Watch Me Now
Most Improved candidates at every position!
The ’09-10 NBA season is almost upon us. With the anticipation comes hype and plenty of questions. Will Kobe repeat? Or will LeBron claim his first ring to go with that MVP? How far can Dwyane Wade take his Miami Heat and will the New York Knicks ever smell nice? So while the usual topics of debate are thrown around for months let’s take a look at some other players in the League.
Let’s consider the players who have all the tools necessary to breakout this season. These guys played well last season but have the opportunity to become much more. A player for each position in both conferences was selected. Let’s break it down!
Center: Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks
Welcome to Atlanta, where the players play and, until recent years, the basketball team sucks. What a difference a couple of playoff runs make. The Atlanta Hawks now boast one of the most exciting, young, fast-paced teams in the League. Featuring stars like Josh Smith and Joe Johnson and led by experienced veteran Mike Bibby the Hawks are looking at a possible deep playoff run. The third year forward/center Al Horford could be the difference maker in how far Atlanta progress through the playoffs. With size, strength and skill that the Eastern conference sorely lacks, Horford gives the Hawks an extra strike that many other teams will not be able to counter. Al’s a young developing talent playing a position that is dying off in the NBA. With last year averages of 11.5 ppg and 9.3 rpg, Horford will only become better if utilized the right way. Before you know it he could be averaging 20 and 10, especially with his 52.5 percent field goal rate. If the Hawks pass the ball inside to this young big more often he could eat up most Eastern donuts and help his team digest long playoff runs.
Forward: Thaddeus Young, Philadelphia 76ers
Simple and plain, Thad is hot. His name may not be a household one as of yet because the 76ers are flying under the radar. That being said, you can’t deny a talent like Young’s, tall and athletic with quickness to boot. Put him alongside Andre Igudola and Philly have a fast-breaking, strong frontcourt with talent and tenacity. Think of how good this Philadelphia team can be with not only this combination but the return of a healthy Elton Brand. It’s evident that in Brand’s absence Thaddeus benefited from extended minutes; however, good numbers don’t lie. Young last season averaged 15.3 ppg and 5 rebounds — not bad for a second year man. Thad also went for a career high 31 last season against Chicago, which shows he can lead his team and put up star numbers on the boards. When Brand returns from injury Thaddeus will have to share the ball more, but his numbers still may improve. If he manages to start alongside a healthy Brand and Iguodala then he will help give the Sixers one of the most potent frontcourts in the L.
Forward: Wilson Chandler, New York Knicks
For too many years the New York Knicks offered ridiculously big contracts to ridiculous big, big men. It’s little wonder the hard to please Madison Square Garden fans were easily put off. Sometimes subtly speaks louder than big names, moves and contracts. The best acquisitions for the Knicks over the last few seasons have been their draft choices; players like David Lee and Nate Robinson. Now Wilson Chandler can be added to this list. Chandler averaged 14.4 ppg last year all whilst playing around 33 minutes per. Wilson can share the rock with this crowded Knick ballclub and still get his points. In Mike D’Antoni’s system a quick, athletic player like Wilson Chandler is bound to shine. If this player gets more touches and burn you could be looking at one of the better scoring threats in the League. Wilson could form a strong frontcourt with Lee and help the city of New York finally be recognized for having a decent basketball team again.
Guard: Mario Chalmers, Miami Heat
It’s almost impossible to receive recognition when you play on the same team as Dywane Wade, let alone in the same backcourt. That being said, Heat point guard Mario Chalmers made his mark on South Beach. Mario started all 82 games last year and put up decent averages of 10 points and 4.9 assists per. This is even with playing in the shadow of fellow rookie Michael Beasley. It goes without saying that Chalmers had an impressive debut season. His numbers are solid like a veteran and if he’s offered more responsibility as a starter he could end up playing like a veteran in his sophomore season. This dependency will be vital for the stability of the Heat franchise who are a couple of pieces away from contending. Chalmers is hot on the defensive end as well. He recorded 9 steals in one game during his first week on the job. When paired up with Wade, Miami has a strong defensive partnership.
Guard: Jannero Pargo, Chicago Bulls
Jannero Pargo’s career had its fair share of ups and downs, and he could be a real wild card selection here. The one thing that cannot be disputed, however, is the skill and talent of this player. Even in the beginnings of Pargo’s career he showed tenacity, drive and skill in the limited garbage time he received with the Lakers. Pargo showed promise in New Orleans as a strong backup for Chris Paul. Now back from a year in Europe Jannero finds himself in Chicago. The last time Pargo played for the Bulls he averaged 13 ppg. This may be a harder feat sharing a backcourt with Kirk Hinrich and reigning Rookie of the Year Derrick Rose. The thing that Jannero has always been good at is making the most of his minutes… no matter how limited they are. The last time Pargo played in the NBA, he averaged around 10 points whilst playing around 20 minutes a game. Now Jannero’s back home in more ways than one, and he’s about to prove himself all over again. If the minutes are there off the bench he could quickly become one of the better spark-plug, energy guys the League has to offer.
