NBA Caucus: Who needs championship most?
by USA TODAY Sports, USA TODAY
Once a week, USA TODAY Sports will ask its many NBA experts to analyze hot topics around the NBA. This week’s theme is players with something to prove this season.
Which ringless star is under the most pressure this year?
Sean Highkin, USA Today Sports: Carmelo Anthony. He can (and will) test free agency at the end of the season, and his recent comments about the process indicate that he’s looking forward to being courted by teams. Before then, Anthony and the New York Knicks will have to prove that the rest of the Eastern Conference elite has not passed them by. The Knicks can offer Anthony up to $129 million over five years, and almost certainly will, but they’d feel a lot better about that investment if it came after a deep playoff run. Between the return of Derrick Rose in Chicago, improvements made by the Indiana Pacers and Brooklyn Nets and the Miami Heat’s status as the team to beat, the East is as tough as it’s ever been. Anthony and the Knicks will have their work cut out for them.
Jorge Sierra, Hoops Hype: It has to be Deron Williams. Anthony and Rose are under pressure too, but no matter what happens it’s very unlikely their statuses as NBA stars is going to be questioned. That’s not the case with Williams. Brooklyn comes off a disappointing year, and much of it was Deron’s doing with his failure to start the season in shape and a subpar showing vs. the Bulls in the playoffs. So Williams really needs some redemption this year. He’s the face of a franchise whose owner has spent like crazy in the summer to surround him with top talent. They are in absolute win-now mode and Williams has to deliver. Factor in the media scrutiny you get by playing in New York too… The pressure is sky high for him.
Another rocky season in Brooklyn and we’re going to hear “bad contract” more than “star” when discussing Williams.
Yannis Koutroupis, HOOPSWORLD: Dwight Howard no longer has the distraction of free agency weighing him … [For more on NBA Caucus: Which star needs a championship most?, click here.]