8 NBA Players Who Could Become the New Team Leader
Every year, there are new players that step up not only their game, but their leadership abilities from the year before and lead their respective teams to greener pastures, or hardwood.
The media's obsession with crowning the phrase "his team" on any player is especially prevalent for these eight players.
This year's crop of players are not only extremely talented, but have been severely underrated and overlooked for the past several years. They have the ability to take the pressure and thrive under it.
Be it opportunity due to injury or depth vacancies, they now have their chance to show their wares on a brighter stage, as their team's best and most important player.
It may be a point guard league now, as four out of these eight are their team's quarterback, but we will not discount the ability of a defensive-minded center or elite two-way swingman to change the identity of their respective teams.
It isn't very often that a team loses its captain in the offseason or holds gaping holes in its leadership department, but these eight players are poised to take over that role and excel.
Andrew Bogut had a defensive win share, according to Basketball-Reference.com, of 4.8 in 2009-10 and 5.1 in 2010-11.
Tyson Chandler, the reigning Defensive Player of the year who single-handedly transformed a terrible New York Knicks defense from below-average to mediocre, had a defensive win share of 5.8 in 2012.
To put that into perspective, he put up a 5.8 defensive win share again the year he led the Dallas Mavericks to the championship.
So yes, let's hope the oft-injured center from Australia will be able to stay healthy. Since his injuries are of the freakish nature—unlike Stephen Curry's china glass ankles—there is a slightly better chance of him playing 70-plus games than that of Curry.
If so, he has the ability to change the complexion of a noted soft—rightfully so—defensive team and turn this into an average one.
With lethal shooters like Curry, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes around him, Bogut may be the one taking the reins on this playoff bandwagon.
Daryl Morey. Sam Presti.
The respective general managers of their teams, Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder, have done it again.
In a stunning trade that proved that sentiment and loyalty should be taken with a grain of salt, Harden was flipped to the Houston Rockets because he didn't want to take less money to stay in Oklahoma City.
Morey finally gets his supposed superstar.
Ironic, but it would appear that the Thunder got more back from the Rockets that the Orlando Magic did from the Dwight Howard deal, but we're digressing.
Back to Harden, he has the ability to post superstar numbers in an offense where he will now assume the first or second option.
His ability to go to the foul line and distribute will work well with a young team that features talented players like Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons, Patrick Patterson and Omer Asik.
Harden doesn't need to have the ball in his hands in order to be effective, so it appears he will work seamlessly with Jeremy Lin, who needs command of the offense to flourish.
He'll step in as the best player on a team that suddenly owns eighth-seed playoff aspirations.
Harden will have to play the way he did in Oklahoma City, but with much more focus from opposing defenses.
The debate of whether he is a max player will get answered starting now.
Taking a bit of a gamble here, but with Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams gone, Jeff Teague has the ability to lead his team into the fourth or fifth seed in the Eastern Conference.
The only problem?
The presence of veteran point guard Devin Harris.
Posting a slightly above-average PER (Player Efficiency Rating) of 15.83, Teague was very inconsistent but was able to show flashes of greatness, especially in the playoffs.
Despite a stinker against the Boston Celtics in Game 6, because that's what the Celtics do in elimination games—they clamp down, play ugly and win—Teague was able to shine, scoring 14 points, 4.2 assists, 3.8 rebounds and shooting 41.2 percent from behind the arc.
Once he beats out Harris, and that should be a matter of time when the Hawks start losing early, Teague should play well alongside Al Horford, Josh Smith and two sharpshooters in Kyle Korver and Anthony Morrow.
Stuck behind Derrick Rose when the Chicago Bulls were in the midst of an excellent two-year run, Luol Deng was barely noticed from the national media.
Deng is easily one of the best two-way players in the NBA, able to play defense on guards and forwards while also being an adept passer and improving shooter.
Without Omer Asik, Kyle Korver and most importantly, Derrick Rose back, Deng will have to shoulder the load all season.
