Key Players for Every NBA Team This Upcoming Season

Louis Sklenarik@@mr_take_overContributor IIISeptember 15, 2012

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 25: Chris Bosh #1, Dwyane Wade #3 and LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat celebrate during a rally for the 2012 NBA Champion Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on June 25, 2012 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

When it comes to the NBA, every team has a key player whom not a lot of people think about. Sure, the Heat are going to be really good because they have LeBron James. However, without Dwyane Wade, perhaps, they would be a little easier to contend with.

Those are the players we're going to look at over the course of this article, the other key players for every NBA team. These are the players who will make or break either a team's championship hopes or maybe their chances of being a better team.

Along with a key player, I'll also analyze another player whom I think will develop more going into this year, almost like a "watch out for this player" kind of thing.

Boston Celtics

Key Player: Kevin Garnett, C/PF

Much like last season, the Celtics will rely heavily on Kevin Garnett to make a strong playoff run. With the departure of Ray Allen, it will certainly put even more pressure on KG to be an impact player every night.

He showed signs of his All-Star form late last season, but it wasn't enough to get past the eventual champion Miami Heat. Much like last season, the Celtics will go as far as Garnett will let them go.

Key Development: Avery Bradley, SG

With Allen now gone, it's time for Avery Bradley to step up and play like the really good player he could possibly be. Bradley had a good season least year, at times starting over Allen. However, he only averaged a little less than 8 PPG, but more shots and opportunities could turn Bradley into the next big thing in Boston.

Brooklyn Nets

Key Player: Joe Johnson, SG

We already know that Deron Williams is really good. What we don't know is how much better Joe Johnson will make the new-look Nets. In 2006, Johnson averaged 25 PPG, and in the last two seasons, he has barely averaged 18. His field-goal percentage has also dropped along with the number of shots he is taking per game. In order for the Nets to get better, they need a big season out of Johnson.

Key Development: MarShon Brooks, SG

MarShon Brooks ranked third among rookies last season in scoring (12.6 PPG) and will be a big threat for the Nets this season off the bench. Brooks' development should only continue to grow this season, giving the Nets a vital scoring option off the bench.

New York Knicks

Key Player: Amar'e Stoudemire, PF

Carmelo Anthony makes the Knicks a playoff contender. Amar'e Stoudemire, when healthy and energized, makes the Knicks championship contenders. Stoudemire struggled last season with both injuries and play, and it hurt the Knicks a lot.

He had been rumored to be working with Hakeem Olajuwon this offseason, which has been determined to be true, according to Sporting News, so hopefully that will help. The Knicks aren't going anywhere without their All-Star forward.

Key Development: Iman Shumpert, PG

While Iman Shumpert will be hurt for some of the 2012 season, he will be a major developing piece for the Knicks' future. He will benefit plenty from working with the recently signed Jason Kidd. Shumpert has to work on his shot selection and his passing. He has the ability to turn into a really dangerous player. 

Philadelphia 76ers

Key Player: Andrew Bynum, C

The 76ers took a huge risk in trading for the expiring contract of Andrew Bynum. They're going to have to convince him to stay after the season, and a second straight playoff appearance would definitely help those negotiations.

In order for that to happen though, Bynum would have to lead the team. He cannot afford to have a bad season going into a possible free-agent situation. The trade could work out well or poorly for both parties.

Key Development: Evan Turner, SG

Evan Turner saw his field-goal percentage, shots per game and points per game all go up during his sophomore season in the NBA. With Andre Iguodala now out of town, it's time for Turner to take the next step. If Philly wants to make another run at the playoffs, they're going to need a big season out of Turner.

Toronto Raptors

Key Player: Kyle Lowry, PG

Kyle Lowry put up a career high in points per game last season in Houston and gave every indication that he could be a main piece of the Raptors organization moving forward. The Raptors need Lowry to be a major contributor to this team in order for them to get better. Toronto hasn't had a winning season since 2007.

