The Next Face of Every NBA Team's Franchise
The NBA is the easiest league in which to market star players to the public. They're highly visible, they don't wear equipment that impedes the view of their faces and a lot of them are either lovable, outwardly awkward and entertaining or all of the above.
With that, it seems like every team needs a guy to be the face of their franchise, whether it be the star player who brings in the big bucks, the owner who tries to outshine his players or just some wildly entertaining member of the team who is easily identified with it.
However, the NBA is a league that is constantly in flux, much like any other sport, and franchise faces are constantly changing, although some change faster than others.
With that, let's take a look at the guys that are slowly morphing into the face of their franchise, ready to become the embodiment of the team and be constantly identified alongside the team.
Atlanta Hawks: Al Horford
For years, Al Horford has been an afterthought on the Atlanta Hawks. He's always been the guy who plays alongside the wickedly overpaid Joe Johnson or the wildly volatile Josh Smith, never the face of the Hawks.
Now, with Johnson in Brooklyn and Josh Smith with one foot out the door, the Hawks have the opportunity not only to center their game around him, but market him as their best player, which should be quite the relief for their front office.
Rather than having a guy who is synonymous with being paid too much or a guy who is the savior one day and the goat the next as the face of their franchise, they have the stable, sturdy Horford in there to take over.
Boston Celtics: Rajon Rondo
The transformation may have been slow and steady, but it seems safe to say that Rajon Rondo is officially the face of the Boston Celtics.
Paul Pierce held that title for what seems like the past 30 years, but as their Big Three has slowly faded and Rondo has risen, the torch has slowly been passed to the young point guard.
Sure, they may have tried to trade him a time or two, and he may not be able to consistently hit a jump shot, but he's one of the most intriguing players in the NBA. Oh, and it doesn't hurt that your franchise's face looks like a young Bill Cosby.
Brooklyn Nets: Nobody on the Horizon, Still Deron Williams
While the Brooklyn Nets still have a decent chance at landing Dwight Howard, Deron Williams remains the face of that franchise for the immediate future, and possibly even after they land Dwight, should they be able to do that.
The way their cap space is filled up with Joe Johnson and now Brook Lopez, Kris Humphries and Gerald Wallace, they're going to have very few chances at adding a player the likes of Howard, who could compete for the franchise anchor tag, which is a good thing.
It's better to know the direction of the team and stick with it than to float around and see where the wind takes you.
Charlotte Bobcats: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
Ever since Michael Jordan became the majority owner of the Bobcats back in 2010, he has been the face of the franchise. Lauded for every dumb move and, well, there haven't been too many smart moves to compliment him on.
Anyway, it seems like they have a guy who could legitimately wrestle that title away from him for a bit should he be able to live up to expectations.
The people of Charlotte should fall in love with the hard-working, dedicated Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, which should make it easier for him to become the face of the franchise.
Chicago Bulls: Derrick Rose Is There to Stay
Derrick Rose is a Chicago boy, and he seems to be dedicated to this team, so for the immediate future, the Bulls are stuck with the 2011 MVP.
Rose is probably the most interesting face at this point, as he's a legitimate superstar and there are few who would refute the fact that he's an amazing player, but he hasn't got the flash or the desire to be the center of attention off the court like a lot of the rest of the guys in the league, which seems like a good thing.
The face of the Bulls is a guy who just want's to be known for playing basketball. That kind of sounds like the last big face they had.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Kyrie Irving
It's extremely difficult for a rookie to come in and claim the status as the face of a franchise, but it seems Kyrie Irving did just that last season.
Even if he didn't last season, Irving's improvement alongside Cleveland's desire to have a new guy to love will mean his meteoric rise will continue over the next year, making him the face of the franchise by year's end.
Dallas Mavericks: Clinging on to Dirk Nowitzki
For another season at least, the Dallas Mavericks see themselves with Dirk Nowitzki as their best and most identifiable player, which continues to be a good thing.
Moving forward, however, they have nobody promising enough to take the role over, which could concern them or it could give them not a spot of bother.
I suppose that means as Dirk Nowitzki starts to fade, if the Mavs don't make a move for another big player (like Dwight Howard in free agency next season), then Mark Cuban will slowly become the face of the franchise yet again.
Denver Nuggets: The Ty Lawson-JaVale McGee Tandem
The Denver Nuggets are creating a team that looks quite a bit like the 2004 Detroit Pistons, only instead of staunch, rowdy defenders, they're a team full of sprinting, flying offensive players.
At the top of that heap of guys stands Ty Lawson, who brings it all together as the point guard, but also JaVale McGee, who anchors the paint, flies around the court and does things every day that are either head-scratchers or brain-busters.
As a combo, you can do worse than Lawson and McGee, both of whom are promising young players.
Detroit Pistons: Andre Drummond
The Detroit Pistons are at a loss for direction, and it's most likely that the face of their franchise has yet to show up, but if there's anyone on the roster that qualifies as a guy that could make them relevant again, it's Andre Drummond.
