Tuesday, January 1, 2013

13 NBA Players to Watch in 2013

1. Amare Stoudemire
Can STAT handle coming off New York's bench? He's set to make his return against Portland tonight, so we'll find out soon enough. The Knicks, arguably the best team in the Eastern conference at the moment, didn't seem to miss him too much.

2. Roy Hibbert
Was an All-Star in 2012 and signed a four-year, $58 million contract last summer. Has been a mess on offense this season, shooting 40 percent from the floor, struggling at the foul line and averaging less than ten points per game. He's still a force on the defensive end but his shooting woes have landed him on the pine more frequently.

3. Jeremy Lin
After parlaying Linsanity into a three-year, $25 million contract with the Houston Rockets, the point guard sensation has struggled to find consistency with his new team. He's played better lately, and I expect he'll pick up the pace as the season progresses.

4. Damian Lillard
There was a lot of hype surrounding Portland's new point guard in the preseason, but it looks like he earned it. The 22 year-old rookie is averaging 18.3 points and 6.3 assists while maintaining strong 42-37-85 percentages--essentially Kyrie Irving production.

5. James Harden
Since being traded to Houston, he's become the focal point of the Rockets' offense and is putting up monster numbers as an everyday starter; 26.1 points, 5.2 dimes and over ten free throw attempts per game.

6. Eric Gordon
After playing just nine games last year, Gordon returned to the court in Charlotte last Saturday and didn't skip a beat, pouring in 24 points in nearly 25 minutes of action. When healthy, he's one of the best shooting guards in the Association.

7. Greg Oden
The first overall pick of the 2007 draft (taken ahead of Kevin Durant) is sitting out the entire 2012-2013 season to rehab his myriad knee problems. He's targeting a return by the end of the year.

8. Deron Williams
Got off to a disappointing start in Brooklyn and never seemed comfortable leading Avery Johnson's isolation-based offense. With Johnson gone and P.J. Carlismo at the helm, expect D-Will to rebound in 2013 and play like the elite point guard that he is.

9. Steve Nash
Speaking of elite point guards, we haven't seen much of the 38 year-old maestro in his new digs after a leg fracture sidelined him for all of November and most of December. but it will be interesting to see how he meshes with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Dwight Howard in Mike D'Antoni's up-tempo offense. LA struggled in his absence, but should improve with Nash at the reins.

10. Serge Ibaka
With Harden in Houston, Ibaka has helped pick up the slack on offense by taking and making more shots. He's become more polished by knocking down free throws at the best rate of his career and adding the occasional corner three to his repertoire.

11. DeMarcus Cousins
Suffers the Dwight Howard disease; so much talent, not enough motivation and basketball IQ to realize his superstar potential. The 22 year-old power forward must improve his attitude, cut down on his fouls and limit  the JaVale McGee-boneheaded mistakes he still makes from time to time.

12. Dwight Howard
The NBA's top center joined forces with Nash, Bryant and Gasol in his contract year as he looks to capture the championship that has eluded him throughout his career. Will he re-sign with LA this summer or will he take his talents somewhere else?

13 Derrick Rose
The 2011 MVP will return from knee surgery that repaired his torn ACL. The Bulls have played well in his absence but can't win a championship without him. There are concerns he won't be the same player he was before the injury a la Brandon Roy, but I think he'll be like Chris Paul and regain his status as one of the top point guards in the game.

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