- The Season's Over -

Five NBA Players Who’ll Make a Leap in 2010

July 29, 2009

Golden State Warriors forward Anthony RandolphBy: Zachariah Blott

With a slew of free agents holding new contracts, scores of youngsters showing their thing in Vegas and Orlando, and a couple guys being traded, it’s time to look at who is in a position to pick up their production and positive input to their team next season.

For some of them, it’s a matter of a new environment or teammates providing better opportunities. Most of them, though, showed they were starting to get it by the end of last year and should be able to keep it rolling in 09-10.

Anthony Randolph, PF, Golden State Warriors

2008-09: 18 minutes, 8 pts, 6 rebs, 1.2 blocks, 0.7 steals, 46% FG

Why He’ll Improve: There isn’t much I can say here that most NBA fans don’t already know about this guy. Remember how awesome Jermaine O’Neal was for that stretch with Indiana before he became riddled with injuries? Well, Randolph is going to be that guy next year.

He started getting some serious time on the court in March when he averaged 23 minutes a game, and all of a sudden was averaging 9 points (over 50% from the field), 7 boards, and 2 blocks. In April, the Warriors wisely made Randolph the starter, giving him 32 minutes a night in eight games: all he did was put up 15, 10.6, 1 block, 1.5 steals and an assist-TO rate above 1.

Then Randolph blew up the Summer League two weeks ago with 27 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 3 blocks per game. Those rebounds would have been up around 10 or 11 if he didn’t spend the last game ravaging the Bulls with 42 points, 4 steals and 3 blocks.

He can do everything. Everything. It’s not difficult to see him as the best player from the class of 2008 by as soon as the end of next season.

Prediction: 35 minutes, 18 pts, 11 rebs, 1.5 blocks, 1.5 steals, 50-55% FG

Anthony Randolph Photo Credit: Icon SMI

Mike Conley, PG, Memphis Grizzlies

2008-09: 31 minutes, 11 pts, 4.3-1.7 assists-TO, 1.1 steals, 44% FG, 41% 3FG

Why He’ll Improve: The super-quick point had a so-so rookie season in 07-08. Conley used his speed to trouble defenders, getting into the lane and making some decent passing decisions, but his shot was as bad as advertised before the 2007 draft. The beginning of his sophomore season looked to be the same, until the Grizzlies signed Lionel Hollins as head coach in January. Memphis picked up the pace and played with confidence. Their youth was still evident, but Conley definitely made great strides.

Here are his pre- and post-All Star Game averages last year: 9 pts became 14.5; 42% FG and 37% 3FG became 46% and 44%; 3.6 assists became 5.6; 2.4 A-TO rate became 2.5; 0.8 steals became 1.7. Conley should turn in even better performances next year because his teammates will give him many opportunities to rack up assists, which enables Conley to select his shots more judiciously. O.J. Mayo and Marc Gasol will no longer be rookies, Rudy Gay has always done well in an up-tempo game, and for everything else Zach Randolph is, he can score the ball when it’s in his hands.

If Conley’s doing the smart thing and shooting 1,000-plus jumpers each day this offseason to push his improved shooting numbers even further upwards, his fourth year removed from high school could be a nice one.

Prediction: 36 minutes, 15 points, 7-9 assists, 1.7 steals, 47-49% FG, 45% 3FG

Three more NBA youngsters bound to improve next season after the break…

Greg Oden, C, Portland Trailblazers

2008-09: 21 minutes, 9 pts, 7 rebs, 1.1 blocks, 56% FG, 4 fouls

Why He’ll Improve: Oden had 18 double-doubles in 61 games last season, and he was 1 or 2 rebounds away from 7 more. Did I mention he averaged 21 minutes per game and only 23 in his 39 starts? And that he was coming off microfracture surgery? And that he was a rookie?

In case you didn’t read or see anything about the USA Mini-camp last week, Oden was the dominant defensive player most people remember him being at Ohio State. He owned the paint defensively—blocking shots, intimidating opponents into countless bad shots, rebounding well—because he’s A) starting to get his quickness back 22 months after having knee surgery, and B) he’s becoming a lot more aware of where he needs to be in order to stay out of the foul trouble he was consistently in his rookie year.

With Andre Miller (known for attacking the paint in order to set up lobs to big men) controlling the rock this upcoming year in Portland, an improved understanding of positioning in order to block shots and take charges instead of committing silly fouls, and more time on the floor so that he can continue to average 10.5 rebounds per 30 minutes of burn (that would have ranked Oden in the top-5 last year), Oden could be in for a season that gets the “bust” whispers out of the mouths of some Blazer fans.

Prediction: 27 minutes, 12 – 14 pts, 11 rebs, 1.5 – 2 blocks, 58-60% FG

Jason Thompson and Spencer Hawes, F/Cs, Sacramento Kings

2008-09: These two combined for 22.5 pts, 14.5 rebs, 2 blocks, 48% FG

Why They’ll Improve: Thompson and Hawes are both young and both improved significantly over last season even though the Kings really sucked. After the All-Star break, they went for 26, 17, 2, and 50%.

Throw in a hopefully healthy Kevin Martin, an athletic Tyreke Evans who should pass and shoot enough to get the pair some easy layups and boards, and another year of experience for the first- and second-year big men, and these two could be a nice inside presence that could prevent other teams from focusing all their efforts on stopping Martin and Evans.