Key Development: Jonas Valanciunas, C/PF

Jonas Valanciunas was the team's fifth overall pick in the 2011 draft. The 6'10" forward has decided to come to the NBA this season after a very successful season overseas last year where he was named the FIBA European Young Player of the Year. Valanciunas will have to develop at the NBA level this season and show everyone why he was drafted fifth overall.

Chicago Bulls

Key Player: Luol Deng, SF

With the devastating injury to All-Star point guard Derrick Rose, the Bulls are going to need someone to step it up this season. Luol Deng could be just the guy for the job.

Deng has always kind of lived under the hype of the MVP in town, but this could be his chance to shine and save Chicago's season. He saw his field-goal percentage drop significantly last season. That will have to change in order for the Bulls to repeat any kind of season they had last year.

Key Development: Jimmy Butler, SG

The Bulls will need Jimmy Butler to develop a lot more than he did in his first season if they are going to have a good year. He lit up the summer league this year, averaging more than 20 PPG. Butler should get more playing time this season as he continues to develop into the shooting guard of the future in Chicago.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Key Player: Tristan Thompson, PF

We all know about the Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving. The player whom we need to know about next is Mr. Thompson. He had a relatively nice freshman season in the league. However, he will have to get better in order for the Cavs to get better this year. He needs to play more like the fourth overall pick he was in 2011.

Key Development: Dion Waiters, SG

The fourth overall pick in this year's draft had trouble as soon as he came in for workouts this year. He openly admitted that he was out of shape going into the summer league games. He needs to take basketball more seriously if he wants to stay in Cleveland. He is going to have to develop a lot this season in order to become a good NBA player.

Detroit Pistons

Key Player: Greg Monroe, C

Many Detroit fans kept asking when they would see the 22-year-old Greg Monroe finally develop into the player they all thought he could be. Last season, they got their answer. Monroe put up career highs in points and rebounds. If he can continue to develop this season, he could become a force in the league.

Key Development: Brandon Knight, PG

Brandon Knight played much better than anyone expected him to last season. He was second among all rookies in scoring and showed flashes of his talent over the course of the year. He has to work on his shot selection and not turning the ball over as much. However, with another season of development, Knight could become a household name soon.

Indiana Pacers

Key Player: Roy Hibbert, C

With Danny Granger leading the way, the Pacers made the playoffs last season for the second straight year and moved on to the second round for the first time since 2004.

The Pacers then made a bold move by agreeing to match a max offer given to Roy Hibbert this offseason. Hibbert didn't put up "max" player numbers last season, but the Pacers obviously expect big things from him now. He will be Indiana's key player this season if they want to get deeper into the playoffs.

Key Development: Paul George, SG

Paul George's numbers improved greatly last season, and everybody saw how athletic he was in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest. He might be the most athletic 2-guard in the league, and if he continues to develop like he did last year, the Pacers will be a force to be reckoned with.

Milwaukee Bucks

Key Player: Monta Ellis, SG

We know what to expect from Brandon Jennings, however, it seems nobody knows what to expect from Monta Ellis anymore.

Ellis has had injury problems over the course of his entire career, but when he is healthy, he is one of the most dynamic scorers in the game. He only played in 21 games last season but averaged 20.1 PPG in those games. The more games Ellis plays in this year, the better the Bucks will be.

Key Development: John Henson, C/PF

John Henson, the 14th overall pick in this year's draft, will get a chance to play right away, as the Bucks seriously lack depth in their frontcourt. He will have to develop quickly, but I think he has the tools to be a good NBA player. His 7'6" wingspan will make him an instant defensive presence every time he steps on the floor.

Atlanta Hawks

Key Player: Josh Smith, PF

I say that Josh Smith is the key player for the Hawks this year but not because it's up to him if they are good or not. I say it because the better he plays, the more trade value he gives himself for when he is traded this year. I have a weird feeling he will end up outside of Atlanta before the season ends. The better he plays, the more the Hawks will get back for him in the end.

