Predicting Each NBA Team's Best Player Next Season
With the first quarter of the 2012-13 NBA season already in the books, it is becoming increasingly clear who is the best player each team has on their roster. However, just because a player is elite one season does not necessarily mean they will remain their team's best player the following year.
Young players improve, veterans begin to break down and there is always the potential for an unforeseen development or regression from an unexpected source to shake things up.
Without further ado, here are the 30 players who will earn the title of best player on their team for the 2013-14 season.
*Players who will be rookies in 2013-14 are not counted because the NBA draft order for 2013 is unknown.
Statistics accurate as of December 23, 2012.
Atlanta Hawks: Al Horford
Hampered by a pectoral injury and forced to miss the majority of the season, Al Horford looked far from impressive in 2011-12. However, he has come on quite well for Atlanta in 2012-13 and has emerged as a more reliable scorer with the departure of Joe Johnson.
Horford is averaging a career-high 15.5 points along with 9.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists and one block on 51.9 percent shooting from the field. He is not converting well at the foul line, but Horford has adjusted well to being a more featured scorer and looks, once again, like a potential All-Star. Perhaps most importantly, Horford is a much better decision maker than frontcourt teammate Josh Smith.
At just 26 years old, the 6'10" center still has his best basketball ahead of him and as long as he continues to be aggressive offensively, he will be the Hawks best player in 2013-14, even with Smith on the roster.
Boston Celtics: Rajon Rondo
The Celtics have not exactly thrived in their first year with Rajon Rondo as the sole "franchise player," winning just 13 of their first 25 games, easily their lowest since acquiring Kevin Garnett in 2007. However, Rondo has managed to put up absolutely tremendous numbers.
Likely on his way to a fourth All-Star game, Rondo has averaged 13.5 points, five rebounds and a career-best 12.2 assists, currently first in the league by a wide margin. Add to that a pair of steals and a sterling 51.2 field-goal percentage and you can see why Boston felt confident in making the mercurial point guard their franchise player.
Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett will still be upper-echelon players in 2013-14, and Avery Bradley should continue to improve, but with the way he dominates the ball and makes plays on both ends of the floor, Rondo will remain the Celtics' top player.
Unfortunately, that's not helping them win many games.
Brooklyn Nets: Deron Williams
Deron Williams has struggled with his shot during his third season as a Net and first in Brooklyn, but he remains one of the most gifted floor generals in the league.
Despite shooting a mere 39.6 percent from the field and 29.4 percent from three-point territory, Williams is averaging 16.8 points, three rebounds and 8.2 assists per game. Part of his difficulty has undoubtedly been adjusting to a more talented team, and many expect Williams to bounce back as Avery Johnson adjusts the Nets' system to better suit his strengths.
Williams is 28 years old and in the midst of his prime. He has the ability to vacillate between being a score-first guard and a pass-first guard, something that is incredibly valuable to this Brooklyn offense.
He may never win an MVP award, but Williams is still a top-five point guard and will remain the Nets' best player in 2013-14.
Charlotte Bobcats: Kemba Walker
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will likely build on a successful rookie campaign, but if Kemba Walker can make any kind of leap like he did from his first year to his second, he will easily stay the best Bobcat in 2013-14.
Walker, playing more of a point guard role, has seen his averages jump to 18.3 points, 3.1 boards and six assists per game while boosting his field goal percentage to an almost-respectable 42.9 percent.
He has taken on a leadership role for this young team and while they are still far from a playoff contender, Charlotte is a fun, energetic team that has significant upside for the future.
Perhaps most importantly, Walker has become the Bobcats' crunch-time player, working with the ball in his hands and often being asked to take the game-deciding shot.
Barring a stratospheric leap from MKG, expect a more mature Kemba Walker to be among the league's better young guards.
Chicago Bulls: Derrick Rose
Derrick Rose's recovery from tearing his ACL has been among the most closely-followed storylines of the 2012-13 season. With Tom Thibodeau saying to ESPN Chicago that Rose is "right on schedule" with his rehab, Bulls fans cannot wait to see their MVP point guard back on the floor.
