As we inch closer to the beginning of the 2012-2013 NBA season, optimism abounds in metropolitan centers all around the country. This is the time when fans are most hopeful.
On October 30, when the season begins, each of the NBA’s 30 teams will be 0-0.
We spend a lot of time arguing which of the league’s teams will be most competitive come playoff time. But to a much lesser extent, we survey the scene, analyze offseason moves and determine which of the NBA’s younger players are poised to break out.
For fantasy basketball addicts such as myself, here is a starting five of youngsters that should break out in 2012-2013 and establish themselves as some of the NBA’s stars of the future.
Goran Dragic, Marcin Gortat, Luis Scola
To an extent, Goran Dragic is already a known commodity. But despite the fact that he’s entering his sixth year, he has not played starter’s minutes for an entire season.
Last season, as a member of the Houston Rockets, Dragic capably filled in for full-time starter Kyle Lowry. Lowry missed 19 games after being diagnosed with a bacterial infection, and Dragic eventually earned the starting job.
In 28 starts last season, Dragic averaged a very impressive 18.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 8.4 assists per game.
Now a member of the Phoenix Suns, sans Steve Nash, Dragic should be able to put up impressive numbers with a team that will run the same system Nash steered to the tune of 10.7 assists per game last season.
With the likes of Marcin Gortat, Luis Scola, Michael Beasley and Jared Dudley picking, rolling and drilling three-pointers, I expect Dragic to be mentioned amongst the league’s top playmakers by the time the 2012-2013 season ends.
Last season, Jordan Crawford’s numbers with the Washington Wizards dipped a bit, dropping from 16.3 PPG, 3.0 RPG and 3.9 APG in 26 games with Washington in 2010-11 to just 14.7, 2.6 and 3.0, respectively.
The seeming decrease in productivity could be attributed to Crawford playing six fewer minutes per game last season than he did with Washington in 2010-2011. But in 2012-2013, he will play for a revamped Wizards team that—with John Wall and Trevor Ariza—will be looking to push the tempo.
More importantly, Crawford will no longer be competing with Nick Young, who was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers last March in the deal that also saw JaVale McGee get traded to the Denver Nuggets.
After that trade, Crawford played about 31 minutes per game, compared to 25 minutes per game prior to the trade. Although his rebounds and assists stayed relatively the same, his scoring increased from 13.1 PPG pre-trade to 17.3 post-trade.
The biggest issue for Crawford will be exercising discipline with regard to his shot selection. But with less competition in the backcourt and a team that will lean on his scoring ability, Crawford will have everything he needs to become one of the conference’s better scoring guards and should feel less pressure to force the action.
More than likely, Crawford will provide lucky fantasy owners with a high-value return on what will likely be a late pick.
Since being drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers with the second overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft, Turner’s career averages of 8.2 PPG, 4.8 RPG and 2.4 APG have been somewhat disappointing.
Last season, however, Turner shot a very respectable 44.6 percent from the field, and now he will have a greater opportunity to fulfill the potential that made him such a high draft pick.
Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand, Lou Williams and Jodie Meeks are no longer with the Sixers, and the result will be a team playing a half-court game that will mostly feature Andrew Bynum, Jrue Holiday and Turner.
Standing at 6'7" and weighing in at a solid 205 pounds, Turner has NBA size and strength and a solid mid-range game.
Now he will find himself with ample opportunity to play a much bigger role in the Sixers offense, and now entering his third season, Turner should help the Sixers battle for the Atlantic Division title.
Kenneth Faried is just 22 years old and put up some amazing numbers last season after the Denver Nuggets traded Nene to the Washington Wizards in March. In return, the Nuggets received JaVale McGee, and he and Faried look to be the Nuggets' frontcourt of the future.
Last season, Faried started 39 games and averaged 11.0 points and 8.2 rebounds in just 25 minutes per game. Although he is still somewhat raw offensively, his energy and athleticism helped him make an impact whenever he saw time on the floor.
His six double-doubles last April included an eye-popping 27-point, 17-rebound effort against the Golden State Warriors on April 9 and an 18-point, 14-rebound effort against the Phoenix Suns on April 21.
In last spring’s playoff matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers, Faried averaged a double-double, contributing 10.4 points and 10.0 rebounds per game. Over the seven-game playoff series, he also averaged 1.14 blocks.
With Ty Lawson, Andre Iguodala, Danilo Gallinari and JaVale McGee, the Nuggets will look to push the ball up the floor with every opportunity, and Faried will play a major role in the success they hope to have this season.
When discussing young players and their trajectory, we are very quick to point out the fact that point guard is the most difficult position to effectively learn to play in the pros. While that’s true, we don’t as often give the same consideration when making prognoses on the future of big men.
Last season, Greg Monroe played in all 66 Pistons games and averaged 15.4 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. He was the lone bright spot for a Pistons team that went just 25-41 last season.
Last year, among all NBA centers, Monroe’s 2.3 assists per game was second in the league. The only center who averaged more dimes was the Memphis Grizzlies’ Marc Gasol. Interestingly enough, Gasol’s second-year averages were eerily similar to Monroe’s. In his sophomore season, Gasol put up a very respectable 14.6 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game.
For reference, Monroe’s second-year numbers were considerably better than both Andrew Bynum’s (7.8 PPG, 5.9 RPG) and Roy Hibbert's (11.7 PPG, 5.7 RPG).
Now entering his third year, expect Monroe to continue to excel. His role in Detroit's offense will continue to increase, and he'll find himself with the ball in his hands much more.