The wait to see the new look Heat finally ends on Oct. 26th as Miami travels to Boston to open up the season. No question the summer of 2010 was the most active free agent period in league history, and with all of the shuffling, which team really has the most stacked deck? Shatter the Glass continues its position-by-position breakdowns by ranking the expected opening day starting small forwards for each team.
30. Marvin Williams- Atlanta Hawks
Normally 24-year-old players regress if their playing time is cut or if they are recovering from an injury. Marvin Williams only missed one game last season, starting every other contest averaged 30 minutes per game and still saw a dip in his mediocre numbers from the previous year. Forget never averaging 15 points or seven rebounds per game, Williams, a 6’9 forward that plays primarily in the post, has never shot 47 percent from the field. It’s finally time to pull the plug on this bust.
29. Ryan Gomes– Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers took a stab at landing LeBron James this summer, but when King James passed, the team decided to get the next best thing, er, 29th best thing. Gomes was brought in to give Al-Farouq Aminu, the seventh overall selection in the 2010 NBA Draft, some time to develop. A similar player to Marvin Williams, luckily no one chose Gomes prior to Deron Williams or Chris Paul.
28. Dorell Wright– Golden State Warriors
Another causality of Miami’s epic summer, Dorell Wright finally has a chance to log consistent minutes with Golden State. The 19th overall pick from 2004 has only started 56 games in his entire career. Known primarily for his defense, Wright and his three-point range (a 39 percent shooter last season) will fit in with the Warriors’ high-powered offense.
27. Jamario Moon– Cleveland Cavaliers
Two years ago, Jamario Moon was the feel good story of the NBA. After going un-drafted in 2001, he played overseas in Rome, a season in Mexico, had two stints in the NBDL and spent a season in the CBA. Finally landing in the NBA with Toronto, Moon’s above the rim game earned him notoriety. The feel good story comes to an end this season, when he has to replace LeBron James and try to make Cleveland a relevant NBA team.
26. Travis Outlaw– New Jersey Nets
In seven seasons with the Trail Blazers and the Clippers, Travis Outlaw has only started 33 games. No question he is a tremendous athlete, but his poor shot selection, inability to rebound consistently and lapses on the defensive end have everyone questioning why the Nets agreed to a five-year $35 million deal. Entering the off season with as much cap space as anyone, New Jersey was the only team that failed to bring in an elite talent.
25. Omri Casspi– Sacramento Kings
Omri Casspi has a knack for making great first impressions. As a relative unknown playing overseas, Casspi shined during a 2007 preseason exhibition game against the New York Knicks, shooting three-for-four from the field for eight points in just 16 minutes at Madison Square Garden. Two years later, he became the first Israeli born player in NBA history, scoring 15 points in his debut against Memphis. The Kings just hope he can make an even more memorable second impression in 2010.
24. Nicolas Batum– Portland Trail Blazers
Nagging shoulder injuries limited Nicolas Batum during his second year in Portland. Although his NBA season ended in April, the 21-year-old showed he was fully healthy, leading France to an upset of defending champion Spain at the FIBA World Championship. As the top perimeter defender for the Trail Blazers, Batum needs to showcase the offensive skills he showed this summer in the NBA.
23. Linas Kleiza– Toronto Raptors
After a one-year hiatus from the NBA, Linas Kleiza is back, this joining the most international roster in the league. Keliza played his college ball with Missouri, spent four years with the Denver Nuggets before signing a lucrative offer from Olympiakos to play in Greece. Toronto caught a glimpse of what Kleiza is capable of, leading his Lithuania team in scoring during the FIBA World Championship.
22. Corey Brewer– Minnesota Timberwolves
With so many people analyzing the NBA, critics always seem to have a quick trigger finger to label young players busts. Corey Brewer, the No. 7 selection in the 2007 NBA Draft, struggled as a rookie and then tore his ACL in his second season. A strong comeback season last year has everyone remembering why he was the best player on back-to-back NCAA championship teams in Florida. A talented defender and capable scorer, Brewer is poised for a breakout season.
