Across the National Basketball Association, there is a group of stars who are feeling neglected. Sure, none of these guys are people that you will have really forgotten about — you still know that they exist — but they certainly have been largely ignored this past Summer as they have stayed out of the spotlight, as the big movers and shakers of the league have taken centre stage.
We’ve seen major off-season trades, Stephon Marbury and Michael Beasley off-court distractions and FIBA tournaments that have brought the emphasis to certain players, to the paparazzi and sports columnist detriment of these five players.
All of these players are men that matter in the NBA and have the potential to make even bigger impacts than they did last season. On with the list…
Andrew Bogut (C, MIL)
The big man from the land downunder only managed 36 games last season with a series of back problems, largely making him a non-factor for the Milwaukee Bucks. Although he still has not declared himself at 100% in the lead-up to training camp, he should be ready to go when the season tips off and the Bucks will certainly be relying on him for his biggest season yet.
Milwaukee have essentially announced that they are in rebuilding mode, after trading star small forward Richard Jefferson to the San Antonio Spurs for what amounted to Kurt Thomas, allowing Ramon Sessions to walk to Minnesota and being forced to enter the season with uncertainty still surrounding star Michael Redd who is recovering from ACL surgery. Big Bogey’s key support is going to come from the likes of rookie point guard Brandon Jennings and promising second year man Ersan Ilyasova, who has performed admirably for Turkey over the Summer.
In short, Bogut gets the perfect opportunity to be THE man in Milwaukee and (here comes that old chestnut) reward his selection as the number one overall selection in the 2005 draft. The seven-footer’s career has been steadily promising to date, with a solid progression in his rebounding every season, peaking at 10.3rpg this past season. He has never been a point of emphasis in the Bucks’ offence, but perhaps this season will be the one where he exceeds 12 field goal attempts per game and becomes an 18 & 10 player.
Devin Harris (PG, NJN)
The Summer of 2008 saw Devin Harris in the spotlight for all of the wrong reasons. Whilst visiting London for an exhibition game with his relatively newly-joined New Jersey Nets, he was “hustled” in a street ball session by Brit Stuart Tanner, garnering untold youtube fame. Harris then went on to a legitimate all-star calibre season for the Nets, averaging 21.3ppg and 6.9apg, as the leader of the Nets.
However as he enters 2009-10 without the same off-season attention, despite the fact that he will be more important than ever for the Nets. Star stalwart shooting guard, Vince Carter was sent to contender the Orlando Magic in the off-season, leaving super-soph Brook Lopez as the only other player to have averaged double-figure scoring for the team last season. The Nets will be a very young team, with a core largely consisting of 26 year-old Harris, second year players Lopez, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Courtney Lee (from the Magic), along with third year man of questionable age, Yi Jianlian. Veteran support will really only be provided to Harris by Bobby Simmons, Rafer Alston and Eduardo Najera — none of which are of the star quality of Harris.
This year should see an even bigger jump from the rising star point guard. He won’t be forgotten as the season goes on.
Danny Granger (F, IND)
The problem with playing for a mediocre Eastern Conference team that fails to make any significant off-season moves and has become as vanilla-bland as they come, after a somewhat troubled past, is that people can forget about you sometimes. Meanwhile Danny Granger is one of the last players in the league that should be ignored. The Pacers’ platypus showed last season just how versatile and dangerous he can be, putting up the numbers of fantasy GM’s dreams. 25.8ppg, 5.1rpg, 2.7apg, 1.45bpg, 1.03spg with great percentages across the board and 2.7 treys per game are the stuff of the finest swiss army knives.
But Granger is not the type of guy to find himself in gang trouble or to be big-upping himself in the media, making him largely ignorable — particularly when you consider the team that he plays for. Just wait though. The time will come where the Pacers will either turn themselves into a contender or Granger will move to one and his multi-faceted talents will no longer be put to waste.
Monta Ellis (G, GSW)
Mr Moped, Monta Ellis, had a huge breakout season in 2007-08 where his 20.2ppg, 5.0rpg and 3.9apg led the Warriors to throw a whole lot of money at him as the future of the team. Problem was, Monta decided that he should spend some of that money on a moped ride that went wrong. After a serious injury and related suspension, his 2008-09 season was a wasted campaign, where he only managed to suit up for 25 games.
Ellis has been much quieter this off-season, perhaps buying a jet-ski instead. And after being M.I.A. for most of last season, most non-Warriors fans would be excused for having let the quality scoring guard slip their memory. However there is no doubting that the team from the Bay Area is still as exciting a young outfit as ever. They are unlikely to be a real playoff threat in the stacked West, but with the likes of Ellis, Anthony Randolph, Andris Biedrins, Brandon Wright, Corey Maggette, Ronny Turiaf, star rookie Stephen Curry and (maybe or maybe not) Stephen Jackson on board, the Warriors will once again be a ticket worth punching. Ellis will once again be the top billing on that ticket.
Kevin Martin (SG, SAC)
Quite simply, the Sacramento Kings are a terrible team. With only 17 wins last season, they were the worst team in the NBA and one of the least likely to draw the attention of the average observer. Kevin Martin an unearthed diamond in an indeterminable mine. Quite a bit of what surrounds him is clearly no better than landfill, whilst there are also some minerals there with the potential to be precious gems, however they’re not going to be brought to market without considerable time and effort. It is due to this situation and the fact that Martin is such an unassuming star, that many may choose to ignore him when they think of the big hitters going into the 2009-10 season.
The reality is however, that the other K-Mart is a baby-faced assassin and as efficient a scorer as they come. His true-shooting percentage is off the charts, which is unbelievable for a guy that averages 24.6ppg on a team with no other discernable offensive options to attract opposing defensive attention. Some would go as far as to call him a superstar — I would find it hard to find argument with that opinion.
Martin is possibly the best possible poster boy for this group of forgotten stars as we enter the NBA season — he epitomises an understated star who can be relied upon night after night to put up big numbers without the off-court distractions that generally bring fame.
Bring on the season.