October 17, 2012 by shivusharma
Every year we see a few players take their games to new levels and garner recognition at the national level. These are individuals who made the most of their off-season, and maximized their opportunity on the court. Guys like Jeremy Lin, James Harden, and Andrew Bynum are all examples of this. Now it’s time to speculate which players are primed to take the next big step in their careers for the upcoming season. Below I’ve listed one player at each position who I can see breaking out.
Ty Lawson| Denver Nuggets
With increased minutes last season and more responsibility in George Karl’s offense, Lawson showcased he could be a threat both scoring (18.8 points per 40 min) and distributing (7.6 assists per 40 min). Few defenders can keep up with his lightning quickness and Denver’s fast pace offense plays directly to this strength. Not many PGs in the league can play elite perimeter defense, meaning that Lawson will have an easy time torching them on the way to the rim. With a healthy Danilo Gallinari and the incorporation of both Wilson Chandler and Andre Iguodala into the offense, I can see Lawson’s scoring go down a touch in favor of his passing numbers. Overall, I think we can expect increased efficiency from Lawson’s across the board and a potential all-star season in the works.
George kind of had a mini breakout season last year, but struggled to find his rhythm at times in the Pacers offense. The potential for George to be a dominant 2-guard is evident though. He showcased a smooth 3-pt stroke and ability to score off the dribble. His athleticism enables him to be a great rebounder and versatile defender at his position. George will have to be more aggressive and take command of the perimeter scoring duties in Indiana, but I think that is a strong possibility. In order for the Pacers to be able to compete with the Celtics and Heat in the Eastern Conference, they are going to need Paul George to take the next step, and I think they realize that.
Evan Turner| Philadelphia 76ers
Turner has great handles and passing ability at his size, and a surprisingly effective mid-range game. The real shocker in Turner’s stat line is how well he rebounds the ball, averaging 7.5 per game in the playoffs. The added post-scoring presence of Andrew Bynum will take some of the scoring burden off of Turner, and allow him to be more of a facilitator for the offense. Overall, I think we will see a much improved Evan Turner on both ends of the floor.
Gibson is a top-notch defender. His shot-blocking, rebounding, and lateral quickness enable him to guard quicker players and play excellent help defense. He is a surprisingly effective offensive player as well, netting 15.1 points per 40 minutes. Gibson excels at finishing near the basket and has an improving mid-range jumper. It is clear that Carlos Boozer and his gargantuan contract are putting a hamper on the Bulls’ wallet. Boozer has done nothing to show that he deserves the $15m Chicago is paying him this year. Gibson’s contract is up for an extension, and I expect the Bulls to get a deal done sooner rather than later, so they can get a better bargain for this emerging player. Expect Boozer to be a casualty of the amnesty clause and Gibson to absorb his minutes. With this added playing time, Gibson will take the next step and become one of the better PFs in the league.
DeMarcus Cousins| Sacramento Kings
The man they call “Boogie” really turned into a beast towards the second half of the season. Boogie Cousins is ridiculous on the glass, with a rebound rate of 19.8. He has the ability to take defenders off the dribble, shoot from mid-range, and score from both the high and low post. The only thing stopping Cousins from being one of the best at his position is himself. Cousins fouls way too much and takes poor shots. However, in his short time as a pro, I think there has been considerable improvement in his demeanor. His game reminds me a lot of Chris Webber when he was his hay day, and as Boogie comes into his own during the course of the season, I think we will get to see that side of him.