Key Development: Jeff Teague, PG

Jeff Teague blew up last year finally, averaging more than 12 PPG and a career-high 4.9 assists per game. He took a ton more shots and also put up a career-high field-goal percentage of 48 percent. Look for Teague to develop more this year and become a very good starting point guard in this league. Could he be the point guard for many years to come?

Charlotte Bobcats

Key Player: Bismack Biyombo, PF

While Kemba Walker will help the Bobcats, in order for Charlotte to get better in the long run, they need a good year from Bismack Biyombo. He showed flashes of his talents last season, but he needs to show up more consistently, which should happen with more playing time.

Key Development: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF

I hate putting the rookies in this column, but Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will be a huge factor in how good the future Bobcats will be. I think this was a risky pick with a big upside. However, if this pick flops, it'll be a waste of a season for the Bobcats. His athleticism alone should help MKG become a decent NBA player at the very least.

Miami Heat

Key Player: Dwyane Wade, SG

In this Batman-and-Robin situation in Miami, Robin (Dwyane Wade) will have to have another good season for the Heat to repeat as champs. Wade struggled with injuries down the stretch, and it almost cost the Heat big time. Watch for Wade to play less at the end of the next regular season.

Key Development: Norris Cole, PG

Norris Cole showed major flashes of his speed and talent last year but disappeared as Miami got closer to the playoffs. Look for him to play more this season and develop even more into a solid NBA point guard.

Orlando Magic

Key Player: Glen Davis, C

Glen Davis will finally get his chance to start at the NBA level, but what can he do exactly? Davis will at least get his chance to show scouts and GMs that he is cut out to play center in this league.

Key Development: Andrew Nicholson, C/PF

Andrew Nicholson was taken by the Magic in the first round of this season's draft. His development this year will be important for Orlando moving forward. They will get a chance to see if they picked this one right.

Washington Wizards

Key Player: Nene, C

While John Wall will obviously run things in Washington, Nene will help in his second season with the Wizards. He will be a nice one-two punch down low with Emeka Okafor. Nene adds not only a rebound presence but the ability to score and block shots as well. He will make this team better.

Key Development: Jan Vesely, SF

Jan Vesely had a less-than-stellar first season in the NBA, but that doesn't mean he won't turn out to be good. He only played 18 minutes a game, which should change this year. He will get more chances this season, which will show the fans what he is really made of. I expect a good season out of the young talent.

Golden State Warriors

Key Player: Stephen Curry, PG

After a stellar first two seasons in the NBA, Stephen Curry struggled to stay on the court last season, and the Warriors struggled as a direct result. The team is still trying to figure out if he is a franchise player, and I'm not sure if anyone is totally positive at this point. This year will answer a lot of questions for Golden State.

Key Development: Klay Thompson, SG

After a good first year, the Warriors are probably hoping that Klay Thompson can build off both that and a fantastic summer league performance (20.1 PPG). Watch out for Thompson to really take the next step this year and become a solid starting shooting guard.

Los Angeles Clippers

Key Player: Chauncey Billups, PG

We know that the Clippers are one of the better teams in the NBA, but with the addition of a motivated Chauncey Billups this year, they should become a title contender. He missed most of last season after a knee injury but should add that final spark that the Clippers need to make that championship push. Watch out for the Clippers to make a serious run this year.

Key Development: DeAndre Jordan, C

DeAndre Jordan has done nothing but improve in his four years in L.A. Last year, he averaged two blocks a game in his first season as a full-time starter and is still only 24 years old. His numbers have boosted in almost every major category over the course of four seasons. Watch out for Jordan to really make an impact on every game this year.

Los Angeles Lakers

Key Player: Dwight Howard, C

Yeah, we know about Kobe, Gasol and Nash. The key to how far the Lakers go in the playoffs (that's assumed, right?) will be on the shoulders of DH12. If Howard can play at the Defensive Player of the Year level he has been for the last few years, you have to believe that they are the favorites to win it all this year.

