Comeback players generally pertain to players that had a terrible year last year, but are due for a monstrous season up ahead. This is not an award for the Most Improved Player of the year, but an award for players that had an anomaly of a season last year, yet are poised to make a dramatic improvement this up and coming season.
Comebacks are hard to make in the NBA. Sometimes players are coming back from a season ending injury, at other times they were traded to a team and coach that did not want to play them, and there are even times when players just lose focus and desire because they finally earned the contract that they were seeking. Regardless of what the case may be, there are a plethora of reasons why a player may have had a down year.
But good players do not stay down for long. Sometimes all they need is a change of scenery or maybe a new head coach that knows how to properly utilize them. Or maybe they just need to shed some weight because they are getting older now and their metabolism is slowing down. The point is, players are able to comeback and return to their old form. We saw this with Tim Duncan two seasons ago when he made the first team All NBA. Most experts thought that Duncan was a shell of himself over five years ago, but with some proper dieting and a slight change in his offensive game, Duncan was back on the first team once again. This is a list of the top 10 candidates likely to make a comeback this up and coming season.
10 Larry Sanders
Larry Sanders will be making $11 million per year for the next four years, but the lanky shot-blocking center did nothing to justify this type of contract last year. Sanders only played in 23 games last year due to injuries and off the court problems. Sanders is still only 25-years of age and has a lot of maturing still to do, but it is possible that last season’s problems may make him more professional on and off the court. Two years ago, Sanders averaged 2.8 blocks per game and was one of the best weak-side blockers in the game, but last year he only averaged 1.7 blocks per game. If Sanders can get his act together, he could easily win Defensive Player of the Year.
9 Anderson Varejao
Sideshow Bob has never been the healthiest player in the world, but he did play 65 games last year. Varejao flirted with a double-double last year when he averaged 8.4 points per game and 9.7 rebounds per game. He has nearly a 50% field goal percentage every single season and is beloved by Cleveland fans for his hustle and jovial personality. What makes Varejao such a contender for comeback player of the year is that his former teammate LeBron James will be back on the court with him and James has the ability to make everyone around him better. With Kevin Love bombing 3-pointers from the outside, Varejao is set to average a double-double again this season simply by garbage points and rebounds. And this time he will have more incentive to stay healthy.
8 Josh Smith
The Josh Smith experiment was an utter disaster last year, but it does not mean that Smith is irredeemable. With new head coach Stan Van Gundy on the bench, you can bet that he will figure out creative ways to use Josh Smith, Greg Monroe, and Andre Drummond on the floor at the same time. The Pistons have acquired several 3-point bombers, so it is quite possible that Smith will see a lot of time on the floor as a power forward now. Also, if Monroe is on the block, and it seems like he is, it will open up a lot more time for Smith to be the primary power forward, which is his natural position.
7 Jeremy Lin
Remember Linsanity? That was only three years ago. Three years ago, Jeremy Lin was one of Time Magazine’s most influential people in the world and he was also one of the hottest players in the NBA. In fact, Lin was so good that he landed a bottom heavy three-year contract with the Houston Rockets. However, after two years of being buried on the bench behind Patrick Beverly, the Rockets traded Jeremy Lin to the Los Angeles Lakers. The only obstacle in Jeremy’s way in Los Angeles is a 40-year-old point guard who plays two to three games per month. If Lin comes close to averaging 30 minutes per game this year, he could easily become comeback player of the year.
6 Rajon Rondo
Rajon Rondo lost his big brothers Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and his head coach Doc Rivers in a single swoop last year. To make matters worse, Rondo was coming off of a horrific injury from two years ago, but he was still able to squeeze in 30 games towards the end of the season last year. Without his big 3 on the floor, Rondo was the focal point of the offense. However, being a pass first point guard, Rondo is always looking to pass before he shoots. In the 2011 and 2012 season, Rondo led the league in assists, but last year he saw a dip in his assists by nearly 2 assists per game. If Rondo can come back even healthier this season and have some shooters around him, there is no doubt that Rondo can return to All-Star talent.
5 Roy Hibbert
Last season was Hibbert’s worse season since his rookie year. Hibbert was publicly criticized by the media for his inability to rebound the ball in the playoffs last season despite being 7’2”. The big fella only averaged 6.6 rebounds per game last year during the regular season and he pretty much decreased his numbers in every other statistical category as well. The good news is that Hibbert cannot play any worse then he did last season. With Paul George out for the entire season and Lance Stephenson moved to the Charlotte Hornets, somebody is going to have to pick up the slack on the offensive and defensive end. If Hibbert can reinforce himself as one of the dominant centers in the league once again, he is poised to make a serious comeback this year.
4 Omer Asik
Omer Asik was one of the best centers in the league two seasons ago when he averaged 10.1 points per game and 11.7 rebounds per game. However, after the arrival of Dwight Howard, Asik found himself on the bench and as a result, the big fella only averaged 5.8 points per game and 7.9 rebounds per game. Now that Asik has been released from his prison in Houston, the big man will be free to fly in New Orleans. Asik is the perfect compliment to emerging star Anthony Davis, and he should see plenty of opportunity to prove to everyone that he is a starting center in the NBA once again.
3 Dwyane Wade
When you look at Dwyane Wade’s numbers from last year, they were very respectable for NBA standards. But when you look at his numbers based upon the entirety of his work, this was the second worse season of his entire career. For the first time since his rookie year, Wade averaged less than 20 points per game. However, the number that stands out the greatest from last year, is the number of games that Dwyane Wade played in. Last year, Wade played a total of 54 games. Due to Wade’s knee issues, he was forced to sit out back-to-backs and he looked extremely fatigued and a bit overweight during the Finals. However, with LeBron out of the picture, this is time for Wade to re-establish himself as the face of the Heat franchise once again.
2 Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant looked like a shell of himself coming back from an Achilles injury last year. It was obvious to everyone watching him play that he had clearly altered his game. Kobe no longer had the explosion that he once had, and for the first time in his entire career, he looked like a pass first player. It is no coincidence that Kobe averaged more assists last year (6.3 apg) than at any other point of his entire career. At the same time, last year was his second lowest scoring output of his entire career with an average of 13.8 points per game. Kobe finally went down again after just six games, but the rumor is that Kobe looks much better this summer than he did when he played last year.
1 Derrick Rose
Derrick Rose has already proven to everyone in the basketball world that he is back. Rose is playing on the US team this summer and he looks like his old self. The explosion is there, the dribble penetration is there, and he even looks like he put on some muscle. Rose has encountered more criticism the past two years than he has in his entire career, for being injury prone or even selfish in not returning to the court sooner than he could have. His teammates and coach, however, were always supportive of every decision that the former MVP made. And this year, you can bet that he will improve upon all of his career lows from last year. Last season he only played ten games and averaged 15.9 points per game and 4.3 assists per game. Based on how he looks right now, do not be surprised if those numbers are almost double this up and coming regular season.