Obviously Rose will have to adjust his game somewhat coming off of such a serious injury, but he remains one of the game's most explosive scorers, someone capable of salvaging any play with his ability to get into the paint and finish through contact. He has also improved during his NBA career as a shooter, passer and defender.
Joakim Noah is an incredibly versatile big man and Luol Deng is a perfect glue player, but neither of them can make the kind of transcendent plays that Rose does on a nightly basis.
It will take him time to return to his 2010-11 form, but once Rose has his legs under him, he will go back to being one of the league's brightest stars.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Kyrie Irving
It has been a tumultuous couple of seasons for the Cleveland Cavaliers, but the major bright spot for Cavs fans has been the phenomenal play of star point guard Kyrie Irving.
A year removed from winning Rookie of the Year, Irving is averaging 22.8 points, 3.6 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game while shooting 47 percent from the field and 40.5 percent from the three-point line.
Irving has taken on a big scoring role for the offensively troubled Cavs, and has proven to be a nightmare with his ability to attack the basket, finish at the rim and hit shots from the perimeter.
He is also comfortable making plays for his teammates by getting into the lane or running the pick-and-roll and shows no fear handling the ball in tight games.
Injuries are a concern, as Irving has been banged up and missed his share of time in both of his professional seasons, but there is no denying that behind the play of Kyrie Irving, this Cleveland team is headed in the right direction.
Dallas Mavericks: Dirk Nowitzki
Dirk Nowitzki's offseason knee surgery kept him from making his season debut until December 23 against the San Antonio Spurs, but that should not keep the unorthodox power forward from snatching the title of best Maverick away from newcomer OJ Mayo, who is currently leading the team in scoring.
Nowitzki's ability to stretch the floor as a power forward, hit the glass and anchor the Dallas offense is invaluable, and because his game is not predicated upon athleticism, he should continue to be extremely effective even at 35 years old.
The Mavericks will likely look very different in 2013-14 than they do in 2012-13, as this team was built to compete in free agency, but unless they can land a top 10 player, Nowitzki's guaranteed 20 points per game and clutch chops are simply too valuable to the team's success.
Denver Nuggets: Ty Lawson
Coming off of a career year in 2011-12, Ty Lawson has struggled in the early goings of 2012-13, having difficulty dealing with the added defensive attention, but he remains the most electrifying player on this deep Denver Nuggets team.
Lawson's averages of 13.9 points, 2.6 boards and seven assists are solid, but they come on career lows of 41.4 percent overall and just 31.6 percent from beyond the arc.
Still, as the season goes on and he makes adjustments, Lawson's numbers should rebound and be more in the vein of his very impressive line during his first season as a starter.
Lawson is known for his blinding speed, but at just 25 years old he is still developing into a true floor general and has improved as a passer each season he has been in the league. No longer is he just capable of attacking the basket, as he has grown into a deadly outside shooter who can play off of the ball as well.
Andre Iguodala is a dynamic athlete and a multifaceted player, and Kenneth Faried remains a handful in the paint, but the best Nugget in 2013-14 should be their star point guard, Ty Lawson.
Detroit Pistons: Greg Monroe
The Detroit Pistons may not have a great record, but their team has shown signs of improvement in 2012-13, and a large part of that has been the sensational play of third-year big man Greg Monroe.
Switching between power forward and center to accommodate rookie Andre Drummond, Monroe has played well, putting up 15.6 points, nine rebounds and 3.3 assists per game while improving his play both from outside the paint and in the post.
He is one of the best passing bigs in the league, capable of making plays out of the post, but he has also improved as a scorer each of his seasons in the NBA. In addition, he relishes contact and is not afraid to be physical around the basket.
He may not be a dominant defender or shot-blocker, but if Drummond can provide that for Detroit, it could have a seriously fearsome frontcourt in a few seasons.
Detroit may not make much noise in 2013-14, but expect Monroe to again be the team's best player, even with the inevitable improvements of Drummond and point guard Brandon Knight.
