NBA Predictions: 8 Players Who Will Be Rebounding Machines in 2012

Geoff Ratliff@@geoffratliffContributor IIISeptember 6, 2012

NBA Predictions: 8 Players Who Will Be Rebounding Machines in 2012

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    NBA training camps open on September 29 following one of the busiest offseasons in recent memory. And no move was bigger than the league's reigning rebounding king, Dwight Howard, being traded from the Orlando Magic to the Los Angeles Lakers.

    Howard's move to the West Coast dominated the NBA's offseason. So it seems natural to look at which players will share Superman's gift for attacking the glass this year.

    MLB is heading towards its playoffs, and the college and pro football seasons have both gotten underway within the last week. But it's not too soon for basketball fans to start looking towards the start of the 2012-2013 NBA season on October 30.

    As we prepare for a full 82-game schedule following a lockout-shortened 2011-2012, here are eight players that will be rebounding machines this upcoming season.

Dwight Howard, Center, Los Angeles Lakers

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    After months of sulking, flip-flopping and bad PR, Dwight Howard finally got his wish when he moved from Disney World to Disneyland. At least we think he did.

    It's no secret that Howard's preference was to be a member of the Brooklyn Nets this season. But the longer that his saga dragged on, the less likely it became that Jay-Z would become his new hype man.

    Howard seems to be genuinely excited about playing alongside Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash in Los Angeles—the city that he already called home during the NBA offseason. And playing on a team where he is not the focal point of opposing defenses should prove to be a highly liberating experience.

    As the defensive anchor of an aging core, Howard will be asked to be as dominant as ever in the post. In addition to being one of the NBA's best shot blockers, he'll also be counted on to own the glass.

    Although he'll have help from Gasol on the boards, expect Howard to eclipse last year's career-best 14.5 rebounds per game.

Kevin Love, Power Forward, Minnesota Timberwolves

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    The NBA record books list Kevin Love as the second best rebounder during the 2011-2012 season on a per-game basis. But given his limited athleticism, Love is arguably the most skilled rebounder in the league.

    He led the league in rebounds per game during the 2010-2011 NBA season with 15.2, and has averaged 12 rebounds per game through his first four years in the league. 

    Love, who turns 24 tomorrow (September 7), is still getting better. He's just now approaching his physical and intellectual primes as a basketball player, so there's no reason to think that he won't average 25 points and 15 rebounds per game for the next five seasons.

Andrew Bynum, Center, Philadelphia 76ers

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    After years of frustrating Lakers fans with his immense talent, Andrew Bynum finally established himself as one of the two best centers in the NBA last season. 

    He made his first All-Star game, played in 60 of L.A.‘s 66 regular season games and averaged career highs in minutes (35.2), points (18.8) and rebounds (11.8) per game.

    Bynum has yearned to be the focal point of the team’s offense after playing third fiddle to Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol for the past four years. He’ll get his chance this season after being traded to the Philadelphia 76ers in the four-team deal that sent Dwight Howard to the Lakers.

    Expect Bynum’s numbers to improve across the board as he challenges Howard and Love for the NBA rebounding title.

DeMarcus Cousins, Power Forward, Sacramento Kings

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    Entering his third season in the NBA, DeMarcus Cousins looks poised to become a star for the Sacramento Kings. Cousins’ talent was previously matched only by his immaturity, but he showed signs of growing up last season.

    Following an uneven rookie season under then-coach Paul Westphal, Cousins thrived last year under the leadership of first-year coach Keith Smart. Smart clearly had a better rapport with his core of young players, and Cousins was the biggest example of that.

    After averaging 18.1 points and 10.9 rebounds per game in his second season, the 22-year-old Cousins is ready to make the leap to becoming a perennial 20-and-12 player in the NBA for the next ten years.

    The talent is there; he just needs to maintain his focus.

Kris Humphries, Power Forward, Brooklyn Nets

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    Brooklyn Nets power forward Kris Humphries became public enemy No.1 last year following his 72-day “marriage” to reality TV star Kim Kardashian. But his on-court game is no joke, and it’s about time that NBA fans take notice.

    Humphries averaged a double-double (points and rebounds) in each of the past two seasons. At 27 years old, he is just entering his prime basketball years. 

    He finally got rewarded for his efforts with a two-year, $24 million contract after the lockout-shortened 2011-2012 season. But with free agency once again looming in 2014, Humphries will be highly motivated to eventually earn the long-term contract he desires.

    If he can help the retooled Nets become one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, Humphries may be calling Brooklyn home for a few more years, much to the dismay of Kardashian’s many New York fans.

JaVale McGee, Center, Denver Nuggets

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    JaVale McGee appeared headed for the NBA Knucklehead’s Hall of Fame last season while playing for the Washington Wizards. But a trade to the Denver Nuggets brought out the best in the raw, but gifted center.

    At 7’ tall, McGee has the athletic and leaping ability of a small forward. 

    The tempo and flow of Denver’s system fits him perfectly, and he blossomed when put in a playoff atmosphere under the guidance of a veteran coach like George Karl.

    McGee started to believe in, and develop, his natural gifts once he arrived in Denver. He gave the Lakers fits during the Nuggets’ first-round, seven-game playoff series, including three games in which he pulled down at least 14 rebounds.

    McGee will get more than the 20.6 minutes per game that he averaged in 20 regular-season games for Denver last season. The increased playing time will make this the year that he emerges as a consistent double-double machine.

Omer Asik, Center, Houston Rockets

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    Omer Asik’s 5.3 rebounds per game don’t immediately jump out at you. But the third-year center achieved that production while playing just 14.7 minutes per game for the Chicago Bulls last season.

    Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey recognized Asik’s talent when he signed the restricted free-agent to a three-year, $25.1 million offer sheet. Now Asik will be leading a youth movement in Houston (after the Bulls declined to match the offer) that should easily cause his minutes to double.

    Maybe Asik’s rebound production won’t double as he transitions from being a role player to becoming a starter for the first time in his brief NBA career. But his 17.3 rebounds per 48 minutes ranked fourth in the league last year, so the 26-year-old Turk’s knack for hitting the boards is legitimate.

Ersan Ilyasova, Power Forward, Milwaukee Bucks

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    Ersan Ilyasova has steadily improved over the course of his four-year NBA career. Now, the 25-year-old power forward is primed to become a low-post force for the Milwaukee Bucks.

    Like his Turkish countryman Asik, Ilyasova finished among the league’s top 10 players in rebounds per 48 minutes last season at a rate of 15.3. But unlike Asik, he averaged 27.6 minutes per game, and has gradually increased his time on the court each year. 

    If the Bucks expect to make it back to the NBA playoffs for the first time since the 2009-2010 season, Ilyasova will need to give them 30-plus minutes per game. He also need to average 10-plus rebounds and improve on his 13 points per game.

    Good money says he makes the leap to a 15-and-10 player this season.