Wallace, a 6’7 forward, has earned a reputation as a solid defender. His best season, 2010, he scored 18.2 ppg and grabbed 10 rpg. As his addresses have changed from Charlotte to Portland to New Jersey and now to Brooklyn, Wallace has been a little up-and-down recently, but last season he shot a career-high in three-point shooting with a 38.5%. With new excitement and new teammates, Wallace should have a great year as a piece of the Nets’ puzzle.
Before joining the Celtics, Terry spent time with the Atlanta Hawks and the Dallas Mavericks, where he won a championship with Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd in 2011. Between 2005 and 2009, Terry had his best seasons, shooting around 50% from the field. Two of the last three seasons, he has shot around 43%. Over the past three seasons, Terry’s points per game has dropped, as have his minutes. Now that Terry has joined the Boston Celtics, essentially replacing Ray Allen, he is surrounded by the most talent of his career. Terry, a solid shooter and team player, should fit nicely into the Celtics’ system.
Stoudemire, who turns 30 in November, has had some amazing playoff runs. In the 2005 playoffs, he averaged almost 30 ppg, over 10 rebounds, and two blocks per game. He had another good run in 2007. That was about six years ago. His first two playoff runs with the New York Knicks have been his personal worst. Last season, Stoudemire showed a sharp decline in overall production from points and rebounds to shooting percentage and field goal attempts. This season, Stoudemire hopes to prove that was not a sign of things to come. And, after two first round exits, the Knicks are hoping to make the playoff semi-finals. ESPN reported that Stoudemire might be out four to five weeks with a knee injury, so his recovery will be another thing to watch for.
The motor of the Celtics, Kevin Garnett, is the reason they are always in the conversation of the league’s best. The 17-year pro has started to show signs of decline during the regular season, but in their last playoff run, a bitter run to game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Garnett proved he still plenty left in the tank. In the 2012 playoffs, Garnett gave the green team 19.2 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 1.4 bpg, and 1.2 spg, which are hovering around his career averages. That came after four straight years of scoring decline in the playoffs, so it was a welcome sight to Celtics’ fans. And, as long as Garnett shows up like that in the playoffs, the Celtics will be in the running to win it all.
When I spoke to Jrue Holiday, a UCLA product, at the Snoop Dogg three-on-three Tournament, before the All-Star game in Los Angeles a few years back, he proved to be a genuine human being. I asked him what he could do to help the Sixers make a run to the playoffs. He said he wanted to keep doing what he had been doing and improving. And, Holiday has continued to improve. He posted his best season yet in 2011, producing 14.0 ppg, 6.5 apg, and nabbing 1.5 steals per game. In each season as a professional, Holiday’s steals have increased, showing his desire to improve as a defensive player. Holiday continues to improve and show he has All-Star potential, and this looks to be another great season for the quick and agile guard.
Last season, Pierce looked like his usual self, putting up 19.4 ppg and shooting 36.6% from down town. But, Pierce has actually shown signs of wear and tear in the playoffs the last few seasons, bottoming out with two and his lowest playoff outputs of his career, 18.8 (in 2010) and 18.9 (in 2012). The Celtics would probably be more successful if they limit Pierce, Garnett, and Terry’s numbers some, in order to save their veteran legs for the playoffs.
As Lopez has focused more on his offensive game the last three seasons, other parts of his game have suffered. In order for the Nets to achieve their potential, Lopez will have to focus on big-man skills like rebounding and defense. His rebounds fell to 3.6 rpg last season from 6.0 the year before. That’s just unacceptable. He’s shown he has the potential—his first two seasons he averaged around 8 rebounds per game. That’s not enough either, but he was giving them something. Now with a solid team around him, it will be interesting to see if this season if the young center can achieve his great potential
Although Rondo is not the best shooter, he commands the Celtics with excellence and precision. He leads the break and distributes the ball, arguably, as good as anyone else in the league. Rondo proved this last season when he improved his assists per game to a league-leading 11.7 apg. Overall, Rondo has improved his assists per game for five consecutive seasons. Can he do it again?
Bynum may be the most intriguing story in the division because of his health issues and his All-Star potential. After years of knee problems, 7’0 Bynum had his best season as a pro last year. He gave the Los Angeles Lakers 18.7 ppg, 11.8 rpg, and 1.9 bpg, while shooting 55.8% from the field. More minutes and more touches, which Bynum had last season, should come his way in Philadelphia as well, especially with the departures of Andre Iguodala and Louis Williams. Will Bynum stay healthy? Will he prove capable of leading a franchise? We’ll see.
No surprises. One of the best point guards in the league—the other being Chris Paul and probably Rondo—leads this list of players to watch. After several solid seasons with the Utah Jazz, All-Star point guard, the 6’3 Deron Williams is moving to Brooklyn, where he hopes to lead the Nets to new heights. Last season, Williams gave the Nets a terrific 21.0 ppg, 8.7 apg, and 1.2 spg. As Williams, Wallace, and Joe Johnson join forces, it will be fun to watch what this team can do.