Golden State Warriors: Stephen Curry
After struggling to stay on the court due to nagging ankle problems in 2011-12, a healthy Stephen Curry has led the Golden State Warriors to their best start in the troubled franchise's recent history.
Curry has shown almost no effects of the ankle injuries many thought would hamper his play, and he has morphed into the dual-threat guard he was always capable of being, averaging 20.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 6.4 assists per game while shooting 42.4 percent from the field and 43.5 percent from three-point territory.
With Jarrett Jack on the roster, Curry has been spending more time working off the ball as a shooting guard, but his assist numbers remain high because of his ability to penetrate and find the open man once the defense collapses.
Golden State appears poised for a playoff run, and with that experience, expect Curry to return in 2013-14 hungry to prove that this Warriors team is legitimate and that he'll remain a 20-plus points-per-game scorer, as well as a talented facilitator.
Houston Rockets: James Harden
For all the hype and attention Jeremy Lin has received prior to his inaugural season as a Houston Rocket, the MVP-level play of James Harden has been practically all people could talk about once the 2012-13 campaign began.
Thriving as a first option in this offense, Harden is averaging a sensational 25.6 points, 4.4 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game while shooting a respectable 44.3 percent from the field and 35.5 percent from beyond the arc.
Spending plenty of time with the ball in his hands, Harden has proven to be the most reliable playmaker for Houston, excelling at drive-and-kick plays while running a solid pick-and-roll to boot. His 3.7 turnovers a game are high, but those numbers have decreased since the beginning of the season.
With his phenomenal play, Harden has effectively assured himself a spot in the All-Star game, and if he can lead this young Rockets team into the playoffs, even as an eighth seed, he could earn himself some votes for MVP as well.
He is capable of hurting a defense in so many ways, thanks to his ability to draw contact in the paint or shoot the deep ball, and while Houston has plenty of players with high ceilings, he will retain the crown as the best player on the Rockets in 2013-14.
Indiana Pacers: Paul George
With Danny Granger sidelined due to a knee injury and having yet to set foot on the court, Paul George has stepped up to fill his shoes, becoming a bigger part of the team's offense while averaging career highs in points, rebounds, assists and shots per game.
Though his field-goal percentage has dipped, that often happens when a player is asked to do more scoring than they are used to, and his 16.3 points, 7.1 rebounds and 3.6 dimes per game have been essential in keeping Indiana in the playoff picture.
Despite being a wing player, George is great at attacking the glass, a nightly double-double threat and he uses his length to guard some of the league's best perimeter scorers.
He has also improved at working with the ball in his hands, finding the open man and not forcing the issue as much, which often leads to turnovers.
Even with a healthy Granger back and Roy Hibbert hopefully out of his current slump, George, who is just 22 years old, should see his game improve another step as he cements himself as the Pacers' best player.
Los Angeles Clippers: Chris Paul
All due respect to Blake Griffin, but the Los Angeles Clippers would not be the resurgent franchise they are had Chris Paul not joined the fray. Since donning an L.A. jersey in 2011, Paul has been the heart and soul of this team on both ends of the court and has them looking like legitimate contenders for 2013.
His averages of 16 points, 3.7 rebounds and 9.4 assists per game on 47.5 percent shooting overall and 35.4 from three are impressive enough, but they look even more impressive when you take into account that his 33 minutes per game is his lowest since he averaged 36 per night as a rookie.
Never hurried up or bothered, Paul always manages to control the game masterfully, distributing the ball well among his teammates, running textbook fast breaks and only looking for his own shot when his team needs it. Few players can make the same degree of impact on the game as Paul can, and even when he is not scoring or passing he sets the tone with his scrappy, physical defense.
Griffin's game is continuing to improve as he ages, but he still lacks polish and defensive discipline—two things Paul has in spades. As long as he does not bolt in free agency, the superstar point guard will continue to be the most important resident of Lob City.
