The NBA season tips off tomorrow, and this electric off-season has us waiting on our toes for the regular season to commence. So in light of a brand new year, I want to give you my top players to watch for this season.
Chris Bosh, Miami Heat, PF/C
Since joining the Heat in 2010, Chris Bosh has seen a drop every year in his minutes, rebounds and points per game. But all of that is about to change. Now that LeBron is back home in Cleveland and Bosh signed a new 5 year/$118 million contract, he is set to take back his role as the go-to-guy and leader for the Heat. In Bosh’s seven years with Toronto, he averaged 20.3 PPG and 9.4 RPG. With Dwayne Wade being his biggest threat to steal back the show in Miami, expect the Bosh-osaurus to put up numbers similar to what he did in Toronto.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks, SG/SF
Do you remember those T.J. Houshmandzadeh commercials? I have a feeling we’re going to see a remake of those very soon. The “Greek Freak” is just 19 years old, but he has already played a full NBA season and has been one of the most hyped players of the offseason. He was drafted 15th overall in the 2013 NBA Draft at 6’9″, and he now stands at 6’11″. His hands are rumored to be 15 inches long. I repeat, FIFTEEN INCHES! I recommend you look up the pictures. But aside from his measurements, he is one of the most athletic players in the league. Jason Kidd has experimented with Antetokounmpo at point guard multiple times this preseason and plans to try him out everywhere else on the floor. On a Bucks team with little talent, Giannis is expected to have a larger role and is in for a big year.
Alec Burks, Utah Jazz, SG/PG
Alec Burks was used very sparingly in his first two seasons in the Association. The 12th overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft was strictly a prospect during that time, but last year, he was unleashed. Last season, former Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin increased Burks’ playing time by ten minutes, putting his season average at 28.1 minutes per game. He was used mostly as a sixth man last year, but he started twelve games, the first twelve of his young career. Not only did his playing time see a significant increase, but also his points per game average doubled from his first two seasons, going from 7.1 to 14 PPG. There is going to be a bit of a timeshare between Burks, Trey Burke, and the rookie Dante Exum, but Burks proved himself to be an everyday starter and he will look to capitalize off last season on a rebuilding Jazz team.
Jeremy Lin, Los Angeles Lakers, PG
Back in 2012, he shocked the world with “Lin-sanity”. After that tremendous finish with the Knicks’ season, Lin signed with the Houston Rockets for 3 years and $25 million. After his first year in Houston, he was demoted to a sixth man role for most of the season, playing behind Patrick Beverly. It was a bit of a slump in Houston for Lin, who had high expectations, but he was dealt to the Lakers this offseason in Houston’s (failed) attempt to sign Chris Bosh. This couldn’t be a better fit for Lin, especially because of recent news that point guard Steve Nash will miss the entire season. Just another small perk of playing for the Lakers, Lin will get to play alongside Kobe Bryant, arguably the best Lakers player of all time. Kyrie Irving thrived under coach Byron Scott’s offense, and Scott will look to work with Lin just as he did with Irving. Kobe Bryant is in his twilight years, and the Lakers are looking for their next big star. Jeremy Lin has the potential to be that guy.
Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs, SF
In his third year in the league, Kawhi Leonard won the NBA Finals MVP. He is the third youngest player in Finals history to win that award. He averaged almost 18 points per game while shooting 61% from the field in the Spurs’ blowout of the Heat in the NBA Finals. You can’t ask for much more than that early into your career. He broke out in the playoffs this past season, and he is not looking to slow down. The Spurs’ reign of the big four (you have to include Greg Poppovich) is soon coming to an end, but Kawhi is the bright spot for the franchise’s future. He is almost guaranteed to have his minutes increased this year, as he averaged only 29 minutes per game last season. While Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili can still play at a high level, you can’t expect them to be playing over 30 minutes a night. The Spurs will look to the young and energetic Leonard to take on the minutes, and you can bet that he will produce.