Cameron Larkin .com

NBA Players To Watch This Season: Part Two

In Part One, I asked who would be the next breakout player in the NBA. Today, I take the microscope to the NBAs other fifteen teams.

Miami Heat: Norris Cole

Don’t expect anyone to have a pure breakout year with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Ray Allen in the lineup.

Norris is the backup with starting point guard Mario Chalmers however showed that he has the arsenal to move up on the depth chart. The no second-year player out of Cleveland State has proved to be valuable pick up late in the draft.

Watch his game (where he scored 20-points) against the Boston Celtics and Rajon Rondo and you’ll understand why I selected Cole and not Chalmers.

Milwaukee Bucks: Brandon Jennings

Jennings posted career-high points-per-game (19.1) average last season and was the Bucks second-best scorer. Yet, he is the one whom has significant upside.

Jennings shot poorly from outside and inside however he has youth on his side. He will need to improve otherwise Jennings may end up being trade bait.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Alexey Shved

If you watched Shved at the London Olympics you’ll know how good this Russian 23-yeard old.

The mature-aged rookie can flat out play – he can hit the long jumper, uses the ball very well and is athletic at 6’6’’. A big watch in an exciting team.

New Orleans Hornets: Greivis Vasquez

Vasquez remains the only true point guard on the Hornets roster however he may be pushed into a backup role when New Orleans move Austin Rivers into the lineup and try and convert him into playing the one spot.

The Venezuelan improved last season from his sound rookie year and again, improvement is expected. If the Rivers gamble doesn’t pay dividends, Vasquez will be the beneficiary.

New York Knicks: Iman Shumpert

Name another player who will have a break out season on the Knicks team: Shumpert is the only guy. Jeremy Lin and Kyle Landry are gone and J.R. Smith isn’t the most reliable player, thus the 6’5’’ guard out of Georgia Tech will likely be in the starting roster come mid-season.

In his first season in the pros, Shumpert delivered decent stats both as a starter and when coming off the bench for a rookie in the same lineup as Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudamire and Lin. Defensively and rebounding, Shumpert is a solid contributor and will only improve.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Serge Ibaka

The Brazilian has much upside and we can expect to see improvement in Ibaka’s game. Defensively, Ibaka is very strong and is right up there when it comes to most blocks per 40-minutes.

It’s on the offense end where Ibaka could dominate. He is a decent shot from the field and a highly effective finisher at the rim. With Perry Jones coming off the bench, Ibaka may just learn a lot in mentoring the rookie.

Orlando Magic: Gustavo Ayon

The Magic is set for a pretty bad season after losing Dwight Howard. There are three players I like however: Arron Afflalo, rookie Andrew Nicholson (had a very good summer league) and thirdly, the big Mexican Gustavo Ayon.

In his first season coming off the Hornets bench, Ayon averaged 5.9ppg, 4.9rpg and 0.9bpg. In 17-minutes against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Ayon dropped 16-points; against the San Antonio Spurs, he scored eight points, pulled down 13-rebounds and recorded five assists. The 27-year old can play.

Philadelphia 76ers: Andrew Bynum

This is the former Lakers big mans team now. There isn’t any Kobe Bryant in this exiting talented: the ball will be run Bynum every time down the floor. I don’t need to tell you how good he is. Watch his numbers soar beyond 20ppg and 15rpg this season. Let’s just hope he isn’t sitting as much as he plays.

Phoenix Suns: Goran Dragic

The 2012-13 NBA season will make it Dragic’s third stint with the Suns. It will also be his best year.

The fifth-year guard put up career high numbers in 2011-12 after starting 28 of the 66 games played. Dragic must work on his turnover rate and his foul rate – both are at unacceptable rates.

On the flipside, he is a good shot, athletic, has great size and is aggressive. Big watch this year.

Portland Trailblazers: Damian Lillard

My one to watch in the NBA Draft, Lillard will either win the Rookie of The Year award or finish second. He had a huge summer league playing akin to Derrick Rose.

Sacramento Kings: DeMarcus Cousins

A mature, consistent and in-shape Cousins could make him the dominant center in the game. In just his second season in 2011-12, Cousins produced 18.1ppg, 10.9rpg, 1.2bpg and 1.6apg: big numbers and think about this, he doesn’t get much help from the guards – he makes his own shots.

If Cousins puts it all together, he will tower above this league for years.

San Antonio Spurs: Patrick Mills (also watch Kawhi Leonard)

Patty had a very good Olympics that followed his sound performance in 16-games last NBA season. Mills will come off the bench when Tony Parker takes a rest: when he gets his time on court he must be aggressive while watching his handle on the ball. With assistance coach Brett Brown on the Spurs bench, Patty will get his chance.

The other player to keep an eye on is Leonard – a very skilled forward whom delivered respectable numbers last season. Leonard is one of my favourite non All-Star players to watch. Can play the three spot and four, however best at the three.

Toronto Raptors: Jonas Valanciunas

The 6’11”, 105kg big man from Utena, Lithuania will start in his first season in the NBA (selected fifth overall in the 2011 draft) after his now former club Lietuvos Rytas didn’t allow him to join the Raptors until the 2012-13.

The 19-year old Valanciunas has proven to basketball viewers that he is a strong rebounder who can get to the ring and draw plenty of fouls. He will do well in his rookie year however the learning experience from playing on the worlds best centers will be enormous and highly valuable. The only question, how quickly will it take him to be named in his first All-Star game?

Utah Jazz: Derrick Favors

This is one man I want to see more of on the court. Favors finished his third-year in the NBA with 8.8ppg, 6.5rpg and 1.0bpg from an average of 21.3mpg.

The 6’10” third overall pick in the 2010 draft was part of the Deron Williams to New Jersey trade in 2011. Favors played just one college season – he was named ACC Rookie of The Year and to the ACC All-Freshman Team.

Defensively, Favors is powerful and will make an All-Defensive Team several times during his time in the pros. He does however need to watch and work on his committing of fouls: that is an area greatly affecting his playing time. On the other end, he has to develop his skills in the post, but he has time on his side. 

Washington Wizards: Bradley Beal

I can’t wait to see Beal suit up for Washington. With John Wall running the point and Nene and Emeka Okafor (two unselfish big men) down low, Beal is going to see the ball coming to him a great deal when open. This Florida Gators star can flat out stroke the ball from a long way out (think Ray Allen).

He is going to be a go to guy, especially when late in the game, to take the pressure of Wall. One intangible we’ll see is the positive impact he will have on Wall (think LeBron James and Dwyane Wade).

Beal will be a star in this league for many years.

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