66 games for the Rockets.
Dragic would ink a four-year $34 million contract as a unrestricted free agent in the offseason in returning to the “Valley Of The Sun”
In Phoenix, he will be expected to lead a team that would see veterans Grant Hill and Robin Lopez leave in free agency, sign Luis Scola, Jermaine O’Neal and Michael Beasley.
In making these moves, Phoenix hopes that it makes Dragic’s job in Phoenix of following in Nash's footsteps much easier.
Portland Trail Blazers : PF LaMarcus Aldridge
Perhaps the most overlooked All-Star caliber player in the NBA, it should be a travesty of how Portland Trail Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge practically goes unnoticed.
The former Texas Longhorn averaged career highs in points(21.7), assists (2.4) and rebounds (8.0) for the Trail Blazers in 2010-11.
For all of his great play and physical ability, the fact that Aldridge was perhaps the most noticeable All-Star snub in last year’s All-Star game, speaks volumes, not only of his play, but the voting process and fan selection as a whole.
Fully motivated and with a young electric point guard in rookie Damian Lillard, look for Aldridge to break through in 2012-13.
Sacramento Kings : SG Marcus Thornton
The third-year power shooting guard out of LSU, Thornton would average career highs in points (18.7), assists (1.9) and rebounds (3.7) in 2011-12. Alongside point guard Isaiah Thomas, Thornton helps form one of the most explosive backcourts in the NBA, as well as one of the most dangerous.
If the Kings are to take the next step in becoming a contender, look for Thornton to develop a more defined leadership role in 2012-13.
San Antonio Spurs : PG Tony Parker
Once considered to be a second fiddle to power forward Tim Duncan, the San Antonio Spurs have become Tony Parker’s team.
One of the fastest and fleetest of all point guards in the NBA, the 30-year-old Frenchman averaged career highs in points (18.3) and assists (7.7)
The 11-year veteran, who was once considered a candidate of 2010-11 NBA MVP, would average 21.5 points during the Spurs playoff run before bowing out to the eventual Western Conference champion, Oklahoma City Thunder.
Thanks to a uncanny ability to pass, shoot and dribble, Parker is the engine in the Spurs machine.
Toronto Raptors : C Jonas Valanciunas
At 6’11 and 240 pounds, Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas has the physical tools to play in the NBA, the question that remains is that does he have the mental capacity to adjust to a faster more physical NBA game.
Valanciunas, who would be bought of his contract for Lithuanian club, Lieutuvos Rytas by the Raptors would score two points and two blocks in his NBA debut.
Still young at the age of 20, Valancuinas has the ability to grow and develop into a quality big man, as he has shown an innate ability to block and run out on transition on the open floor.
If Valanciunas can reach his full potential, he has the ability to become the best Toronto center since Chris Bosh.
Utah Jazz : PG Mo Williams
A explosive point guard with a shooting mentality, Utah Jazz point guard Mo Williams shows that you can go home again.
Drafted in the second round in the 2003 NBA Draft out of Alabama, Williams would play for with the Milwaukee Bucks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Clippers before being re-acquired via trade by the Jazz.
In 52 games with the Clippers, Williams would average 13.2 points, 3.1 assists and 1.9 rebounds before being dealt back to Utah.
Now back in Salt Lake City, Williams will be counted out to orchestrate an offense that has some talent in it in the form of Gordon Hayward, Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson and Marvin Williams.
Not afraid to shoot the ball, look for Williams to be more of a distributor and set up open teammates more in 2012-13.
Washington Wizards : PG John Wall
Out a projected eight weeks with a knee injury, Washington Wizards point guard John Wall value only increases as they will have to find a way to survive with the likes of A.J. Price and Shelvin Mack running head coach Randy Pittman’s high tempo up-and-down offense.
Wall, who was expected to from perhaps the most explosive backcourt in the NBA alongside rookie shooting guard Bradley Beal, must now watch helplessly from the bench.
When Wall does return, and depending on where they are in the standings, look for the Wizards to make a run for the post-season in 2012-13.
Conclusion : Point Guards Dominate In the NBA Today.
To conclude, the single most important player in the NBA today is the point guard itself, as evidenced by the 14 point guards highlighted in this slideshow column.
With the league increasingly becoming point-guard driven, the existence of a dominant seven-foot center is almost mute and counter-productive.
While there are talented playmakers such as Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Lebron James and Carmelo Anthony, thanks to the development of today’s point guard as an on-the-court coach, point guards are the present and future of the league, just as centers such as Bill Russell, Hakeem Olajawon and Shaquille O’Neal dominated the game.
Make no mistake, swingmen, power forwards and cetners are far from obsolete, but look at it this way:
Which one position handles the ball, passes and distributes on offense the most? the NBA point guard of today, that’s who.
With that being said, with point guards such as Rondo, Rose, Paul and Williams, there is a reason why many more guards will become the single most important player in the NBA.
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