With the NBA season right around the corner, a lot of changes have occurred. Kyrie and Hayward are in Boston, Isaiah Thomas’s hip injury remains a concern in Cleveland and there are several players in new places. There is a lot to be excited about for this upcoming season. As I mentioned there are several players in new places around the league. There are a lot of concerning injuries. And most importantly, lets see if someone can finally take down the Warriors. We shall see how it all plays out come May and June, but it is exciting nonetheless.
However, when one thinks of efficiency in the game of basketball, several things come to mind. One may think of scoring efficiency and FG percentage. In todays NBA there are many gifted scorers who can score from almost anywhere on the court. Another thing one may think of is effort on the defensive side of the ball. If a team has a player that can play both sides of the ball, than that team has a great player. And then there are players that have the whole package, who can score, guard and keep everyone on the team involved. Now, not every player in the NBA is capable of doing all these things. Some are more capable than others. Others may not have that same luxury. With this in mind, we take a look at the top 8 players that will show up to play this season, and 7 that will not.
15 Rise: Kristaps Porzingis
Not only have the Knicks been plagued with several injuries, but they haven’t made the playoffs recently. However, there is a glimpse of hope for the Knicks moving forward, one of which being Kristaps Porzingis. A 7’3 PF who is extremely versatile and can shoot from three, sounds pretty good right? Porzingis’s numbers have improved every season since he came into the league, and as Carmelo’s future with the team looks more and more bleak, I don’t see any reason to believe why Porzingis wouldn’t shine with the Knicks.
Perhaps the scariest part about Porzingis is his age and limited experience in the league, which only adds to his potential as a future superstar. Even if Porzingis wants out of New York, he's going to bring his best game to make sure plenty of teams call the Knicks about trading for him.
14 Fail: Willie Cauley-Stein
The Kings have been a sorry franchise in the NBA for quite some time now. They traded away perhaps their only player in DeMarcus Cousins, as well as losing a solid two way player in Rudy Gay, and they have just been very inconsistent in the win/loss column. For me, Willie Cauley-Stein makes the list here simply because some rookies break out in the NBA, and others fall behind the shadows. Although Stein was a supreme talent during his time at Kentucky, his stature and build limit his post play and play making abilities.
Nicholas Agar-Johnson mentions why Stein has dropped in stats on his piece written on hoopshype.com. In this piece he says, “Willie does not have much of an offensive game outside of the paint. He has taken 73.1 percent of his shots–49 of 67–from less than five feet from the basket, according to the NBA’s shot tracking data.
If Willie wants to improve in Sacramento, looks like he will have to improve his shot, as well as his defense moving forward.
13 Rise: Jeff Teague
There is a lot of potential for Jeff Teague this season. And one of the things that will definitely help him is his young talented core of teammates. Playing alongside Jimmy Butler, Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony Towns will certainly help him develop as a more consistent, potent offensive threat. I think Teague was a bit overshadowed playing on below average teams like Atlanta and Indiana. Now that he’s on a team that most people believe can legitimately compete for a championship, I think he can become a more polished and improved PG.
However, perhaps what Teague can bring to the table most is his scoring ability inside the paint. If Teague can continue to improve as a scorer, he will have tremendous upside with the Wolves.
12 Fail: Jeremy Lin
It appears that Lin-sanity is far gone, and that has occurred ever since he left the Knicks. The Hornets are a team that have been trying to rebuild a winning franchise, but from what it seems Lin doesn’t fit that category. At just 6’1, Lin struggles on the defensive side of the ball, giving up more than his fare share of points. And it just seems like he has regressed more and more each season in terms of numbers, which doesn't help his cause.
Perhaps the biggest thing about Lin during his career, was his inconsistency, and thats why he ultimately makes the list here. When one considers this, one considers that Jeremy Lin’s best years are probably behind him. Playing on the Nets essentially will guarantee that Lin will remain in mediocrity.
11 Rise: Eric Gordon
With the addition of all star Chris Paul, and the continued dominance of James Harden, it only adds to the appeal of Eric Gordon. Winner of the 2017 3 point contest and several all star appearances, it should be no surprise to see Gordon make the list here. He can defend multiple positions, and has improved his shooting percentage from three at a very respectful 37.2%. And playing alongside a very solid backcourt, will only give Gordon more opportunities to score the basketball as they continue their quest to compete with the Warriors.
Michael Knight expresses his opinion on spacecityscoop.com saying “ When James Harden and Eric Gordon were on the floor at the same time, E.G. was getting open 3s almost whenever he wanted. Gordon was still electric when James was on the bench, but imagine if he played every minute with Harden.” Now Gordon will have an opportunity to play with both Harden and Paul which should only add to his growth as a solid SG.
10 Fail: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has been overshadowed by Kemba along with Nicolas Batum and the crew for a while on a average Charlotte squad. However, Gilchrist makes the list here because of his poor shooting percentage of just 11.1% from three. A league that has been progressing more and more towards the three point shot, doesn't help his cause here. Although he shoots it well from inside the basket at 47.4%, his limited three point shot will hurt him with his team this season.
Dwight Howard is now set to join the Hornets, and Howard's been an enigma the past few years, playing on his fourth team in six years. You have to think somebody on the Hornets will be negatively affected and it looks like it could be MKG.
9 Rise: Devin Booker
There is a lot of potential for Devin Booker this season. He has a good supporting cast in Josh Jackson, Eric Bledsoe, Tyson Chandler and several other quality players. We all know he is a very capable scorer, evident from his 70 point outing against the Celtics last season. And he has a long promising career ahead of him, only being 20 years old.
