I will focus on the good kind of surprises, because it's that time of year when optimism abounds. The NBA is back, and your team hasn't found a way to tangibly make you depressed—yet.
With that in mind, let's take a look at players who might actually validate your hope this year.
Point Guard: Kyrie Irving
Is it cheating to pick the 2012 Rookie of the Year? I only do so because truncated minutes in small-market Cleveland shielded many fans from the blinding light that is this kid's talent.
That's fine, let us be among the small group of cool people who actually appreciate Kyrie Irving. He wasn't just good as a rookie—he was fantastic. Kyrie had the best first season since Chris Paul, and he was one year younger than rookie CP3.
With Ramon Sessions gone, Irving has full control of this team. Expect a boost in minutes and overall raw numbers. His rookie "per 36" totals were as follows: 21.8 points, 6.4 assists, 21.4 PER. He should improve on those stats, as his handle and driving ability is second to no other point guard.
Shooting Guard: Klay Thompson
He was handed significant responsibility toward the end of last season, and he did not disappoint. Mark Jackson is probably calling him "History's best shooting guard" to a phalanx of TV cameras as I type this.
Klay shot .414 from distance and played dogged—if not always wise—defense. Next year, Thompson will get starter minutes and plenty of rope from second-year coach Mark Jackson. Expect the prototypical shooting guard to build on his game.
Small Forward: Danilo Gallinari
If he reverts to his old shooting form, Gallo could make an All-Star team. Once a .381 distance shooter, Danilo sunk to .328 last season. While his shooting slumped over the past two seasons, he's improved in other ways.
The lanky Italian now passes and draws fouls better than when he came into the league. At age 24, Gallinari is well positioned for a breakout season.
Power Forward: Derrick Favors
Move this man into a starting lineup, please. Once thought a 2010 draft bust, Favors has emerged as one of the game's most promising young players. Per 36, the hyper-athletic big averaged 15 points and 11 rebounds. He's also a ferocious defender, destined to become among the best at his position. He also did this to the next guy on our list:
The Brazilian is certainly a "per 36 minute" All-Star. Stuck behind Tim Duncan on the depth chart, Splitter does splendid work in abbreviated playing time. When he's in, he dominates the post while contributing respectable rebounding numbers.
Last season, Tiago shot .618 from the field, while averaging 17.6 points per 36 minutes. Should Duncan get injured, the Spurs might be better off than you'd think.
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