NBA PM: 5 NBA Players Who Must Evolve
On Friday in this space we took a look at the five veterans who must step up this NBA season in order for their teams to achieve even their most modest goals. Today we take a look at the top five players who must take the next step developmentally if their teams are going to do so as franchises.
1) Nicolas Batum, Portland Trail Blazers – The Blazers were originally doing this very much the Oklahoma City way. They drafted great players, planning to develop them into a collective that could dominate the Western Conference for years to come. If Brandon Roy and Greg Oden hadn’t gotten hurt, they would likely be right on track. In the wake of those injuries, the rebuilding process has come back around, and as much as that depends on the development of rookies Damien Lillard and Meyers Leonard, this has to be Nicolas Batum’s year. He got the hefty pay check, now it’s time for him to become the player the Blazers keep saying he’s going to be.
2) Evan Turner, Philadelphia 76ers – When the Sixers drafted Evan Turner it was with the understanding that one day in the not-too-distant future he was going to succeed Andre Iguodala. Well, the future is now, and if the Sixers are to live up to the sky-high expectations that Andrew Bynum’s arrival created, Turner is going to have to prove worthy of the pick. After complaining about his inconsistent role as a rookie, Turner showed marked improvement in increased minutes last season. He even played his best basketball in the playoffs, which is a promising sign. Iguodala is an elite defender and well respected all-around player. Turner has some big shoes to fill.
3) Jeremy Lin, Houston Rockets – One of the best stories of the 2011-12 lockout-shortened NBA season was the unlikely rise of Jeremy Lin, who had been passed over numerous times by NBA teams only to land in New York at just the right time. He was brilliant for the first month, inspiring a list of nicknames that no doubt come to your mind without my repeating them here, before coming back down to earth a bit in his second month with the Knicks. An injury prevented him from competing in the playoffs, but the question remains, will the Rockets get Linsanity, or just another 14-point, 6-assist point guard? After giving away Kyle Lowry and failing to retain Goran Dragic, Houston needs Lin to inspire a whole list of new nicknames.
4) Tyreke Evans, Sacramento Kings – Trade rumors have encircled Tyreke Evans for quite some time, but Kings head coach Keith Smart still believes that his young swingman can become a player who contributes to a playoff team in Sacramento. He’s a great shooter in practice, after all, so why can’t that eventually contribute to game action? The clock is ticking on Evans, to say the least, and if he can’t find a way to contribute quickly this season the Kings are prepared to move in another direction. He’s already been replaced at both guard positions, so if he can’t make something happen at the three, expect Evans to have a new address by the trade deadline.
5) Michael Beasley, Phoenix Suns - The third time’s a charm for Michael Beasley, or at least that’s what the Phoenix Suns are hoping. Perhaps Beasley will benefit from the run-and-gun, offense-centric coaching style of Alvin Gentry and finally find his NBA home after stops in Miami and Minnesota. The HEAT let him walk for cap space and the Timberwolves simply opted not to offer him a contract, preferring to add veterans instead. There’s no question that Beasley can score, and he’s not a bad rebounder when he’s set his mind to grab boards. The only question is whether he can do both of those things consistently enough and within a gameplan enough to help a team win in a big way. If Gentry can channel Beasley effectively, he could be the key to a Suns playoff berth.
Honorable mention, as chosen by some of HOOPSWORLD’s senior staff: O.J. Mayo, Brandon Jennings, Goran Dragic, J.J. Hickson, Jeff Teague.
Charlotte Bobcats Round Out Coaching Staff
The Charlotte Bobcats today named Dan Leibovitz and Brian Winters as assistant coaches on the staff of new Head Coach Mike Dunlap. Leibovitz and Winters will join Stephen Silas and Rick Brunson, who officially signed with the team in July.
“It was important to me to put together a coaching staff that mirrors my coaching philosophy and one that will consistently challenge our players to get better each and every time they hit the basketball floor,” said Dunlap. “When I selected my staff I wanted to assemble a group that will care about the players, care about the team and love to teach the game of basketball.”
Brunson enters his fourth year as an NBA assistant coach after previously serving as a player development coach in Chicago (2010-12) and Denver (2006-07), where he first worked with Dunlap. Following his stint with the Nuggets, Brunson served as Director of Basketball Operations at the University of Virginia from 2007-09 before spending the 2009-10 season at the University of Hartford as an assistant coach under Leibovitz. A former standout player at Temple University under Naismith Hall of Fame coach John Chaney, Brunson played in the NBA for nine seasons, appearing in 337 games for eight different teams including Portland, New York, Boston, Chicago, Toronto, Houston, the Los Angeles Clippers and Seattle. His ties to Dunlap also extended overseas in 1996, when he played for Dunlap with the Adelaide 36ers in Australia’s NBL.
