So here's a scenario to consider if you're a Jazz fan. Rookie Dee Brown has just grabbed a defensive rebound -- he's not a great leaper, but he has a knack for coming up with the ball in a crowd -- and is taking off on a one-man fast break, which he often did at Illinois. Does he continue on his aggressive charge to the hoop or does he pull up and wait for instructions from his coach, Jerry Sloan, who is not a fan of one-man fast breaks? Brown will probably do the latter in the early going, but if the Jazz is going to play a style at all in keeping with its name -- and why did the team draft the speedy Brown if it wasn't looking for a little improvisation? -- you will eventually see more of the former.
2 of 8Bill Frakes/SI
RAYMOND FELTON, 22
No other rookie last season was as unheralded as Felton, the fourth-highest scorer (11.9 points) and the second-highest assist man (5.6) among yearlings. Yet he remained in the shadow of his former ACC rival Chris Paul and spent a lot of time on the wing in deference to veteran point guard Brevin Knight. But if coach Bernie Bickerstaff wants to get the most out of his young team, he will turn over the team's reins to Felton, who is as fast as anyone in the league with the ball in his hands.
3 of 8Michael J. LeBrecht II/1Deuce3 Photography
T.J. FORD, 23
Bryan Colangelo loves speed, so one of his first moves when he took over as Raptors president was to trade for T.J. Ford, who some believe is the fastest player in the league. The deal is a major gamble because Ford is an unproven commodity who had surgery in 2004 for a congenital spinal condition that was aggravated by an injury. But he says it hasn't slowed him down. His new teammates will find out quickly whether he's right, because that's the only way Ford knows how to do anything on a basketball court.
4 of 8Darren Carroll/SI
DEVIN HARRIS, 23
In preparing to face the Mavericks in the Western Conference finals, the Suns' staff determined that Harris can be devastating going to his right, which is why a big part of its game plan was to force him left. Yet in the opener Phoenix defenders were unable to stay in front of Harris, who repeatedly went right, got to the basket and laid 30 points on the stunned Suns. Harris's backcourt mate, Jason Terry, may go by Jet, but around the league everyone knows that Harris is the Mav who can really fly. The offense still revolves around Dirk Nowitzki, but when coach Avery Johnson needs to pump up the transition game, fans will get a ride from Big D's fastest jet.
5 of 8Greg Nelson/SI
KIRK HINRICH, 25
Many scouts did not know how good Hinrich was going to be when the Bulls made him the seventh overall pick in the 2003 draft -- and they also weren't sure what he'd be. Scouts had him pegged as the classic combo guard, a throwback to players such as Danny Ainge and Dennis Johnson, who manned the backcourt for the Celtics in the mid-1980s. But Hinrich, the oldest player in this group (he spent four years in college), has emerged as a steady point guard with a rugged, pell-mell style that has made him a fan favorite in the Windy City. He's also a surprisingly stout perimeter defender, helping to create turnovers that lead to fast-break opportunities.
6 of 8Darren Carroll/SI
CHRIS PAUL, 21
As soon as the expanded roster of the U.S. national team was announced last March, NBA insiders began penciling in likely starters for the 2008 Olympics, and Paul's name came up almost as often as those of Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. A near-unanimous choice as Rookie of the Year (he got 124 out of 125 first-place votes) after he averaged 16.1 points and 7.8 assists, Paul can certainly push the ball up the floor, but he also has the most well-rounded game of anyone in this group -- he's an accomplished scorer, has change-of-pace ability, knows the game and possesses a steady temperament and a relatively small ego. That's why he will likely be on the floor for Team USA's opening tip in Beijing.
7 of 8Michael J. LeBrecht II/1Deuce3 Photography
NATE ROBINSON, 22
Should the proceedings in Madison Square Garden remain dismal this season, at least they will move along more quickly. Knicks coach Isiah Thomas is planning to up the tempo significantly, and that means second-year lightning bug Robinson will get major minutes. How much he will be at the point is undecided, but the 5'9" Robinson's skill set (he's a 39.7% shooter from long range and a muscular leaper) makes him a candidate to log some time on the wing. So even if he isn't leading the break, he could very well be finishing it.
8 of 8Michael J. LeBrecht II/1Deuce3 Photography
SEBASTIAN TELFAIR, 21
For the first time the Celtics will have a dance team. They will also have a flashy new playing style, which is why Boston traded for Telfair, who's at his best in the open court. Telfair was a bit of a disappointment with the Trail Blazers in his first two years in the league, the inevitable result, perhaps, of being the subject of a book halfway through his rookie season and of a documentary shortly thereafter. But the Celtics had enough faith in Telfair to give up a lottery pick for him. The team still may not make the playoffs, but at least it will be more fun to watch.
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!