The Key Player This Season For Every NBA Franchise
The Key Player This Season For Every NBA Franchise
As the 2012-2013 NBA regular season gets underway by beginning with the preseason, there are numerous NBA Rumors, roster swings, and overall front office changes that should keep even the most intrigued fan at bay.
This past off-season would see the likes of Andrew Bynum, Andre Iguodala, Jeremy Lin, Mo Williams, Joe Johnson, Steve Nash, and Dwight Howard to move teams expectations have risen for different franchises.
With the change of atmosphere for a few players, to the switching of key players for different franchises, numerous teams have changed the way they've decided to play basketball. The Philadelphia 76ers have changed from an all-out uptempo team, to acquiring a bruising frontcourt that rivals even the Los Angeles Lakers.
The entire Atlantic Division of the NBA's Eastern Conference has changed from a semi-challenging conference, to arguably the best conference in basketball.
Both Los Angeles teams are vying for the top spot in the city of angels, the Orlando Magic have faded from perpetual playoff powerhouse to a weak rebuilding club and teams like the Minnesota Timberwolves, Cleveland Cavaliers and New Orleans Hornets have become actual playoff contenders. Talk about ironic.
Even the positive has turned to negative for some clubs. Derrick Rose won't be starting the season for one of the first times in his career, John Wall might not see the hardwood until Christmas, and international players galore take away playing time from tenured veterans, so key players have stepped up to mold more franchises.
That being said, here are the Key Players for each NBA team this coming season.
Atlanta Hawks: Forward Josh Smith
An extremely underrated playersdue to his size, standing at 6-foot-9 and 225 lbs, forward Josh Smith (26 years old) is still an elite player.
With an intense vertical leap to make up for size issues, Smith is easily the one of the most athletic forwards in the game today. After posting career bests in points per game (18.9), assists (3.9), and rebounds (9.6), Smith could be on the verge of another All-Star appearance this season.
Also with the removal of teammate Joe Johnson, there will be more room for the big man to contribute to a weaker team this season.
Boston Celtics: PG Rajon Rondo
Fans to this day are still wondering how the Boston Celticsacquired guard Rajon Rondo.
Regardless of his acquisition, you're looking at a player who went from unnoticed to a player who's arguably the best at his position in the NBA.
Rondo's pure ability to run an offense has lead the Celtics to numerous playoff appearances since the beginning of his career. Without his ability to set up players like Kevin Garnett or Paul Pierce, the offense wouldn't move as tenacious as it does now.
Aside from the fact that he's a pass-first point guard, his on-ball defense speaks for itself. Most importantly, with an aging Garnett and Pierce, Rondo is stepping into the mold that it's now becoming his team to run.
He only averaged career highs in points per game (11.9) assists per game (11.7) and rebounds (4.8). Only a small step in the future of the "little giant."
Brooklyn Nets: PG Deron Williams
Moving away from Rondo for a second, let's look at another dominating guard from the Eastern Conference, and more importantly a revamped Brooklyn Nets team.
After winning a Gold Medal in the Olympics, leading the Nets in points (21.0) and assists per game (8.7), and almost slipping back to his hometown team in Dallas, Williams has had an eventful year.
But staying with the Nets did bring it's perks.
Coach Avery Johnsonand the boys made a push to bring in veteran guard Joe Johnson and re-signed forwards Kris Humphries and Gerald Wallace to make the Nets not only a top 5 team in the Eastern Conference but also making a new rivalry in the Big Apple.
Don't call it a comeback just yet.
Charlotte Bobcats: PG Kemba Walker
Despite picking up former Kentucky forward Michael Kidd-Gilchristin the draft, this remains to be Kemba Walker'steam.
Now whether he keeps or loses this team by the end of the year isn't the question, it's more towards the point that all offense must run through Kemba to give the Charlotte Bobcats some hope of getting back in the mix in the NBA.
As for Kemba himself he did just middle of the pack for his first year (12.1 points, 4.4 assists, 3.8 rebounds per game), but as long as the Bronx bomber increases his offensive output, this may be a good year for the former UConn Husky.