The Suns are bringing most of their young roster back from last season and they added Josh Jackson from Kansas with their top pick in the draft. More young talent on the team, combined with Booker being a year more mature will be a recipe for success this coming season. Today's NBA is geared perfectly for a player like Booker.
8 Fail: Patrick Beverley
Although Beverley has certainly proven himself on the defensive side of the ball, his scoring ability has always been average, which doesn't help his cause to produce much this season. He will be playing with a very good talent in Blake Griffen if he can stay healthy, but I think his scoring will certainly regress as a result of that.
However, what mail eventually derail Beverley’s career is his past incidents off the court, including an altercation with a fan in Oklahoma City. Emma Baccellieri fleshes this out a little more on Deadspin.com saying “Beverley told reporters today that he had no comment and the Rockets were “taking care of the situation.” If Beverly doesn't have the courage to bring issues of whatever magnitude up, his performance on the court will be reflective of that.
7 Rise: Kawhi Leonard
Seeing as how the Spurs' potential upset over the Warriors ultimately came to an end in a sweep, thanks to Kawhi Leonards season ending injury issued by none other than Zaza Pachulia, one can't deny the Spurs motivation to come back this season. I believe Leonard will have a great season with the help of Aldridge, Green and others. And I think if any team in the West can beat the Warriors, its the Spurs with a healthy Kawhi Leonard.
Adrian Wilson writes on 12up.com why he thinks Leonard will compete for the MVP next season. And he says the following: “You can individually be great, but customarily the NBA MVP does not go to a guy on a losing team regardless of how great of a season they're having. If the team isn't winning, that counts against you. It certainly bodes well for Kawhi knowing that he won't have to worry about any of that".
6 Fail: Dwight Howard
As we alluded to earlier, Dwight Howard will find himself on his fourth team in six years, as he's been to the Lakers, Rockets, his hometown Atlanta Hawks and now the Charlotte Hornets. Howard went home to Atlanta this past season, but even his hometown team grew weary of him after just one year and traded him to Charlotte. If Howard's proven anything the past few years is that he's lost the desire to lead a team on his shoulders and with the lack of true star power in Charlotte, Howard will be expected to carry a big load.
Hornets head coach Steve Clifford is confident the old Dwight Howard is still in there somewhere: "I know what he has to do to play well," Clifford said after the trade to acquire Howard. "He understands that I know him. I know his game. Being around him in different settings I have a feel for what he likes to do ... There is no reason he can't get back to playing at a really high level."
5 Rise: John Wall
John Wall makes my list here because the Wizards are a rising team in the East, they have a good coach in Scott Brooks and he has a good supporting cast in Beal, Gortat and several other good players. There is a lot of potential for Wall this season, having just signed a contract extension, we’ll have to see what he does on the court.
Although the Wizards are still a bit away from reaching postseason potential, Wall has a lot of growth potential for himself moving forward among the NBA’s best PGs. The Wizards will be in tough trying to dethrone the Cavaliers and the Celtics seem to be the second in command on the Eastern Conference's food chain, but Wall has the ability to help the Wizards shock everybody.
4 Fail: Lonzo Ball
Although there is a lot of promise for this young talent out of UCLA, I ultimately don’t see it working out for the moment because of the adjustments needed to play in the NBA. I think it will take a lot of time for Ball to adjust to the game. Not to mention he will be playing against some very physical guards. Which is why I think it will be difficult for Ball in 2018.
Colin Ward-Hennington breaks this down a bit more on CBSsports.com saying “Ball has a slight frame and will put on weight, but his ability to finish through contact needs to vastly improve. Ball lacks elite NBA athleticism, but is very tricky around the basket -- he's able to use both hands to elude defenders and finish layups. Those plays are generally in transition when he can get separation from the defender.” Ball will need to put on weight if he wants to play well this season.
3 Rise: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Giannis. The Greek Freak. The guy with the very long last name. Whatever you want to call him, he has been nothing short of great since he came into the NBA. His averages have improved every season. He can play multiple positions. And his length and athleticism brings a lot of potential for his growth as a player as he moves forward.
Perhaps the biggest thing about Giannis is his very underrated playmaking ability. Giannis is looking like the future of the NBA and this could presumably be the last year he has to worry about LeBron James having a stranglehold on the Eastern Conference, as James is expected to leave Cleveland next summer. This is the perfect year for the Greek Freak to put his stamp on the east.
2 Fail: Blake Griffin
After losing Chris Paul, I don’t think Blake Griffin will ultimately live up to the hype of being a franchise player for the Clippers. Blake shot it at 49% from the field last season, but struggled to score when Chris Paul was of the floor. And he shot from three at only 33%. With this in mind, Griffin will probably struggle without his all star PG, and it is no different here.
One thing that has plagued Griffen’s career since signing with the Clippers is his inability to stay healthy. Last year, that was partly his own doing, as one of his injuries was a broken hand that resulted after punching a team's trainer. Griffin is bound to regress and it looks like the Clippers' window to win is now closed.
1 Rise: Russell Westbrook
It is no secret that Westbrook had an absolutely monster season last year. And that should be no different in 2017-18. Having a quality supporting cast of Steven Adams, Kanter and Paul George, Westbrook should be poised for another fantastic season. This is why he makes the list here.
With PG-13 as his teammate now, he should be a lock to win MVP this season. That is why he makes the list here. Westbrook looked like a man possessed last season and that drive is not going to go away this year. He'll just have to find a way to ensure he and Paul George have chemistry because for the Thunder to have any shot in the postseason, they'll have to find a way to get past the likes of the Warriors or the Rockets, who they lost to last spring.