Cameron Larkin .com

NBA Players To Watch This Season: Part One

The NBA – where amazing happens. Where greatness happens. Where breakout performances happen. Where most improved performances happen.

In the upcoming 2012-13 NBA season, we will once again see it all transpire in from of our eyes.

Last season it was Jeremy Lin’s time to shine. He showed elements of brilliance before being traded to the New York Knicks however it wasn’t until he got his break inside the famous walls of Madison Square Garden that he dazzled crowds and fans right across the globe.

Who will be next to step up?

Atlanta Hawks: Al Horford

The 6’10’’ center enters his sixth season as a dual NBA All-Star on the verge of becoming a superstar. The third-overall draft pick in 2007 has a career average of 12.8 points-per-game, 9.5 rebounds-per-game and 1.1 blocks-per-game.

In 2011-12, Horford suffered a serious injury yet made it back in time for the playoffs and truly made his mark. The big man continues to develop his post game and can defend multiple positions, he runs the floors, can handle the ball and finishes strong. Did I mention Horford shoots lights out from the field? He led Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol and Stephen Curry last season.

With Joe Johnson now in Brooklyn, this is Horford’s team.

Boston Celtics: Courtney Lee

I just hope Lee remains in a Celtics jersey for several years: 2012-13 will be his fourth team in five seasons. However, the guard continues to consistently deliver.

Lee is an exciting player to watch – he strokes it well from deep: he has only shot less than 40 percent from the field in one season when with New Jersey. Defensively, Lee is a solid defender whom presents a problem to teams with his 6’5’’ frame. Lee will thrive this season with Rajon Rondo playing the point.

Brooklyn Nets: MarShon Brooks

Brooks approaches his second season in the NBA as a Sixth Man of The Year prospect. Last season he played 56 games, starting in 47 and putting up solid numbers of 12.6ppg, 2.3 assists-per-game and 3.6rpg.

Will come off the bench behind Joe Johnson and further development is expected.

Charlotte Bobcats: Ben Gordon

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will be expected to be everything for Michael Jordan’s organisation in 2012-13, yet the player for me that has a good chance of turning his career around is Ben Gordon.

After three years in Detroit (first four seasons in Chicago), Gordon will start at the two and will be hoping to have a year similar to the 2008-09 season where he averaged more over 20, three and three.

This is Gordon’s last chance: he is owed $37 million over the next three years and will want to show us eventually why he was selected third overall in 2004.

Chicago Bulls: Luol Deng

Even when Derek Rose returns to the hardcourt, this Chicago outfit will be Deng’s team. Deng is positioned to put up career highs but he will also face extra pressure from opposing sides.

Can Deng make it to All-Star level this season?

Cleveland Cavaliers: Kyrie Irving

Last seasons Rookie of The Year who delivered numbers just shy of one LeBron James in his first season in the league and a tad better than Derek Rose.

The Melbourne-born 20-year-old has guaranteed All-Star written all over him.

Dallas Mavericks: Rodrigue Beaubois

Despite the Mavs bringing in Darren Collison, the player to keep an eye on is this Frenchman going into his fourth season. Beaubois stats have increased every year with last season his best yet.

Beaubois needs to develop his court vision – from the field he is an effective shooter and possesses good defensive skills and quickness.

There is must improvement to go with this guard and if fully fit he may just challenge Collison for playing time.

Denver Nuggets: Javale McGee

Will the McGee mature and be the ultimate teammate and defender that his side needs? In the past McGee has been focused on his own stats rather than anything else and that’s the main reason for Washington, who are currently in rebuild mode, traded him to Washington. Will that be the wake up call he needs?

McGee had his best season in 2011-12. He has been working out with retired-superstar center Hakeem Olajuwon (ala Dwight Howard and LeBron James) – the 1994 NBA MVP told Fox 26 Sports: “I see him as another star, that guy should dominate the league. He has tremendous talent. I give him all these moves and he can finish and he’s really skilled.”

McGee recently re-signed with the Nuggets onto a four-year, $44 million deal – now he must deliver and answer the questions.

Detroit Pistons: Greg Monroe

The last few years have been a struggle for the Pistons: it doesn’t look like that will change this season. Much of the responsibility will rest on the shoulders of Greg Monroe who is approaching his third season since arriving in the NBA as the seventh overall draft pick.

Monroe led all Detroit scorers with 15.4ppg, as well as rebounds (9.7) and steals (1.3). The University of Georgetown alumni has much improvement within him including creating better shots (without getting blocked as much) and on defense, where he lacks to play skilled big men.

Monroe will this season act as a mentor for the Pistons first round draft selection, Andre Drummond – that just may be enough to have Monroe further his development where needed.

Golden State Warriors: Stephen Curry

This could well be Klay Thompson or Brandon Rush however the Son of Del Curry (former NBA guard from 1986-2002), Stephen, is key to the Warriors.

Houston Rockets: Chandler Parsons (keep an eye out for fourth-string C Greg Smith too)

The 38th overall pick (second round) in the 2011 NBA Draft won’t ever be an All-Star and may even see time in the D-league this season however expect his game to improve with reasonable numbers.

Last season Parsons notched up 9.5ppg, 4.8rpg, 2.1pgs and 1.2 steals-per-game. The 6’9’’ forward produced solid games against the two teams that slugged it out in last season’s finals and each month his numbers went up bar the last.

Parsons, a 2012 NBA All-Rookie Second Team naming, is an average shooter and an even worse finisher at the foul line and needs to add strength also.

Indiana Pacers: Paul George

With Danny Granger at the three spot and the 7’2’’ Roy Hibbert down low, the forgotten man is Paul George.

The Fresno State alum started all 66 games last season and as expected his numbers went up: they weren’t off the chart and his play did blow fans away like his rookie year did, however there was improvement with traces of much more to come.

George has a smooth stroke from the outside and I’m sure that his percentage from the three-point line will rise as he becomes accustomed to the pro distance. The guard did turnover the ball more than he would’ve liked but Indiana coaches can see that he’s pushing the ball and the potential is vast.

Los Angeles Clippers: Blake Griffin

That’s right, Blake Griffin, not DeAndre Jordan.

Griffin had one of the best rookie seasons in history and then backed-up with another season reminiscent of a highlight reel.

Numbers wise, the 6’10’’ forward out of Oklahoma is up there. Here’s the however though. Griffin can still refine his game in a big way on the defensive end, with his own offensive skills down in the post and in focusing on getting back up the court and not on the referee whom just missed the call.

How high Griffin goes is up to him – exciting times await.

Los Angeles Lakers: Devin Ebanks

With an All-Star at every position except small forward, Devin Ebanks has the opportunity to further develop his game. The 2012-13 season will be his third year with the Lakers: in his first season Ebanks played 20 games (zero starts) and 24 games (12 starts) last season.

With Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol getting double and at times, tripled team, this second-round draft pick may just be open enough to improve his outside shot.

Memphis Grizzlies: Rudy Gay

With O.J. Mayo now in Dallas, the Grizzlies belong to Rudy Gay. Statistically, Gay has been ultra consistent but similar to Blake Griffin, the forward approaching his seventh NBA season is improving his defensive game and racking more and more assists.

With Mayo out, expect Gay to put up more shots – hopefully a greater number from the three-point line.

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