Playing despite an assortment of wrist injuries last year, he was able to shake them off and produce solid all around numbers.
This year, he will need to be healthy, and all indications point to him starting the season 100 percent.
If he can stay healthy, the Bulls should be in the playoff race all the way until Rose comes back.
If and when that happens, Deng is and shall be the physical and mental leader that Coach Tom Thibodeau will lean on.
No Arron Afflalo?
Should be no problem for Ty Lawson, the speedy point guard from North Carolina.
Armed with shooters (Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Jordan Hamilton), defensive aces (Andre Iguodala, Corey Brewer) and energizer bunnies (JaVale McGee, Kenneth Faried), Lawson has an arsenal of players around him that will go as he goes.
Sounds cliche, but the Nuggets offense has to chance to go absolutely nitrous this year.
Having a solid backup point guard in Andre Miller, who can run any type of offense with a superb "old man's game—slow, yet effective", is important, but the offense will truly thrive when Lawson is let loose.
His ability to drive the lane on any given ankle-breaking crossover puts the defense on their heels every single play.
And it just so happens that the Nuggets play so fast, they get many more plays that the opposition.
The saying goes that a team needs a superstar or two to win the championship.
A team needs that one player that will command his team and is unafraid to take that last shot.
The only thing stopping Ty Lawson from being that guy is himself.
Welcome to Phoenix, Goran Dragic. We don't ask for much.
Just replace one of the best shooters and passers in NBA history—who would also have a ring if not for a technicality on player bench suspensions, ahem, Robert Horry clothesline.
If that's not enough, how about the fact that the Suns actually signed Eric Gordon to a max contract before signing you?
Despite all of that, the Suns will need all of Dragic's potential to fill out this season.
Because of the muddle that is called the race for eighth in the Western Conference, Phoenix actually owns an outside chance of making the playoffs.
The pick-and-roll with Marcin Gortat, low-past game of Luis Scola and the dysfunctional play of the I-can-drop-40-any-night-or-go-1-for-14 Michael Beasley can potentially be devastating.
With bust Sebastian Telfair and rookie Kendall Marshall backing Dragic up, he'll have his fair share of minutes to lead his team game in and game out.
They don't need him to be Steve Nash. He can't be.
What Goran Dragic will become is the leader of a Phoenix Suns squad that can surprise people this year.
Mike Conley, Jr.
A very disappointing end to the 2011-12 NBA season at the hands of Chris Paul and the Los Angeles Clippers has left a bitter taste in the collective mouths of the Memphis Grizzlies.
Mike Conley was the one player that actually played well that series. He even went toe-to-to with the world's best and came out alive.
After being signed to surprising deal a couple years ago, Conley has played well given the fact he has several players in Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph that need the ball in their hands to excel.
Throw in Marc Gasol and that's a lot of mouths to feed in an offense that isn't exactly up-tempo.
However, a healthy Zach Randolph should have the Grizzlies contending immediately.
Like Paul, Conley will look to be his team's heart and soul throughout the season.
In the now wide-open Western Conference, Conley has a chance to take the leap mentally into the top tier.
Taking another leap of faith. This one has much more to do with potential and talent than maturity.
By now, everyone knows about Cousins' maturity issues and his frequent clashes with coaches.
What can't be questioned is his love for the game of basketball. There is no quit in DeMarcus Cousins.
He plays hard when he is on the court and has the superb talent to back him up.
He can't pass? Can't dribble? Suspect defense? Sure.
But what he can do is play hard, rebound and unleashes a bevy of post moves with deceiving agility for a big man that will leave your eyes dazed.
Plus, who else on this Sacramento Kings team is actually good at all phases of the game?
With so many flawed players on this team mish-mashing to create a whirlwind of a roster, Cousins may be the one constant that Coach Keith Smart needs to win 30 games this year.
Yes, DeMarcus Cousins is my pick to be a team leader that'll spearhead his squad to 30 wins.
That is the NBA world in which we live in these days.
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