Ranking the NBA's 15 Biggest X-Factors

Hunter KonsensCorrespondent IIOctober 21, 2012

Ranking the NBA's 15 Biggest X-Factors

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    There are superstars in the NBA. There are role players and benchwarmers, and then there are X-factors.

    To be considered a X-factor, a player must not only be able to take over a game at any given moment, but also possess weaknesses in their game that causes them to battle consistency issues.

    After all, if these players didn't have weaknesses, they would probably be considered stars in the Association.

    Nonetheless, nearly every team, if not all, has one of these necessities on their roster, as high-risk/high-reward players are essential to a team's success.

    *Rank is not based on talent, but instead the potential risk and reward that comes with the player.

15. Raymond Felton

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    Simply put, Raymond Felton was dreadful in his lone year with the Portland Trail Blazers. After a successful 2010-11 campaign, this point guard struggled to the tune of 11 points and six assists per night, which is not what the franchise was expecting out of their addition.

    Now, Felton is back in the city of New York, where he arguably had his best half-season as a pro, and will look to continue his dominant fashion with the Knicks. 

    While the up-tempo style of the Knicks does help the facilitator, it does not make success a sure thing. After all, Felton is 28 years old and has never been the most athletic.

14. Klay Thompson

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    Despite the rough start to his rookie year, Klay Thompson had quite the successful 2011-12 campaign. Not only did he become a serviceable shooting guard, averaging nearly 13 points per night, but the team had enough confidence in the 6'7" swingman to ship former starter Monta Ellis to the Milwaukee Bucks.

    Thompson, who is a fantastic scorer, does struggle sometimes on defense, but this 22-year-old has a bright future in this league.

13. Kirk Hinrich

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    With the absence of Derrick Rose due to his recovery from a torn ACL, Kirk Hinrich will have the opportunity to prove that he is still capable of being a legitimate starter at the point guard position.

    While it is too early to tell if this signing will pay off for the Chicago Bulls, Hinrich does have the ability to be not only a solid facilitator but also a deadly shooter.

    The former Kansas star is a risky signing, but it could yield a huge reward for the franchise.

12. Courtney Lee

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    It seems as if everybody is discussing the Boston Celtics' shooting guard drama, but not for the right reasons. 

    Yes, Ray Allen decided to take his talents, and no, Avery Bradley is probably not going to be completely healthy for a good portion of the season. Additionally, Jason Terry will not be able to keep this team afloat in this competitive Eastern Conference.

    A recent Boston signing flying under the radar is Courtney Lee, who has become somewhat of a journeyman in his brief tenure in the NBA.

    Lee can easily knock down the jumper, penetrate effectively into the lane and defend quite well. He may possibly be the future at shooting guard for the organization, at least until Avery Bradley returns.

11. Paul George

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    Many expect Paul George to improve significantly for the Indiana Pacers this season, superseding Danny Granger as the team's No. 1 offensive threat.

    While the jury is still out on this particular case, chances are that this 22-year-old becomes a top player for the franchise. 

    Everybody knows George can lockdown defend, but one of the major glaring holes in his game is his lack of consistency on offense. If he fixes this problem, George may be a prime candidate for the Most Improved Player of the Year Award.

10. Andre Drummond

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    Already in the preseason, Andre Drummond has become fast friends with highlight reels everywhere. Due to his massive stature and extraordinary leaping ability, Drummond's slams are truly a sight to see.

    Nobody questioned his athleticism, though, coming out of UConn. Instead, many worried about his determination and lack of polish in his game. 

    So far, it seems like Drummond has a solid foundation and has the ability to become a true star in this league. He crashes the boards, utilizes his large frame and possesses a decent post-up game.

9. Austin Rivers

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    Only two short years ago, Austin Rivers was considered the top high school prospect in the nation, above the likes of Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. However, a rather disappointing season with Duke relegated him to the 10th pick in this year's draft, which was the New Orleans Hornets' suggestion.

    There is no denying Rivers' scoring prowess, but this young man has the tendency to wear his emotions on his sleeve and not always give his best effort. 

    Hopefully, Rivers rights his wrongs and becomes a fixture in the Hornets' backcourt.