21. Tayshaun Prince– Detroit Pistons
So if you brought a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch one day, but someone offered to buy you lunch at a five-star all you can eat buffet and you can take leftovers home, would you pass it up? The Pistons did, convincing themselves not to take Carmelo Anthony (five-star all you can eat buffet) because it had Tayshaun Prince (the peanut butter and jelly sandwich) during the 2003 NBA Draft. Sure the sandwich lasted one lunch (a championship in 2004) but Detroit is hungry now and reminiscing about the buffet that could have been.
20. Mickael Pietrus– Orlando Magic
Last year everyone (ok, just us) kept wondering why the Magic refused to give Mickael Pietrus more playing time. Averaging just 22.5 minutes per game, the former 11th overall draft selection in 2003 struggled to produce consistently behind Matt Barnes. Now entrenched as the starter for one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, Pietrus needs to provide a consistent scoring threat for the Magic to return to the Finals.
19. Andrei Kirilenko– Utah Jazz
Five years ago the Jazz were throwing piles of money at Andrei Kirilenko to convince him to stay. As he enters the finally year of his contract, Utah is counting down the days until he can leave. Relegated to the bench last season, the Russian forward has lost his knack for shot blocking, grabbing rebounds and his shooting touch. Back into the starting lineup, the Jazz are hoping he shows enough promise to convince someone to trade for him mid-season.
18. Richard Jefferson– San Antonio Spurs
Spending his first year in San Antonio last season, Richard Jefferson saw his career bottom out. Averaging the lowest totals of since his rookie season in points, assists, steals and free throw shooting, Jefferson surprisingly opted out of his contract only to return to the Spurs. Although the production was mediocre by Jefferson’s standards, the 12.3 points per game he posted were the most by a San Antonio small forward since 1996.
17. Josh Howard– Washington Wizards
No one has seen their career diminish as quickly as Josh Howard. Considered the steal of the 2003 NBA Draft, Howard averaged 18 points or more for three consecutive seasons and was an All-Star selection in 2007 as the other starting forward with the Dallas Mavericks. That summer, Howard passed out fliers for his birthday party to teammates following a playoff loss to Golden State, admitted to using marijuana in the off season, was arrested for street racing and then made national news for insulting the national anthem at a charity football game. Recovered from knee surgery, Howard has to prove his talents are worth the trouble this season in Washington.
16. Grant Hill– Phoenix Suns
Most players at age 37 think about stepping aside to become a television analyst or joining an organization’s front office. Not Grant Hill, he’s accepting a larger role with the Suns, trying to fill the scoring void left behind by Amar’e Stoudemire. Playing in the most up-tempo offense in the league (averaging an NBA best 110 points per game last season) Hill needs to speed up, not wind down.
15. Shawn Marion– Dallas Mavericks
No player has a more awkward shooting motion than Shawn Marion. Essentially pushing the ball from his chest towards the basket, he made a career of hitting ugly jump shots, even shooting 35 percent from beyond the arc over in 11 seasons, until last year. For the second straight season in Dallas, Shawn Marion saw his production decline, shooting an embarrassing 16 percent from three-point range. If he doesn’t get his shooting touch back, the Mavericks have proven they aren’t shy about making mid-season deals.
14. Shane Battier– Houston Rockets
The formula is simple: if you want to take a player out of the game, stick Shane Battier on them. When the Rockets surprisingly pushed the Lakers to seven games two years ago, it was Battier drawing the toughest assignment in the NBA, slowing down Kobe Bryant. If the Rockets can finally put together a healthy season, they will be one of the toughest defensive teams in the league.
13. Luol Deng– Chicago Bulls
Luol Deng is now considered the third scoring option in Chicago, which is a great role for him to fill. A gifted scorer, the perimeter finally will open up for him with the addition of Carlos Boozer to the roster.
12. Corey Maggette– Milwaukee Bucks
For 11 years, Corey Maggette was trapped as a big numbers guy on awful teams. His stints with the Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors always had fantasy owners glad to have him on the team, but actual franchises were left with mixed results. Finally playing for a solid playoff contender, Maggette is the key to Milwaukee taking the next step.
