Sign in to comment!

Menu
Home

Basketball

Nothin' but Net: The unsung will have to sing

The NBA is a star-driven league.

If you need evidence to support this, the last team to win a title without a true superstar on its roster was the 2004 Detroit Pistons. Before the Pistons, maybe it's the 1979 Seattle Supersonics?

For every LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson or Michael Jordan, each of these mega-stars had supporting players who aided in the title quest.

This upcoming NBA season is no different.

While they may not be grunt guys, most title contenders have non-All-Stars who will be essential to those teams' success.

Here is a list of eight important players who don't have the pedigree or checking accounts of their more well-known teammates, but will need to play vital roles in the 2012-13 season:

1. METTA WORLD PEACE, LOS ANGELES LAKERS

World Peace is the only starter on the Lakers who isn't going to the Hall of Fame. Steve Nash and Dwight Howard came in the offseason and Bryant and Pau Gasol have been basking in the L.A. sun for some time, but World Peace will need to play well if the Lakers want to hoist another Larry O'Brien Trophy.

When you have that quartet on the floor, who do you think the opposition will play off? That would be World Peace. He is going to get a lot of open looks, and while outside shooting has never been his forte, World Peace will have to knock down those open jumpers for the Lakers to reach their full potential.

Granted, relying on World Peace is a dicier proposition than trusting my 96- year-old grandmother to renew her driver's license, but he will be needed. World Peace also will be tasked with defending the other team's best wing player.

"Everybody on this starting five has led their own team and has been the man on their team, which is amazing," World Peace said. "It's pretty cool."

2. EVAN TURNER, PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

When the Sixers shipped Andre Iguodala to Denver and brought in superstar center Andrew Bynum, a leadership void was left. Head coach Doug Collins is excellent, but on the floor, there is no captain.

Point guard Jrue Holiday has never embraced the role as outward leader. That might be where Turner steps up. He's now in his third year in the league and really hasn't left a mark. If the Sixers are going to go as far as some think they are, Bynum will need help on the floor and in the locker room. Turner will have to be that guy.

Turner hasn't really been pegged in a certain position and his skill set is such that he can play the 1, 2 or 3. It's time for Turner to prove he was worthy of that No. 2 pick in the 2010 draft. He will need to help Bynum as a jump shooter, help the team as a wing defender and help Collins lead this team, which, while it took Boston to seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals last season, returns only five players this season.

"It's going to give him more opportunity. If you look at last year, we had four guys who wanted to finish games. We had (Lou Williams) and Evan and Jrue and (Iguodala)," Collins told CSNPhilly.com. "Evan is going to take a great step leadership-wise."

3. ANDRE IGUODALA, DENVER NUGGETS

Yes, this is fudging the rules a bit because Iguodala was an All-Star for the 76ers last season. But Iguodala, never loved in Philadelphia, is now in a real position to thrive.

Nuggets coach George Karl will fall in love with Iguoadala's open-floor ability and defense. Karl may send him a box of chocolates because in Karl's system of fast break and pressure defense, Iguodala was sent to Karl as a gift from heaven.

And the Nuggets are looking to make a move. They have lost in the first round of the playoffs the last three years. Denver can be a great regular-season team, but Iguodala has to be the ingredient to get them farther.

Never a great shooter, Iguodala will benefit from playing with Ty Lawson and the rest of the athletes Denver has amassed. He gets out, runs the floor and finishes as well as anyone in the league and his offseason spent winning an Olympic gold medal will only help the Nuggets try to become an elite team.

"Just the way that we linked up together and communicated with each other on the bus rides and practices and late nights playing cards and all of those bonding moments," Iguodala said of his learning experience on Team USA in London. "Those are the things that I'll remember the most and those are the things that brought us together. Those are the things that you don't see but they are valuable on the court. I'm definitely going to learn how to get the most out of the team in those areas off of the court and be a better veteran and a better leader."

4. RAY ALLEN, MIAMI HEAT

Could the Heat get any better? The knock was maybe they lacked outside shooting, so all they did was sign the best 3-point shooter in the history of the game.