Los Angeles Lakers: Kobe Bryant
Now I don't believe that at age 35 Kobe Bryant is going to be as absurdly efficient as he has been during the 2012-13 season, and I do not think he will lead the league in scoring, but even with Dwight Howard more acclimated in Los Angeles and Mike D'Antoni having a full year to implement his system, Bryant will remain the best player in L.A.
His current numbers—29.7 points, 5.4 rebounds and five assists on 47.1 percent shooting from the field and a near career-best 37.4 percent from distance—are unsustainable and he has already shown signs that his shooting is beginning to cool down, but there is no denying that he is an unstoppable scorer.
Bryant is among the league's most lethal post-up guards, can always create space for a jump shot and remains capable of drawing contact from defenders and converting at the foul line.
This Lakers team will still need him to be their primary scorer next season, as Howard cannot be relied on as a primary option, and with such a talented team, he will continue to be more open than he is usually.
Defensively, Bryant is not as quick as he once was, but he is a savvy defender who picks his spots and does not gamble for steals recklessly.
If he chooses to retire in 2014, he will be leaving the Lakers without their best player from the season prior.
Memphis Grizzlies: Zach Randolph
After missing the lion's share of the 2011-12 season with an MCL injury and never quite finding his usual form, Randolph has been sensational for the Memphis Grizzlies this season, posting 16.8 points, 12.8 boards and 1.3 assists on 49.7 percent shooting from the floor.
Although Randoph is 31, an age when post players usually start to decline, his game, which is predicated on strength and timing, will likely not diminish much by the time the 2013-14 season begins. Randolph is not a leaper or an elite athlete, he carves out great inside position, plays physically and has a reliable offensive game.
Even with young talents like Rudy Gay, Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, this Memphis team is not a contender without Z-Bo locking down the boards on both ends of the floor. He creates extra opportunities for his team and can go toe-to-toe with any dominant big man in the league.
Randolph is no longer a nightly 20-12 threat, but you can pencil him in for 16-11 consistently, and that is still pretty remarkable.
Miami Heat: LeBron James
It's okay to be surprised. I was expecting Rashard Lewis too.
LeBron James is having yet another absurd season: 25.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 6.8 assists on career-highs of 54.2 percent from the floor and 44.2 percent from the three-point line.
Playing the majority of his minutes at power forward, James has thrived using his quickness against larger defenders while also making his presence felt on the boards and remaining Miami's best passer. The fact that he is splashing three-pointers consistently only opens up the floor more and makes him even tougher to guard.
With no major injuries in his career, James has shown little signs of slowing down, and at age 27, he is in the midst of his prime as a basketball player. James is not only the Heat's best player by a wide margin, but also the favorite, yet again, for the MVP award.
The Heat have had their regular season missteps, but as long as they have LeBron, they have to be considered the Eastern Conference favorites.
Milwaukee Bucks: Brandon Jennings
As a restricted free agent, it is unlikely the Milwaukee Bucks let the 23-year-old Brandon Jennings leave, and though he has struggled to consistently knock down shots, his explosiveness and clearly-defined position earn him the nod here over Monta Ellis as the Bucks' best player next season.
Jennings is averaging 17.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game, and while his scoring has dipped slightly and his 39.8 field-goal percentage is unacceptable, that is a byproduct of him still adjusting to playing alongside Ellis in the backcourt.
Jennings calls his own number a bit too much offensively and does not always put in consistent defensive effort, but he can read passing lanes and is an absolute blur when he gets out into the open court. Add to that the ability to heat up from beyond the arc and Jennings is as dangerous as they come offensively.
He has a much higher ceiling than Ellis does at this point in his career and has room to improve and become a true franchise player for Milwaukee in the future.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Kevin Love
All respect to Ricky Rubio and his incredible court vision, but even with his recent shooting woes, Kevin Love is easily Minnesota's best player and will remain the top Timberwolf in 2013-14.
After missing the early part of the season with a broken hand, Love has come on strong and is putting up 19.6 points, 13.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game despite shooting just 36.3 percent from the field and an uncharacteristic 24.7 percent from three-point range.
