We are about to embark on another journey through the NBA as the 2007-2008 season is upon us. There will be many interesting stories that will be told throughout the year, but how about the players themselves? Who are the most interesting players in the NBA. Lets take a look team by team to see.First let me say that an intereting player is not one that is likely to join Michael Vick in court anytime soon. We all know the NBA is filled with head cases, but there are other interesting players out there. Players who are interesting because of what is happening on the court instead of off it. Young players with upside hoping to break out, older veterans trying to resurrect their carreers, and other players trying to prove last year was a fluke. Here are the thirty most interesting players in the NBA for the 2007-2008 season.
Of course there is quite the buzz about the Boston Celtics this season. Two quick trades and all of a sudden they’ve won the NBA Championship. Okay, so maybe they haven’t won the championship yet, and perhaps there are a few other teams out there that may have a better shot to win it all, but the Celtics look a lot better than last year. One of the reasons is because they traded for Ray Allen. Being one of the “Big Three” or “Triumvirate” or “Three Amigos” or “Three All Stars that have not played together before” is interesting in itself. What makes Allen a little more interesting than Garnett or Pierce is his last year. Allen was limited to 55 games last year because of ankle problems and ankle surgery. The Celtics have bet the farm (and all the neighboring farms) on winning NOW with these three stars. If Allen’s ankles can’t hold up, the Celtics may not be winning now or in the future.
New Jersey Nets
There are a few other easy answers here with Nenad Krstic (returning from injury) and Sean Williams (is his head on straight). However, Carter is my choice for most interesting Net because he is no longer playing for his big contract. Now this isn’t to say that Vince isn’t a lovely person, but it’s well known he stunk up all of Canada with his play before being traded to the Nets scoring a measly 15.8 points per game. I doubt his motivation will be lacking this year, especially with a player like Jason Kidd pushing the pace of the game and the mood of the season. However, with Boston and Toronto supposedly taking over the Atlantic Division, it will interesting to see how well Vince keeps playing if the Nets fall out of playoff contention.
New York Knicks
The Knicks are a mess. Perhaps they get things under control this season, but honestly I don’t see it happening. When looking for the most interesting player on the Knicks I almost went with Allan Houston to see how two years of rust would affect his defense and ability to beat people off the dribble, but then I realized that he could never do either of those things before he retired. So instead I chose Marbury. Formerly considered one of the top point guards in the league, Marbury hasn’t played close to that standard in the past few years (though don’t tell him that.) Last season his shooting percentage dropped from 45% to 41%, and most of his other numbers dropped as well. At only 30 years of age, one would believe Marbury is not done in this league and I want to see if he has another All-Star caliber run in him. If the Knicks want to do anything this season, they better hope he does.
Well I had to pick someone. AI2 isn’t interesting since we know he will put up the numbers and the rest of the team…..well there’s just not much there to get excited about. This doesn’t mean the 76ers can’t be good. Honestly I think they have a better chance than the Knicks do. But most of there players have a set role, or will be fighting for a set role. I picked Young, because it will be interesting to see if a rookie not praised in the same circle as Durant, Horford, Conley, etc will be in the ROY running by being on a team where he will get a chance to play. Young is a raw talent, but he should still see playing time and it will be interesting to see if anything is there.
Oh, the difference between being a $1 million dollar surprise spark off the bench and being a $6 million dollar disappointing investment. Jason Kapono is now making the big bucks in Toronto, but everyone is asking the question, “Is he worth the money?” Only Jason can answer that for us, and I feel that he will be answering it over and over again this season. If he hits a game winning three the answer will be “Yes.” If he has 2 points and has let Shane Battier score 28 points, the answer will be “No.” I believe that Raptors fans will be arguing back and forth about this all season long, and probably for the next three years as well (since that’s what’s left on his shiny new contract.) We probably won’t get a definitive answer on whether or not Jason is worth the money, but needless to say it should be interesting.