Key Development: Jordan Hill, C

With the lack of depth in the frontcourt, the Lakers are going to have to use Jordan Hill a little more than they want to as long as Dwight Howard is out with an injury. Hill hasn't lived up to any hype that he was drafted with at eighth overall a few years ago, but this could be his chance to show he is an NBA player. Watch out for Hill to play a key role off the bench for LA.

Phoenix Suns

Key Player: Michael Beasley, SF

Michael Beasley has never really been given a chance by an NBA team to be the franchise guy he was drafted to be in 2008. The Suns should give him that chance this year. He is still amazingly only 23 years old and hasn't hit his prime yet. His numbers struggled last year, as he had a hard time finding minutes in Minnesota. This year could be the year for Beasley.

Key Development: Wesley Johnson, SG

Wesley Johnson, much like Beasley, was also not given a solid chance after he was drafted fourth overall in 2010. He has struggled adapting to the NBA level and hasn't been making good shot selections. Watch out for Johnson to get more playing time this year and improve a lot.

Sacramento Kings

Key Player: Jimmer Fredette, PG

Jimmer Fredette had a less-than-stellar freshman campaign, and it was noticeable. Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins have both established themselves as key parts for Sacramento moving forward, but nobody is sure about Fredette at this point.

He shot less than 40 percent from the floor, which is a cause for concern. He needs to take better shots and improve this year for the Kings to get better this year.

Key Development: Isaiah Thomas, PG

Isaiah Thomas looked more like the top draft pick last season than Fredette. He had an amazing first season and looked like the point guard of the future. Watch out for him to become a household name in the next few years. For now, however, enjoy watching him, Fredette and recently signed Aaron Brooks battle for playing time.

Dallas Mavericks

Key Player: O.J. Mayo, SG

With Dirk still leading the charge, the Mavs needed more firepower going into this season. O.J. Mayo will definitely add talent to the team, but he still raises questions everywhere he goes. Will he ever live up to the hype with which he was drafted? Working with Vince Carter, one of the best scorers ever, this year should help. Mayo could help Dallas make another run deep into the playoffs.

Key Development: Jae Crowder, SF

The Mavericks are pretty thin at the small forward position, and the rookie Jae Crowder should get some playing time this season because of that. Watch out for Crowder to develop quickly, although his size is definitely a concern.

Houston Rockets

Key Player: Jeremy Lin, PG

Jeremy Lin will be the center of attention in Houston as he comes off one of the most memorable seasons in the history of basketball. He got his big contract, and now, it's time to figure out if he is worth it. So many opinions have been thrown around about the Harvard grad, but this year, we will really get a chance to see what he's made of.

Key Development: Patrick Patterson, PF

Patrick Patterson improved his numbers in every category last season, and he could actually become a starter this season. Watch out for his numbers to spike as he becomes one of the Rockets' main pieces down low.

Memphis Grizzlies

Key Player: Zach Randolph, PF

Zach Randolph had a down year last season, as injuries killed both him and his team. Rudy Gay is the unquestionable leader on this team, but their chance of making a playoff run greatly improves with a healthy and functioning Zach Randolph. If Randolph picks it back up to his normal game, watch out for the Grizzlies to be a threat again this year.

Key Development: Josh Selby, PG

Josh Selby is going to be my pick to really get hot this season. He has the talent to be a very good player at the NBA level but has struggled to get playing time after being drafted so late last year. Selby was the third-highest scorer in the summer league a few weeks ago and was also named co-MVP. Look for him to make more of an impact in Memphis this season.

New Orleans Hornets

Key Player: Anthony Davis, C/PF

The No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft will be the focal point of attention this year in New Orleans. Anthony Davis is one of the most interesting prospects in a long time to come into the league. He has some of the best defensive instincts ever in a drafted player. This year, he will show whether or not the future is bright in Louisiana.

