New Year's Resolutions for NBA's Top Stars
It’s tough to come up with New Year’s resolutions for the NBA’s top stars, like LeBron James and Kevin Durant. If we were talking about guys with obvious holes in their games, there’d be no problem. Just watch:
Nick Young? Pass the ball once in a while.
Kendrick Perkins? Quit turning it over every time you touch it.
Austin Rivers? Go back to college.
That stuff’s easy, but what do you tell King James, who totally dominated 2012, to improve on in the coming year?
Don’t worry, everybody’s got something they can resolve to fix or sustain in 2013, no matter how spectacular they were in 2012. We’re taking the NBA’s brightest stars onward and upward in 2013, thanks to a fresh batch of New Year’s resolutions.
Note: All stats accurate through games played on Dec. 29, 2012.
Kevin Durant: Be Assertive
Kevin Durant averages 1.6 points per shot, which is the best figure of any non-center in the NBA. His teammate, Russell Westbrook, ranks 84th in the league with a 1.15 points-per-shot average.
Guess who shoots the ball more often.
Though Westbrook holds only a slim advantage in field-goal attempts, the Oklahoma City Thunder would be far better served by allocating a few more looks to Durant, the league’s most efficient wing scorer.
It’s hard to criticize anything about OKC’s offense, as it’s already one of the most efficient in the NBA, but imagine how much better it’d be if Durant absorbed a few of Westbrook’s team-leading 18.4 shots.
Instead of four or five ill-advised 17-foot jumpers from Westbrook—which he makes at a 36 percent clip—maybe Durant could use those possessions to toss in a few more threes or get to the line.
Obviously, we’re nitpicking, as KD is the league’s second-best player and a truly elite scorer. For the sake of his team, which was right on the cusp of greatness in 2012, he’s got to be more assertive in 2013.
Carmelo Anthony: Sustain, Sustain, Sustain
A lot of New Year’s resolutions call for changes, but for Carmelo Anthony, 2013 will be all about staying the same. That’s because Anthony has already made the necessary tweaks to take his career to the next level.
In 2012, Melo added a renewed defensive intensity, improved perimeter shooting and an increased willingness to operate out of the post. His revamped game and focus on leadership have been huge reasons for the New York Knicks’ terrific performance so far this season.
Big changes are on the horizon for the Knicks: Amar’e Stoudemire is nearly ready to return and Raymond Felton is set to miss as many as six weeks with a broken finger. Besides all that, a regression in three-point shooting and a spike in turnovers are on the way—the Knicks’ rates in those areas are almost certainly unsustainable.
In the face of these impending alterations, Melo’s ability to sustain his new-and-improved performance will be key in 2013.
Chris Paul: Prepare for Launch
Chris Paul doesn’t get off the floor much these days—he leaves that to some of his springier teammates—but in 2013, CP3 and the Los Angeles Clippers are primed to rocket off of the launch pad on a course set for an NBA title.
What seemed impossible for decades is now reality: The Clippers are an elite team, and might even be the league’s best.
Heading into 2013, Paul must resolve to propel the Clippers into the stratosphere.
We all know how he picks his spots until the fourth quarter, when he typically takes over. In this instance, he’ll have to apply that extra gear to the latter portion of the season. As the Clips rocket down the stretch, Paul will have to hit the afterburners, pushing his team to heights it's never reached.
With a deep bench and great chemistry, the Clippers have a chance to make a legitimate run at a title. It’ll be up to Paul to propel them from “good” to “great.”
James Harden: Market a Eurostep Instructional Video
In today’s NBA, it’s all about expanding your brand. James Harden did a pretty good job creating a marketing niche for himself as the league’s most facially hirsute star, but there’s room for him to branch out.
As the Association’s preeminent practitioner of the Eurostep, Harden needs to take his pet move’s ever-growing popularity straight to video.
Sure, there are plenty of other Eurosteppers out there; Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade and Manu Ginobili all use it to great effect. But nobody employs the deceptive one-on-one weapon more often than Harden.
Think like a businessman, James. How about “Eurostep Up: Hardwood Dreams” or “Eurosteppin’ Out,” starring James Harden? The possibilities are endless and every rec league wannabe (including this author) would totally buy it.
David Lee: Rekindle Old Relationships
When David Lee left the New York Knicks three years ago, he ceased to exist in the consciousness of a huge portion of NBA fans and media. That’s what happens when you leave the Big Apple and head to a terrible team in the Pacific time zone.
But with his Golden State Warriors challenging for a top-four seed out West and Lee putting up the NBA’s only 20-point, 10-rebound average, it’s about time he reacquainted himself with the rest of the league.
Yeah, he’s still a suspect defender, and he might not end up on many highlight reels, but his unstoppable ambidextrous moves on the block and his underrated court vision have combined to make him the NBA’s best offensive big man.
Of course, if you don’t stay up until after midnight on the East Coast, you probably had no idea Lee was having such a spectacular year.
You can bet that if the Warriors continue their trajectory toward the playoffs and Lee manages to make it into the All-Star Game, he’ll be able to remind those who thought he disappeared that he’s been here all along.
Kobe Bryant: Keep It Together
Kobe Bryant might have figured there would be an adjustment period when the L.A. Lakers added Dwight Howard and Steve Nash over the summer, but there’s no way he could have foreseen just how massive his team’s struggles would be.
Sitting at a disappointing .500 thanks to injuries, coaching turnover and atrocious perimeter defense, Bryant’s Lakers are rarely mentioned in the championship conversation many predicted they’d dominate this season.
Kobe’s performance hasn’t been the problem, though. His career-high shooting numbers (including a true shooting rate of 59 percent) have been one of the lone bright spots in a gloomy Laker season.
But we all know how ugly things can get when Kobe feels the need to do everything on his own.
So far, he’s been keeping himself under control, and it’s hard to imagine things getting worse for the Lakers than they were in November of 2012. But if L.A. continues to hover on the periphery of the playoff picture as springtime approaches, there’s always the risk that Kobe could combust.
He’ll have to keep it together in 2013.
LeBron James: Solve World Hunger
What else does he have left to accomplish?
After winning an MVP, a Finals MVP, an NBA title and an Olympic gold medal in 2012, LeBron James is pretty much out of items on his bucket list.
He’d probably say that he’s after multiple championships, but that’s so redundant. James needs to aim higher, tackle even tougher challenges.
If world hunger is too big a task for King James to handle in 2013, maybe he could become a scratch golfer or write a symphony. Laugh all you want, but with the way he’s dominated basketball, who’s to say what’s beyond his reach?
All kidding aside, James has actually improved as a player since last season. He’s hitting shots at a career-best rate, and he’s playing all-league defense without even touching anyone for weeks at a time.
Adding another ring in 2013 is a solid goal for James, but we should all just resolve to spend more time savoring the most dominant player in the league while he’s at the height of his powers.