Tyrus Thomas will be the most interesting player to watch on the Bulls, and this year it won’t have anything to do with “free money.” Thomas is one of those players that make both NBA scouts and fantasy owners drool. He has a long wingspan, good vertical, extreme athleticism and tremendous upside. Upside is an extremely vague term, and it means that Thomas might become great this year, or he might become great next year, or maybe never at all. The Bulls picked up Joe Smith in the offseason to start at the power forward spot, but many think the position will be Thomas’ by the end of the season. I’m looking forward to seeing whether he is all attitude, or if he actually has some game hidden behind the big mouth.
Sasha Pavlovic is another interesting choice, but he might not play for a while. So, Gibson wins the prize over Drew Gooden’s neck goatee. “Boobie” came alive in the playoffs last year and averaged 13.5 and 10.8 points per game against the Pistons and Spurs respectively. He was one of the Cavs only outside shooting threats. After that performance Gibson finds himself in the starting lineup this year and will probably be averaging well more than the 16.5 minutes a game he averaged last year. The Cavs did not make any moves in the offseason and will need his shooting as much as they did in the playoffs. Is Gibson a strong enough player to earn starter’s minutes and contribute to the team nightly, or was his performance in the playoffs last year just a hot streak. The Cavs are hoping for the former, but I’m interested to see how he responds to this new pressure.
Here’s another team that did not do much in the offseason. One thing that did change was that Chris Webber left the team. That leaves minutes to be grabbed at the forward position. Enter Maxiell. A late first round pick a few years ago, Maxiell impressed many with his play during limited minutes last year. Though only 6’7″, Maxiell finds a way to block shots (something his taller, long armed teammate Tayshaun Prince can’t seem to do too often) and has a knack for rebounding the ball. This preseason he’s shown that he has some skill on the offensive end as well. Now that McDyess is starting (supposedly), Maxiell will be the first live big body coming off the bench. Nazr Mohammed doesn’t count. Now that Maxiell’s getting the minutes will he continue to produce? Only time and John Mason will tell.
I know, this is an easy call, but the Pacers are a mess this year and Granger might be the only good story they have. With O’Neal practically begging to get outta town, Granger may soon find himself the face of the Pacers organization. Granger has been a solid player for the first two years of his career, but he has been far from spectacular. Once again, “expects” are expecting this year to be the year that Granger takes the next step in his progression. This may very well be the case, but it’s going to be tough with high expectations and the chaos surrounding him. I don’t think anyone considers 13.9 points and 4.6 rebounds a game from a second year player, but a 6’9″ forward with the ability to run the floor should be producing more, especially on the rebounding side. Maybe Granger will blow everyone away this year, or maybe he won’t improve at all. In either case people should be paying attention.
Raise your hand if you thought the Villanueva – Ford deal would end up being a steal for the Raptors. Anyone? Didn’t think so. After a disappointing season in which Charlie played only 39 games, he is back to live up to his potential. Everyone was amazed his rookie year when he leapt out of the gate with Toronto when they thought he probably wouldn’t last long in the NBA. Then he was traded to the Bucks and everyone was disappointed that he didn’t improve on his game. To be honest Charlie’s numbers last year are similar across the board to his numbers from his rookie season. You just didn’t noticed because he was in street clothes for most of the season. Now that Yi Jianlian is battling Charlie for the starting role, it will be interesting to see if he shuts up his doubters once again, or if he ends up watching Yi learn how awesome America is.
I almost went with Dominique Wilkins, but…..wait he’s no longer on the team. It’s been 13 years since he’s been there!!! I suppose that’s how long the Hawks have been irrelevant in the NBA. Actually the only thing they’re known for during that time is drafting Marvin Williams over Chris Paul when they needed a point guard. Though he has shown signs of brilliance (to an extent), it is needless to say Williams has been a bust so far. It’s now year three of the project and the Hawks are hoping to get something out of the former second overall pick. I doubt Williams will actually live up to his potential this year, but you have to figure he will improve. Or he should improve. One would hope. Will he finally get it this year, or will he continue to disappoint again? We will have to watch and see.
