The backup point guard role in Phoenix is Banks' to lose, and though he'll probably lead the NBA in charges this year, he'll also feel right at home dashing coast-to-coast in a Suns uniform. The 24-year-old's insistence on going pell-mell to the front of the rim whenever he gets the ball will be encouraged by a Suns coaching staff that plays to an individual's strengths, and his defensive tenacity will be welcomed as well.
2 of 15Rocky Widner/Getty Images
When the Troy Murphy-as-starting-center experiment eventually goes horribly wrong, new Warriors coach Don Nelson could turn to the 6-foot-11 Biedrins for interior help. Though he didn't turn 20 until last season's final month, Biedrins still averaged about four rebounds in 14 minutes a game in 2005-06 while showcasing strong instincts as a left-handed shot-blocker.
3 of 15John W. McDonough/SI
No, he's not going to live up to the promise he taunted us with upon his 2001 entrance into the NBA, but Brown is coming off a sound year in a challenging Lakers system and should continue to grow into a role player. Only 24, he could earn more minutes as he earns the trust of Lakers coach Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant, while improving upon a 2006 playoff performance that saw him average 13 points and 6.6 rebounds in 32 minutes.
4 of 15D. Clarke Evans/Getty Images
How New York let this burgeoning post scorer go, at any price, we'll never understand. Butler's defense won't remind anyone of David Robinson, but he averaged 5.3 points in 13.5 minutes as a 20-year-old last season and has an array of promising moves in the low block. The youngster's biggest issue? Foul trouble -- he averaged 6.3 for every 40 minutes he played last year. Yet the player the Knicks chose over him (beleaguered big man Jerome James) averaged an even 10 for the same time frame. Go figure.
5 of 15Layne Murdoch/Getty Images
Chandler was admittedly out of shape and out of sorts in his final year in Chicago last season, but he took to the weight room this summer and should at least be coordinated enough to stay on the court for longer stretches without getting into foul trouble. And though Tyson has had his problems breaking the 30-minutes-per-night barrier, pulling in rebounds and blocking shots have never been a problem.
6 of 15Greg Nelson/SI
Already one of the league's best per-minute rebounders, Hayes worked on his upper-body strength during the summer and seems ready to start alongside Yao Ming in the Houston frontcourt. Though undersized, the 6-6 Hayes averaged 4.5 rebounds in 13.4 minutes per game last year while collecting nearly 20 percent of all available rebounds while he was on the court.
7 of 15John W. McDonough/SI
This all-around contributor made a huge jump in his third season in 2005-06, improving his ability to create his own shot while establishing himself as Dallas' second go-to scorer. This year the 26-year-old forward should be more at ease in his role as Dirk Nowitzki's sidekick, especially if he stays healthy -- he missed 23 games last year due to injury.
8 of 15John W. McDonough/SI
It's a new era in Portland, with a roster full of exciting prospects worth passing to, and last time we checked Jack was the only NBA veteran on the team not named Dan Dickau who seems capable of feeding the youngsters. Jack, who doesn't turn 23 until the end of October, should raise his assist totals significantly during his second year with the Trail Blazers.
9 of 15John W. McDonough/SI
If Livingston can stay healthy (a big if, since he has played only 91 regular-season games in two NBA campaigns), he is an All-Star in the making. He's already one of the league's best on the break, effortlessly loping toward the middle and finding the open man on the fly, and the 21-year-old will only get better as he sees more NBA action. And though he's hit only one career three-pointer, Livingston appears to have developed a catch-and-shoot stroke from deep during this year's preseason.
10 of 15Greg Nelson/SI
Still raw but a willing learner, this natural scorer has nothing but bright things in his future. Martin shot 48 percent from the floor, 37 percent from behind the three-point arc and 85 percent from the charity stripe in his second campaign during 2005-06, and those potent marks should improve as he adds strength and takes in more minutes. Only 23, Martin started half of Sacramento's games last season and feels at home in coach Eric Musselman's quick-hit offense.
11 of 15Bill Frakes/SI
New addition Mike James loves nothing more than to chuck his way to 20 points, and lottery selection Randy Foye has likely taken his potential Rookie of the Year status to heart, but the mercurial McCants could have an edge over both of them in the race to be Kevin Garnett's running mate. Rashad already has spent a year in coach Dwane Casey's system, averaging an impressive 7.9 points in 17.3 minutes (while shooting 37 percent from long range), and isn't likely to take a potential bench demotion lightly.
12 of 15Garrett W. Ellwood/Getty Images
It was an inauspicious sophomore campaign for Smith, who feuded with Hornets coach Byron Scott, was traded twice (the second time for a retired guard, Howard Eisley, and two second-round picks) and now finds himself having to earn the trust of the sometimes-curmudgeonly George Karl in Denver. The plus side is that the not-yet-21-year-old shooter seems in position to put it all together. The Nuggets' shooting-guard slot is his for the taking, and Smith's scoring acumen cannot be questioned.
13 of 15Joe Murphy/Getty Images
Though a breakout season for Swift seemingly has been in the offing since LeBron James was in high school, he'll have no excuse if he falls short this season. Pau Gasol could miss the season's first two months, and it's up to Swift to contribute while the hirsute face of the Memphis franchise is on the mend. The good news for Grizzlies fans? Swift has yet to turn 27.
14 of 15D. Clarke Evans/Getty Images
There comes a point when a coach will be forced into paying more than lip service to preseason proclamations, and for Seattle coach Bob Hill that means doing something about a Sonics defense that was the NBA's worst last season. For Hill the change should start at the point, by replacing one of the league's worst defensive point guards (Luke Ridnour) with one of the best in Watson.
15 of 15Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Williams has all the tools, and after a rookie season spent catching up to NBA speed, he's likely to bust out in 2006-07. All the hallmarks for a potential All-Star are there: He's 22, showcased a 2.5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in his rookie season, shot 42 percent from behind the arc and managed to contribute these numbers as a fledging point guard under Utah coach Jerry Sloan's withering glare.
You May Like
Sign Up for our Newsletter
Don't get stuck on the sidelines! Sign up to get exclusives, daily highlights, analysis and more—delivered right to your inbox!