NBA Players Poised to Make Big Comebacks in 2013-14
The NBA players poised to make big comebacks in 2013-14 all missed considerable time last season due to injury.
Of those highlighted on this list, three combined to appear in only 48 regular-season contests, and the other two have not played since 2011-12.
Aches and pains slowed players like Dwight Howard to an extent, while injuries were also responsible for ruining the postseason plans of others like Russell Westbrook and Kobe Bryant, but they were all excluded after being fortunate enough to take part in the majority of their teams' games during the 2012-13 campaign.
Rajon Rondo was also left out because his return date is not as clearly defined at the moment.
Each player featured is ranked according to his projected impact as he returns to the hardwood this fall.
No. 5: Anderson Varejao, Cleveland Cavaliers
While battling injuries over the last two seasons, Anderson Varejao has appeared in only 50 combined games for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
During that stretch, however, he's also averaged a double-double with 12.5 points and 13.0 rebounds.
After being sidelined with complications stemming from a serious blood clot, Varejao's healthy return is expected in 2013-14. Assuming he is able to stay on the floor, he will now be surrounded by more weapons than he's had in Cleveland since the LeBron James era.
In addition to contributing on the defensive end, Varejao will have multiple playmakers on the perimeter in Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters along with Jarrett Jack, who's capable of creating scoring opportunities for him around the basket.
He will also be afforded more space inside as defenses turn their attention at times to rookie Anthony Bennett, the improving Tristan Thompson and newly acquired Andrew Bynum.
It's conceivable that Varejao finishes the 2013-14 campaign by posting a stat line of 12 and 12, while also anchoring the defensive efforts of newly rehired coach Mike Brown.
No. 4: Danny Granger, Indiana Pacers
Danny Granger played in only five games for the Indiana Pacers during the 2012-13 campaign due to knee injuries.
Despite that—led by his replacement at the wing position, Paul George—Indiana finished one win away from qualifying for the NBA Finals.
This season, however, Granger has an opportunity to emerge from the ranks of the forgotten to become the missing piece for a conference-championship team.
Despite trade speculation surrounding Granger this offseason, he is expected to be in training camp for the Pacers later this month.
If he is able to remain healthy and average 14-to-16 points per game, the NBA veteran with a career average of 18.1 points entering his ninth season could be enough to put the Pacers over the top.
No. 3: Andrew Bynum, Cleveland Cavaliers
Andrew Bynum won't be asked to be the best big man in franchise history since Wilt Chamberlain this season.
Those were the expectations that Bynum failed to meet as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers a year ago after being sidelined with injury.
As a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, however, all Bynum will be asked to do now is contribute.
While playing on an incentive-laden contract in Cleveland, the hopes of the Cavs franchise will remain pinned on All-Star Kyrie Irving. Surrounding Irving and Bynum is an assortment of talented pieces that now includes rookie Anthony Bennett, newly acquired Jarrett Jack and developing youngsters Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson.
Bynum's comeback attempt is also strengthened by the return of Mike Brown, with whom he earned his first trip to the All-Star Game while playing for the Los Angeles Lakers in 2011-12.
Though it may be premature to assume Bynum could reestablish himself as an All-Star this year, nightly production of a double-double is certainly within reason once he's healthy enough to receive consistent minutes.
No. 2: Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves
In August, Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN.com reported that Kevin Love was adding a variety of shots to his repertoire while working out with his trainers in Los Angeles.
Besides referencing the floater and one-legged shot that "Uncle Wes" was in the lab developing, Wolfson relayed the words of praise from Love's trainer, Rob McClanaghan.
"He never ceases to amaze me," McClanaghan said. "His endurance is better than ever. He's moving very well."
Assuming that endurance builds heading into training camp later this month, the sky is the limit for Love.
The former All-Star projects to play a full season alongside point guard Ricky Rubio with the Minnesota Timberwolves for the first time since Rubio broke into the league in 2011.
With both of its core players healthy, Minnesota will have the support of Nikola Pekovic, Chase Budinger, rookie Shabazz Muhammad and newcomer Kevin Martin, among other quality role players.
While it will be extremely competitive, the playoffs are not out of the question for Minnesota. That possibility becomes even more real with Love back averaging the 18.3 points and 14.0 rebounds he did during 18 games a year ago before being sidelined with a broken right hand.
No. 1: Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
Derrick Rose will return with a point to prove in 2013-14.
He will also have the backing of a Chicago Bulls team that qualified for the playoffs a season ago without him.
It would be a mistake to assume that Rose forgot the many critics who questioned his toughness at the conclusion of last season. It would also be a mistake not to expect him to enter the year with a chip the size of Chicago on his shoulder because of it.
While it may take time for Rose to regain the speed, quickness and hops that defined his game prior to suffering a torn ACL in 2012, he will get there much sooner than people think.
When he does, the former MVP will once again not only produce at an All-Star level, but he will quickly reemerge as one of the five best point guards in the league.