#NBA2015: Players to Watch Part Five

With the 2014-2015 NBA season beginning in fewer than 10 days, I found it just right to look at some players we should all keep tabs on. There are no-brainers like LeBron, KD, CP3, and James Harden, of course, but there are also many other characters on whom we should put the spotlight. In this first of five parts, we’ll take a look at some key guys for the Blazers, Kings, Spurs, Raptors, Jazz, and Wizards.

In our final post in this series, we take a look at a host young guys on the verge os stardom.

Nicolas Batum (POR) - The high-flying Frenchman had a great stint in the 2014 FIBA World Cup, averaging abotu 15 points, 3 rebounds, and 1 steal a game as France bagged the bronze medal for the first time in tournament history. One would think that his awesome showing would translate to better numbers this season, right? Yes, but that hasn’t happened just yet. As of this writing, Portland is 1-2 in the standings and Batum is putting up a pretty pedestrian line — 9 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals per game while shooting a career-low 35% from the field. If Portland is to, at the very least, duplicate its great postseason run from last season, then Batum will definitely have to flash the form he had in #Spain2014.

DeMarcus Cousins (SAC) - Another guy who impressed in the World Cup was Cousins, who was a tower of strength as the Americans romped all the way to the gold. Of course, he also had a stellar 2013-2014, where he averaged career-highs in six major stat categories — scoring, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, and FG%. Sadly, even his 23-12-3-2-1 line wasn’t enough to push him into All-Star status, but, hey, I doubt he’s going to get snubbed again. I mean, just look at what he’s been doing so far for Sac-town — 23.7ppg, 12.3rpg, 2.3apg, and 1.7bpg! The Kings are currently 2-1, and yes it’s still too early, but one cannot help but marvel at the potential of this club when Cousins and Rudy Gay are playing this well. If he continues playing like this, Cousins might as well be crowned the best center in the game right now.

Kawhi Leonard (SAS) - Was it wise for the defending champion San Antonio Spurs to not offer Kawhi, the 2014 Finals MVP, the max contract? One shouldn’t really doubt anything the Spurs do, but this feels like a missed opportunity to cement the budding superstar’s services for the dynastic franchise. Kawhi will explore free agency when this year is done, and though the Spurs have the option to match any offer given to Kawhi, there’s a chance he might still move elsewhere in case the Spurs’ pockets aren’t deep enough. Remember that Kawhi isn’t the only free agent the Spurs will discuss when July 2015 comes around. Other key guys like Marco Belinelli, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Danny Green are going to be on the block, too. If TD and Manu retire (quite likely), then the Spurs would do well to retain Kawhi, something that they could have done before October 31. In Pinoy parlance, sayang. Should another team offer Kawhi something similar to what Chandler Parsons got in Dallas, it’s possible the 23-year old could bolt Texas. That’s assuming he can improve on his current numbers of 6 points, 8 rebounds and 0/5 FG shooting, of course.

Jonas Valanciunas (TOR) - At just 22, Valanciunas had tremendous upside, and given how he played in the previous NBA season and in #Spain2014, one can expect even bigger things from the Lithuanian this season. He normed a near-double-double last season as Toronto crashed the postseason party in the East, and it stands to reason he will be super solid again this season. As of this writing, he’s putting up around 14 points, and 9 boards while blocking about 2 shots per game and shooting 85% from the line. Those are great numbers for a complementary big man to the likes of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, and those should augur well for the Raptors’ hopes of returning to the Playoffs.

Derrick Favors (UTA) - Favors has become a little under-the-radar ever since moving from New Jersey, but he has quietly become one of the most efficient bigs in the country. For the first time in his career, he averaged double-digit scoring last season (13.3ppg), while also grabbing a career-high 8.7 rebounds. Right now, he’s doing even better as the Jazz have appeared competitive in the tough West. Favors is currently registering around 22 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 blocks per outing while shooting close to 60% from the field. He won’t make the All-Star squad just yet, but he gives Utah a lot of hope that their rebuilding process might yield good fruit after all.

Bradley Beal (WAS) - Is he the next Ray Allen? Perhaps, but he’ll have to heal up first if the Wizards are to repeat their postseason run from last season. In only his second pro season, Beal averaged 17 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 dimes an outing while connecting on 40% of his triples. He did even better in the Playoffs, putting up close to 20 points a game on top of 5 boards, 5 assists, and 2 steals a game. Give this kid a couple of seasons more and he might just be among the league’s top three SGs (the other two should be Klay Thompson and James Harden). Right now, though, the Wiz are still waiting on his wrist to return to 100%. 

Next Post »
0 Comment