Each season we’re barraged by a handful of names we’ve never heard of littering the box score with an unfamiliar set of syllables. Typically they are unheralded players coming from seemingly nowhere and who ultimately alter the complexion of their team.
Last year we were introduced to San Antonio’s George Hill, who kept the Spurs on life support following the team’s rash of injuries, or even Memphis’ Marc Gasol, who has shed the stigma as “Pau’s younger brother” by coming out of the shadows and into the realm of basketball relevance.
This NBA season won’t be immune to surprises so here’s a glimpse at some names to familiarize yourself with before they sneak up on you this winter.
Following a January 24th switch to insert the 21-year-old forward into the starting lineup, DeRozan responded by scoring in double figures 17 times over the remainder of the season.
Toronto fans will have to be patient with the Compton native, but his high ceiling and rampant athleticism will shine through.
Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City Thunder
The 6’10’’ center saw limited action at the onset of last season but head coach Scott Brooks saw the value in the young big man from Congo and handed Ibaka a heavy workload in April in May.
Ibaka’s effectiveness at the end of last season gives hope that the 21-year-old center will get increased minutes. In the final month of the season, Ibaka’s efficiency was among the elite centers in the game per 36 minutes as Ibaka totaled nearly 15 PPG, 10 RPG, and 2.5 BPG.
Jeremy Lin, Golden State Warriors
Okay, this one may be a stretch in large part because Lin may not see the floor for some time in the Golden State, but his talent isn’t what has the Bay Area buzzing.
More importantly, Jeremy Lin becomes the first Harvard graduate to suit up for an NBA roster since Ed Smith for the 1953 Knicks. As the fourth Harvard grad to ever make an NBA roster, Lin will bring to the table an Ivy League basketball IQ that ranked him as the only player in league history to accrue 1,450 points, 450 rebounds, 400 assists, and 200 steals.