Veterans Who'll Backslide In '06-07
C-Webb deserves nothing but plaudits for his first full season in Philadelphia. Playing in 75 games (the third-highest mark of his 13-year career), he averaged 38.6 minutes while pouring in 20.2 points and nearly 10 rebounds for a moribund squad. Even more impressive, he did it on one leg, and though this imposition often left the Philly defense prone, it's hard to argue with the results. But at 33, Webber might have had his last hurrah. Expect him to come back to Earth this season.
The Raptors relied on James last year -- especially his ability to hit clutch shots from the perimeter and his refusal to take an offensive possession off -- even if the free-agent-to-be's motivation was suspect. However, rare is the 31-year-old who improves upon his career averages. And with Kevin Garnett the focal point of the Minnesota offense, don't expect James to come close to his 2005-06 averages of 20.3 points and 5.8 assists.
He has enjoyed a resurgence in Charlotte the past two seasons, averaging 11.4 points and 8.9 assists (up from 7.2 points and 6.2 assists in his first seven seasons). But Knight turns 31 a week into the season and should see his contributions dip with Raymond Felton coming into his own as Bobcats playmaker.
He averaged 12 points and 6.7 rebounds last season but was considered a bit of a weak spot on a team that struggled to put points on the board. With the emergence of Chuck Hayes, along with Shane Battier's ability to play the power forward spot, Howard will likely settle into his rightful role: team leader and scorer in spot minutes off the bench.
Though Mourning, playing 20.1 minutes a night off the bench last season, didn't come close to matching his career averages, his 6.4 blocks per 48 minutes was the highest mark of his 13-year career. Nobody doubts his ability to treat each contest as if it were Game 7 of the Finals, but just how long will his body hold up?
His 2005-06 averages of 20.5 points and 9.3 rebounds were nothing to scoff at, but he looked like he was dragging at times. He has averaged more than 37 minutes per game five times in his career, averaged 40 minutes a night last season and has played all 82 games in five of the last six years. Throw in last summer's run at the World Championships, and Jamison is due for a little time off -- or at least a slump or two this season.
His playing career was thought to have ended in 1998 because of a series of ankle injuries, so any significant contributions he's made since the 1999 lockout-truncated season have to be considered a pleasant surprise. The fact that Thomas has continually given up his undersized frame for years to help his sometimes-overmatched teams compete in the interior has to be taken into consideration when expecting things from this determined 34-year-old forward.
Mo Pete continues to refine his game; he has always been a sound defender and fine outside shooter, but he's become more adept at handling the ball and creating his own shot. He notched career highs of 16.8 points and 4.6 rebounds last year, thanks partly to playing 38.3 minutes per game. With Anthony Parker and Fred Jones now on board to sop up minutes, Peterson won't be on the court as much this season.
He has surprised us before, putting together All-Star-worthy seasons just when his body seemed ready for the mothballs, but we can't help but expect him to falter a bit in 2006-07. This isn't to say Cassell won't give his all, or do a masterful job of acting as point guard professor to backup Shaun Livingston. And any drop-off would hardly detract from his status as one of the game's most underrated participants over the last decade. But the soon-to-be 37-year-old, coming off 13 seasons and 115 career playoff games, could see his efficiency take a hit this year.
EJ has helped four organizations make the playoffs, but the 35-year-old can't stay on top of things forever. Though his current outfit was swept last spring, Jones played in 28 postseason contests in the two previous seasons. Add that to his 36-minute average in 843 career games and it's easy to anticipate a major drop-off. He'll get minutes on a Grizzlies team desperate for guard help, but it's no guarantee he'll do much with them.