Brian Geltzeiler of Sheridan Hoops wrote:
1) Ty Lawson (Denver) - Lawson has improved very steadily in his first three years in the league. This is the season where he takes his game to another level — even if he doesn’t get he contract extension he is seeking. He’s already an animal at pushing the tempo. He’s not only a good shooter, he’s a smart shooter and he hits his free throws. He’s a good defensive player and a good passer. He’s also in a unique position this season where he can improve in an area that his team desperately needs him to improve in. The Nuggets struggled executing offensively in the half court in last year’s playoffs. They don’t have a significant low post presence and settled for a lot of perimeter jumpers. Lawson can be an enormous weapon off the dribble in the half court. He has worked in the offseason on penetrating using his left hand. He’s fast enough to pretty much get in the paint whenever he wants. A better left hand and a more aggressive mindset will put him in the conversation with the top 5 point guards in the league.
2) O.J. Mayo (Dallas) - Mayo was a fairly productive sixth man the last few years in Memphis. He’s an extremely good athlete and has developed as a very good wing defender. Mayo had some maturity issues with Memphis both on and off the court. The biggest issue with Mayo’s game is his poor shot selection. He has all the ability in the world, but he’s a chucker. Its time for O.J. to grow up a little bit, and he’s landed in the perfect place to do that. In Dallas, he’ll be the starting off guard and will have the opportunity to be the 2nd banana to Dirk Nowitzki. He gets the added bonus of having to carry the load for 2 months until Dirk comes back from a knee injury. Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle will expect Mayo to play up and act up to his vast ability. I think it all comes together for Mayo this season. He expected a bigger market for his services in the offseason, and there’s something to prove.
3) Paul George (Indiana)- Guys like George, and there aren’t many of them, get me excited. I harbor an extreme appreciation for 6’8’ wings who can effectively defend point guards out on the perimeter. He’s a phenomenal athlete and uses his length very well. Offensively, he hasn’t completely developed his game. The good news is he doesn’t take a ton of bad shots. He has a very good feel for the game and can easily develop into a go-to scorer. He may not get to that level this season, but he will make a significant jump towards being that type of scorer. And since he does so many others things well, specifically on the defensive end, developing his scoring will be a big reason while the Pacers are better. It’s a relatively simple solution for George….take less 3-point attempts and more 2-point tries.
4) Nicolas Batum (Portland) - Batum is a guy who has had that tag of having “potential” for so long, that’s its almost a negative. He’s been a good perimeter defender pretty much since he’s been in the league. His offense has been slow to develop — although in the second half of last season he stated asserting himself a lot more and his production increased. He showed a nasty somewhat overly competitive edge in the Olympics where he punched Juan Carlos Navarro of Spain in his groin area as his version of an intentional foul. He signed an offer sheet in the offseason with Minnesota only to have it matched by Portland. He still has all the ability and potential he did when he came into the league, but now he has some experience and a competitive mindset. I think Batum is going to have his best year yet.
5) Evan Turner (Philadelphia) - Turner has generally been a source of frustration for Sixers head coach Doug Collin.s He’s a very good athlete and does plenty of things very well. He’s has that same Paul George thing that gets me hot and bothered in that he’s a 6’7” wing who can give point guards fits on the perimeter. He’s a very good rebounder for a wing and is not afraid to mix it up. Where Turner’s game can make his coach crazy is that he’s not only a poor shooter, he’s an extremely inefficient offensive player. As Turner gains a little more maturity and experience, he’ll learn to improve his shot selection and pick his spots more effectively on when to be more aggressive. Because of the unselfish nature of his game, I see him as a player who can lean how to be efficient. He’s going to get a big chance this season because he defends, and because Andre Igoudala isn’t there anymore. Turner strikes me as the kind of player who cashes in on an opportunity like this.