After putting together the modified Top-50 list of players from ’08-09, I had about 50 leftovers who just missed the cut. And from that, there could’ve been a whole sub-category titled “Wait ‘Til Next Year.”
Yesterday it was the centers: Now here are five two-guards who look the most ready to crack the 2010 Top-10 with their performances next season:
Jason Richardson — In his first full season in Phoenix, with the Suns fully committed to running the kind of system in which he was born to run, J-Rich should see a marked improvement over last year’s numbers (16.8 ppg). While he might seem older than his 28 years, he’s still got enough bounce to pull off (or at least try) 360 dunks in games, and isn’t shy at all about launching a ton of threes. Something else to consider: J-Rich had has his best seasons on bad teams, and the Suns are slipping.
Eric Gordon — Overlooked in Rookie of the Year talk, Gordon (16.1 ppg) has been a beast this summer, spending extensive time working out with Kobe and D-Wade, and attending the Team USA mini-camp in July. Having Blake Griffin around only makes EJ’s life easier, and if Baron Davis delivers on his promise to be more of a leader in L.A., Gordon will be one of the main benefactors.
Andre Iguodala — One of the most versatile wings in the League, A.I.2 has improved every season of his career, and is on the verge of a 20-5-5-2 campaign after averaging 18.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 5.3 apg and 1.6 spg last year. New Sixers coach Eddie Jordan’s system is being crafted to get Iguodala Gilbert Arenas-style buckets, but Iguodala needs to do his part by stepping up his long-range game (30.7% 3PA).
Manu Ginobili — In a recent interview, Gregg Popovich said he expects Manu to start next season out of shape, but at least he’ll be healthy. Pop will bring him along slowly, and eventually Manu will get back to his usual self, where he’s simply one of the best two-guards in the world and one of the NBA’s coldest closers. San Antonio’s offseason activity was designed to make one more push (or two) while Tim Duncan is still playing at an All-NBA level, and Manu knows he’s a vital part of that. All he’s done throughout his career is respond in big moments, and this should be no different.
Xavier Henry — After a year of reloading/rebuilding following the ’08 national championship, Kansas is expected to be back among the NCAA’s top dogs. While point guard Sherron Collins and center Cole Aldrich are the headliners and veteran leaders, Bill Self needs somebody to step into that pure scorer Brandon Rush-type role, and Henry is the front-runner. The most pro-ready player in the high school class of ’09, Henry is a bullish 6-6 lefty with three-point range and a strong off-the-dribble game. After a drawn-out recruiting process, he finally settled on Kansas, and the program will do whatever it can to keep him happy.