Williams climbed the pecking order in the pre season, and will continue to build up to a starting role in the first 15 games. Williams can be a point forward, as well as a slasher and knockdown shooter. He is active on defense and shows some flair in the open court. Williams' ability to run the offense will give Devin Harris ample chance to play off the ball, where he excels as a scorer. Look for a lot of stat stuffing lines from the rookie this season, and an improvement from the Nets as a team.
Stephen Curry - Warriors
Don Nelson believes in this kids ability to flourish in his system so much so, that he is going to start him. Nelson doesn't always love to play rookies a lot, but thinks Curry is wise behind his years with a strong pedigree from his NBA father Dell. Curry will alternate handling the ball and scoring off the ball with Monta Ellis, and look to run up and down the court and exploit matchups all season. Curry must show he can establish their low post guys as well, to open up the long ball for he and the other shooters. He's got all the tools to excel in this offense, and it should be a big rookie season from Curry.
Blake Griffin - Clippers
The #1 overall pick will be out 6 weeks with a knee injury. Those 6 weeks will only delay the unveiling of the one of the most promising big guys to come into this league since Dwight Howard. Griffin is hulking 6'10 power forward, who glides up and down the court like Lebron James. In watching him play this pre season, you can tell he is going to have to adjust to NBA players strength being on par with his, but he also has breathtaking athleticism for a big man. When he glides down the lane for tomahawk jams, the way his body glides through the air also looks like James. If he can adjust mentally to the game, Griffin will be a perennial all star, and he will show now more than ever that there are 2 teams in Los Angeles.
Tyreke Evans - Kings
Tyreke Evans was called the 2nd best talent in the NBA draft by a lot of high ranking officials. He is a point guard with off the charts size and athletic ability for his position. Evans is a pure scorer as well, and the knock on him coming out of Memphis was he was too much of a scorer to be a point guard. What people fail to realize is Evans started the season playing off the ball, but the lack of talent on Memphis had the team middling. They were still better than Conference USA teams, but competing for national prowess they were not. Evans asked coach Calipari if he could play point guard, and basically just took over every game they played the rest of the way. On the Kings, Evans will have 2 very good front court players, as well as a really good scorer on the wing in Kevin Martin. This will be Evans chance to show the world he can be a point guard, except this point guard can take the ball to the rim when the offense isn't running smoothly.
Chase Budinger - Rockets
Rockets GM Darryl Morey has a sparkling track record with finding gems late in the draft, or from players undervalued by most GM's in the league. He has delivered Luis Scola, Carl Landry, and Aaron Brooks to the Rockets, and all are impact players. That is why when his recent statement that "Chase Budinger is for real" it really makes you pay attention. Budinger had an outstanding summer league, and then continued to play at a high level most of the pre season. Look for Budinger and Ariza to carry this team until the return of Tracy McGrady.
DeJuan Blair - Spurs
Being a bit overweight and having a history of knee injuries will normally scare teams off from you. That is what happened to DeJuan Blair during the NBA draft, and the Spurs got him in the 2nd round. Blair slipping into the 2nd round really motivated him, and he dropped some weight, and has looked absolutely dominating in his time on the floor during summer league and the pre season. He is in a good position as he will get to come off the bench for Tim Duncan and Antonio McDyess, 2 really good veterans to learn from. Look for Blair to have an impact much like Paul Millsap has had with the Jazz with his rebounding and scoring. Blair has more of an offensive game than Millsap though, so he could do even more.
Jonny Flynn - Minnesota
Lost in all the madness of the Ricky Rubio ordeal is the fact that Jonny Flynn is a heck of a basketball player. He is a fearless floor leader, who wants the ball in his hands when the game is hanging in the balance. He finds ways to win, and is very composed with the ball. Both of those are tremendous qualities for a point guard. He is also a good free throw shooter, and has a high basketball IQ. Flynn will use his quickness and midrange shooting ability to make his mark as a member of the team early on. He will also get to play alongside Ramon Sessions, so he can move off the ball and score for the Wolves.
DeMar Derozan - Toronto
DeRozan really underachieved in his one year at USC. His tremendous athletic ability still landed him in the lottery, where he would have been taking had he been able to go to the pros out of high school like he wanted. DeRozan is a missing piece of the puzzle for the Raptors, who have lacked athleticism in recent years. He is going to be thrust into the fire as a starter right away, and will have to show a willingness to try to be a lockdown defender, and 4th scoring option. If he keeps his ego in check, and he puts in the time, next year he could make a huge leap as a go to guy if/when Chris Bosh leaves.
James Harden - Thunder
Harden was the last player I added to this list, because Harden is the type of player who needs the ball to score, and that is how he impacts games. The ball gets dominated on the Thunder by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, but Harden has shown this pre season he understands the game and his role on this team. If he strives to just score when he is called upon and be content with that, there is no reason he can't get 12-14 points a game this season, which will be a positive for the team.