NBA Players Who Will Catch Fire Later in the 2011-12 Season
In a season with a clustered 66-game schedule after a shortened training camp, you have to expect some players to not come out with a flair early on. That being said, there are plenty of stars and role players who still have not hit their strides at this point in the year.
These guys all have the potential for big games and can ultimately sway the direction that a season is headed.
A few of these teams are struggling and could really use an improvement from their stars, but others are somehow still hot and showing success.
Let's look at some players who will come up huge as the season progresses.
Russell Westbrook has been by far the most frustrating player to watch in this young season. He will show you signs of why he can be great one game, but then he'll turn around and put up a 0-13 performance against a playoff-caliber team.
However, Westbrook has calmed down a lot in January and put up some nice supporting numbers to help keep the Thunder rolling.
A significant aspect that must be mentioned is the fact that he has drastically cut his turnovers down in the past flurry of games. After recording seven turnovers in three of his first five games, Westbrook has not had more than three in a game since.
The former Bruin is putting all concerns of not fitting into Oklahoma City aside and finally playing basketball. He had a spat with teammate Kevin Durant earlier in the season, but maybe it was for the best to get all of the frustration out.
Westbrook is too talented to let his ability go to waste, so look for him to continue on his improved play.
Danny Granger is an example of a former rising star that fell off way to soon. After an All-Star appearance in 2009, the Pacers' small forward has watched his production drop every year since.
Not to worry...
This is the best the Indiana Pacers have looked since the days of Reggie Miller. Granger has plenty of improving players to help him until he find his old ways back.
Hibbert is turning into a double-double center. Paul George is showing he can be a solid wing man. And they also possess some talented depth across the board.
The point is the weight doesn't rest only on Granger's shoulders, so look for him to take advantage of his help and relax.
At 33 years old, Dirk hasn't shown many signs of decline based on his pure shooting ability, but he looks sluggish and out of shape thus far. After recording two straight games of only six and 10 points, Nowitzki countered that the following contest by putting up 18 points on 90 percent shooting from the field.
Nowitzki will benefit from Dallas stringing together a few wins, but there is no question that he is still one of the best players in the league. While failing to eclipse 30 points in a game this season, the big man has a knack for explosive games throughout the year.
After a championship run last season, Dirk isn't done in trying to further cement his legacy as the NBA's greatest foreigner ever.
Another Maverick, but a totally different story.
Lamar Odom is a double-double machine, who can play many positions off the bench, but he started the season in an awkward stance. After a botched trade kept him in Los Angeles, he voiced his opinion and was pretty much given away to Dallas.
The former NBA champion has only scored 10 points once in the season but has shot an abysmal 29 percent from the field. That would be a good batting average in baseball, but Odom is surely capable of hitting 50 percent of his shots.
He is taking ill-advised attempts and not staying true to his ability. Once he settles in his new home, Odom will be a huge part in helping the revamped Mavericks contend again.
Dorell Wright isn't the biggest household name in the NBA, but he hit a boatload of three-pointers last season to lead the league.
So far this season, he is not even hitting 20 percent of his downtown attempts. While he isn't seeing as many minutes as last year, he's not taking full advantage of his opportunity. Wright is taking almost 50 percent less of the three-pointers he shot last season, but he just doesn't seem to have the confidence he did last year.
However, he torched Miami for six long-balls Tuesday night in an effort to pull off an exciting comeback win. This is the type of game needed for a player to find his stroke, but let's see if he can up it up for the remainder of the season.
Pure shooters often go through struggles, so it's too early to worry about him just yet. However, he will be a big boost for the Warriors if he figures out his problem.
The interesting thing about Deron Williams and his slow start is that he's in a contract year. Usually, we will see players have a monster season in order to secure a nice contract, but that's not the case for this specific All-Star right now.
Williams is down on his usual points and assist averages, but the biggest dip is his field-goal percentage at 35 percent. He doesn't have many tools to help New Jersey succeed with Brook Lopez out for a while, but Williams isn't having his best showing either.
Perhaps he has next season already on his mind, considering the Nets don't look promising this year?
I don't think that's the case.
Consider him another example of a star off to an unexpected slow start.
Elton Brand finally had a game worth talking about Tuesday night, recording 21 points and 10 rebounds in a win against the Sacramento Kings. However, that's it so far for the former No.1 pick.
At one point, Brand looked like injuries were going to destroy his career. With two straight healthy years, he looks like a key player for a hot Philadelphia team.
He was possibly the most important player for the 76ers' playoff appearance last season, but he needs to up his scoring average and convert at a higher rate. Brand is down across the board, but we know what he is capable of when he's at his best.
Portland acquired a possible franchise-altering point guard in Raymond Felton in the offseason, but just when he will look like one is the question.
He has exploded for only one solid game against the Denver Nuggets this season but has not put up a nice line since. Felton needs to find the happy medium between his scoring and facilitating abilities to achieve his true role in Portland, but it's still too early in the season to worry.
Felton has not had a good game this season from long range and has yet to knock down 10 three-pointers this season. After showcasing this aspect of his game last year in New York, it is something that would definitely be a huge addition if he could transfer that across the coast.
Dwyane Wade has been plagued with a foot injury over the past few weeks, but there is no doubt he's a top-five player in the NBA when healthy.
While Wade has uncommonly averaged under 20 point a night and subpar shooting percentages up until Tuesday, don't look for him to struggle for long. As bad as a statistical season as this has been for "Flash," he still has two game-winning shots in late situations.
Wade has come back with an impact from injury against Golden State, but that still doesn't mean he's completely healthy. However, it's promising to see the exciting guard once again show he can dominate any game, even when he is not 100 percent.
Miami has two other stars with LeBron James and Chris Bosh to carry the load, but making sure Wade is healthy come playoff time is priority No. 1. There is no questioning Wade's toughness and heart, but a hampered star isn't a promising thing come playoff time.
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