11. Danilo Gallinari– New York Knicks
The lone consultation prize following a decade of horrible draft picks, Danilo Gallinari is the only hope for the future in New York. Limited in his rookie year by a bad back, Gallinari became the Knicks’ most popular player last season, displaying an outside shooting touch and a mean streak. Facing Carmelo Anthony and the Denver Nuggets, the 22-year-old dropped 17 points in the third quarter and after each basket, glared, jawed and taunted Anthony. As the only player with some swagger last season, his style of play is exactly what the Knicks have been missing since the Patrick Ewing era.
10. Trevor Ariza– New Orleans Hornets
Beginning opening night on a new team for the third consecutive season, Tervor Ariza is looking to make a home in New Orleans. Replacing the always banged up Peja Stojakovic, Ariza has the hopes of the franchise on his shoulders. New Orleans isn’t looking for him carry the team to the title, its just hoping his presence will be enough to keep Chris Paul in the Big Easy.
9. Andre Iguodala– Philadelphia 76ers
Forever stuck as the other A.I. in the City of Brotherly Love, Andre Iguodala can never do enough. Never known for his defensive presence, Iguodala became Team USA’s shut down defender during the FIBA World Championship. If he can bring the same intensity to his NBA game, then Iguodala won’t be the poster child for a non-franchise player receiving franchise player money.
8. Ron Artest– Los Angeles Lakers
Two shots transformed Ron Artest from a liability to hero. His put back on an air ball clinched Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals and a fourth quarter three-pointer was the last dagger the Lakers needed to defeat Boston. Already known as the toughest perimeter defender in the league, Artest proved he was an asset to a playoff team, finally putting a positive chapter in the book of his career.
7. Danny Granger– Indiana Pacers
Tough to rank someone with Danny Granger’s scoring prowess this low, but he simply needs to grab more than five rebounds per game for the struggling Pacers. Finally paired with a legitimate point guard, Granger could surpass his 25.8 point per game scoring average from two years ago this season.
6. Rudy Gay– Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies quietly put together one of the most unexpected seasons in the league, led by their talented duo at the forward positions. Rudy Gay re-upped with the Grizzlies for five seasons and got to work immediately, as the first front court player off the bench for Team USA in the FIBA World Championship.
5. Gerald Wallace– Charlotte Bobcats
There was no question Gerald Wallace was a talented ball player, but the Bobcats needed more from him last season. Wallace delivered, becoming the first small forward in five years to average 10 or more rebounds per game. Charlotte finished over .500 and reached the playoffs, both firsts in franchise history.
4. Paul Pierce– Boston Celtics
Still one of the best players in the game, Paul Pierce likely has signed his final NBA contract. After his four-year deal, Pierce has indicated he would like to take his talents overseas, something many NBA players have hinted at, but no one of Pierce’s caliber has done it. Coming off his best season shooting from the field, Pierce still has the ability to torch is opponents on any given night.
3. Carmelo Anthony– Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets have reached the playoffs every season of Carmelo Anthony’s career. While that may sound like an achievement, Denver has only advanced out of the first round once. Amazingly the Nuggets have only selected in the first round three times since drafting Anthony in 2003, only one of those picks (Julius Hodge) ever even played a game with Denver and he played just 18 games. Any more questions why Anthony wants out?
2. Kevin Durant– Oklahoma City Thunder
After finishing the regular season as the youngest scoring champion in league history, the most famous player ever to wear No. 35 became a global icon with his amazing performance in leading Team USA to a gold medal during the FIBA World Championship. Every time Kevin Durant touches the ball, the scorekeeper can go ahead and tack on two more points. At just 21 years old, Durant already has become the best pure scorer in the NBA.
1. LeBron James– Miami Heat
Finally playing with legitimate All Stars, the ceiling for LeBron James this regular season is immeasurable. He could average a triple-double for the season, decide he wants to be the scoring champion and in the process, capture his third consecutive MVP trophy. The problem for James is no one cares what he does for the first 82 games, the only accomplishment he needs is to win 16 games this summer.
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