I will now pontificate on the players I unabashedly deem most likely to achieve higher status than they've previously attained in the NBA this season (insert hackneyed Josh Howard joke here). These guys will not necessarily be MIP candidates, although some certainly could be included in that discussion as well. Most will not be for various reasons....young team, turdalicious team that gets no press (sorry, Mike Conley....but I'll put you on there anyway out of pure, unadulterated homerism), etc. I'll also not mention any rookies, 'cuz, y'know, how can you improve in large increments in the NBA year-over-year if you've just entered the fray??
Let the pontification begin!
1) Andray Blatche
Yep, I've mentioned him previously, and I'm doing it again. The difference with him will, like many things in life, start with his motivation and level of brain usage. He seems to have righted his off-court ship, allowing him to focus on the basketball aspect of things. Great size, great length, improving hands, decent (getting better) shot, some shotblocking, good activity without the ball and on defense. Perhaps the paramount reason that his name will be mentioned more this season, however, is one that I wish I did not have to mention...the injury bug that has bitten and will continue to feed upon the Wizards. I think that Blatche will get his burn even if (and believe me, I hope this is the case, but I'm not optimistic) the Wizards suffer no further major injuries (although Haywood's absence will almost certainly lead to more minutes for Blatche).
2) Mike Conley
HOMER TIME! Ah, hometown subjectivity. Sure, he's on what almost certainly promises to be a sub-30-win team, but his high draft location and great skill level will get him noticed, and his ability to locate and direct teammates will certainly show substantial improvement over last season. He has done his due diligence in the weight room, and his perimeter shot looks worlds better, mechanics-wise and, in a more tangible sense, in the % column as well (yeah, I know it's only preseason). His body control in the lane is very good, but his ability to finish while suffering contact must improve.
3) Gerald Green
yep, I said it. Watched Mark Cuban cheering for him at the end of a game that the Mavs actually choked away. Sure, I am well aware that no amount of Sprite can make this guy a regular contributor just yet, but I do predict that he'll see minutes in Dallas this season. I ain't sayin' this guy is gonna go for 16 ppg in like 24 mpg, but I do believe that he'll get the "more minutes makes me better, and not just 'cuz I'm getting more minutes" thing happening. Now just you wait for this next one..wait for it....
4) Patrick O'Bryant
Hah. Had you for a minute there. Just kiddin'.
...well, actually, he's seen a few minutes this preseason, and maybe...
...naaahh....move along. I'm rootin' for the guy, but we'll have to see.
5) Julian Wright
ok, back on track here. When I heard that Byron wanted to try to make this guy a PG, I knew something weird was gonna go on. Whether this guy gets enough minutes to really make in impact, well, we'll see. But his size is an asset, and the ability he showed at the end of last season to make halfway brainy decisions with the ball has almost certainly endeared him to Coach Scott. If he can work more on his perimeter game on both sides of the ball, his versatility could make it tough to keep him off the floor.
6) Ryan Gomes
I think the Wolves will like this guy very much this season. It won't (shouldn't be) hard for him to get plenty of time to mature on-court, and he's shown good versatility at the 3 spot...but it would well behoove him to get some time in the gym with his new teammate Mike Miller and learn to better flush it from outside. He must use his length to better advantage on defense, which I'm sure he can do (Mr. Brewer, you need to pay attention here as well). Good rebounder, athletic...I think he'll surprise the ten people who pay attention to the T'Wolves this season.
Well, six seems enough for now (well, 5.5 if you give POB half credit),and I'm sure you all think that I'm completely bananas (and, in my defense, there is a three-week-old child in my life :)). Feel free, readers, to comment on any player you think will up his game this season-I'm sure I've missed your favorite up-and-comer :).
Also feel free to completely bust me at the end of the season when a bunch of these cats go for like 1.5 points and 4 fouls in like 4 mpg.....
Sunday, October 26, 2008