The one with enough talent to make his team a championship contender but is enough of a question mark that if things go wrong, it can derail an entire season.
Whether it’s having difficulty staying healthy, tapping into the potential or filling the obligations of a larger role on a team, all 30 squads have the one X-Factor.
If he catches fire, the team is unstoppable, if the same player slumps or misses some action, it sends the entire team into a tailspin.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the key player to each team in the Atlantic Division.
Boston Celtics- Nate Robinson
Nate Robinson finally found the role he was destined to play in Boston: the high energy sixth man for a championship contender. By taking a less prominent role with the Celtics, Robinson could focus on his scoring prowess and provided a major impact in the post season. Playing his first full season in a Celtics uniform will make him even more of a force.
Make the season: There was no question Robinson was a talented scorer. Inexplicably shevled for a month when in New York, Robinson returned and dropped 41 points on Atlanta. Six weeks later he was dealt to Boston, where he was wanted and has blended in nicely with his new teammates.
Break the season: Robinson is a streaky scorer and even when his shot isn’t dropping, he’ll keep shooting until it does. For a team with seeking its 18th championship banner, he might try to hard and cost the team.
Key stat: .414. Robinson’s three-point shooting percentage while in Boston marks a career high. If he can be confident from downtown, Robinson becomes even more of an offensive threat.
New Jersey Nets- Terrence Williams
Battling for the starting shooting guard position in New Jersey, Terrence Williams enters his second year in the NBA as the guy that can turn the Nets around. After finishing a dismal 12-80 a year ago, New Jersey is seeking for players to step up and Williams is often the first player mentioned for a breakout season.
Make the season: The only knock on Williams is his erratic shooting. Once he improves his shot selection, the Nets will have a terrific third scoring option.
Break the season: Still his shot selection. Williams has shown flashes of being a star, but hasn’t put together a large enough sample to take him seriously yet.
Key stat: 9. The number of games Williams grabbed 10 or more rebounds. If he can provide a larger impact on the glass, his name will be penciled in as the starter.
New York Knicks- Anthony Randolph
Buried on the bench in Golden State, Anthony Randolph is looking for a real chance to make an impression in New York. Against Orlando, Randolph scored 28 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. The potential is there, just the Warriors never took him seriously. As the biggest off-season acquisition, Randolph has tremendous exceptions in New York.
Make the season: The Knicks need to find a way to insert Randolph into the lineup, but his versatility enables him to see action both forward positions.
Break the season: An ankle injury limited Randolph to just 33 games a year ago. The Knicks can’t afford for him to miss anytime this season.
Key stat: 6. The number of times Randolph played 30 or more minutes in Golden State last year. The Knicks will give him every opportunity to be on the floor this season.
Philadelphia 76ers- Elton Brand
Two years ago, Elton Brand was supposed to take the Sixers to the next level. Now, Philadelphia is just hoping he can keep up. Playing in an up-tempo offense hasn’t suited Brand’s style, and shoulder injuries have limited his chances. If Brand can come close to the player Philadelphia expected when signing him to a five-year $80 million deal, the Sixers will be in the playoffs.
Make the season: Prior to joining Philadelphia, Brand was a consistent 20 point, 10 rebound a night player. Finally healthy, 2010-11 could be his breakout season in a Sixers uniform.
Break the season: No matter what he does, it never seems right in Philadelphia. When he plays well , 26 points, 10 rebounds against Milwaukee, his best game of the season, it came in a loss. Brand needs to be on the same page as his teammates.
Key stat: 6.1. The lowest rebounding total of Brands 11-year career. He’s too talented for that number not to improve this season.
Toronto Raptors- DeMar DeRozan
DeMar DeRozan’s second year in the NBA has to be better. The 10th overall selection of the 2009 NBA Draft wasn’t even invited to the annual Rookie-Sophomore game during All-Star Weekend. DeRozan admitted he hit the rookie wall a year ago and looks to become the leader in Toronto.
Make the season: The departure of Chris Bosh puts the scoring load squarely on DeRozan’s shoulders. He closed the season strong, scoring 24 against New York and looks to carry the momentum into this year.
Break the season: The biggest problem for DeRozan was his inability to set up his teammates. Having never dished more than two assists in a game, DeRozan must find a way to become a better passer.
Key stat: .498. The shooting percentage is extremely high for a rookie shooting guard, meaning he doesn’t force his shots. Now the Raptors second scoring option, DeRozan will secure an invite to the Sophomore team during the All-Star break.
Other Keys to the Season by Division