Every NBA Team’s Secret Weapon Heading Into 2013-14
Who's the Secret Weapon of Your Favorite Team?
Secret weapons are not always a secret. Especially when you are talking about athletes who are watched and scouted on a daily basis by opposing teams. In the NBA, this is even more true with NBA Summer League, training camp, preseason and the advent of SportsVU cameras; all ways for teams to get an easier look at their opponents.
But sometimes even the best technology or scouts in the world can’t predict who will emerge as a team’s best player during the respective season. It’s not hard to pinpoint players like Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard or Lebron James, but rather players like Damian Lillard, Paul George and Jimmy Butler, who are the secret weapons teams try to scout for.
Most of the time, secret weapons turn out to be younger players who are still trying to prove their worth to their team. On occasion, it’s a veteran who switched teams in the offseason and was solely counted on as being another body who would chip in when needed. That’s what makes these players a secret.
Every team has a secret weapon. They help lead their franchise to the playoffs or even a championship and other times they simply become their team’s franchise player. Either way, we will see 30 secret weapons in 2013-14 that we didn’t see last year, and these will be those 30.
Atlanta Hawks - Jeff Teague
The Atlanta Hawks no longer have their longtime franchise player Josh Smith, so a new leader will need to emerge this season. It’s a toss-up between Jeff Teague and Al Horford at this point. I would lean toward Teague based on his ability to remain healthy and he will be the floor general for the first time in his career. Teague’s performance during his first four years haven’t screamed franchise player, which makes him the perfect candidate for the Hawks secret weapon this season.
Boston Celtics - Jeff Green
Could you imagine an Oklahoma Thunder team with Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins? Well thanks to the Thunders’ owners not wanting to pay the luxury tax, that dream died long ago. But one team’s loss is another team’s gain, which is where the Boston Celtics come in.
Green was averaging around 15 points per game when he was a starting for the Thunder, but he had to ride the pine behind Paul Pierce in Boston when he was traded. Now with Pierce gone, Green will step back into the starting lineup. With Boston rebuilding, they need a leader and Green has worked himself back from his aortic aneurysm scare two seasons ago. Like Jeff Teague, Green is known around the NBA, but he isn’t a star which makes him a perfect candidate for Boston’s secret weapon.
Brooklyn Nets - Tyshawn Taylor
The Brooklyn Nets are stacked this season and really don’t need a secret weapon to succeed. But they will have a player who stands out that wasn’t supposed to and that player will be Tyshawn Taylor. With C.J. Watson in Indiana, Taylor should become the backup point guard and with Deron Williams being injury prone, it’s likely Taylor will see a lot more action in his second NBA season. Shaun Livingston has started the first two preseason games for the Nets, with Williams out, but Taylor put up 16 points and six assists in the first game while playing 34 minutes. Taylor has the court vision and ability to break through to the next level this season, which makes him the Nets' secret weapon.
Charlotte Bobcats - Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
The Charlotte Bobcats actually put money into their team for once when they signed Al Jefferson to a three-year, $41 million contract. They then drafted Cody Zeller to be their power forward and future franchise player. So with the frontcourt set, all that’s left is to get the backcourt shored up. Kemba Walker is all set at point guard and they locked Gerald Henderson up for the next three years, which leaves last seasons No. 2 overall pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. He has a lot expected out of him, and he simply didn’t meet those expectations last season, but with a functional starting lineup this year, Kidd-Gilchrist should shock the NBA as the Bobcats’ secret weapon.
Chicago Bulls - Mike Dunleavy
Mike Dunleavy is that veteran player who wound up on a team where he doesn’t need to contribute a ton, but just enough to push the Chicago Bulls through the playoffs. Dunleavy is a sharpshooting three-point man, which is exactly what the Bulls needed. As a career 37 percent three-point shooter, Dunleavy will be that secret weapon off the bench that most teams won’t plan a lot for.
Cleveland Cavaliers - Tristan Thompson
Kyrie Irving is the leader of the Cleveland Cavaliers, but Tristan Thompson has planted himself as their second-best player. Thompson became the starting power forward last year; he started all 82 games and averaged 11.7 points, 9.4 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game. If Andrew Bynum and Anderson Varejao can return healthy -- and stay healthy -- then Thompson will be left to do whatever he wants on the opposite block. Cleveland is buying high, looking to return to the playoffs, and Thompson will be the secret weapon that helps get them there.