Center: Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies
Gasol has been living in his big brother’s shadow for a long time now; the only thing Marc’s beaten Pau on is the amount of hair he’s grown on his face. Pau Gasol has been to two NBA Finals and won one championship since he joined the Lakers two seasons back. As for Marc Gasol, the closest he’s been to the top was being drafted by the Lakers (and shipped to Memphis as part of the trade that brought Pau to Los Angeles). So now Memphis has is a sophomore with Olympic experience and strong potential. Marc may have not been as widely talked about as other rookies last year but he earned his place amongst the best of them. Marc’s averages last year were 11 and 7, with more league experience under his belt, this could translate to 20 and 10. He’s big, strong and shoots great from the field. If you couple Marc with the Grizzlies other sophomore sensation OJ Mayo then you could have a team as well as a player that’s about to break out.
Forward/Center: Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves
Get ready to start talking about former Rookie Diary keeper Kevin Love again because he’s about to breakout. Kevin’s a fraction shy of averaging 10 and 10 already, stats that any team would welcome. Forget about a sophomore slump, forget about the comments on his weight and athleticism. Just look at the stats. Last year he led all rookies with 29 double-doubles. This guy is efficient no matter how he looks. He may be willing to have a laugh but he ain’t no joke. Pair him in the same frontcourt as rising star Al Jefferson and the Wolves have a good shot at climbing back up the Wild West. When Kevin posted 17 points and a career high 19 boards against Western powerhouse San Antonio, he showed he belonged. So why all the hate for Love? Regardless of what people may think Kevin’s work ethic and determination won’t waiver. The better he gets the more people will have nothing to say. There is about to be a whole lot of quiet this season.
Forward: Anthony Randolph, Golden State Warriors
Anthony Randolph has potential and a lot of it. Averages of 7.9 points and 5.8 rebounds might not stand out but Randolph’s only just getting his feet wet. Randolph has talents on both the offensive and defensive end of the court, and he boards well too. Standing at 6-10 but running the perimeter he’s a matchup nightmare and a dream come true for any coach looking to space the floor. Anthony Randolph joins the list of players who are tall enough to play power forward but can play the small forward position as well. Players like Kevin Garnett, Lamar Odom and Dirk Nowitzki, the new era of dominant big men in today’s league. Randolph is exactly what the Golden State Warriors franchise needs — a star in the making. Monta Ellis can’t run this town on his own and the days of Baron Davis dunking over Andrei Kirlienko are further gone then people think. The important thing is for Anthony to turn his speed and athleticism into consistency and wins for his team. Randolph’s strong play in the summer league this year hints at a bright future for him and for the Warriors.
Guard/Forward: Trevor Ariza, Houston Rockets
Trevor Arizia has already broken out. He used to be known more for Top 10 plays of the week rather than significant minutes. The Trevor Ariza of today, however, is one of the main reasons the Los Angeles Lakers took home its 15th NBA championship. Ariza was a difference maker and made the biggest plays in the biggest games. He would make key steals on the defensive end and finish Showtime-esque fast breaks on the offensive end. Trevor knocked down big shots and showed great tenacity, drive and hustle. So why did the Lakers let this guy go so easily? Ariza could be this year’s James Posey, a key role player who should have been the first to be re-signed. The Lakers lose is the Houston Rockets gain, however. Trevor made himself a household name last year, and he could turn into a star this year. Yao Ming needs more firepower and someone with big game experience. Simply put, Trevor Ariza has done more in playoff series defining games than Tracy McGrady ever has. Trevor is quick and versatile and had playoff averages of 11.3 ppg on a team loaded with offensive talent. Ariza steps up when needed, and he’s only going to get better.
Guard: Jordan Farmar, Los Angeles Lakers
A top point guard at UCLA, Jordan Farmar was always projected to do well. The talent and potential he has is easy to see when he steps on court. Take a look at his speed on the fast break, the alley-oops he throws to his teammates or his range from the three. It’s all displayed, but unfortunately only in limited minutes. This is what happens when a young developing player with raw talent plays for a team like the Lakers. Career averages of 6.4 ppg and 2.4 apg aren’t much to talk about but career nights of 24 points and 9 assists show that Jordan has much more to offer. With a ring on his finger, Jordan Farmar may have what every NBA player wants, but he will have to be patient before he earns more playing time. Derek Fisher holds the starting job but the older he gets, the more Farmar’s number will be called. The more Jordan plays the more he will be able to develop. With one of the best starting five/sixth man combination in the League, the Lakers will look to carry on where they left off last year. The rest of the bench mob led by Jordan Farmar will also be vital in the Lakers reclaiming the championship. The more Phil Jackson puts his trust in this young point guard, the more opportunity the League will have to see the real player that Jordan Farmar is.
Consideration also went to JJ Barea and Charlie Villanueva. The funny thing about predictions is there is never a middle ground. Predictions either become true or fail miserably. The players on this list are more than worthy of attention, though. The talent these players have show that they have the skills needed in this league. Whether their talent comes into bloom this season or the seasons that follow, one thing is for certain: They have every opportunity to break through!