Potential is probably the most over-used word in the NBA. When teams are making draft picks, signing free agents, engineering trades and shuttling players in and out of the starting lineup, potential can be just as — if not more — important in earning minutes as actual production.
It’s especially that way with big men. NBA teams are always looking for the next great 7-footer, or the next 20-and-10 anchor at the four, or the next KG-type hybrid freak. Here are five young big guys poised for a breakout season in 2010-11:
Greg Oden — It all depends on his health, but Oden has succeeded at every level (when healthy) and is a perfect fit for the up-and-coming Blazers. Before he hurt his knee last year he was averaging 11.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in just under 24 minutes a game. Oden is supposed to be on schedule to return by training camp and will be given every chance to win his starting job back over Marcus Camby.
Anthony Randolph — Everyone is waiting for Randolph to have a breakout year, and I think this year is it. Within the Mike D’Antoni system, Randolph should be given the offensive freedom to perform at the level that he’s capable of. The 21-year-old still has potential to be an All-Star.
J.J. Hickson — The Cavs aren’t going to be any good this year, and every national story line involving them will have something to do with LeBron. Which means Hickson will shine in the shadows. New coach Byron Scott will utilize J.J.’s speed and agility in an up-tempo system, and he should be the Opening Night starter at power forward, with Antawn Jamison either playing the three or coming off the bench.
Michael Beasley — I’m still a big Beasley supporter, but he’s got to prove to everyone that he’s not a bust. He obviously has the talent, but talent alone doesn’t get it done. I believe that Beasley will get his head on straight and begin to improve in Minnesota, where he doesn’t have anything else to do but focus on basketball and salvaging a still-promising career.
Javale McGee — What a summer for McGee. He killed it at the Vegas Summer League, leading to an invite to Team USA training camp, where it looks like he has played his way onto the World Championship squad. Expect the 22 year-old McGee to grow and develop in his role with the Wizards, holding it down in the paint and running the floor while John Wall and Gilbert Arenas get all the attention on the perimeter.
Honorable Mention — Joakim Noah, Andray Blatche, Blake Griffin