By: Jamie Crawley
There are 10 players to keep an eye on as the NBA season comes into full swing and teams are vying to put themselves in position to raise the coveted trophy in June.
10. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
The long time star of the Lakers is back for his 19th season. Many fans and critics alike wonder how he will rebound from the season-ending injuries that plagued him for the last few years. So far in the young season, Kobe looks like he’s 37. He even admitted himself he’s been terrible. The “Black Mamba” looks like a shell of himself. I hope he bounces back. Only time will tell if he’s truly done.
9. Lamarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs
Widely considered the most sought after free-agent of the summer, Aldridge finds himself partnered with Tim Duncan and crew this season. This will be an interesting pair. It’s been effective so far. Aldridge will help hoist the Spurs back into the title picture.
8. James Harden, Houston Rockets
The beard is back, and many will be curious to see if he can continue to play at an MVP level after such a great season last year. Harden should be able to make an impact with help from point guard and solid ball handler Ty Lawson, an important element the Rockets lacked last season. Houston got off to a rocky start, but Harden returned to form against the Thunder.
7. Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
The forgotten idol D. Rose is back and, for the first time in years, he survived an off-season that didn’t consist of rehab. His luck was broken along with his face (literally) the first day of training camp. With that said, Rose will have eyes on him. Many people are losing faith due to his record of injuries, but Rose aims to shut up the critics and get back to playing basketball. So far, Rose got off to a pedestrian start, but the Bulls have looked good as a unit.
6. Jabari Parker, Milwaukee Bucks/Julius Randle, Los Angeles Lakers
Yeah, I know I’m cheating by placing two guys at number six, but I felt it appropriate. Both of these high draft picks’ seasons were cut short early last year due to injuries. However, both rookies are back and ready for this season. We can finally see what they are made of. The Bucks are acting cautiously with Jabari this early on, but Julius Randle already showed a flash of brilliance with a ferocious dunk over Kenneth Faried.
5. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers’ electric point guard finds himself in a new situation with a team filled with new faces at the other four starting spots. With Lamarcus Aldridge’s move to the Spurs, the Blazers’ brass gave the keys to the young guard to steer the franchise. Lillard is averaging close to 28 points and the Blazers have a solid 4-2 record. It’s safe to say so far so good.
4. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
The “Brow” has come into this season with heavy expectations. After leading the Pelicans to a surprise playoff appearance and having a MVP caliber season last year, many people were ready to put AD up there with the likes of Lebron James and Kevin Durant. It is rare to find a power forward who can handle the ball, shoot from the perimeter, play inside and play lockdown defense. Only one other person demonstrates those qualities, and he plays in Cleveland. At 0-4 however, it looks like the pressure has gotten to Davis and his fellow Pelicans.
3. Lebron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
There is no surprise King James makes the list as he is the talk of the association every year he suits up. With that said, it’s evident James is starting to slow down. Last season, he had his worst shooting season since 07-08. Lebron still played great, but it seems the King’s best days may be behind him. The number of games per season could be starting to take a toll on him. That’s understandable considering he’s been to five straight finals, playing well over hundred games each year. Nursing a bad back coming into this season, can Lebron hold up?
2. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
The reigning MVP and the leader of the reigning NBA champions is on a mission to prove the Warriors’ dream season last year wasn’t a fluke. Steph picked up right where he left off already averaging 36 points a game and leading the Warriors to a 5-0 record. Steph will have the Warriors in contention for the title once again. He could possibly earn a second consecutive MVP title, being the first player to do that since Lebron. Chef Curry is cooking indeed.
1. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
KD will be on a mission this year. After sitting out most of last year due to a foot injury, the former MVP is back and ready to prove why he’s one of the best players on the planet. So far, Durant is a scoring machine. He’s averaging close to 30 points a game. If he stays healthy, the Thunder stand a chance to be a legitimate contender in the West.