This list is about players I’m looking forward to seeing back on the court. There is no particular order so don’t get mad at me.
1. Kobe Bryant – I don’t know if this will be Kobe’s last season but I just want him to finish the season playing. His last great season was 2012-13 and he averaged 27 ppg on 46% shooting. He played in 78 games before going down with that Achilles injury. Since then he has only played in 41 games over the past two seasons. His shooting has gotten worst and he just looks like an old guy taking a bunch of shots. Kobe has been cleared to resume basketball activities; Coach Scott has said he wants to limit his minutes on back-to-backs. We’ll see when the season starts if Kobe can stay on the court for limited minutes. The Lakers are not title contenders but if Kobe plays the majority of the season and looks decent it will be a great story to follow.
2. Paul George – After breaking his leg in the Blue & White scrimmage game George was expected to miss the entire season. He returned to play in six meaningless games for the Pacers. Before the injury he was a two time All-Star who got better every season. He is one of the best two-way players in the game today and he led the Pacers to back-to-back Conference Finals. The Pacers are a different team now and Larry Bird wants George to play Power Forward. At 24 George is an exciting young talent who should bounce back from his injury. Playing major minutes at Power Forward is another story but it will be great seeing PG13 on the floor again.
3. Wesley Matthews – The guy knocks down three pointers. During the 2013-14 season he finished 5th with 201 three pointers made. Despite being limited to only 60 games last season he finished with 173 three pointers and finished 9th in the league. Matthews is coming off an Achilles injury and got a max contract from the Dallas Mavericks. He won’t be available at the start of training camp but he’s working hard to get back. Can he live up to his new contract? Will he help the Mavericks get back into the playoffs? He bet on himself and he got rewarded for it. He’s solid on both ends of the floor and if he comes back close to 100% he should fit right in on this Mavs team.
4. Carmelo Anthony – Outside of the strike shorten season; last season was the first time Carmelo failed to play in 65 games. He was limited to only 40 games due to knee surgery. His shooting numbers were down across the board whenever he played. The Knicks were horrible and most of the blame went to Carmelo. The Knicks added some decent pieces in the off-season and Carmelo should be ready to prove he is still an elite player.
5. Alec Burks – Burks had a career year during the 2013-14 season. He played in 78 games although he only started 12. He averaged 14 ppg while shooting 45% from the field and 35% from beyond the arc. He signed a four-year extension in October and he was gradually improving as a player. However he suffered a left shoulder injury had surgery and was limited to 27 games this past season. As a starter he was getting more minutes but often left games due to his shoulder. The Jazz can use more firepower especially with Dante Exum expected to miss time. A core of Rudy Gobert, Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks will allow the Jazz to compete for a playoff spot in a tough Western Conference.
6. Jabari Parker – Parker had a slow start to his NBA career. As the season went along he was starting to figure it out and played better. He increased his scoring, rebounding and shooting percentage from November to December before he tore his ACL and missed the rest of the season. The Bucks made some trades and managed to make it to the playoffs. They have size at every position and were very good on the defensive end. They need help scoring the basketball and that’s where Parker comes in. He is someone who can create his own shot. As he plays he will get better at creating for others. He didn’t shoot the three pointer well in his first season but he didn’t take many three pointers, only 16 in 25 games. Parker should have a bounce back season as the Bucks try to make the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2002-03 and 2003-04 seasons.