#NBA2015: Players to Watch Part Four

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 Pelicans, Knicks, Thunder, Magic, Sixers, and Suns.

Young guns rule in this edition of Players to Watch in the current NBA season.

Anthony Davis (NOL) - The New Orleans Pelicans are 1-1 right now and probably won’t make the Playoffs, but at least they have one of the top five players in the world lighting up the scoreboard of the Smoothie King Center every night. Anthony Davis is projected to be an MVP candidate this season, and it’s not difficult to see why. I mean, he’s a unibrowed beast who practically does everything — scores points, gets rebounds, blocks shots, destroys worlds, you know the drill. What’ll make him NOT be MVP, though, is the fact that, when the season’s dust settles, his team won’t be in the Playoffs.

Tim Hardaway, Jr. (NYK) - The second-year guard is poised to be a breakout player for the Knicks this season. The athletic former Wolverine averaged about 10 points last season while shooting 36% from downtown. He’ll probably be playing behind Melo and JR Smith at the wings, but I doubt someone like Iman Shumpert will play a ton more minutes. Of the three natural SGs on this roster, Hardaway seems to make the most sense in the long-term for the Knicks, and if he can improve on his numbers from last year, then I’m sure head coach Derek Fisher and President Phil Jackson will see things his way, too.

Reggie Jackson (OKC) - Reggie Jackson had a stellar 2013-2014 season, averaging 13 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1 steal per game while shooting 34% from beyond the arc. He played mainly as a sixth man for the Thunder, and was generally effective in that role, providing the much-needed spark off the pine for a team that leans maybe a little too heavily on its two superstars, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. With both KD and Westbrook, along with new acquisition Anthony Morrow, out for some considerable time, all signs point to Jackson being the key guy early in the season for OKC. If he can put up decent offensive numbers, there’s a solid chance he can keep the Thunder afloat for till when his more ballyhooed teammates return.

Victor Oladipo (ORL) - With both Arron Afflalo and Jameer Nelson, Orlando’s top scorers from last season, now gone, the onus lands on both Nikola Vucevic, who got a freshly-minted extension, second-year man Victor Oladipo, and a few other new recruits to carry the cudgels for the Magic. A facial fracture he suffered during practice will sideline Oladipo for about a month, but Orlando, armed with the severely low expectations of any rebuilding team, can wait. If he can continue to be a Tazmanian devil on defense and be an explosive dynamo on offense, then he should make a great case for the league’s most super soph.

Nerlens Noel (PHI) - Another young guy, another rebuilding plan. Maybe in a few years, Noel will form a terrific triumvirate with 2014 ROY Michael Carter-Williams and lottery pick Joel Embiid, but, for this season at least, he’ll have to endure 82 games of sheer futility. Like Blake Griffin, Noel missed his first year because of injury, but unlike Griffin, Noel probably won’t have the whoa-where’d-this-guy-come-from rookie season. His first two games have been quite promising, though — Noel normed 10 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 blocks in his first two outings for the Sixers. Translation? The present is gonna suck, but things should get pretty good in the future.

Isaiah Thomas (PHX) - This leaping lefty has always been some sort of a spitfire guard ever since coming to Sac-town in 2011. He has averaged double-figure scoring in each of his first three seasons, culminating in his putting up 20.3 points, 6.3 assists, and 1.3 steals last season. He also shot 34.9% from downtown, which should the guard-heavy Suns in good stead as they lost floor-spacing big man Channing Frye. With Thomas in tow, coach Jeff Hornacek has an awesome trio of guards who should wreak havoc on a nightly basis. In three games so far, Thomas has proven his worth, averaging close to 19 points while handing out 3 assists and making 2.3 triples per outing (he’s shooting 47% from beyond the arc). And, get this, he’s playing more than ten minutes fewer than last season!

Next Post »
0 Comment