Chicago Bulls: Center Joakim Noah
From 2009-2011 Joakim Noah produced more than 70 double-doubles. For only having 91 in his career, Noah has found a way to become an unnoticed force on the low block as a center in the league.
With a longer reach than most centers, and a good shot blocking ability, Noah will have to bear the load of leading the Chicago Bulls without the play of guard Derrick Rose.
As long as Noah can utilize the help of players like Luol Deng, Jimmy Butler, and Carlos Boozerthe Bulls may be able to recover some of what they'll lose during Rose's absence.
Cleveland Cavaliers: PG Kyrie Irving
Kyrie Irvingthat alone is enough said.
If you want a guard to put a struggling team on the map, look no further than the former Duke Blue Devil. Irving, in his first season, was the regular season Rookie of the Year, an alternate to the U.S Men's Olympic Basketball team, the MVP of the Rising Stars Challenge, and undoubtedly is the best young guard in the NBA.
If you think otherwise, his stats speak for themselves.
18.5 points, 5.4 assists, and 3.8 rebounds per game in 30.5 minutes of play per game while shooting 46.9 percent from the field and nearly 40 percent from the three-point-line and 87.2 percent from the charity stripe. Someone call the coroner.
Dallas Mavericks: SG OJ Mayo
Now some could have been expecting to see a picture of Dirk Nowitzki, while the claim is accurate it doesn't ring as loudly as the name OJ Mayo.
With Nowitzki now on his last leg (not because of his signature step-back jumper but because of his age), and the newest acquisition being Mayo, there has to be an increase in offense with the former Southern Cal standout now handling the ball.
The difference between Memphis in Dallas?
Even though Mayo averaged over 17 points per game in his first two seasons in Memphis he started to get out shined by the play of superstar Rudy Gay. Now in Dallas, he can, at a minimum, be the number two best scorer on a struggling team. Also with no true point guard in Dallas he can control the ball a lot more during each possession and reinstate his dominance with his very-consistent mid-range jumper.Look for Mayo to have another break out year, remember the kid's only 24 entering his fifth NBA season
Denver Nuggets: PG Ty Lawson
Now at 5-foot-11, 195 lbs, Lawson isn't the first guard in your mind to be a key player for a franchise.
This is where you think again.
Lawson is one of the quickest guards from end to end in the league just for starters. Along with first-classs speed and ball-handling abilities, Lawson can facilitate the ball as well. Averaging career highs in points (16.4), assists (6.6), rebounds (3.7) and free throw percentage (82.4%) he's quickly stepped into his role as the primary offense in Denver.
With a recent addition of Andre Iguodalayou may see Lawson's points drop but his assist totals gradually increase. No matter what his statistics say, at the end of the season expect Lawson to be leading his Nuggets team into the playoffs with a chip on his shoulder.
Detroit Pistons: PG Brandon Knight
Now Detroit's starting point guard, Brandon Knight, is a weird character indeed.
After playing for a powerhouse Kentucky squad in 2010-2011 and averaging nearly 18 points per contest his numbers have dipped tremendously but still respectively to 12.8 points and 3.8 assists per game.
With his progression just starting to pick up, it's hard to put him ahead of players like Greg Monroe and Rodney Stuckey in this Pistons rotation, but it is still doable.
Knight can give a spark to the offense at any time and is a very capable ball-handler while being an average facilitator. If his assist numbers increase, Knight can turn into the missing piece in the struggling Detroit Pistons offensive woes.
Combined with Monroe, he has a better target to dish to as long as he gets his assist-to-turnover ratio down a bit.
Golden State Warriors: PG Stephen Curry
Taking a look at the 7th point guard selection in the key players for franchises, take a look at Stephen Curry from the Golden State Warriors
Now Curry is in the conversation of one of, if not the best three-point-shooting guard in the NBAas of now. Curry saw a career-high in three-point-shooting percentage (45.5%) and overall is just a threat from almost anywhere on the court.
Curry brings a different skill set to the hardwood as well. Standing at 6-foot-3, he has an unusual length that most point guards don't posses and has the ability to shoot over some smaller guards. Moving away from his shooting ability, Curry is a decent facilitator as well averaging 5.8 assists per game for his career.
