By Court Zierk @courtzierk on August 20, 2014
Every NBA player plays a specific role on his team. For some, those roles remain consistent throughout their careers (e.g.. sixth man, enforcer, energy guy), but for others their role evolves over the course of time. For these 15 players, the role their team expects them to play is significantly different than the role they played last season.
Last year, Jack was expected to be a jack-of-all-trades for the Cleveland Cavs. He would sometimes be inserted into the starting lineup to play next to Kyrie Irving in the shooting guard slot, and other times he would spell Irving to run point. This year, he should be far more of a true backup point guard for Deron Williams and will be expected to shoulder much less of the scoring burden for a Nets team with a potent starting backcourt.
The Rockets had a difficult time figuring out what Asik’s role on their team was last season. He was most frequently used as a backup to Dwight Howard but was sometimes awkwardly inserted into the starting lineup next to Howard, basically giving them two centers on the court. This season, Asik will be the clear-cut starter at center and will be expected to do much of the dirty work on the boards.
Marion has been a starter for most of his career, and last season was no different. He most often played in the small forward spot next to Dirk Nowitzki and was counted on for defensive intensity, some rebounding and as a third scoring option. This season, he will see reduced minutes behind LeBron James and Kevin Love and will be counted on mostly to lead the team’s second unit.
Parsons was clearly the third option last season behind James Harden and Dwight Howard, and it is no secret that he was viewed mostly as a role player by certain teammates. With his move to Dallas, he will most likely remain the third scoring option behind Nowitzki and Monta Ellis, but he will be still be expected to shoulder much more of the scoring burden. Over time, he could be Nowitzki’s replacement.
Lin has had an interesting path in the NBA, going from Linsanity in New York to a much diminished role in Houston. In L.A., the expectations for Lin will be high, and Linsanity fever should spread like wildfire given the relative absence of talent on this Lakers roster. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him inserted into the starting lineup ahead of an aging Nash for much of the season.
Deng is in a tough spot, essentially having been signed by the Heat to replace much of what LeBron James brought to the table. Always a versatile player, Deng has never been expected to carry this much of his team’s weight, and it could be his biggest chance to shine. Deng is multifaceted enough to fill in admirably.
With one season under his belt and given his explosion in summer league, Hardaway Jr. will be expected to take on a much larger role with this Knicks team. He is versatile enough to play three positions, and although he will likely not see many starts, he will be the key player coming off of the bench for the Knicks. There is a reason that Phil Jackson labeled him as untouchable in trade discussion this offseason.
Thomas made a somewhat puzzling decision to join a Suns team that is absolutely loaded with guard talent, but he showed how much he values winning. He will no longer be counted on for such a large percentage of his team’s scoring, but he will clearly play an important role on this team. It is not yet clear how Hornacek will dole out minutes between Dragic, Thomas, Bledsoe (assuming he stays) and Green.
Collison will go from being viewed as a solid backup to the man in Sacramento. It’s really a position he has never been in before over his five-year career, and many wonder if he is capable of filling that role. Nonetheless, he will certainly be counted on to replace what they lost when they let Isaiah Thomas walk.
With money comes expectations, and lord knows that Hayward was handed the golden goose with his new contract in Utah ($ 63 million over four years, guaranteed). Hayward can no longer sit back and expect fans to be content with him being a “nice” player. He needs to become the max player he was rewarded as. No pressure.
The Nuggets are desperately looking for someone they can count on to be their “superstar” player. Faried has been gaining much national exposure over the past year, capped off with his nearly solidified spot on the USA Men’s Basketball team this summer. Faried will be expected to sustain the level of basketball he demonstrated over the last half of last season and become the face of this franchise.
Pierce, once the face of the Boston Celtics, took on a reduced role in Brooklyn last season, but he still proved to be an effective player. He will most likely take on an even further reduced role this season with the Wizards. But he will be counted on to provide some of the productivity lost with Ariza gone and perhaps most importantly provide an additional veteran presence.
Stephenson was second and maybe even third fiddle in Indiana behind Paul George and Roy Hibbert. His signing with Charlotte marks an opportunity for him to truly assert himself as the star player on his team. He will be leaned on heavily to provide a scoring and defensive impact and to step into a leadership role.
Bosh will go from being the third option on a championship contending team to arguably the primary option on a team trying to contend for a playoff spot. With LeBron gone and Wade seemingly in the twilight of his career, Bosh will be expected to return to the dominant player he was in Toronto. From third amigo to head honcho, time will tell how he responds.
The moment Leonard was named NBA Finals MVP, his life changed forever. Success breeds expectations, and the basketball world will have all eyes on Leonard to see how he responds. He will no longer be the fourth option on the team and will be expected to play a much larger role in the Spurs’ offense. Also, he will be looking to play for a max contract, so I expect him to rise to the challenge. Money talks.
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