DAR Sports: 11 NBA Players To Watch This Season

By @TrueGodImmortal

The 2017-2018 NBA Season is underway, and it seems like it'll be an interesting year for sure. After the first couple of games, we have an idea of how these teams will work, but it's still far too early to call it, of course. In terms of individual players, we are also witnessing who will be at their best and who will struggle out the gate as well. For me, there are a number of players  I think we should keep an eye on this year and you could say that some of these guys will likely end up as MVP candidates, and one even as a Rookie Of The Year (Note: Kawhi Leonard is missing from this list due to injury and uncertain return timeline). Today, I wanted to discuss 11 players you should keep an eye on this season. Let's get into it.

*Stephen Curry 

-The two time MVP seems more aggressive this year, and while that's got him into foul trouble so far this year, eventually it'll even out and be extremely dangerous once the Warriors get rolling. We've seen Steph more aggressive on the court through his Unanimous MVP season and the playoffs last season, and if he keeps this up, we could very well see a near repeat of that Unanimous MVP year, and I think he's set to have one of his most well rounded years as a player on both ends of the floor. Steph is a slightly underrated defender, and he's shown he can defend early on this season, and his defense will improve this year. I expect a solid year defensively from Steph, along with 310-340 threes this year, with 27-28 points a game, 6 assists, and 2 steals on a near 50/40/90 year. Steph won't be MVP this season likely, but he will show once again that he's the engine of the Warriors team.

*Blake Griffin 

-After thinking that his best years as a player might have been behind him, Blake Griffin looks revitalized and refocused. Playing alongside Chris Paul for years, the Clippers had all of the talent to go out and make a splash in the West, but they never managed to get beyond the 2nd round. While that isn't likely to change right now, it does seem like Blake can put the Clippers in position to fight in the playoffs. He's seemed to develop more aspects to his game, and with that focus he has, we could end up seeing Blake as a MVP candidate this year, if the Clippers can stay the course and win enough games. We haven't seen Blake or the Clippers really tested yet, and that'll be the real determining factor, but if Blake stays healthy, he could very well be an important player to keep your eye on this season.

*LeBron James 

-Every year, it's the same story. Bron is still the man in the NBA and he still has the best team in the East. With the Kyrie Irving divorce now final and the first game between the Cavs and Celtics out of the way, LeBron has moved beyond that chapter and seems focused on having a big season. There is no telling what type of year LeBron has overall, but it'll be his usual consistent year, leading the Cavs to another Finals more than likely, and putting up his stats as well. With 15 years under his belt, don't look for LeBron to add new aspects to his game or to become a defensive force like he was in his Miami days, because that's not his focus during the regular season. Bron will do enough to win in the regular season and then become a different animal come playoff time. After 15 years, we know what to expect from Bron and that'll be a big year that he makes look easy once again.

*Andrew Wiggins  

-Now, many have written off Wiggins for his lack of consistent effort and his subpar defense, but perhaps this is the year he changes the perception of himself. That mystery makes the Timberwolves an intriguing team to watch, and if definitely makes Wiggins the guy to watch for Minnesota. We know what Karl Anthony Towns can do, and we know very well what Jimmy Butler and even Jeff Teague can do, but the development of Wiggins will determine the future of the Wolves and their success in the playoffs. After signing his big extension contract, Wiggins has a lot to live up to, and so far, he's ready for the challenge. Whether or not he can keep this up for the next 78-79 games remains to be seen, but if Wiggins is focused and ready to play at a high level, the Wolves could end up making a push for a top 3-4 seed in the West and possibly the Conference Finals. It all depends on the development and the fire within Wiggins.

*Kristaps Porzingis 

-Are the Knicks ever going to win anything in the NBA? Not in this era. However, they have a player that seems ready to lead them in Porzingis. He's still getting that experience under his belt and with his third official season underway, he looks better than ever. He has time to improve other aspects of his game, including defense, but his length allows him to be a good rim protector when needed. As an offensive player, he's seemed to grow more comfortable and that'll be beneficial in his role as the no. 1 option in New York. The issue is the team around him. I expect Porzingis will end up making the All Star team this season and that'll be a first for him, but he might need to get out of New York while he can. His talents are top notch, but he needs to be on a winning team or a team with more potential. Perhaps we could see Porzingis end up in Boston or Washington down the line playing with other solid players in the East, but for now, he will have a big year in New York and likely miss the playoffs again. It'll be interesting to see how his season plays out and how disenfranchised he will finish the year. It might be time for Porzingis to get out of New York.