Even though he was sidelined last season due to various injuries and only played in 26 games, Curry averaged over 18 points per game in his first two seasons where he played in 154 regular season games.
Looking at this season as the Warriors added Harrison Barnes, Richard Jefferson, and Jarret Jack, Curry might be able to help Golden State sneak into a eighth seed in the Western Conference Playoffs.
Houston Rockets: SG Kevin Martin
Kevin Martin continues to be one of the most deadly and underrated scorers and players in the NBA, and it seems like every other year that changes slightly.
As over-hyped as the arrival of former Knick, Jeremy Lin, you have to remember who has grabbed this franchise by the horns and brought it back to prominence.
In nine short seasons in the NBA, K-Mart has had five different seasons where he's scored over 20+ points per game. He's almost scored nine thousand points in what will be his tenure in the league this season, and the only reason he didn't score 20+ points again last season was because he only played 40 games.
Give this guy a full season, he might give the Rockets a playoff spot. Six consecutive seasons with 19.8 points in a game or more, that's hard to replicate even for J-Lin.
Indiana Pacers: Forward Danny Granger
How many 18+ point seasons shooting nearly 40 percent from the three-point line does forward Danny Grangerhave to produce to get credit as a scorer in the league?
Before you answer just re-read the last question.
Granger has been a legitimate threat since he came into the league almost 8 years ago out of the University of New Mexico. A consistent free-throw shooter, apt scorer from anywhere on the floor, length for the small forward position and versatile enough to play power forward when need be, Granger is one of the most consistent shooters in the league today.
Point blank, he's a nothing less than a threat.
Los Angeles Lakers: PF Blake Griffin
Blake Griffinis nothing more than a star in this league.
Qualified for the Men's U.S Basketball team before he had to leave due to injury, starts from jumping over cars in dunk contests to appearing in car commercials for various makers, in just two short years Griffin has become a superstar.
After making a splash in the NBA his rookie season, Griffin lowered his number of turnovers per game (2.3) and increased his offensive output via field goal percentage (54.9%).
Let's not forget, he's one of the most emphatic, explosive, and purely athletic players to ever grace the NBA. That being said, even though he faces tough competition from one of the best pure point guards in the league in Chris Paul, Griffin is in control of the team when it comes to offense, not to mention he does a great job defensively as well.
To top it off, in 148 games played, Griffin produced 104 double-doubles while averaging double-double numbers his entire career (21.7 points and 11.5 rebounds per game).
Griffin is just one of those guys that you see coming down the lane and you politely move out of his way, expect a strong showing in the battle for Los Angeles this season, as the Clippers move towards a probable third to fifth seed in the postseason.
Los Angeles Lakers: SG Kobe Bryant
Five time NBA Champion, 2 time Finals MVP, 14 All Star Appearances, 4 All-Star MVP awards, 10 time All-NBA First Team Selection, 9 time All-NBA Defensive Team Selection, Dunk Contest Champion, 2008 MVP, 2 time scoring champion, 2 time Gold Medalist, and international superstar.
Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest players in league history, there's only been one time in his 16 year long career where he hasn't scored double digits for a season. There's only been three times in his career where he hasn't score over 20+ points in a season, and he's scored 30+ points in a season three different times.
As long as Kobe Bryant remains a Laker, there will be no other key player on the team. As long as Kobe Bryant is a Laker, there might not be another key shooting guard in the league.
Look for another playoff run from an aging Lakers team, but with the additions of Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, and Antwan Jamison.
Oh yeah, and he scored 27.9 points per game last season and this season he'll likely score his 30,000th point, there's no shooting guard better in the league, or maybe history for that matter that can go toe-to-toe with Kobe.
Memphis Grizzlies: SF Rudy Gay
One of the better scoring small forwards in the NBA Rudy Gayhas become a household name at this point in his career.
Never scoring lower than 10 points per contest in his career, Gay has blossomed into a pure shooting forward with a bevy of ways to score over opponents. Coming off his worse season shooting from the three-point-line (34.7%), Gay has a lot to prove to Grizzlies fans all across Memphis.