The man is just interesting to watch. He’s also exciting, impressive, dominating and death defying. At this point it is becoming more widely known that Wallace just does not care about his own well being one bit. Personally I feel that he would continue to play if a tornado somehow found its way onto the basketball court. There are times when Wallace is able to make some of the most amazing plays in the league happen, but there’s also a risk that he will break into a million pieces at the same time. If that’s not interesting basketball, I don’t know what is. I know Jason Richardson should take some of the pressure to do everything off Wallace, and this Bobcats team should be growing. It’s hard for me to picture Wallace changing his game much and that means another year of spectacular plays broken up by stints in street cloths. At the very least it will be interesting to see who wins the “when does Gerald Wallace end up missing a game” bet.
Up until a few days ago I would have said Dwyane Wade, but now that Davis has joined the team it has to be him. Ever since throwing the ball of his own backboard in an attempt to get a cheap triple double, Ricky Davis has been fun to keep an eye on. First it will be interesting to see how he gets along with his new team. Known to be tough to play with early on in his career, Davis has seemed to be a very good teammate in his last few stops. Next it will be interesting to see how he gets along with Pat Riley. Lastly it will be interesting to see how Davis reacts when Wade returns to the lineup. Now it’s possible Davis will just play the season as it goes and have no problems, but I expect bursts of greatness accompanied with bouts of stupidity. That’s just more fun, and it provides an opportunity for Shaq to arrest him.
Sure you may want to see if Rashard Lewis is able to validate his contract, but you also know he will play close to an all-star level. The player that will make the difference for the Magic this year is Jameer Nelson. Nelson came off the bench behind Steve Francis for his first year and a half in the league. The Magic felt Francis was not helping the team and got rid of him. However, they also felt Nelson was ready to take the team over. He surprised everyone with solid play for the rest of the season and seemed ready to take the step into the elite point guards the next year. Last year was a “disappointing” year for Nelson. He posted solid numbers again, but there wasn’t much improvement in his game. His field goal % and assist numbers will need to improve. Nelson will need to make the leap this year if the Magic want to be considered among the top of the East.
Brendan Haywood is a solid backup center in the NBA. Unfortunately for the Wizards, Haywood is their starting center. He has put up very average numbers over the course of his six years in the league. Now with Etan Thomas, another extremely average center, out for the season, Haywood will have to be average all by himself. He also have never averaged more than 27 minutes a game, so it will be interesting to see whether the added minutes help him improve or just cause more opportunities for him to lose focus on the court. With Arenas, Butler and Jamison on his team, the Wizards will not be counting on Haywood for much on the offensive end. But, he will need to contribute some in his expanded role rather than having the Wizards play four on five all year.
Golden State Warriors
There were many players that came out of nowhere to help the Warriors last season, but no one came more out of nowhere than Matt Barnes. Never having played more than 10 minutes a game, Barnes averaged 23 minutes a game and was a key part of the Nellie’s run and gun Warriors. A year later and Barnes has been named one of the team’s three captains. Is this a story of rising from obscurity to stardom, or the story of a one-year fluke at the right time? Can Barnes reproduce the magic he had last year? It seems a lot to ask from a player who was accustomed to sitting on the end of the bench his whole career. Barnes may have the all around game of a star, but will he continue to play like one or will he find himself back on the end of the bench this year?
Los Angeles Clippers
This could also be Tim Thomas, but he always disappoints so the pick had to be Kaman. Despite looking like a 7-foot axe murdered Kaman had his breakout year two seasons ago. Last year everyone expected great things out of Chris Kaman. Well, that or the entire Clippers’ roster to end up dead in a ditch somewhere. Unfortunately, it was Kaman who was nearly dead last year. His numbers dropped in almost every single category and at times it seemed like he couldn’t keep up with the tempo of the games. This season Kaman has a chance to jump back into the LA spotlight. At least as much of the corner of the spotlight that the Clippers can grab. With Elton Brand out for most of the season, Kaman is the Clippers only low post presence and should have the opportunity to prove that last year was the fluke.
Los Angeles Lakers
This is the easy answer, but that doesn’t make it less true. Bryant could be the most interesting player on this list on the court and in his press conferences. On the court there is no player more exciting, more explosive or more dominating. However, as everyone knows Bryant claimed this summer that he wants out of LA. Then he stopped talking. Then Jerry Buss started talking. The interest Kobe brings to the game is on many levels. Will he remain a Laker? Will he actually try as a Laker? Will he score over 100 points? Will he allow his teammates to touch the ball? Will he ever return to Denver? Hate him or love him, it will be hard to avoid Kobe Bryant this year. Almost everyone will be watching to see what happens next.