Prediction: 30 pts, 19 rebs, 2.5 blocks, 55% FG combined

Zachariah Blott is an English teacher in Portland, not an Amish Charles Dickens character.

14 Comments »Posted by ETB Contributor on Jul. 29, 2009 at 2:32 pm in NBA

14 Responses

You miscounted…

Posted by: Jeremy on July 29th, 2009 at 4:00 pm

Are you sure?

Posted by: Andrew Thell on July 29th, 2009 at 4:01 pm

I realize the 45% 3FG prediction for Conley may be a tad high. I think he’ll approach it, but that may be a bit much.

Posted by: Zachariah Blott on July 29th, 2009 at 8:09 pm

So thinking your Predictions were very bold I wanted to see how you did on some of your predictions from last year and how they panned out.

I found this blog post

Below are the stat predictions you made in this post and what the actual outcomes were.

Al Thornton
Prediction: “19 points, 7 boards and 3 assists with contributions in steals, blocks and threes”
Actual: 16.8 pts 5.2 RBs 1.5 Asts 0.8 Stls 0.9 Blks 0.3 Threes

Marvin Williams
Prediction: “17 points, 7 boards and 1 steal per game with room to be much better.”
Actual: 13.9 pts, 6.3 RBs 0.9 Stls

Beno Udrih
Prediction: “As a starter he put up over 14 points a game with 5 assists, 1 steal and 1 three on stellar shooting: 47.5% FGs and 86.1% FTs. There’s no reason Udrih can’t keep that up for a full season.”
Actual: 11 pts 4.7 Asts 1.1 Stls 0.5 Threes 46.1 FG 82.0 FT

Posted by: Bucko on July 30th, 2009 at 9:41 am

you are high if you think anthony randolph will be better than derrick rose EVER, let alone in the next year.

Posted by: tough juice on July 31st, 2009 at 3:33 pm

Keep an eye on JaVale McGee this year too….

Posted by: Ryan on July 31st, 2009 at 4:37 pm

i understand anthony randolph will be stellar for years to come. but best player of the 2008 class? that’s too much. derrick rose already owned that from day one, and do any of us really think he won’t get even better next year? i’d say randolph could be top 5, maybe 2 or 3. derrick rose will be dominant at the 1. i think he’s all-time.

Posted by: portman on July 31st, 2009 at 11:21 pm

Never happen with Oden…. He is a bust….

Posted by: 2007DraftBust on July 31st, 2009 at 11:50 pm

Nice to see some positive press on Greg Oden. I can’t wait to hear Bill Simmons and man other writers back out of their “Oden is a bust” stance when he starts showing people what he’s really made of this season. GO BLAZERS!

Posted by: gonzoFan on August 1st, 2009 at 3:44 am

What do you think of Rodney Stuckey’s chances for improvement? With Iverson gone, he knows his role and is the man at the point guard position for the Pistons. Also, the additions of Gordon and Villanueva give him guys who spread the floor creating driving lanes and players who knock down (and take) a lot of shots, probably increasing his assist rate.

Posted by: Jungly on August 1st, 2009 at 12:25 pm

how can you even go there with the Oden prediction based on his injury history and absolutely no offensive game.

Greg Oden = Sam Bowie

Posted by: Bingo on August 1st, 2009 at 9:59 pm

All you Oden haters are gonna look pretty stupid next year. I look forward to it. That “Bust” had a PER of 18.1 and had a season comparable to Robert Parish and this was coming off of Micro Fracture surgery. He was VASTLY more mobile at the Team USA practices. By mid season I expect him to be one of the best defensive centers in the game and absolute own the glass.

Posted by: the tatoo on Oden's back on August 2nd, 2009 at 1:28 am

I quoting Norkstroll on Blazers edge here: “Greg Oden, the next Robert Parish (or someone of that second tier of superstars)
The only other rookie with more than 500 points, 400 rebounds, and 65 blocks in under 1400 minutes played. Since 1946. And he ended up in the HOF, 4x NBA champion, 9x NBA All-Star.

And Parish also had initial foul problems that he got under control: Starting out with 5.8 per 36 minutes, he slowly got that down (5.3, 4.5, 4.2, 4.9, 3.3, and then it hovered around 3 for the rest of his long career) while playing more and more minutes. It’s disappointing that Greg had this problem keeping him from getting more playing time, but that is entirely fixable with speed coming back and awareness improving (that year observing the game from the sidelines didn’t amount to much, huh).

Parish started 2 years later in his career, so he won’t show up in Kevin Pelton’s similarity scores yet, but I’m convinced the two are pretty similar. There could turn out to be better comparisons, maybe Greg will be more similar to a Patrick Ewing eventually. But there is no way around this: This man will be special. And he needs to be, as KP1 said. He is the guy that can lead the Blazers from a 50+ win team to the next level especially when it goes hard in the playoffs and you need to get easy baskets inside.

The elephant in the room: We need to get a Greg back in the fall who burns to play competitive basketball. Who has fun on and off the court. That for me is a bigger unknown than any injury concerns regarding his knees. I hope an injury-free offseason can help him to get his mojo back and focus him on the things to come with a positive outlook.”

Here’s the link to proof of the Oden’s rookie year was similar to Robert Paris.


Posted by: the tatoo on Oden's back on August 2nd, 2009 at 1:32 am

i agree with randolph becoming better than last year but not so much as greg oden becoming good at all. we’ll see

Posted by: deandre on August 2nd, 2009 at 2:52 am

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