Greg Monroe is a nice player, but he doesn't seem like he'll be any more than a borderline All-Star throughout his career, while Drummond has the ability to become something special, even if it is an outside chance.
Golden State Warriors: Andrew Bogut
The Golden State Warriors have the flashy Steph Curry as their most identifiable and representative player for now, but depending on the direction of the team, they could end up looking very different at the top should health cease to be a factor.
If the injury bug stays away from Andrew Bogut (which might be less likely than I'm assuming), suddenly they have a defensive anchor in the middle who becomes known as the guy who changed this maddeningly frustrating team into a decent defensive unit, thus becoming that much more identifiable.
Houston Rockets: Jeremy Lin
The Houston Rockets have a bunch of trade pieces and Jeremy Lin, more or less making him the de facto face of this franchise before he's played a game for them.
They could very well end up putting the best package together for Dwight Howard, making him the temporary face of the team, but how long that last depends on when they get him, as it seems very unlikely that he'd be willing to stay in Houston.
That leaves Lin, whom the Rockets snuck away from the Knicks as New York stubbornly tried to save money, as the only guy left worth anything to become the player identifiable with the team.
Indiana Pacers: Roy Hibbert
With the way Roy Hibbert just got paid by the Indiana Pacers, they had better hope that he becomes the face of the team.
Realistically, the slow but steady improvement of Hibbert should be enough to make him one of the five best centers in the league over the next few seasons, and with nobody but Danny Granger and perhaps a much-improved Paul George to compete with, Hibbert has a wide open path to become the Pacers' most identifiable player.
Los Angeles Clippers: Blake Griffin
It's hard to say whether or not you could truly call Blake Griffin the face of the Los Angeles Clippers over the past few years with everything looming around them.
In his rookie season in which he didn't play a game and his "rookie" season with doubt surrounding the team, Donald Sterling and the Clippers Curse remained the face of the franchise as everyone quivered in fear at what could happen to this promising young kid at the hands of this vile team.
Last season was a bit of a duel between him and Chris Paul, with Paul ultimately winning out in a basketball sense, Griffin winning out in the court of public opinion. With that, Griffin probably became the true face of this franchise during the playoffs, even if Paul showed that he is the best player on this team.
Los Angeles Lakers: Andrew Bynum
Even amidst swirling Dwight Howard rumors and Steve Nash's arrival, Andrew Bynum remains the future of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Kobe Bryant's career is winding down, Pau Gasol is over 30 and the team needs someone to hang their hat on moving forward, and until something goes down or he's wearing another jersey, that someone is Andrew Bynum, for better or worse.
Memphis Grizzlies: Marc Gasol
A team full of interesting players, the Memphis Grizzlies seem to have no idea what they're doing in terms of building around one player.
They have Zach Randolph as their highest paid player, but you could hardly say he's their best player. The same goes for Rudy Gay, who makes the second most money on the team.
Gay is a great player, but trade rumors surround him more than any other wing player in the league at this point, and Zach Randolph is on the wrong side of 30, leaving the always-improving, defensively tough Marc Gasol and his lumberjack-looking frame to be the anchor this franchise needs.
Miami Heat: Stuck with LeBron James, Poor Guys
The NBA champion Miami Heat officially passed the torch from Dwyane Wade to LeBron James last season as the face of the team. LeBron and Wade might play as a cohesive unit when it comes to on-floor leadership, but LeBron is the first person identified with the Heat, and it will be that way for a while now.
James has not only become the face of the Heat with the NBA Title, but also the face of USA Basketball and the face of the NBA, so enjoy looking at him; he'll be around for a bit.
Milwaukee Bucks: Monta Ellis
As a team that hasn't had a player to rely on to score 20 points every night since Michael Redd got hurt, the Milwaukee Bucks were in desperate need for a player like Monta Ellis.
Sure, Brandon Jennings was looking up, but do you want to rest your team on the shoulders of a point guard that can shoot magnificently one game and then go 3-for-14 the next?
Ellis isn't the perfect basketball player, but he's a great centerpiece for this Bucks team.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Ricky Rubio
The international flare, the puppy-dog eyes and the flashy passing style not seen in years. What's not to like about Ricky Rubio?
Sure, Kevin Love is the guy who brings home the proverbial bacon for the T-Wolves, but in the coming years, with continued improvement, Ricky Rubio is going to be the guy in commercials and on billboards.
It's not my decision, but a guy with a fun accent who can pass like Houdini is easier to enjoy and identify with a team than a gritty rebounder and shooter.
New Orleans Hornets: Anthony Davis
There's a bit of a power struggle to come between Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon, both of whom should put together good claims to be the face of the New Orleans Hornets. However, with the interesting look and the fun he brings to the defensive end (something few players have ever done), Davis should win out.
Sure, Gordon is going to be the better player for the time being, and he's going to be the reason they win a handful of games this season, but Anthony Davis is the storyline, Anthony Davis is the future and Anthony Davis is the unibrow.
