The 10 NBA Players Under The Most Pressure This Season

As we move steadily towards the start of the season, quite a few teams are looking at this season as a potentially franchise-determining endeavor. Miami is seeking a three-peat. Houston Chicago, Oklahoma City, Indianapolis, San Antonio, Memphis, Manhattan and Brooklyn and the L.A. Clippers are seeking to claim the prize for themselves. Each of these teams have put a fair amount of pressure upon themselves. But the NBA is a player’s league. Here are 10 players who have the spotlight on them from minute one, with an already bright glare that has the potential to turn withering.

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MWP signed with the Knicks and his first tweet was “Where Brooklyn At?” He’s on this list out of principle. You played at St. John’s, Ron, you had to know…wait, sorry, it’s MWP, what was I thinking utilizing logic. It’s more likely that Metta had no idea that there was a team in Brooklyn that was different than the team in Manhattan he just signed with. (I got jokes.) This is going to be so much fun for everyone who dabbles in social media and is not a Knicks fan. The chance of ridiculousness on a team with World Peace and J.R. Smith as it chases Miami, Chicago and Indiana is so high that Vegas wouldn’t let you bet on it for fear of you taking all their money.

Before heading to Detroit and getting his contract extension, Brandon Jennings out of office message in Milwaukee probably sounded something like this.

But now Jennings is a player whose gotten some money and is key to a Detroit team that is trying to get back in the business of winning this year, which means that there are expectations. Jennings is a player who was smart enough to get out of an Arizona commitment and go to Europe. He has shown that he’s a top player in the league. He now has to show that he can carry a team expecting more than to sneak into the playoffs. Jennings will have to raise his shooting percentage, keep his turnovers low, and help mesh with Josh Smith. That’s a jump from merely jacking it up on the Bucks, particularly when you’re getting paid.

When you’re the best player on the planet without a ring, the basketball world turns its eyes to you and says “Whatcha got?” Is that fair? Of course not. Are we all doing it? Of course we are. It doesn’t help that Russell Westbrook, the Robin to his Batman, is hurt and we don’t know when he’ll return. That doesn’t give Durant a pass for very long.

Well, good sir, whether those chest-pounding tweets were inspired by a Gatorade advertising executive or whether you and Durant had actual beef, it’s set the stage for you to prove you’ve still got it. Due to perpetually being banged up, many have believed that Wade had, through sheer erosion, been dismissed from the top 10 best players in the league. D-Wade will have none of it. Good for him. Now it’s time to show us, not tweet us, which might complicate things when the Best Player On The Planet is your teammate and the dude with the ball.

The assumption behind this argument is that Andrew Bynum actually feels pressure. That’s a big assumption. For most of his career he was an overachiever who quickly became a spoiled malcontent with the Los Angeles Lakers. He then was sent out of L.A., a brilliant trade by the Lakers, and spent a year collecting a salary for not playing in Philly. Now he’s in Cleveland… because of course he’s in Cleveland. Is he actually going to play 82 games? Is he going to be productive? Who is this guy? The honest answer is we don’t know. If he stays healthy and gets his act together, he has shown All-Star caliber talent. But is this guy ever healthy? “NO!” I hear you screaming, readers, I hear you.

The New York Knicks are all about Carmelo Anthony. It’s also New York. I don’t need to write this bit, The Daily News and The Post already have. Repeatedly. You can’t exist in New York and not know about their taunting back pages anymore than you can be in L.A. and not know about a pothole. Neither really matter but both are really annoying. This is a world you constructed, Mr. Anthony. With Miami and Indiana and Chicago in the way, it doesn’t look like one that wins championships. Though, to be fair, neither does the L.A. fantasy of you playing with Kobe. Just saying.

The days when everyone would accept you being an outstanding dunker on a horrible team should have come to an end a long time ago. If they haven’t, let this column serve notice that those days are over. The L.A. Clippers window to win is “RIGHT NOW,” which means that Griffin needs to be a threat with a midrange J as much as a ferocious dunk. The Clippers are going to be the best team in California this year – wrap your heads around that for a second – and they could actually make a run at a title if Blake Griffin becomes a complete player. We’ll all obviously appreciate his ferocious dunks, but it’s winning time for Lob City. Can Doc coax and coach it out of him?

None of this is fair and all of it is expected. “The Humble MVP” is back, and the expectations are already ridiculous. Chicago thinks it can challenge the Heat in the East, and the key to that is Rose. With their impending free agencies upon them in 2000, Tim Duncan and Grant Hill took dramatically different positions whilst injured late in the season: Tim Duncan stayed seated and healed, Grant Hill played and exacerbated his injury. Duncan came back healthy and won rings, Hill was never the same player. Rose took the Duncan position, which is the wise position, and is now back healthy to start the season. But are they hunting titles? They look like the Ewing Knicks to the Jordan Bulls, a great team that is boxed in by a once-in-a-generation mix. But I’m not the normal overly optimistic NBA fan who will lie to themselves. The East could open next year, if LeBron heads West.

While still under pressure, Dwight Howard will find the spotlight far less damning than in years past. Choosing Houston is the best basketball decision that Dwight Howard has made, ever. But with that good decision comes pressure. Houston already had a star player in James Harden and now they complete the party with the best big man in basketball. It’s time for Dwight Howard to win, and win NOW. If for any reason the early chemistry isn’t there in Houston, there is no question as to where the blame will be placed. More important: Dwight at the line in June against Oklahoma City.

1. JASON KIDD (yes, we’re cheating a bit)
Wait, the dude isn’t playing anymore? I just saw him a few months ago. Oh, he’s a coach now. Of which team? A team that could win a ring if ready? Wow. Okay, well is the early season a good stretch for him to impose his style? Oh, he’s suspended for the first two games. Cool. His assistants seem ready to do all the work. This is going to be awesome. Or nuts. Or both. I add, parenthetically, that this is the only dude on this list who could be collecting unemployment come December. No one has more pressure on them than that.

Who has the most pressure on them this season?

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