Dallas Mavericks - Jose Calderon
It feels like it’s been longer than three years since the Dallas Mavericks ended the 2010-11 season holding the Larry O’Brien Trophy. The Mavericks lost the main players from that championship run, except for Dirk Nowitzki, and have been trying to rebuild since then. Nowitzki is still in town, Monta Ellis signed with the Mavericks in the offseason and Jose Calderon joined the cause. Calderon is the kind of point guard every team wants: Ability to score, court vision and high basketball IQ. Ellis and Nowitzki are Dallas’ main players, but Calderon will be their secret weapon.
Denver Nuggets - JaVale McGee
JaVale McGee, the player who has become a one-man laughing stock in the NBA, will be the Denver Nuggets' secret weapon because no one will expect him to have a career year. His blooper reel is longer than his highlight reel, but that’s all going to change this season. OK, no it won’t, but with Kosta Koufos out of the picture, McGee will be thrusted back into the starting role where he thrived in Washington. His athleticism will be what carries him to outplaying his 8.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.9 blocks career averages.
Detroit Pistons - Andre Drummond
A coveted big man in the 2012 NBA Draft, Andre Drummond proved to be worth the hype during his rookie season. 7.9 points and 7.6 rebounds per game may not blow your mind, but many thought he would either bust or be a multi-year project. Drummond proved to be a success in his first season, backing-up and playing next to Greg Monroe. Now the Detroit Pistons have added Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith, which makes Drummond all the more dangerous. Drummond should be the starting power forward and Detroit’s secret weapon in 2013-14.
Golden State Warriors - Harrison Barnes
Another 2012 draftee who came into his rookie season with lofty expectations, Harrison Barnes failed to live up to the hype, just like his freshman year of college. Barnes averaged 9.2 points, 1.2 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game last season, while starting 81 games. The Golden State Warriors signed veteran Andre Iguodala in the offseason, which means Barnes will move to the bench and become the Warriors’ sixth man. Teams will gameplan around Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Iguodala, leaving Barnes as the secret weapon.
Houston Rockets - Omri Casspi
We already know who the main Houston Rockets' players will be, so who is going to be their secret weapon? It’s honestly a tough call when it comes to the Rockets because they have a lot of unproven players who look like they could have a breakout season -- at least by what we’ve seen in the preseason. But the one guy who has stood out so far has been Omri Casspi. He is on fire, averaging 16 points per game during the first three preseason games, an 8.1-point increase over his career average. The Rockets have enough firepower to coast into the playoffs, but Casspi will be that secret weapon that leads them deep into the playoffs.
Indiana Pacers - Luis Scola
Larry Bird made his first priority in the offseason to revamp the Indiana Pacers’ bench, which he was able to do through free agency and a surprise trade with the Phoenix Suns. Luis Scola brings six years of NBA experience, two years of playoff experience and 14.2-point and 7.5-rebound career average to the Pacers' bench. The Pacers first six players are hardly a secret, but Scola will be that secret weapon who contributes far beyond what anyone could imagine.
Los Angeles Clippers - J.J. Redick
It sure doesn’t feel like J.J. Redick has been in the NBA for seven seasons, but that’s what happens when you only start 54 out of 424 games. Now Redick is coming off a season where he averaged 14.2 points, signed with the Los Angeles Clippers and knows he will be a starter from day one. While opposing teams will be planning to stop Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, they may forget -- just like everyone else has -- that Redick is on the court, which will make him the Clippers perfect secret weapon.
Los Angeles Lakers - Nick Young
Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant will be the entire Los Angeles Lakers team this season. With Dwight Howard leaving and Bryant out an undetermined amount of time, someone young will need to step up and make a name for themselves in L.A. That secret weapon will be Nick Young. A six-year veteran who has been trying to make a name for himself in three different cities, now finds himself as the Lakers starting shooting guard. Young has proven to be a valuable shooter when he starts and shoots 10-plus times a game -- averaging close to 17 points per game -- which he should have no trouble doing even once Bryant returns. The Lakers won’t make much noise, but if they do, expect to see Young’s name attached to their success.
