NBA Predictions: 5 Eastern Conference Big Men Who Will Rise Up in 2012
The prevailing opinion among NBA fans is that the NBA's Western Conference is heads and tails above the Eastern Conference in terms of talent. That is true for the most part, but there are some teams in the Eastern Conference that definitely stand a chance, the Miami Heat being the top team.
Some other teams need help to get closer to the top teams or to help them make the playoffs. That help in some situations will be coming from some of the teams "big men".
Every one of these players plays at the center position, and the teams they play for need them to take the next step in their careers, or in two cases, play well as a rookie.
Brook Lopez has been in the NBA for four seasons now. However, as he only played five games last season, Lopez is primed to break out this year. With the Brooklyn Nets set to be a much better team this season, Lopez's season will be helped out that much more.
Armed with a new four-year contract, Lopez is set to become an even bigger part of the Nets' offense. If the Nets are to make a huge improvement this season, they need more than Deron Williams and Joe Johnson to dominate their opposition, and that means Lopez will need to take the next step in his career.
With the Los Angeles Lakers, Bynum would always play second fiddle to Kobe Bryant or some other big star. Now that he is with the Philadelphia 76ers, he will be able to become a bigger star, trying to lead them back to the playoffs after the team finished as a No. 8 seed last year.
Expect him to improve on at least some of his career bests.
The Toronto Raptors have been patiently waiting for their 2011 first-round pick to make the journey across the Atlantic and play in the NBA. Jonas Valanciunas has dominated nearly everywhere he has played.
His list of accomplishments include: FIBA Europe Under-18 and Under-19 MVP in 2010 and 2011, respectively, Lithuanian Basketball Player of the Year in 2011, FIBA Europe Young Player of the Year in 2011 as well as the Lithuanian Basketball League Regular Season in 2012.
The Raptors have every reason to be excited about what Valanciunas can do with them this season. It could be a very good rookie season for Valanciunas.
Andre Drummond is another rookie who could make a big impact this season. After being drafted ninth overall in the 2012 NBA draft by the Detroit Pistons, Drummond has the chance to play big minutes for Detroit.
If he starts, he could be a big reason the Pistons get back to the playoffs this season. If not, it won't be long before he is the biggest part of the Pistons' offense.
The Pistons have a potential superstar in Drummond, something they haven't had in a while.
The Indiana Pacers were a surprise playoff team last season in part because of Roy Hibbert. The Pacers won their first playoff series since 2005 and took the eventual NBA champion Miami Heat to six games.
Averaging 30.9 minutes a game in the playoffs, Hibbert is about take the next step. Another player armed with a new four-year contract, Hibbert will be an even more important part of the Pacers this year.