With the 2013-14 season right around the corner, it’s time to do all kinds of season preview and prediction stuff because you love reading them. I do too. And it’s always fun to talk about.
In this post, we’ll be looking at five players that I really think will be making headlines for awesome play. You can say that this post is, low-key, a list of potential Most Improved Player award candidates too. This list isn’t really aimed at the “top 5″ and that’s why the post isn’t titled that way. These are just five players listed in no particular order that could make a name for themselves this upcoming season.
1. Jimmy Butler
As last season started, Butler was a guy who would play solid minutes behind Loul Deng. As the season progressed, Butler started to produce. It wasn’t until the playoffs, where he really took off. You really saw him in action against the Miami Heat. So, while Butler averaged only 8.6 points with 4 rebounds and 1.4 assists, I think he’s ready to breakout. Rumors keep swirling that, with the emergence of Butler, Deng is expendable since they both play SF. Last season, Butler played SG next to Deng, but it’s believed he’s a natural SF. Also, a few months ago, we were told how well Butler and Derrick Rose were practicing together. The chemistry and all of that was good. So yeah, I think Butler is going to continue that playoff success. Not bad for the last guy picked in the first round of the 2011 draft.
2. Blake Griffin
As much as people think he’s overrated (not as much as a couple of years ago though) I actually think Blake is ready to make a leap into being an elite PF. He’s got a great PG in Chris Paul, and now, he’s got a great coach in Doc Rivers. In terms of stats, his 2012-13 stats were worse than 2011-12, especially if you focus on rebounding and scoring. He had less minutes, too, in 12-13 so that could factor in as well. Still, he’s just been a very good PF. That’s it. But, I think, after playing for three seasons, he’s ready to take the league by a greater storm. Can he be the best PF in the West? Yeah, I think so. Shoot, he probably was already last season. Still, I think he’s got some new tricks in the bag.
3. Derrick Favors
Hm? Why Derrick? As a Sixers fan, I was very familiar with the 2010 draft and the “Mission WTF”. I wanted my Sixers to tank in order to grab John Wall, Evan Turner, or Derrick Favors. I kinda wish they went with Favors but they went with Turner. Anyway, I think Favors is a good player and was worthy of some of the pre draft hype. Last season, he was tangled in a rotation web with Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. Both of these guys are gone and Derrick is all alone to start at PF. With only 23 minutes per game of playing time last season, he’ll be asked to play starter minutes this season. Not to mention his points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks have improved in each of his first three seasons. Yeah. He’s ready. While his FG% has gone down each year, his worst year was last year at 48%. Not bad at all.
4. Eric Bledsoe
I think you knew this was coming, especially if you heard about the “mini-LeBron” quote. I happen to believe some of it too. Bledsoe was behind a good pair of guards in LA and, while he did show flashes of something special, the Clippers had holes to fill and sent Bledsoe off to a rebuilding Phoenix Suns. I won’t go as far as to say it’s the perfect storm but, if Bledsoe is going to reach true “mini-LeBron” status, he’ll need to have a great 2013-14 season.
5. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
“I was disappointed in myself,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. “I set goals and I didn’t reach none of my goals that I set. All my life, I did that, and I didn’t reach not one goal last year.”
It’s that quote he said a couple of weeks ago, that actually makes me believe that he will take a step forward to become a solid player for the Bobcats. His goals for last season were to be Rookie of the Year and to be on the All-Rookie First Team. I think he’s going to make the leap from his “meh” rookie year. The other players on this list, you can look at the stats and the situation behind a possible breakout year. This player, I just have a gut feeling.
So that’s my five. Let me know in the comments what you think. Who’s your five?