He has struggled with his shot, but Love has become a reliable post-up scorer and a deadly pick-and-pop weapon who can space the floor extremely effectively. No player in the league right now can dominate the glass like Love, who is capable of a 25-30 rebound effort on any given night.
Few teams have a frontcourt player that can contain Love, and while he is not much of a presence defensively, his ability to take over a game offensively and create possessions for his team more than makes up for that.
Rubio is an exhilarating young point guard, but he is not yet the superstar that Kevin Love is.
New Orleans Hornets: Anthony Davis
One of the lone bright spots for New Orleans in a season that has seen star Eric Gordon miss extended time with a knee problem and a slew of players battle injuries has been the play of first-overall pick Anthony Davis.
Davis himself has had trouble staying on the court at times, but when he has played, he has been quite impressive, averaging 14.6 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game, looking every bit like the franchise player Monty Williams is grooming him to be.
Showing off a more polished offensive game than many expected and an ability to hit jumpers with regularity, Davis has used his size and length to attack the glass, finish in the post and contest his opponents shots.
Although he could stand to add some muscle, Davis' defense has adjusted well to the NBA, and his athleticism makes him difficult to stop out in the open court.
Even if Gordon does return to full strength, Davis will have a full season under his belt and have already staked his claim as the best player for the Hornets...or the Pelicans...or the Swamp Dogs.
New York Knicks: Carmelo Anthony
The transformation of Carmelo Anthony from an elite scorer to an MVP-caliber player has been among the most fascinating stories of the 2012-13 NBA season. Thriving at power forward, Anthony has led this veteran New York team to the top of the Eastern Conference standings and is playing the best all-around basketball of his career.
His 28 points per game on 47.2 percent shooting and a blistering 44.8 percent from three-point range are nice, but 'Melo has been putting in more of a defensive effort than ever before and is encouraging ball movement by passing up his own shots for better looks from his teammates.
Amar'e Stoudemire's return could cause issues, but as long as Anthony can stay at the 4 spot, where his shooting ability creates huge mismatches and defenders are too slow to stop him, he will remain one of the league's top-10 players.
This Knicks team is a legitimate contenders long as Anthony keeps playing well, and after two much-maligned seasons he has earned the title of best Knick for the foreseeable future.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Kevin Durant
The fact that Russell Westbrook is having the best season of his career and is universally considered Oklahoma City's second best player is a testament to the sheer brilliance of Kevin Durant.
Durant's stat line is outright absurd: 27.9 points per game, 8.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists and over a block and a steal per game on 52.1 percent shooting and 42.7 from three. If he can keep his numbers up he is poised to join the historic 50-40-90 percentages club at the end of the year.
Durant remains the game's most dominant scorer because of his ability to create off the dribble, step outside and hit perimeter jumpers and also move without the ball. There is no one element of his game a defender can take away to stop him; he is always going to find his points somehow.
What has Durant at the top of early season MVP list is his development as an overall player—he is taking better shots than ever and posting career highs in field-goal percentage, boards and dimes per game. He is running the Thunder's offense for longer stretches and reacting to defensive pressure by finding open teammates.
At just 24 years old, Durant is showing no signs of slowing down and while Westbrook is undoubtedly great, Durant is simply greater.
Orlando Magic: Arron Afflalo
Most fans were surprised that Arron Afflalo was the main piece netted by Orlando in the Dwight Howard mega-deal, but Afflalo has proved his value in the early stages of the 2012-13 season and has his Magic team looking respectable in a rebuilding year.
As part of Orlando's balanced attack, he is averaging a career-best 16.4 points per game to go with 3.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists. He is connecting on 45 percent of his shots and 36.1 percent from three-point range.
He has looked comfortable handling the ball and is thriving despite logging a good deal of time out of position as a small forward due to injuries to the Magic's frontcourt.
Afflalo remains one of the best young perimeter defenders in the league, and in addition to being asked to pace Orlando in the scoring department, he is frequently checking the best perimeter scorer on the other team. He does not force many turnovers, but he is extremely disciplined, uses his body well and makes his opponent work for their shots.
