Unlike a tenured professor, once you make it to the NBA, it doesn’t automatically mean you get to stay there. Just ask Jerome Moiso. So with training camp starting in a month, here are ten guys that need to break out this season:
Tony Allen, Boston Celtics – Tony Allen is one of the most frustrating players for me to watch. And being a Celtics fan, I watch him all the time. When he’s good, he’s good. But when he’s not, he could be one of the most insufferable players in the League. If you look at the Celtics off-season though, you can see that Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers still have confidence in the young man, waiving Gabe Pruitt and not adding any other guards to the roster other than drafting Lester Hudson. If the Celtics are going to win it all, they need T.A. to play well.
Tyson Chandler, Charlotte Bobcats – I’ve been a fan of Tyson for a minute and have supported him when guys were saying that he was nothing without Chris Paul and that all he could do was dunk. While CP3 definitely made him look like Amar’e Stoudemire next to Steve Nash, you gotta know that Tyson can still play. Being traded for a former franchise player in Emeka Okafor is big shoes to fill, but the expectations are definitely a lot different in Charlotte than they were in New Orleans. I’d look for a big year out of Chandler now that the pressure is off.
Luol Deng, Chicago Bulls – After signing a monster deal before last season, Deng played in only 49 games and had his worst season across the board since his rookie year. While Derrick Rose may be the man in Chicago, Deng was certainly paid as such. And if the Bulls want to do some damage this year, they’re going to need to have Deng step up – especially with the departure of Ben Gordon.
Brandan Wright, Golden State Warriors – Watch out, but Brandan Wright is en route to being a bigger Carolina bust than Joe Forte. I realize he’s in a tough situation trying to negotiate playing time in Nellie‘s world on a team where everyone seems to be 6-8, but Wright better step up in training camp or fear being benched in favor of The Two Anthonys. After only playing 77 games in his first two years, it’s time to eclipse that mark and go for all 82.
Sasha Vujacic, Los Angeles Lakers – People that have been reading the site all year know that I’m a big fan of “The Machine.” And if he doesn’t step up his game this year for the defending champs, he could be discontinued. The fact that the Lakers re-signed Shannon Brown this summer after only playing 18 games for the Lake Show can’t be encouraging, but that’s why the Slovenian guard needs to step his game up.
James Jones, Miami Heat – When the South Florida native signed with the Heat as a free agent last summer, he signed a five-year deal worth more than $23.2 million with only the first two years guaranteed. That means that after missing the first three months of last season, appearing in only 40 games total, Jones has to prove to Pat Riley that he deserves to stay past 2010. We already know the Heat are trying to make a splash, so if he wants to be part of the future, the time is now.
Yi Jianlian, New Jersey Nets – After a big summer, Yi has over a billion eyes on him this season with Yao on the DL. The time is now.
Darko Milicic, New York Knicks – He could either go down as the biggest bust in NBA history, or finally prove some people wrong that he was simply on teams that didn’t know how to showcase his talents. As some people say about David Lee and his “inflated numbers” playing under Mike D’Antoni, if there’s any team he should be able to flourish on, it’s the Knicks. It will be interesting to see if Darko steps up to the challenge.
Shaun Livingston, Oklahoma City Thunder – After his injury, a lot of people just wanted to give up on Shaun Livingston. But if he can comeback this year and actually play for an exciting, young Thunder squad like he did last April, people will start to remember why the Clippers were ready to get rid of Sam Cassell and pass the reins to the young Magic.
Louis Williams, Philadelphia 76ers – If the Sixers are unwilling to make a play for Allen Iverson, and let Andre Miller walk for nothing, they must have some faith in Louis Williams. While he’s definitely showed improvement in his three years, if he’s going to be the starting point guard this season, he needs to take his gave to the next level.
Who do you think needs to break out this season?