Memphis Grizzlies - Kosta Koufos
Backup center is a position the Memphis Grizzlies have lacked in their efforts to make the NBA Finals over the past couple years. Kosta Koufos should prove to be the missing piece for the Grizzlies. Koufos is coming off a career year -- if you want to call it that -- where he averaged 8.0 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game with the Denver Nuggets. Playing with better talent will be the reason Koufos becomes the Grizzlies secret weapon this season.
Miami Heat - Chris Andersen
It’s impossible for the Miami Heat to have a secret weapon since they are the most watched and scrutinized team in the NBA. Chris Andersen is the best player to have a chance at becoming the Heat’s secret weapon. Greg Oden certainly could win that title if he remains healthy, but we all know that won’t happen. Andersen was pivotal in the Heat winning their second championship in a row last year as he was able to guard and score against the league’s best centers. No one will expect Andersen to repeat his playoff performance, but if he does, then he will no doubt be a secret weapon.
Milwaukee Bucks - John Henson
His stat line didn’t look great during his rookie season -- 6.0 points, 4.7 rebounds and 0.7 blocks -- but John Henson had big games that made everyone’s jaw drop. When the Milwaukee Bucks played the Orlando Magic, Henson finished with 17 points, 25 rebounds and seven blocks. It would be surprising if Henson wasn’t named the starting power forward, playing in the frontcourt with Larry Sanders. Everyone knows what Sanders brings to the table, but Henson is still a mystery -- a secret weapon.
Minnesota Timberwolves - Derrick Williams
You have to feel sorry for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love have been unable to stay healthy, meaning the Timberwolves have been unable to perform at the level most thought they would. Then there’s Derrick Williams: the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft who has failed to live up to expectations in his first two seasons. But that’s all going to change this year as Rubio and Love return healthy, Pekovic was retained in free agency and Williams showed signs of life during the second half of last year. Williams will likely go unnoticed and his numbers will climb from last year -- 12.0 points and 5.5 rebounds -- making him a secret weapon for the Timberwolves.
New Orleans Pelicans - Austin Rivers
Austin Rivers was just awful last season. In 61 games, he averaged 6.2 points, 1.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists, as well as a 5.95 PER. Rivers came into his rookie season with the New Orleans Pelicans with a lot of expectations after they used the No. 10 pick on him in the 2013 NBA Draft. The pressure was too much for Rivers, something he won’t have to deal with this year. A healthy Eric Gordon, reigning Rookie of the Year Anthony Davis and All-Star Jrue Holiday will take the brunt of the opposing team’s gameplan, leaving Rivers to be their secret weapon this year.
New York Knicks - Metta World Peace
Many may think Andrea Bargnani will be the secret weapon for the New York Knicks this season, but he lacks the defense this team desperately seeks. Metta World Peace, on the other hand, gives the Knicks’ defense a boost, and he can take some of the scoring burden off Carmelo Anthony. World Peace is entering his 15th season and will be more of a bench body than an expected huge contributor, but being back in his home state will make a world of a difference. Opposing teams won’t sleep on World Peace, but it will be easy to forgot about him when he’s on the court with the stars of the squad; making him the Knicks' secret weapon.
Oklahoma City Thunder - Jeremy Lamb
The Oklahoma City Thunder need a new sixth man after their last two -- James Harden and Kevin Martin -- left the team. After watching Summer League play, you would have thought Jeremy Lamb was going to step right into that role, but the preseason is showing what he does against real competition. But Lamb still has the talent; his Summer League performance wasn’t a fluke. Lamb has shot poorly during the preseason, but that’s something he will get a better handle on the more he plays. While opposing teams are worrying about stopping Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, Lamb will be left open and will eventually gain the confidence to drain any shot he takes. Lamb will be the Thunder’s secret weapon this upcoming season.
Orlando Magic - Nikola Vucevic
Tobias Harris would have made a great secret weapon if he didn’t receive the exposure that he did at the end of last year. Nikola Vucevic sort of slid under the radar thanks to Harris getting all the air time. Add to that the Orlando Magic drafting Victor Oladipo, and Vucevic will fly even more under the radar, which is perfect for him. The Magic will be that exciting team that everyone watches in the beginning just to see how Oladipo and Harris play, but look for Vucevic and his 13.1 points, 11.9 rebounds and 1.0 blocks to catch the eye of everyone watching. Vucevic is the perfect secret weapon, and a dangerous one at that.
