In spite of his recent pronouncements, we still think Gilbert has his head in the right place. He should have been on Team USA's latest incarnation, and while he could have handled his dismissal a little better, he also could have brought home the gold medal. Either way, with Washington having made precious few moves outside of adding Darius Songaila (a great find, especially for its Princeton offense) and DeShawn Stevenson, Arenas will find the onus on himself to lead his team closer to 50 wins.
2 of 12AP
For those who remained unimpressed with his play in high school, Telfair's up-and-down two seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers weren't much of a surprise. This wasn't a deterrent to Danny Ainge, who gave up a top-10 pick for the rights to grab Telfair (and lose a year of Raef LaFrentz's contract). Telfair will have to fight incumbent Delonte West for the starting role and improve on his 39 percent career field goal percentage. At age 21, it's time for Telfair to live up to his potential.
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One of the more overlooked stories of the offseason was Swift's return to Memphis, as a throw-in to a draft-day deal. In his one public comment on the deal, Grizzlies GM Jerry West didn't seem overly enthused about Swift's return, but we haven't heard any trade rumblings. Swift's troubles in Memphis seemed to stem from a lack of minutes behind Pau Gasol, but with Pau out until December, Stromile will get a look. One promising note: He averaged 19 points and 8.5 points for every 40 minutes he played in his last go-round with the Grizzlies.
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With the Ron Artest Experience resolving itself in the form of 40 games of Peja Stojakovic, and the reappearance of the decidedly average Al Harrington, it remains to be seen whether a less-potent Pacers squad can work its way back into the East's elite. Tinsley is one player whose all-around gifts can carry a team through times of peril, but he has to have his head in the action and his rear end off the bench. He's played only 134 games over the last three seasons and has nearly worn out his welcome in Indiana.
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Miles is about to play his seventh season in the NBA, and he's accomplished next to nothing -- short of playing well enough for stretches in 2003-04 to dupe the Trail Blazers into offering him a healthy contract extension. He's had plenty of excuses for his middling career: the Los Angeles Clippers' front-office incompetence; lack of shot attempts in Cleveland; and a perceived lack of team or fan support in Portland. With the Trail Blazers looking to turn the corner, Miles has as good a chance as any to finally do some significant damage (the good kind) with a young group of prospects.
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Kirilenko's efficient production took a bit of a hit last year -- his stats were about the same across the board, but he needed five more minutes per game to get them. While his rebounding improved, his turnovers rose and he still seems unsure of what to do with the ball in isolation situations. One of the game's best all-around players, Kirilenko will have to stay healthy (he's played only 110 games during the last two years) and raise his game a notch for the Jazz to return to the postseason.
7 of 12Victor Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images
When a player signs a four-year, $60 million contract, he usually ceases to be known as a "blue-collar worker." Though Wallace is already a millionaire many times over, this is the first time he's been brought in to be more than a "blocks and rebounds" guy. To lead these Bulls past the first round of the playoffs, Wallace not only must earn his keep on the court, he'll also need to act as a vocal leader in the locker room.
8 of 12Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images
At age 30, Iverson easily had his best year as a pro last season, notching a career mark in points per game (33) as well as in overall efficiency. Yet it wasn't enough to return his 76ers to the playoffs, as they faded late and finished with 38 wins. While most of their Eastern rivals made significant improvements over the offseason, the Sixers more or less stood pat, adding a mid-first rounder (Rodney Carney) while management stewed over the fact that the league's second-highest payroll couldn't even make the playoffs in the East. Iverson can either let these facts enervate him or he can give this crew of underachievers one last shot in the arm in 2006-07.
9 of 12Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images
Just one year ago, Davis was Golden State's conquering hero -- the sort of point guard who was going to pull the disparate Warrior talents together and lead them to their first playoff appearance in more than a decade. Instead, Davis fell back on a series of bad habits, chucking an unconscionable six three-pointers a game (he made only 31.5 percent of them) while allowing his younger teammates to assume that this sort of perimeter-driven game plan was the way to the postseason. It wasn't, and with the unorthodox Don Nelson coming back to the Bay Area, Davis will have his work cut out for him to win over coach, teammates and fans.
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No more excuses. Marbury has has a new coach (his 11th!) who will allow him carte blanche every trip down court. Marbury is working with a roster full of players who need a headstrong point guard and a determined team leader. If the Knicks fall short again, Marbury has nobody but himself to blame. OK, maybe he'll blame Isiah Thomas....
11 of 12Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images
You have to give McGrady the benefit of the doubt regarding his back pain, and his supporting cast (outside of Yao Ming) was among the league's worst last season. Even so, 2006-07 is his best chance to take a team beyond the first round of the playoffs. Flush with role players galore (new addition Shane Battier, rookie Vasileios Spanoulis, burgeoning rebounder Chuck Hayes) and the dominant Yao, McGrady has to act as the all-around talent that brings them all together. Entering his 10th season, he's due.
12 of 12Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images
In playing 40 regular-season games with the Kings last year, Ron-Ron got the team interested in basketball again (making up for the fact that they'd tuned out ex-coach Rick Adelman) and was the biggest part of their late-season run toward the postseason. It was lovely. And guess what? The honeymoon's over. With new coach Eric Musselman aboard, the Kings can't help but stay focused. And for Sacramento to make a significant playoff run, Artest has to play 80 games for the first time in his career and regain the form that made him one of the league's most devastating all-around players.
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