Sophomores I Can't Wait to See Again
I can't wait to see these sophomores come back and play their second NBA season. These aren't the players who are the most talented or the most dominant, just the ones that I'm really itching to see again.
UTTERLY CAN'T WAIT
He played very few minutes, totaling about 35 the entire season, but if he plays 35 minutes a night at the same pace, he would be a legitimate MVP candidate in the league. And he's only 19 years old. He's a beast on the boards, a great scorer, a heads-up passer, and a dominant defender. With Al Jefferson coming in, these may well form a frontcourt even more intimidating than McHale-Parish. And the great thing is they can do it for the next 10-15 years. Perkins is not only a legitimate center in an era of power forwards, he has the potential to be very special.
This guy, in a nutshell, is a gambler. Hailing from the University of Las Vegas, that ought not be a surprise to some cynics. Banks was the league's leader in steals per 48 minutes, but he was also eighth in the league in turnovers. I have never had a problem with gamblers. Life and basketball are all about weighing risks and rewards. The better you can do it, the better. Banks is one of the top two or three quickest players in the whole league. If he can learn to stabilize the offense without giving up the chaos he can produce on defense, he's going to develop into a premier point guard.
He's 6-7, he can simultaneously palm two basketballs off the dribble, and he can shoot lights out from beyond the arc. He's played behind arguably the world's best point guard. And he can legitimately play any of three positions. This guy may be New Jersey's secret weapon. With the expected addition of another European, Nenad Kristic, the Nets may find themselves revitalized with youth, another feather in the cap for Nets CEO Rod Thorn.
The only 12th man in the league who can make entire stadiums stay in their seats despite an obvious blowout, just to get a glimpse of the mysterious giant blond. He has a sweet lefty stroke but for some reason does not attack the basket with ferocity, preferring finger rolls and other layups to thunderous dunks. He broke his hand in the last few minutes of the season, in garbage time against the Lakers. He's gotten almost no playing time and no highlight reels except for rookie mistakes. At some point, he'll show everybody why he was worth the second overall pick. If it's this coming year, so much the better.
He may be one of the best passing forwards in the league this year. He has a complete game, even if he is a little foul-prone at times. The right coach, the right system, and the moving-on of some of the old timers who are taking the starting spot that is rightfully his, will let Walton shine. He may be the biggest draft steal for the Lakers in a very long time.
OBVIOUSLY CAN'T WAIT
LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade
Veritable All-Stars in the making, these guys are more than just sophomores. If there were an even higher league than the NBA, all three of these guys would have left the NBA early to go into it. They are already among the elite players in the league. Hence, while I am itching to see them, I am not itching to see them because they are sophomores: I am itching to see them because they are great players, the same way I am itching to see Tracy McGrady or Kevin Garnett or Paul Pierce play again.
Josh Howard and Marquis Daniels
Funny enough, Howard and Daniels make it down here for me. For some reason they feels like professional who belong in this league, not rookie/sophomore still learning the ropes. They will both obviously continue to improve but they seem a lot more developed and farther along that particular path than I would have guessed. It is a tip of the hat for them to have reached this status but when you're suddenly making $5 million a year, you're not really a sophomore in any meaningful sense of the word anymore, are you Marquis?
I GUESS I CAN'T WAIT
While some of the rookies have become veterans in one year, and others have advanced to sophomore status, Collison is still a rookie by any real measure. Let's hope his injuries are cured, his health is restored, and he's ready for his first real professional basketball campaign.
Zoran calls him "my boy" but Diaw is nobody's boy. He can do literally anything on the court, and though the Hawks now have a roster with a league-high three hundred and six swingmen, Diaw will carve out a place for himself in the starting lineup, probably with Josh Childress at the other swing spot. Diaw can do everything though he hasn't fully shown his complete capabilities yet. That's why he's a sophomore I guess I can't wait to see.
If you haven't noticed that three players on my list were drafted by Celtics, then you've noticed it now. Hunter is my favorite second-rounder from last year. The rebounding machine is great both on the defensive and offensive end, and will hopefully carve out a nice career for himself with the Bobcats. The Celtics just didn't have the roster room to keep him, and he does still have one unfortunate deficiency: he's not the tallest of power forwards. He needs to improve his free throw shooting first and foremost, to keep defenses honest about fouling him when he goes up for a dunk. After that, if he can also improve his shooting and his ball-handling, he can grow more comfortably into his role as the second coming of Charles Barkley.
That's my list. I've bared my soul, again. Do you agree? Is your list different? Email me or feel free to post on the Hoopsworld.com message board.