With the NBA season fast approaching, players from both the contending teams and the poor teams will be under pressure to make a stamp on the 2018/19 season. In no particular order, here are our 10.
1: Kawhi Leonard
The new Raptor will have to show why Masai Ujiri took a risk on him coming out of contract, especially after sitting nearly all of the 2017/18 season with that mysterious quad complaint. Can the ‘claw’ return to the form that saw him finish in the top three of MVP voting in 2017 and lead the Raps out of the east?
2: Andrew Wiggins
Since being taken with the first pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, Wiggins has not reached the heights Wolves fan would expect and while stats alone would say Wiggins has grown into a tremendous player, his character and mentality have come under fire. Wiggins’ mental fragility has even been questioned by his own teammate Jimmy Butler. Wiggins and teammate Karl-Anthony Towns will need to lead their team to a playoff series win to relieve the pressure.
3: Blake Griffin
Since moving to Detroit, Griffin has underachieved and appears to have lost the pure athleticism that made him a superstar at the Clippers. As the best player on the team, it is imperative his Pistons do not underachieve again this season and must be in the playoffs come March.
4: Carmelo Anthony
It is slowly becoming clear that Carmelo Anthony’s best basketball is behind him and whether he can be a good contributor on a contending team is unclear. If things go poorly for the former All-Star this season, he may be out of chances to be a part of a title team.
5: Zach LaVine
The high-flyer isn’t under pressure to win, more so to validate the contract of four years and $78 million he got from the Bulls during the off-season. LaVine has not yet shown a capacity to expand his game past an inefficient scorer and will need to do so to prove why the Bulls put their faith in him.
6: Russell Westbrook
The 2016-17 MVP was bounced out of the playoffs in the first round by Utah last season, after many expected them to be a serious threat to Golden State’s reign over the western conference. Their point guard has his best team since Kevin Durant left and with the team more balanced without Carmelo Anthony, they should be looking to make the conference finals this season.
7: Dwight Howard and John Wall
One will determine how good the other will be in DC. John Wall and Dwight Howard have both been locker room headaches, especially Howard and injecting him into an already combustible Wizards locker room could be catastrophic. However, based on pure talent if they work well, the Wizards could finally be the team they have been claiming they are for the past four seasons.
8: Kyrie Irving
The Celtics point guard was unable to take his side deep into the playoffs last seaon sue to a knee complaint, they did so without him. Now, with his former teammate LeBron James gone from the East, it is his sides for the taking. Anything less than a Finals appearance will be a massive disappointment for the team.
9: Anthony Davis
The Pelicans superstar is about to hit his prime and already has a Hall of Fame level career in place, without the real winning. The excuse that he is young so it’s harder for him to lead the team is no longer a good excuse and he must turn his side into a contender, by doing so he might be the MVP of the league this season.
10: Jimmy Butler
The Timberwolve called out his teammates last week, accusing them of not wanting to do what it takes to win and then requesting a trade. Regardless of if he is traded, Butler is carrying himself like a player that has achieved enough to call people out, even though he has never been the best player on a good team. This is the season to back up all his talk.