Remember when Grant Hill was the “next Jordan” du j’our? I know, seems a long time ago. Hill is the newest member of the NBA’s most exciting team. Already known for being a unselfish player, Hill now teams up with the man who makes everyone around him better, Steve Nash. Hill fits coach Mike D’Antoni system, but will he make the Suns better? Everyone knows that the Suns can run, but their bigger problem has been defending the big man. Amare Stoudamire can’t do everything by himself and Kurt Thomas wasn’t the answer, but is Hill anymore of the answer. Also take into consideration that in the past 7 seassons Hill has been in street clothes more often than a banker on Wall Street, it’s hard to see him improving the Suns. He’ll play well with them when he’s actually on the court, but will he be on the court and will he make a difference when the Suns play the Spurs and Mavericks in the playoffs?
Ron Artest may be the most interesting player on the team off the court, but you know what you are going to get when he plays. Brad Miller on the other hand, I’m not quite so sure of. He has been an All-Star center in the past, but was unimpressive last season. He played 10 fewer minutes a game and his other numbers struggled as well. Most people attribute these struggles to foot problems that Miller had throughout last season. Miller now says his foot is healed and he’s ready to get back to his All-Star ways. Is this the case? Was last season an effect of the foot problem, or are Miller’s best days behind him? Miller believes he is still an elite center in the league and is looking to prove it this season. Perhaps he is right and we shouldn’t judge a man because of one injured season. However, former foot problems on big men that are not young pups anymore have a way of coming back and keeping that career derailed.
New Orleans Hornets
Tyson Chandler, Kwame Brown, and Eddy Curry. Three of the first four picks in the 2001 draft. All busts for the most part up until last year. Curry and Brown have improved their game, but no one was a bigger surprise last year than Tyson Chandler. Chandler plays defense like an athletic big man should. He blocks shots and eats up every rebound that comes his way. He even developed a little bit of an offensive game last season. Now Chandler is considered one of the best young centers in the league, but is this the case? Will he improve his game yet again this season? Will his numbers fall back down to his career averages? It seems Chandler is on the way up along with the rest of his Hornet teammates. This year we could be watching the beginning of the next Mutombo, or the next Acie Earl.
The real interest with any of the Mavs won’t begin until the playoffs next spring. I have no doubt they will be a force during the regular season, but we will see if the playoffs bring too many haunting memories for them. As players go, we should keep our eyes on Devin Harris…if we can. The speedy point guard has been breaking down defenses for the past three years for the Mavericks, and will continue to do so this season. What will be interesting to see is if Harris will begin to develop the rest of his game in order to become more of a true point guard? No one doubts Harris’ ability to score, but he needs to work on his decision-making. With his speed, Harris has the potential to become Dallas’ version of Tony Parker Lite…or Tony Parker Slightly More Heavy since Harris is a little bigger, but he really need to work at it. We’ll see if the change is made this season.
Who did the Rockets sign this offseason? The Steve Francis that averaged 21 points and 6 assists per game for them back in 2002, or the Steve Francis that played only 44 games last year for the Knicks and averaged barely over 11 points per game. No one really knows. Francis has been one of the most explosive and offensively skilled point guards in the NBA, but his work ethic and attitude have turned him into a journeyman. He carries his huge ego with him wherever he plays and has become an unwanted commodity because of it. The Rockets have taken a chance to see if Francis can recapture the game he once had in Houston. Personally I doubt he can, but it will be an interesting ride to see him try.
San Antonio Spurs
Who is the most interesting player on the most boring team in the league? I will admit the Spurs are dominant. I know they have a great shot at repeating as champions this year. I realize their game is beautiful to watch for the schooled basketball fan, but this doesn’t change the fact that they are boring. This, of course, is good for them. Anyway, I had to pick someone so I went with Oberto. He had a solid season last year splitting time with Francisco Elson. Oberto is still learning the NBA game and has a good chance at improving even more this year. This is the reason he is the player to watch on the Spurs. Then again, if he doesn’t improve at all, I don’t think it will make a difference to the Spurs.