While only scoring 20 points once in his career, without the help of ex-teammate OJ Mayo, Gay may have the opportunity to light it up a bit more from the field. Also with arguably one of the strongest front courts in the NBA between Gay, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, this Grizzlies team is poised to make another run at the playoffs.
Miami Heat: Forward LeBron James
Regardless of whether you like or dislike LeBron Jamesthere's no argument around the fact that he just may be one of the most high-octane, polarizing, emphatic, and jaw-dropping player to come in the NBAin the last generation.
A three-time MVP, perennial All-Star, and now an NBA Champion and Finals MVP with the Miami Heat, James would go on to average 27.1 points and 7.9 rebounds per game this past season.
Adding on a roster full of sharpshooters in Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis, Mike Miller, Shane Battier, and James Jonesdon't expect this Miami team to just silently go away any time soon.
Milwaukee Bucks: SG Monta Ellis
One of the most explosive and exhilarating guards in the business Monta Ellis is a scoring machine season after season.
Thinking back, it's hard to believe that Ellis was a second round draft pick by the Golden State Warriorsin 2005. Coming from a lacking first season, Ellis never looked back after. In his fifth 20+ point scoring season, Ellis is playing in one of the most powerful back-courts combined with Brandon Jennings.
Regardless of how long Jennings has been running the show in Wisconsin, there seems to be a new sheriff in town after the last season's trade. Even though Ellis isn't the primary ball-handler on the team, he's perfectly capable controlling the offense and scoring at will.
With a deceiving first step, first-class quickness, and grace around the rim, there may not be a better 6-foot-3 guard in the NBA when it comes to attacking the rim.
Minnesota Timberwolves: PF Kevin Love
Even in 55 games being played somehow Kevin Love found a way to score 26 points and grab 13.3 rebounds a game, yet somehow, he still continues to have doubters.
A, now, consistent MVP prospect and Gold Medalist, Love has a lot left in the tank entering his fifth year in the NBAand with the Minnesota Timberwolvesif the T'Wolves want to make any moves towards a possible off-season spot all hope lies in the hands of Love.
New Orleans Hornets: SG Eric Gordon
At this point in his career, it seems like Eric Gordoncan put up twenty points at will if he wanted to, and for the sake of the New Orleans Hornets that needs to be a perpetual scoring mission.
Gordon hasn't had the best attitude about staying in the "Big Easy" this coming season. He wanted to play in Phoenix and test his skill set there, now instead he's playing with a chip on his shoulder.
Gordon, regardless of attitude problems or not, is still an electrifying guard in the league. After coming off a very disappointing season due to injury problems, Gordon has a lot to prove to a hungry Hornets fan base. Playing only nine games in the 2011-2012 season he still found a way to average 20.6 points and 3.4 assists per game.
We'll just call that talent.
New York Knicks: SF Carmelo Anthony
Former Syracuse star, 5 time NBA All-Star, 2 time Olympic Gold Medalist, greatest scorer in American Olympic history as of late, Carmelo Anthonyjust seems like he can do it all.
'Melo has garnered a lot of publicity coming into this season on whether or not he's capable of not only becoming an MVP this season but also on whether he can win a NBA Championship before he has to retire.
Regardless of what's being asked of him, let's look at what's already on the table. One of the greatest scorers in recent history, 'Melo has the offensive explosiveness to do almost anything on the court. Aided this season by Jason Kidd and Rasheed Wallacelook for Anthony to have an increase in point production this season, as once again all offense will be run though the wing position.
Oklahoma City Thunder: SF Kevin Durant
The youngest scoring champion in league history, a three-time scoring champion at that, a three-time All-Star, and a three-time All-NBA 1st Team selction, in five short years Kevin Durant has become, what most think, the most gifted athlete in the NBA
With unbelievable length for the small forward position standing at 6-foot-11, Durant literally towers over the opposition. To add insult to injury, his wingspan is also abnormal. Durant holds nearly a 7-foot-6 wingspan allowing him to easily dunk over any player in the league.
After falling short to LeBron Jamesthis previous postseason, Durant along with his teammates Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Serge Ibakawill be looking for vengence in the form of an NBA Championship and what could be Durant's fourth scoring title.
