We all know the names of the NBA’s biggest stars. The likes of LeBron, Curry and Westbrook are a big reason we tune in every night; to watch these amazing athletes push the boundaries of human athletic achievement.
They are the All-Stars we know and love, the guys with the jerseys we buy and follow on social media to see what they are up to.
They are at the top of the NBA, but what about the players a bit below them? The NBA is full of great athletes and just because you aren’t considered a franchise player yet doesn’t mean you aren’t worthy of attention.
Every year players emerge from the woodwork as a change in their situation allows them to fully show off their skill set. All the players I’m about to mention have had a change this offseason which should allow them to up their production.
Here are my top 5 ones to watch players for the 2017/18 NBA season.
5. Dion Waiters - Miami Heat
After a underwhelming start to his NBA career Dion Waiters seems to have found a home in South Beach, Miami. He averaged 15.8 points and shot a career high beyond the arc (39.5%) last year and was the main reason why Miami finished 30-11 and went on a 13 game winning streak.
Dion played in 11 of those 13 games, scored an average of 20.6 points in those contests and shot over 50% from the field. Waiters is one of those guys who can catch fire without any warning and suddenly torch your defense for 10 quick points.
I feel that Dion will have a great season this year which could put him in contention for an All-Star nod, all he needs to do is find the same groove he played with at the end of last year, that confidence and then it will be within his grasp.
4. Dwight Howard - Charlotte Hornets
Ever since he was traded to Los Angeles in 2012 Dwight Howard has been on a steady decline which has been unbearable to watch. He was once the best big man in the league, leading the NBA in blocks, grabbing every rebound in sight and posterizing everyone around him.
Now it seems like his coaches don’t want to use him enough in the offense. He tied his career low in field goal attempts per game last year with 8.3. Now that he’s been traded to Charlotte he has the chance to bounce back on an up and coming team with a pure stud in Kemba Walker.
Howard still has a lot left in him as a player and if Charlotte’s coaching staff can get him to buy in on what they are doing then I expect to see Dwight return to his All-Star standard. He could easily average 17-19 points a game along with a tonne of rebounds and blocks.
3. DeAndre Jordan - LA Clippers
This is easily the biggest season for DeAndre Jordan in what will be his 10th year in the league. For the past 6 seasons he had Chris Paul serving up everything on a plate for him, now that CP3 is in Houston DJ will find he no longer gets the high quality passes he’s used to.
This puts more pressure on him to create for himself, something he’s never been asked to do before. He lead the league in field goal percentage for the past 5 seasons purely because all he did was convert lobs and putbacks.
The Clippers will need more offense from him and Blake Griffin next year if they are to still make the Playoffs, but Jordan now has a wealth of experience to draw on and I expect him to rise to the challenge and up his scoring by at least 5 points a game.
2. Avery Bradley - Detroit Pistons
Due to cap space, the Celtics needed to trade Bradley to make space to sign Gordon Hayward. This meant shipping Bradley to Detroit for Marcus Morris, a great trade for the Pistons.
The Pistons had one of the better defenses last year ranking 7th in opponent points per game at 102.5. The main reason they didn’t make the Playoffs in a weak Eastern Conference is because they had no outside shooting presence.
They ranked 28th in 3 point shooting percentage with 33%, a dismal number indeed. Bradley shot 39% from the 3 point line on 5 attempts per game. This is a match made in heaven. Bradley allows the Pistons to keep their defensive identity as well as providing them with the much needed outside shooting and veteran presence in the locker room.
There is now an opportunity for Bradley to show he has the makings to lead a team back to the Playoffs, something that could easily get him an All-Star selection.
1. Myles Turner - Indiana Pacers
Paul George is gone from Indiana in a trade deal that had many people shaking their heads. The Pacers gave up a multiple All-Star in his prime for a role player and a benchwarmer. Oladipo still has some potential and Sabonis could be decent, but Indiana took a massive step backward.
Every cloud has a silver lining though.
The stage is set for Myles Turner to have a monster of a season. The 3rd year big man averaged 14.5 points and 7.3 rebounds last years as the 3rd option behind George and Teague. He also blocked 2.1 shots a game which was 3rd best in the NBA and opponents only shot 53% within 6 feet when guarded by him, good enough for 5th in the league amongst qualified players.
Turner is now without question Indiana’s main guy and his numbers should sky rocket this season. A 20 point, 10 rebound and 3 block season is well within his grasp and he should be a favorite to win this season’s Most Improved Player award.