One wonders if he will ever stop being a running punch line to the 2003 draft. People realize the skill of Lebron James, Carmello Anthony and Chris Bosh, but don’t count Darko out yet. It may have taken him a bit longer (longer than Dumars was willing to wait), but this could be the season Darko begins to fulfill his upside potential. During his season and half in Orlando, Darko has gone from sitting on the bench to getting quality experience out on the floor. With Pau Gasol to help take the larger defenders away, Darko could become quite a scoring, blocking and rebounding machine for the Grizz. He could take Elvis and the rest of the league by storm and become the biggest surprise former number two overall pick ever. Then again, it’s Darko, so he could end up on the bench again in January.
Its true Martin may not be interesting because he may not actually play much this season, but I am hoping that he does. Trust me when I say I do not long for the days when Martin’s nipple was gracing SportsCenter every night, but I have to pull for someone trying to come back from serious injury. Especially someone that used his legs as a part of his game so much before the injury. Will Martin need to use them like before, or will he adjust and find a new way to contribute? I realize a lot of people are sick of him, but I think Martin’s journey is an interesting one and I am hoping I get to see him finish it strong.
There are many basketball players in Minnesota. With the only one who counted gone, it will be interesting to see if his replacement fills any of his shoes at all. Al Jefferson exploded onto the scene last season. Exploded might even be an understatement when you go from 8 points a game to 16 and 5 rebounds a game to 11. Jefferson is the most talented young big man in the game and has to carry the team in front of all the disgruntled Timberwolves fans. As a soft spoken player it will be interesting to see if Jefferson will continue to put up similar numbers or will fold under the pressure of replacing one of the most vocal leaders in all of basketball. Big Al is going to have a lot on his plate this season and I’m looking forward to seeing how much he can chew.
Portland Trail Blazers
Many are calling this a lost season for the Blazers since their number one pick Greg Oden went down with an injury. It may be so, but there are many young players who are going to excite this season. One of those is Travis Outlaw. An eighth man for the first few years of his career, Outlaw impressed many with his game and his hustle last season. With Oden out, Outlaw is getting his chance to play and is expected to make the most out of it. The question is, do we have a young superstar in the making that just needed his chance, or will he always be a role player? It may be hard to flourish when surrounded by all the young talent that Portland has, but Outlaw will need to seize his opportunity. And with his potential, that could be something worth watching.
There are many lesser-known players on the Sonics that will have interesting stories this year, but known more so than Durant. With Oden out, he is left to take the league hostage by himself. Some people have already projected greatness saying he is the most skilled offensive player since Jordan. Others see him destined for failure, saying that he is not big or strong enough and will be pushed around the league like a rag doll. Either way, everyone wants to see which way he’s gonna go. People are always trying to predict the “next big thing” and Durant is the one to watch. Perhaps it’s too much pressure to put on one kid, but that’s not going to change the fact that it will happen. I think he will have a season where he scores 40 points one night, only to be held to 6 the following night. Between each game he’ll be hailed as a savior and failure immediately afterwards. All these peaks and valleys may not be good for Durant, but it will make for some interesting basketball.
It’s not often a quadruple threat player one season becomes a zero threat player the next. That’s what happened to Kirilenko last season. The drop in play is not entirely his fault. Perhaps he could have played harder, but he has been forced to play out of position in a system that doesn’t really fit his style. So Kirilenko stills has the skills to be the All-Star he was, unfortunately he is still in the position and system that hurt him so much last year. Will he make the adjustments? Will he be traded to another team that fits him better? Will he continue to be moody and spend his time looking for that freebie girl? I think Utah will be able to find a use for his many talents, but I don’t really know how and watching that will be interesting.
So there you have it. Thirty players that are going to be worth keeping an eye on this season. Not that there won’t be other interesting stories out there in the crazy world of the NBA, but these thirty should keep you entertained. Just remember, they may not be your team, but there is always someone on that team that is worth watching……..unless that team is the San Antonio Spurs, then you might just be out of luck.