Orlando Magic: PF Glen Davis
The progression of Glen Davishas become a spectacle to watch via Orlando Magic basketball this off-season.
With an aging team and loss of superstar Dwight Howard, there's virtually no one on the Magic's roster to really take the realms in the rebuilding process. However, "Big Baby" Glen Davis seems to be up to the task.
Standing at 6-foot-9, 289 lbs, Big Baby has the makings of a starter in the league. During the 2012-2013 NBA preseason, Davis has been averaging more than 18 points per game in a few short games, his high coming from a 27-point outing against Cleveland.
Looking at that production offensively and a very consistent mid-range game for a big man, Davis can turn into the missing piece for the Magic. Also with the help of Aaron Afflalothere may be hope for this suffering team.
Philadelphia 76ers: PG Jrue Holiday
After the acquisition of big man Andrew Bynum there has to be more than one form of offense on this high-pace team full of guards and forwards. Coach Doug Collinshas vocalized numerous times in the last week that he wants the ball in Holiday's hands.
With more targets around the court from Nick Young, Jason Richardson, and Arnett Moultrieamong others, Holiday's assist totals should increase and he can really solidify himself as a top-ten guard in the NBA
It should be an early Holdiay in Philadelphia this season as they may find themselves falling into the Eastern Conference Finals.
Phoenix Suns: Center Marcin Gortat
Since coming to Phoenix, he seemed to have found his fit in the struggling franchise. With the help of fellow European players Goran Dragic and Luis Scolathis Phoenix team may pose a problem for a few teams in the West.
Portland Trailblazers: PF LaMarcus Aldridge
Perhaps one of the most overlooked All-Star caliber players in the NBA, LaMarcus Aldridgecan easily make the claim as being the best low-post power forward in the league, and I don't think many would argue against him.
After having a career high in assists (2.4) and points scored per game (21.7) plus a boost in field goal percentage (51.2%), and looks to have another career year this season as well. Basically going overlooked year-after-year due to a poorly managed Portland team, is becoming more of a crutch for Aldridge now in his seventh year.
It seems to be about time he busts out and solidifies himself as a standout power forward in the NBA, not just Portland.
Sacremento Kings: Center DeMarcus Cousins
DeMarcus Cousinsis the best young center in the league, hands down.
Finishing a season full of career highs in points (18.7), rebounds (11.0), blocks (1.2), field goal percentage (44.8%), minutes (30.5), free throw percentage (70.2%) and lowering his number of turnovers (2.7), Cousins has transformed into a completely different player.
With a newer attitude, and a bevy of young guns to play alongside him like Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thorton, Thomas Robinson and Isaiah Thomasif given the chance, Cousins could help the Sacremento Kings be a legitimate threat in the West.
San Antonio Spurs: PG Tony Parker
It seems like it doesn't make a difference what season it is, Tony Parkerfinds a way to continue his streak of dominance.
After dishing out a career high in assists (7.7) the combination of Parker, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Kawhi Leonardthe Spurs will continue their role of dominance in the Western Conference and find their way back into the playoffs once again this season.
Toronto Raptors: PF Andrea Bargnani
One of the best European players in the NBA today, Andrea Bargnanicontinues to progress into one of the better forwards in the league.
After leading the Toronto Raptorsin points per game (19.5) this season, Bargnani has fully taken control of the offensive load of the Raptors. Adding in a over six rebounds a game and an enhanced length at the power forward position, Bargnani makes defenses quiver with his ability to shoot from almost anywhere on the floor.
Utah Jazz: Center Al Jefferson
Washington Wizards: SG Bradley Beal
Finishing a tremendous Freshman season at the University of Florida where he averaged 14.8 points and grabbing 6.7 rebounds, Beal might be an early choice for this seasons Rookie of the Year.
Without an injured John Wallthat won't see time until somewhere near Christmas, all the faith offensively will need to fall in the hands of Beal. One of the most consistent shooters in all of college basketball last season, Beal also gives a boost being a exemplary rebounder.
Lacking much depth at the guard position, Beal will have to increase his play to bring some sort of progress to a weaker Washington Wizards team.
If Beal can increase his point production from college, he can turn into one of the biggest steals of the 2012 draft.