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9 NBA Players with the Most to Prove in the 2012 Season

Brad WashingtonCorrespondent IIJune 30, 2011

9 NBA Players with the Most to Prove in the 2012 Season

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    With the Dallas Mavericks winning the NBA Finals in perhaps one of the most entertaining NBA seasons ever, The 2012 NBA Season perhaps will be even better with the likes  of the Bulls, Heat, thunder etc reloading up to make another title run.

     While there are questions on whether a pending lockout could possibly happen, there are NBA players who now have stigmas to overturn and questions to be answered this upcoming season.

    Carlos Boozer, Russell Westbrook, and LeBron James and 6 others all have question marks and stigmas clouding their name coming into the 2012 season

1. Carlos Boozer: Chicago Bulls

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    Carlos Boozer has been called under fire for having another disappearing act in the playoffs. This time when Derrick Rose and the Bulls needed him most.

     

    What he has to prove: That he can take the pressure off of Rose and shoulder some more of the scoring load so that Rose wont have to create shots that he doesnt have too. He also has to remain consistant through out the playoffs for a legit Bulls title run.

2. Joe Johnson: Atlanta Hawks

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    Joe Johnson has been flying under the radar as a part of the NBA's elite players. While a good player, Johnson has yet to get the Atlanta Hawks over the hump and has always been the  "sleeper pick" in the Easter Conference playoffs.

     

    What he has to prove: This maybe the last hoorah for Johnson as a potential elite player. While he shot a modest 44% from the floor, he shot sub 30% from beyond the arc, a relatively low number for his skill set. June 29th was his 30th birthday and he isnt getting any younger. He must prove that last season was just a bump in the road and see if he can take his game and the hawks to new heights.

3. Pau Gasol: Los Angeles Lakers

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    With his name in the trade whirlwinds for the Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard. Gasol has been labeled as soft from critics and fans alike. This past postseason Pau was used and abused by Dirk Nowitzki as the Lakers embarrassingly bowed out after being swept in the Western Semis.

    What he has to prove: No matter where he goes, he must prove he isn't soft and can step up when hes called on to. With Mike Brown as coach the Lakers will now be a defense first team and Gasol has the opportunity silence his critics and hopefully have a big season and help raise the Lakers back to a championship hunt

4. Russell Westbrook: Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Russell Westbrook is perhaps the most scrutinized player behind LeBron James. His play from the Western Conference Finals has many wondering can Westbrook co-exist next to fellow star Kevin Durant.

     

    What he has to prove: That 1. He can play along side Durant. 2. He isnt a attention-jacker. and 3. He is the man for the job to run the point for the Thunder.

5. Josh Smith: Atlanta Hawks

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    Josh Smith oozes with all-star talent but with his 8th season coming up he has yet to live up to his potential. If Smith can have a career season coming up he and Joe Johnson can take the Hawks to contenders without question

    What he has to prove: Smith has yet to average 20 points or 10 rebounds in a season. If he can make himself into a night-in-night-out 20 and 10 machine, he can prove hes all-star worthy and the sky is the limit for Smith.

6. LeBron James: Miami Heat

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    The self proclaimed King LeBron James has had a NBA Finals he'd rather forget. Although James had another LeBron-esque regular season in 2011, there is alot of holes in his game being magnified ever since his Finals Debacle.

     

    What he has to prove: LeBron has been proving Skip Bayless right for the last 3 seasons, starting from the lost against the Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2009. He must prove he actually does have the drive to win, especially against prime opponents. Also a post game would be nice to add. No reason J.J. Barea and Jason Terry should be guarding James.

7. Rudy Gay: Memphis Grizzlies

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    Rudy Gay is another player with all-star talent but his production has only been regarded as being "decent" play. Gay sat the bench the whole playoff ride as the grizzlies upset the number 1 seeded Spurs. Some have questioned whether Gay can rise up and be the player many envisioned coming out of Uconn 5 years ago

     

    What he has to prove: Some have written Gay off as a "what you see is what you get" player but with him watching his team go on a shortened cinderella run, maybe that could drive him more to play to the talent potential he has. A 24 plus a game season can get the grizzlies from 8 seed to primary contender. Must prove he can maximize his skill set.

8. Rajon Rondo: Boston Celtics

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    With The Big 3 aging by the day, and their time for a last run at being beasts of the east near a close, sooner than later this will become Rondo's team. Alot is expected of him for this upcoming season

    What he has to prove: He must prove that he can actually take alot more of the scoring load and develop a jump shot that critics love to point out. If Rondo can become more of a scorer (obviously not a scorer in the sense of Westbrook and Rose) he can possibly carry the Big 3 deep through the playoffs.

9. Kobe Bryant: Los Angeles Lakers

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    With the re-emergence of Dirk Nowitzki, the duo of Durant and Russell, MVP Derrick Rose, and the Big Three down in Miami, we have all soon forgotten about the beloved Kobe Bean Bryant. With all the negative attention assorted to LeBron and company, Bryant is perhaps planning a vigorous comeback as the top dog in the NBA.

     

    What he has to prove:

    That it's still his league. Bryant isn't getting any younger—he is turning 33 in August, so his clock is ticking. He must prove he is very much still in his prime and he can get the Lakers back on track and back to NBA Finals form.

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