*Lonzo Ball 

-There was a tough decision to decide who to include from the rookie class, but it's obvious the player who will have the most attention on him this year. The Big Baller Brand lead representative is now officially a Laker and he's shown what he can do so far. He's still very young and growing his game, but after his first three games, we've seen that Lonzo will struggle some offensively, but his true gift is in his passing and his ability to space the floor. As the primary ball handler for the Lakers, he will continue to shine, and in the small sample that we've seen from him in these first couple of regular season games. He's nearly averaging a triple double in his first three games, and he's only going to get better. Will Lonzo be the rookie of the year? Will he be able to lead the Lakers to the playoffs, or at least 30 wins? That all remains to be seen, but so far, it seems like Lonzo will be up to the challenge and get better as the year moves along. I'll definitely be keeping an eye on how Lonzo plays this year, and I'm sure most fans will as well.

*Kyrie Irving 

-For some reason, it looks like Kyrie caught a raw deal going into this season, as the Celtics are struggling due to injuries, the biggest injury coming in the form of All Star Gordon Hayward, who is likely out for the rest of the season. In the three games that the Celtics have played against three good teams in the East, they've shown their tenacity and toughness and they were led by Kyrie. Kyrie has placed less of an emphasis on scoring and being the no. 1 option and you can see he's trying to develop his game more in Boston. In the preseason, Kyrie looked sharp and the Celtics looked like they were ready for the season, but of course, the injuries are putting a damper on their plans for this year. Still, Kyrie is poised to have a big season, even more so now that Hayward is out. The team will now rest on Kyrie's back, and while it's clear that he will have some struggles early on, once Kyrie is comfortable and that team chemistry is flowing perfectly, Kyrie could surprise a lot of folks. I'm expecting big things from Kyrie this year, and he'll be under a lot of pressure this season. I think Kyrie will deliver in a major way once the season gets rolling.

*John Wall

-The best point guard in the East is once again looking like a sleeper candidate for the MVP award. Why is Wall a true candidate for the award? His supporting cast isn't as good as the other usual suspects like KD, Steph, LeBron, James Harden, or Russell Westbrook, and he plays hard at both ends of the floor, which makes him a rare breed of guard in this league for sure. He's an explosive offensive player, and he's a very aware defender, with some amazing chase down blocks in his arsenal. Wall could have his best season this year and hopefully he can lead the Wizards to a 50 win season. If he's able to do that, Wall could very well end up as the MVP and stand out as a top 3 player in the East, a honor I think he already deserves now.

*James Harden 

-As an MVP runner-up two out of the last three seasons, Harden is likely more focused now than he's ever been. With Chris Paul by his side, the Rockets believe they can win the title and get beyond the Warriors. While this isn't likely to happen, you have to admire the confidence of Harden and although I'm not personally a fan of his game, he's still a very good player. He seems ready to lead the Rockets to be a top 3 team in the West yet again, and while I don't think he will win the MVP this year, I think he will have another solid season, though probably not as great as last year. Still, I had to pick Harden for this list, because he isn't a part of big 3, he isn't in an elite system, and he doesn't have the greatest coach (I stand firm in saying Mike D'Antoni is a one dimensional coach), so a lot of what Harden does best is his natural skill. Will this be the year that Harden gets the MVP Award? I can't see it happening, due to a few others on this list, but as usual, he will be a top candidate and the Rockets will be a good team because of him.

*Kevin Durant 

-The evolution of Kevin Durant into an excellent two way player makes him perhaps the most intriguing player to watch this season. He's offensively one of the best scorers we've ever witnessed, but the defensive aspect of his game always seemed to lack. Since joining the Warriors, we've seen KD become a more defensive minded player, being able to rim protect and cause issues for opposing offenses, as evidenced in just the first few games the Warriors have had this season. If KD develops into the best two way player this season, then he will undoubtedly take the reigns as the best player in the NBA, as many feel he already has. I expect Durant to possibly be a huge MVP candidate this year due to the numbers he will put up, the efficiency he will have, and of course, the defensive aspect he continues to grow in his game. The 2017 Finals MVP might be getting even better, which has to be an alarming narrative for the rest of the NBA.

*Giannis Antetokounmpo

-If I had to pick a player who I thought was the MVP right now after three games, it would easily be Giannis. The Greek Freak is a monster, and dubbed by many to be a younger version of LeBron, which I can see. After showing huge promise and improvement last season, Giannis looks better than ever right now, and could be on his way to taking someone's spot in the top 5. This could be his breakout year, and the year he becomes a true star in the NBA. He will likely be an All Star and possibly even All NBA if he keeps up this pace, and if the Bucks manage to win enough games, I don't think it's crazy to say that Giannis should win the MVP. The narrative has already been shaped and he is having a great early start to the season. Giannis, like every other player on this list, will be something to watch closely all year, making this season one of the most exciting ever in the history of the league.



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