Philadelphia 76ers - Evan Turner
All eyes will be on rookies Nerlens Noel and Michael Carter-Williams given the Philadelphia 76ers are in rebuild mode and the plan revolves around them. But then there’s Evan Turner. He is entering his fourth year and has failed to live up to the high expectations a No. 2 overall pick receives. When Andre Iguodala left, many thought Turner would become the team’s franchise player given his pedigree in college. He averaged 13.3 points, 4.3 assists, and 6.3 rebounds last season -- all career highs -- and with the right personnel around him, he could secretly raise those numbers and become the franchise player the 76ers need.
Phoenix Suns - Eric Bledsoe
Eric Bledsoe finally gets his chance to shine after sitting behind Chris Paul in Los Angeles the past three seasons. Now with the Phoenix Suns, Bledsoe will be looked at as their eventual franchise player, just not this season. It will be tough for the Suns to move Goran Dragic and his ridiculous contract, but they also can’t use him as a $7.5 million bench player. The Suns will be bad this year, like No. 1-pick-worthy bad, yet Bledsoe will prove to be their secret weapon.
Portland Trail Blazers - Thomas Robinson
The No. 5 overall pick in 2013, Thomas Robinson became the first player since Chauncey Billups in 1997 to be traded twice in two seasons. Robinson will suit up for the Portland Trail Blazers, who are an up-and-coming team, this season and will be LaMarcus Aldridge’s backup. It’s safe to say Robinson has a giant chip on his shoulder and will look to prove everyone wrong. With Damian Lillard and Aldridge leading the charge, Robinson will be left to destroy everyone as the Trail Blazers’ secret weapon.
Sacramento Kings - Isaiah Thomas
DeMarcus Cousins is the Sacramento Kings’ franchise player, but Isaiah Thomas -- yes, he is named after the legend -- is the player who will shock the NBA world. In two seasons, Thomas has played well while starting 99 of the 144 games he’s played in. For his career, he’s averaged 12.8 points, 4.0 assists and 2.3 rebounds, but being the full-time starter, with a better version of Cousins roaming in the paint, Thomas will be the secret weapon no one sees coming.
San Antonio Spurs - Cory Joseph
The San Antonio Spurs are similar to the Miami Heat in that everyone on their team is known amongst the rest of the NBA, so it’s hard to have a secret weapon. But the Spurs have a slight advantage in the fact they have many players who are young and have not seen a ton of court action over the past couple seasons. One of those is Cory Joseph who, despite being drafted in the first round in 2011, has only appeared in 57 games in two seasons, mostly because he was not needed. But with Gary Neal gone, the Spurs need a backup point guard and Joseph fits that bill perfectly. Joseph won’t be on any team’s radar which makes him the perfect candidate to be the Spurs’ secret weapon.
Toronto Raptors - Tyler Hansbrough
A fresh start and a chip on his shoulder is exactly what Tyler Hansbrough got this summer. He proved in Indiana he could be a starter, but somehow he still isn’t getting that opportunity with the Toronto Raptors. A frontcourt of Hansbrough and Jonas Valanciunas is scary to think of as they are both physical players who will knock down anyone to get a rebound. Hansbrough may not start with the Raptors, at least at first, but you can be sure that he will play better than most expect, making him the Raptors' secret weapon.
Utah Jazz - Gordon Hayward
Gordon Hayward is no secret in the NBA, but his talent is. The Utah Jazz have been an underwhelming team since Deron Williams and Jerry Sloan left. Hayward was drafted No. 9 overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft and he has improved every season he’s been in the NBA -- 14.1 points, 3.0 assists and 3.1 rebounds last season. He also hasn’t been a main starter for the Jazz, which will change this season. The Jazz need a player to step up and become that franchise player they haven’t had since Williams, and Hayward will be the secret weapon that takes that spot this season.
Washington Wizards - Jan Vesely
The Washington Wizards are a team full of players who could emerge as their secret weapon this season, excect for John Wall and Nene. Bradley Beal made a name for himself last season and they will rely on Otto Porter to be their starting small forward, so that leaves their secret weapon at power forward: Jan Vesely. He has been atrocious in his first two seasons, averaging 3.6 points, 0.7 assists and 3.4 rebounds in 108 played games. If anyone on the Wizards needs a breakout seasons, it’s Vesely, and the injury to Emeka Okafor should open the door for Vesely to see more playing time and find the rhythm and confidence he needs to live up to the hype.