X Marks The Spot
Who’s playing the role of ‘x-factor’ in the East this season?
With the season finally underway, it’s time to evaluate who the key players are for each team.
While almost none of them are their team’s best player, they all are the x-factor that could make or break the team’s season. A player in the starting lineup who can make or break a team’s season based on how he leads or contributes to a team’s goals; whether that’s taking on a new role or staying out of someone’s way (that last one would be you, Gilbert Arenas).
Boston Celtics: You pretty much know what you’re going to get out of Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, but the Celtics will not be the team they were last year if Kevin Garnett sees his skills further erode. Boston’s success depends on KG keeping his game fresh.
New York Knicks: With new star Amar’e Stoudemire attracting double teams down low, Danilo Gallinari will not only need to knock down the open jumper but slash to the rim and play solid defense. The Rooster may need to be the stabilizing force on this team.
New Jersey Nets: Devin Harris had a tough time suffering through the Jersey’s terrible season last year, and was upset that he was nearly traded for Carmelo Anthony this summer. Getting his head back in the game will be crucial for Avery Johnson’s squad.
Philadelphia 76ers: With the second pick in the Draft, the Sixers selected Evan Turner, a forward that plays the same position as entrenched star Andre Iguodala. Dre’s still the leader of the team and the franchise player, but how long will that last? His name will be in trade talks all season and he’ll have to deal with the attention that brings.
Chicago Bulls: Chicago is showing a huge commitment to Joakim Noah as a franchise cornerstone and now is the time for him to prove he was worth his $65 million contract extension. He’ll need to show and prove early, with Carlos Boozer out to start the year.
Cleveland Cavaliers: I’ll split it among the team’s holdovers that will be asked to lead the team: Anderson Varejao and JJ Hickson. The team refused to trade both last season in their final title run that fell short and now they need to take charge on and off the court. It’s their team now.
Detroit Pistons: This team has a lot of very good players, but Rip Hamilton is still the team’s franchise player in 2010 and he needs to be the leader. He can’t be happy with the direction of the team, but he’s the guy everyone looks to for veteran leadership.
Indiana Pacers: Danny Granger has been looking for a legit guard his entire career and Darren Collison could finally deliver after coming over in a trade from New Orleans. The expectations are sky-high and Granger needs to come through if this team wants any remote chance at the postseason.
Milwaukee Bucks: The team really evolved without Michael Redd in the lineup, and he has to adjust to a more complementary role. If he and Corey Maggette get in the way of stars Brandon Jennings and Andrew Bogut, they will greatly decrease the chances of this team surprising people and making a deep Playoff run.
Atlanta Hawks: Atlanta went as far as it did last season because of Jamal Crawford’s career year that won him the Sixth Man award. He needs to keep up that production for this team to equal or surpass last year’s success.
Orlando Magic: JJ Redick was resigned for a lot of money to take a larger role on this team and that’s what he needs to do. With Vince Carter not getting any younger, Redick may need to take on more of the offensive load. He’s certainly getting better as a defender, so Orlando will need more out of him.
Washington Wizards: Saying John Wall is the key player is too easy. Will Gilbert Arenas be able to play to Wall’s strengths or get in the way as a franchise looks to turn the page? Hibachi needs to know his role and that’s as Wall’s mentor and sidekick. How he adapts will determine how the year goes for Washington.
Check back tomorrow to find out who’s wearing the x out West….