His ceiling is not stratospheric, but Afflalo should, once again, be the Magic's best player during his second year with the club.
Philadelphia 76ers: Evan Turner
Jrue Holiday has been sensational, and Andrew Bynum can be one of the league's best big men when he is healthy, but I am betting that Evan Turner, who has played phenomenally since joining the starting lineup this season, will continue to progress and grow during his fourth year in the league.
Turner has filled Andre Iguodala's role as Philadelphia's do-it-all player, notching 15.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game while connecting on 44.8 percent of his shots overall and 46 percent from three-point range.
He can comfortably play both shooting guard and small forward and, with Holiday out due to a foot sprain, started games as a point guard, initiating the Sixers' offense.
Defensively he uses his athleticism and strength to stay in front of his opponent and is capable of guarding multiple positions out on the court. He is also among the best rebounding guards in the league, crashing the glass with abandon from the perimeter.
He is still adjusting to being a featured player offensively for Philly and should be even more comfortable and successful in that role in 2013-14.
Phoenix Suns: Goran Dragic
The Phoenix Suns have had an up-and-down first year without Steve Nash, but what success they have managed has largely come on the back of Goran Dragic, Nash's protege and replacement. Signed in the summer of 2012, Dragic has adjusted well to a full-time starting role and has proven to be dangerous both as a facilitator and a scorer.
Dragic has had success running the pick-and-roll with both Marcin Gortat and Luis Scola, but has also shot the ball well from the field, attacking the basket and opening up the floor for his team.
He is averaging 14.8 points, three rebounds and 6.5 assists per game while shooting 45.5 percent from the field and 36.4 percent from three-point range.
He has also adjusted well to the added defensive pressure, making good decisions and not turning the ball over frequently, something young guards often struggle with as they adjust to starting roles.
The Suns have not exactly been a dominant team in 2012-13, but with Dragic at the helm and a season of experience as a starter under his belt, expect this team to be much more dangerous next season.
Portland Trail Blazers: Damian Lillard
Most people expected Damian Lillard, Portland's sixth-overall pick, to be good, but few could foresee just how well he would be playing as a rookie.
A starter since day one, Lillard has averaged 18.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game while shooting 42 percent from the field and 36.1 percent from long range. The Blazers have struggled with consistency in 2012-13, but Lillard has been rock solid and often times stunning as he has made his case for Rookie of the Year.
Lillard took no time adjusting to a higher level of competition; he has been able to get his shots within the rhythm of the offense while also skillfully setting up teammates and forming a deadly pick-and-roll/pick-and-pop tandem with power forward LaMarcus Aldridge.
Lillard has also shown that he can rise to the occasion in meaningful games, and he is not bashful about taking big shots. He carries himself with the maturity of a four-year college player and that has been a godsend for this incredibly young Portland team.
Even with an All-Star on the roster in Aldridge and a gifted multi-tool in Nicolas Batum, expect a Kyrie Irving-like leap for Lillard in his sophomore campaign.
Sacramento Kings: DeMarcus Cousins
After being suspended indefinitely for "unprofessional behavior and conduct detrimental to the team", according to ESPN, things are not exactly looking up for DeMarcus Cousins' future in Sacramento. Hopefully, the team's management and Cousins can finally come to an understanding, because it would be a shame for them to lose such a rare talent at such a young age.
Yet again, Cousins has managed to put up impressive numbers while battling constant maturity issues. He is averaging 16.6 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game, but connecting on just 41.4 percent of his shot attempts.
His numbers have slid slightly, but Cousins has actually done a better job of not fouling, taking care of the ball and finding open teammates than he did in the 2011-12 season. He is also continuing to grow as a scorer, improving as a jump shooter and a free-throw shooter.
Defensively he is not stellar, but he is incredibly strong and has the ability to force his share of turnovers thanks to his length.
It may be hard to fathom, but I would be surprised if the Kings did not give Cousins one final chance to prove himself in Sacramento, as he could become the franchise player they have been so desperate for.