New York Knicks: Cap Space Dictates That Carmelo Hangs Around
The New York Knicks had the chance to make Jeremy Lin a contender for the new face of the New York Knicks, but they decided to play frugal in a time that really didn't call for it.
Even without Lin, the Knicks will find themselves very near the luxury tax line over the next three seasons, surely surpassing it more often than not, leaving them no room to add a superstar.
Now, they could end up trading Amar'e Stoudemire, but what they get in return ultimately won't be a new franchise face, so enjoy Carmelo Anthony while he's around.
Orlando Magic: Mystery 1st-Round Pick in 2014
I don't have any delusions that Dwight Howard will be with the Orlando Magic past this season, and if he does stay, then I may just start a petition to have him deported to Siberia, which means change for the Magic one way or another.
With Howard gone and no real idea of who they will get back or what picks will be coming in a package for him, the best I can do is look two years into the future and hope, for the sake of Magic fans, that they win the lottery when they inevitably bottom out.
All aboard the Andrew Wiggins train!
Oklahoma City Thunder: Kevin Durant's There to Stay
The Oklahoma City Thunder fans should be happy to know that the way their franchise looks and the way it's viewed should remain the same for quite a long time.
Sure, players will come and players will go, but at the top of that team will remain Kevin Durant and the adoration that comes along with his presence.
As a guy that's almost universally liked, the Thunder probably have the best franchise player in the NBA, even if he's not necessarily the best basketball player in the NBA.
Philadelphia 76ers: Jrue Holiday
Something interesting happened when the Philadelphia 76ers decided to let Lou Williams go. They put the future of their team into the hands of Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner.
However, what they did more than that, they made Jrue Holiday the point guard of this team, with no questions surrounding that fact.
Andre Iguodala may be the face of the Sixers right now, but he won't remain that way for long if Holiday has something to say about it.
Phoenix Suns: Michael Beasley? Goran Dragic? Robert Sarver's Nervous Face?
The Phoenix Suns have officially put together the strangest team in the NBA. While they aren't a good team by any means, what they have now seems to be at least halfway decent, even if it is their last-ditch effort to throw a team together.
However, they've been left without a face. They picked up some good players in Goran Dragic, Michael Beasley and Luis Scola, plus they have Marcin Gortat left, but those guys are hardly guys to identify a franchise through.
The Suns remain a faceless team for the time being.
Portland Trail Blazers: LaMarcus Aldridge
The Portland Trail Blazers are in an interesting bind, and it looks like they could be entering a situation where they're stuck near the top of the lottery with little chance to improve much through the draft, making free agency their best option.
Because of that, they could be stuck where they are for a few seasons, leaving LaMarcus Aldridge to be the face of the franchise for the foreseeable future until someone else comes along to usurp that title, or Aldridge gets traded in an exasperated effort to bottom out.
Sacramento Kings: DeMarcus Cousins
It might be a frightening thought, but Boogie Cousins, along with being the best player they have, is the future face of the Sacramento Kings.
For the past few seasons, Tyreke Evans and a mythical new arena have been the face of the Sacramento Kings, but that isn't going to last too long with Boogie rapidly improving, especially now that he's got a running mate to play in the post with.
In fact, depending on how good Thomas Robinson is, they could just have a tandem of faces to identify their team with.
San Antonio Spurs: Tony Parker
Tim Duncan is old news, dudes. Tony Parker is the wave of the future, for now at least.
Only the San Antonio Spurs would be turning over their franchise to a 30-year-old guy with a serious face and have no qualms about it.
Duncan was the go-to guy on the team for more than a decade; it's only fair that Parker gets a few years before Nando De Colo takes over when he turns 30.
Toronto Raptors: Jonas Valanciunas
Kyle Lowry could be a decent choice for the Toronto Raptors, as could DeMar DeRozan, but I'm one to guzzle Kool-Aid, and I'm downing Jonas Valanciunas' at this point.
Yet to play a game in the NBA, the hype surrounding Big V (it had to be done) is too much to ignore, and with little pressure on him to be amazing early (he is playing for the Raptors), he'll have plenty of time to adjust to the NBA game before he dominates.
Utah Jazz: Derrick Favors
It seems like Derrick Favors does everything quietly, yet forcefully.
He slips into the lane unnoticed until he locks eyes with the ball-handler, gets the ball in one fluid motion on the low block and dunks over half the team.
Defensively, he patrols the paint with confidence, plays magnificent help defense and has instincts that are improving every day. This kid is going places slowly, but surely.
Washington Wizards: John Wall
The Washington Wizards are still a young team, and it seems safe to say that over the past two years of struggle, even John Wall wasn't officially the face of the franchise.
Struggle was the face of the franchise. Struggle and boneheaded basketball, which was all-encompassing enough to suck Wall down into a black hole where the Wizards were looked at as a lost cause.
With the boneheads gone and solid players surrounding him, there's no time like the present for John Wall to grab this team by the haunches and call it his own.
If you are one of those Twitterers, you can follow me at @JDorsey33