Key Development: Austin Rivers, SG

While Davis stole the headlines in the 2012 draft, Austin Rivers could end up being one of the major steals. He fell to the 10th pick, and that could end up costing eight teams a very skilled player. Rivers has a unique ability to score the basketball, and he should get plenty of chances to show that off this year. How quickly he develops could determine how quickly the Hornets get better.

San Antonio Spurs

Key Player: Kawhi Leonard, SF

With Manu and Duncan still running the show in San Antonio, the team is poised for another great season. However, they need another player to step up so they can make another run at a championship. I believe that player is Kawhi Leonard. He lit up the summer league this year (he was the second-leading scorer) and just seems like the guy who is ready to take the next step.

Key Development: James Anderson, SG

With Manu turning 36 this year, watch out for the Spurs to start looking for a replacement for him soon. It could be James Anderson, who is a good talent but doesn't play that much. Watch out for Anderson to maybe get a little more playing time and show off his skills this year.

Denver Nuggets

Key Player: Andre Iguodala, SF

Andre Iguodala was acquired in a major trade this offseason and could be that star the Nuggets have been missing to make that playoff run. The team is surrounded with talent, and Iggy could be the final piece that they are looking for. He led the 76ers to a playoff appearance last season. It will be interesting to see how it works out this year in Denver.

Key Development: Kenneth Faried, PF

Kenneth Faried had a great rookie season and could be a major piece moving forward for the Nuggets. He scored more than 10 points a game and averaged more than seven rebounds a game as well. Watch out for him to build on a nice first season and take the next step into possibly becoming a starter.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Key Player: Brandon Roy, SG

Brandon Roy comes out of retirement still dealing with knee problems, but it should be fun to watch to see if he can still play at that high level like he did in Portland. He will be a big key to the Timberwolves this year if he can stay healthy.

Key Development: Derrick Williams, PF

Derrick Williams had an OK first season in Minnesota but certainly didn't live up to the expectations of a second overall selection. He didn't get a ton of minutes last year but should get more chances to prove himself this season. Watch out for him to have a breakout season.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Key Player: James Harden, SG

James Harden's struggles in the NBA Finals certainly didn't help his team as they came up just short of a championship. He is also going into his contract year, so expect a big season from the man with the best beard in the league. He has to step up and take better shots if the Thunder want to get back to the finals again this year and come out with a ring this time.

Key Development: Perry Jones, PF

Perry Jones fell way lower than anyone expected in this year's draft. He is a very raw talent but has the size and ability to be a good NBA player. It should be interesting to see not only how he develops this season but also how the Thunder choose to use him. I think with a few years of work he can turn into a really good player.

Portland Trail Blazers

Key Player: Nicolas Batum, SF

Nicolas Batum got paid this offseason, and now, it's time to show that he is worth every penny. Portland already has a solid franchise piece in LaMarcus Aldridge, and now, they need to see if Batum can be that next guy. He has steadily improved every year in the league and is ready to take that next step.

Key Development: Damian Lillard, PG

Damian Lillard was the talk of the summer league this year, grabbing the honor of averaging the most points per game and co-MVP in the process. He was nothing but a surprise, and it will be interesting to see if his terrific summer performance translates into a good rookie season for the Trail Blazers.

Utah Jazz

Key Player: Derrick Favors, PF

Favors was the major piece in the deal that sent Deron Williams away, and now, he is going to be a main part of the Jazz's future. He had a good year last season and started almost half his games. Look for him to be a full-time starter this year. He and Al Jefferson will be a nice combo down low.

Key Development: Enes Kanter, C

Kanter struggled to find minutes last season, and it definitely didn't help him develop very much. The 20-year-old was drafted third overall in 2011 and is still expected to do big things in Utah. Watch out for him to get more minutes and make more of an impact this year.


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