San Antonio Spurs: Tony Parker
Tim Duncan's resurgence this season has been nothing short of a revelation, but it has been Tony Parker who has been the leader and best player on the San Antonio Spurs for the past two seasons.
Parker has shouldered more of a scoring role but has also continued to improve as a facilitator and as an outside shooter. In 2012-13, he is averaging 19 points per game on impressive 50.4 percent and 36.7 percent splits to go with 3.2 boards and 7.2 dimes. He is also turning the ball just twice per contest, quite amazing given his aggressive, attacking style.
Parker's ability to knife his way into the lane and collapse a defense is essential for this Spurs team that is filled with shooters who camp out and wait for his passes. He is also more than capable of finishing on his own and has shown an improved ability to hit the corner three this season.
At age 31 and with plenty of NBA mileage on his body, Parker may start slowing down soon, but his descent will certainly not be as drastic as Duncan's or Manu Ginobili's, making him likely the best Spur in 2013-14.
Toronto Raptors: Kyle Lowry
This comes with the caveats that Toronto finds a suitor for Jose Calderon and that Kyle Lowry can stay healthy, but if these two conditions are met, the versatile Lowry will easily be the best player for the Raptors.
A gritty, physical point guard, Lowry has struggled to stay on the floor but has looked sharp, averaging 15.8 points, 5.6 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game on 40.6 percent shooting. Despite being just 6'0", Lowry is an extremely gifted rebounder who has a nose for the ball and knows how to position himself in amongst much larger players.
He is a dominant athlete that can break down a defense off the dribble and get into the paint, either finishing at the rim himself or passing out to one of the Raptors many perimeter scorers. The fact that he is playing just 31 minutes per game is disappointing, as a healthy Lowry should be logging 40 minutes per night given his value on both ends of the floor.
Lowry is an absolute bulldog defensively, forcing turnovers and playing outstanding on-ball defense.
DeMar DeRozan has had a great year, but Kyle Lowry is the player who can lead this Toronto team back to the postseason, and should become their best player as long as he can stay in uniform.
Utah Jazz: Derrick Favors
This may be a bit of a reach, but I believe that with either Al Jefferson or Paul Millsap traded and both potentially gone when the 2013-14 season starts, Derrick Favors is poised for a major breakout year for the Utah Jazz.
Favors has looked good in limited minutes this season, running the floor extremely well, finishing at the rim with authority and playing strong post defense, while also developing the skill aspects of his game like shot-blocking and free-throw shooting.
In a mere 22.3 minutes per night, Favors is putting up 9.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per contest. Although his 44.2 percent shooting is troubling, it is easy to see him averaging a comfortable double-double with increased playing time.
Favors should be a starter next season and will likely be receiving more touches in the post, giving him the opportunity to use his strength and speed to score more consistently. Favors can also do damage on the boards—he uses his long arms and 6'10" frame well to box out and hit the glass.
With another year of experience under his belt and a potential playoff run, expect big things from Favors, especially with Millsap or Jefferson out of the picture.
Washington Wizards: John Wall
A knee injury has kept John Wall off the floor in 2012-13 thus far, but when he returns the hyper-athletic point guard will return to his status as the best player for this woeful Washington Wizards team.
Without Wall, Washington has struggled to score the ball and does not have a suitable replacement for him that can play the role of both scorer and playmaker as well as Wall can. His career averages of 16.3 points, 4.6 rebounds and 8.2 assists are stellar, even if he did not show much growth from his rookie to his sophomore campaign.
With Bradley Beal, Jordan Crawford, Nene and Kevin Seraphin on board, the Wizards have more talent than they have had at any point during Wall's brief career, and he should thrive as a passer with teammates who can actually finish and a backcourt partner in Beal that can move without the ball and effectively space the floor.
He still needs to develop his defense and outside shooting, but unless Beal takes an unexpected developmental leap in his second season, there is no question that John Wall will be Washington's best player in 2013-14.