8. Derrick Favors

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    Derrick Favors is in a rather unfortunate situation in Utah. Despite showing true promise in his brief career, the Jazz have a difficult time allocating major minutes to the former third overall pick of the 2010 draft, mainly due to the presence of two veterans.

    Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson both are in a starting role for the Jazz, which makes Favors somewhat of a role player.

    Last season, Favors nearly averaged a double-double, as he scored 12 points and grabbed ten boards per night. This truly showed this young big man's promise in the league.

7. O.J. Mayo

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    After averaging over 18 points per game in his first season in the league, O.J. Mayo's career has definitely cooled off. Not only was he relegated to the bench, but the 6'4" scorer out of USC has yet to improve his statistics in the league.

    Yikes.

    Now with the Dallas Mavericks, however, Mayo will be given the green light to score at will, especially with Dirk Nowitzki sidelined.

6. Antawn Jamison

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    Throughout Antwan Jamison's long and successful tenure in the NBA, the combo forward has struggled heavily in one major aspect of his game: defense.

    Now that Jamison is 36 years old, his athleticism is on the decline, making him an even worse defender. Sure, his new Los Angeles Lakers teammate, Dwight Howard, will try his best to cover up this flaw with great help-side defense, but will it be to any avail?

    In the end, Jamison was brought to the franchise for the sole purpose of scoring off the bench. After all, this is a veteran who averaged over 17 points per game last year on the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers, quite the impressive feat.

5. Brandon Roy

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    Brandon Roy was once an All-NBA talent in the Association, until injuries robbed him of a potential Hall-of-Fame worthy career. Specifically knee issues, Roy's constant physical ailments continued to weaken arguably the greatest asset in his game: athleticism.

    He would lose his remarkable leaping ability and quick first step, deciding to retire after only five years in the league.

    Few players establish themselves during said time period in the league, let alone become household names.

    And, in a blink of an eye, the NBA lost on of its marquee players.

    Now, Roy has decided to return to the NBA, joining the Minnesota Timberwolves. The only question for the shooting guard, who has averaged 19 points per game for his career, is will he be able to stay healthy?

4. Andrew Bogut

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    Deciding to ship your star player, Monta Ellis, to the Milwaukee Bucks was a risky move by the Golden State Warriors, especially when your main return is a former first-round pick who has struggled to stay on the court due to injuries.

    However, if center Andrew Bogut is able to play in a majority of his time with the organization, he has the opportunity to drastically improve the team's defense, a problem that has plagued the squad for quite some time.

3. JaVale McGee

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    Sticking on the center theme, JaVale McGee just received this offseason a massive four-year $44 million contract with the Denver Nuggets, keeping him in the Western Conference for most of this young center's prime.

    Is McGee currently worth this type of contract? Absolutely not, but the team is hoping the oft-questioned big man taps into his vast potential, adding a solid post game and a better demeanor.

    The Nuggets, who aren't as young as everyone thinks, don't have a huge title window and need solid production right off the bat from the center position. Will McGee be up for the challenge?

2. Andray Blatche

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    The Brooklyn Nets completely reshuffle their rosters this offseason, adding many new personalities into the locker room, and the team decides to add arguably the most detrimental locker room presence of the last few years in their final move of the summer.

    Even though Andray Blatche, a power forward who wreaked havoc in a bad way back in his Washington Wizards days, will not be receiving major minutes or possess a guaranteed contract, the fact of the matter is this signing was incredibly risky.

    However, the possible reward isn't too shabby, as the 26-year-old once averaged nearly 17 points and eight boards in the 2010-11 season.

1. Jeremy Lin

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    Jeremy Lin is quite a talent and will certainly improve the Houston Rockets' point guard play, but is he worth the giant three-year, $25 million contract he signed back in the offseason? The answer is up in the air, but early preseason action doesn't look too assuring. 

    It looks as if the Houston Rockets decided to pursue Lin due to his marketability. The Rockets have seen a little less support from their Asian fan base since the retirement of Yao Ming. After all, the team didn't necessarily need Lin from a basketball standpoint due to the presences of Gorand Dragic and Kyle Lowry.

    If Lin does regain his New York Knicks form and build on his already strong foundation, though, this 24-year-old has a fantastic chance of becoming a favorite in the city of Houston.