The much awaited NBA season has finally started. As we eagerly watch our favorite teams go at it, it is interesting to note that a few players are primed for a leap in their performance this season.
5. Kevin Love
The departure of LeBron James this season meant that the Cleveland Cavaliers now only has one existing All-Star to fall back on, Kevin Love.
Can you remember how great a player and leader Kevin Love can be back in the Minnesota Timberwolves jersey? His amazing numbers actually placed him within the Most Valuable Player conversation during those years.
Kevin has taken a reduced role and adjusted his offensive role significantly when he played with LeBron James, in the interest of helping the team win.
Now, more than ever, Kevin Love will be asked to reassume that role as the primary go-to option. With a team of young players and a string of role players, the responsibility of carrying the team and showing them the way to be a playoff team will fall on the shoulders of Kevin Love.
Fresh off signing his contract extension, we can expect to see a leap in Kevin Love’s game, statistical improvement as well as greater spotlight to shine.
4. Brandon Ingram
Ever since his draft as the number two pick, Brandon Ingram has been off the radar, partly due to his more hyped teammate Lonzo Ball (plus LaVar Ball of course). That doesn't take away the fact that Brandon has taken huge steps offensively over the short two seasons.
Being able to finish buckets off of contact, being quicker and longer in strides and scoops, all these put Brandon in a special place as a third-year player. Brandon is sometimes compared to Kevin Durant for his lanky frame and cunning offense.
The offseason work of the Lakers young core is perhaps the most reported among the league’s youth. Brandon is no exception, showing lots of physical and court work.
Since the arrival of LeBron, the King has raved about the potential, work ethic as well as a production of Brandon Ingram. His affirmation only adds fuel to a media frenzy and Brandon's motivation to push his game to the star level that he was meant to be.
3. Aaron Gordon
A versatile big man who can handle the ball and defend multiple positions, Aaron Gordon got paid handsomely last season.
He had a meteorite rise in the first 10 games with monster numbers. However, due to a string of injuries and nagging physical issues, that stellar performance was overshadowed.
This 2014 number four draft pick has quickly established himself as an athletic forward whose offensive intensity and growing leadership makes him worth the four years 80 million contract.
His offseason was mostly hard work and dedication.
Known to peers as a hard worker, Aaron Gordon has yet to play a full season since his improved stats. With a clean bill of health this year, Aaron definitely can showcase the full suite of his arsenal as the leader of the Orlando Magic squad.
2. Julius Randle
Julius Randle had been a big anchor for the pre-LeBron Lakers for the past few years. During those lackluster years of Lakers history, Julius was a steady double-double per night player.
With his recent move to the New Orleans Pelicans, Julius is catapulted to a bigger role and bigger shoes to fill. With Rajon Rondo and DeMarcus Cousin out of Pelicans, the only remaining All-Stars are Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday. Julius would have an opportunity for more meaningful minutes.
If he can bring his usual intensity at the post, playmaking ability on the weak side as well as athleticism during a transition, Julius just might earn the trust from coach Alvin Gentry for more sixth man minutes or even a starting role. Given his per 36 minutes statistics, an increased role would definitely give him more instances to wow the Pelican fans and establish a leap in his reputation around the league as a steady sixth man.
1. Tyreke Evans
Already a solid starter in his 9-year career, Tyreke Evans have been on a statistical decline since his amazing rookie season. Last season, he reclaimed his status as a versatile player and made jumps back to near his career averages of 16.5 points per game, 4.8 rebounds per game and 5.1 assists per game.
One brilliant highlight is his improvement in points from 11.6 in 2016/2017 to 19.4 in 2017/2018. That was a welcoming leap and is a less mentioned reason for the Indiana Pacers’ dark horse qualification into the Eastern playoffs.
Coach Nate McMillan’s style of hustle and tough defensive stance rings well with Tyreke and can only help him develop his game further. With Victor Oladipo being the newly minted leader and growing chemistry between the two veterans, one can expect Tyreke to flourish even more.