Allen is not going to sign another NBA contract when his three-year deal in Miami ends. Why would he? He will win another title at least, work on his golf game and spend time in the Miami sun.

But on the court, he can provide spacing the Heat could exploit. Imagine if Allen gets hot on the floor. His man will have to play him tighter. That takes at least one defender away from clogging the lane and doubling James or Wade, who are two of the best penetrators on Earth.

Yes, Allen may make the Heat even better this year.

5. JASON TERRY, BOSTON CELTICS

It seems appropriate to discuss the Terry signing since he will essentially be replacing Allen in Beantown. "The Jet" is a great replacement for Allen, considering he's a great shooter, a clutch fourth-quarter guy and his intensity will give Kevin Garnett a run for his money.

Rajon Rondo is a spectacular point guard who will probably lead the league in assists again. He turns down wide-open looks at the basket to kick it out and Terry will be one of those recipients. Terry doesn't care about starting, just finishing and Boston will need him to produce late alongside Paul Pierce.

6. PAUL GEORGE, INDIANA PACERS

The Pacers think they are contenders in the East and for the whole thing this season. Danny Granger is a great scorer. Roy Hibbert is a top-10 center. David West is a bruising veteran and leader.

They need quality play out of the two-guard spot and George is ready. This is only his third NBA season and George improved in every major category last year with the exception of field-goal percentage.

Indiana has an unreal front line, but needs consistently strong play from the backcourt. George is ready for that role. He does everything well enough that if his upward trend continues, an All-Star berth is possible.

And, like Iguodala, George gained some perspective from his Olympic experience. George didn't represent the United States in London, but he played on the USA Men's Select Team, which practiced against the Olympic team in July.

"I watched everything," he said. "The way they were eating, their workouts before practice - they were real professional. I want to be an All-Star, of course. I feel like that's in my reach. Nothing aside from the team success, but I just feel like this is a year I can be aggressive and make a name for myself."

7. ANDREW BOGUT, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

The Warriors truly believe they can make the playoffs this season and they're correct. The roster is deep and the most important piece of talent, outside Stephen Curry, is Bogut.

The Warriors will be all right if Bogut can just stay on the floor. He injured his left foot in January while a member of the Milwaukee Bucks, got traded and is trying to make Opening Day.

When Bogut is on the floor, he's a remarkably underrated big man. He's averaged 12.7 points per game and 9.3 rebounds per game in his career. In the 2010-11 season, the Aussie blocked 2.6 shots per game. He is a clogger in the best sense of the word. Bogut is a great defensive center, but it'll mean nothing if Bogut can't stay healthy.

He's played 70 games in a season twice in his seven-year career. The last time came in the 2007-08 season for Milwaukee. The hopes of Golden State in the postseason rely on Bogut and Curry playing a lot of games and at this point, would you trust either to walk down the steps without supervision?

"Bogut's ability to obviously defend, to post up, to pass the basketball gives us a weapon that we haven't practiced with," Golden State head coach Mark Jackson told Matt Steinmetz of CSNBayArea.com. "It definitely affects us. And guys on this team have never played with him before and he's never played with them. But that will take care of itself."

8. BRANDON ROY, MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES

Much like the lowly Warriors, the Timberwolves have playoff aspirations this season. Why shouldn't they? With the best power-forward in the game, Kevin Love, the T-Wolves were a playoff lock last season. Until Ricky Rubio tore his ACL and lateral collateral ligament and Minnesota was back in the NBA Lottery.

Rubio won't be back right away, but Luke Ridnour can handle the point. The Timberwolves felt they needed another player to complement Love and they landed on Roy.

This is the same chap who was, at one point, one of the best young guards in the NBA, but, before the 2011 training camp, retired due to bad knees.

So, the Timberwolves, who haven't made the playoffs since 2003-04, turned to Roy, who has zero cartilage between the bones in either knee. Roy underwent the famous German plasma treatment and is back.

With Rubio down, Roy is about the team's only guard who can create offense. It is a lot to ask for a guy who probably creaks when he walks, but any semblance of the old Roy and that creaking could be music to the Timberwolves' ears.