Leibovitz brings over 16 years of collegiate coaching experience to Charlotte, joining the Bobcats from the University of Pennsylvania, where he spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach at his alma mater. Prior to joining the Penn staff, he served as head coach at the University of Hartford from 2006-10. Leibovitz also served as an assistant coach at Temple University for 10 seasons under John Chaney (1996-2006) and was named Best Assistant Coach in the Atlantic 10 by Street & Smith’s magazine in 2005. Leibovitz played collegiately at Franklin & Marshall College.
Silas is entering his 12th season as an NBA assistant coach and is the lone holdover from the previous coaching staff. He initially joined the Bobcats on December 26, 2010, after spending the previous four and a half seasons as an assistant coach in Golden State. Prior to joining the Warriors, Silas served as an assistant coach with the Hornets (2000-03) and Cavaliers (2003-05) and as an advance scout with the Wizards (2005-06). Silas originally joined the Hornets in the summer of 1999 as an advance and college scout. Silas also played four seasons at Brown University.
Winters brings a wealth of experience to the Bobcats staff, having been an NBA head coach in Vancouver (1995-97) and Golden State (2001-02), in addition to serving as head coach of the WNBA’s Indiana Fever (2004-07). His coaching career also includes time in Atlanta, Cleveland, Denver and Golden State, as well as a stint at Princeton University. The 12th overall pick in the 1974 NBA Draft after a collegiate career at the University of South Carolina, Winters played nine seasons in the NBA, appearing in 650 career games for the Lakers and Bucks with averages of 16.2 points, 4.1 assists and 2.6 rebounds. He made two All-Star appearances and was selected to the NBA All-Rookie Team following the 1974-75 season.
Waiters Ready For NBA Challenge?
When the word leaked out at the Chicago pre-draft combine that Syracuse guard Dion Waiters had received a promise and would not be doing any more team workouts, no one even imagined that the promise might have come from the Cleveland Cavaliers. The number four pick seemed a little high for Waiters, and his play in the NBA summer league gave many reason to wonder if the Cavs had made a huge mistake.
Waiters appeared in just three of Cleveland’s summer league games, averaging 12.3 points and shooting 30% from the field. In an interview with Syracuse.com, Waiters attributes his lackluster performance in Las Vegas to simply not being ready to play.
“I played OK. I didn’t play to my abilities, but I’ve approached that already and the reasons why. I’m back, better than ever. … It’s different for the NBA Draft, when you don’t have to do nothing. It was a couple weeks between the draft and summer league. I still wasn’t (in game shape). But now, you see me, there’s a big difference.”
Now that Waiters has made it to the NBA, he is determined to leave the possible pitfalls of the past behind him and make the most of his opportunity.
“I still wake up every day and say ‘Wow.’ It’s something that’s going to linger on forever. Coming from where I came from and the situation I was in, being able to just turn my life around, staying on the straight path, being able to escape the streets. I wake up every day thankful.”
Waiters’ first order of business was to buy his mom a Range Rover, but this weekend he’s heading to Cleveland to make his second major purchase.
“I haven’t gotten a house yet,” says Waiters. “That’s what I’m going out there for (on Sunday). To look at houses and finally move into one. We’ve got somebody, a realtor, and she pretty much knows about all the houses around Cleveland.”
One of the sad realities of life for young NBA draftees is that they have a lot of people who surface to ask for money and the things money can buy.
“Just having to say ‘no’ to a lot of people,” says Waiters of that reality. “People ask for things that they usually didn’t ask for. You just gotta say ‘no.’ Sometimes you might not want to, but you just can’t help that person in that situation at that time. That’s just basically it – just really watching your money and watching how much you’re spending and things like that.”
Soon Waiters will have to turn his attention to the Cavaliers and the business of being an NBA player. He reports to the team on September 5th and from there the whirlwind will begin.
“(I’m) working on every aspect of my game. Just continue to stay in game shape, like I am. Continue to eat right, like I’ve been doing. I’m a professional now. I gotta handle my business like a professional. That’s the main thing. Just staying on top of what I’ve been doing.”
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NBA Chats: There are two chats on schedule today featuring Bill Ingram at 11 am EST and Stephen Brotherston at 3 pm EST. As always, you can checkout our entire upcoming chat schedule and our previous chat links.