Preseason Comeback Player Watch List
As the 2008-09 season approaches, there are a lot of players fans will be looking at to come back strong after a bad year or two and lead their respective teams to victories. The real question is which one of these players will actually come through and resurface as a solid star in the NBA. Some of these players may have been injured or traded or just simply lost playing time, but because of situations or new teams they now have the chance to shine. But who among them is the best?
Elton Brand would seem to be the prime candidate for comeback player of the year this year. After missing most of last season with an injury, he was traded from an underachieving Los Angeles team to an overachieving Philadelphia squad. Now he joins a team with hot young talent like Samuel Dalembert and Andre Iguodala and veterans like Donyell Marshall and Andre Miller to pace them for next season. Brand had some success in the Eastern Conference when he played for Chicago, but he became a real star for the Clippers. His injuries have really hampered him recently, and I think some people have forgotten the dominating type of player he has been in the past. If he stays healthy, there is no reason he shouldn’t be able to dominate most of the Eastern Conference. Elton Brand should be an All Star again this season.
Another player who made the switch from Western Conference to Eastern Conference was Shawn Marion. While he has already played games with his new team, he has also suffered from injuries that have slowed him down considerably. When he was first traded, I thought for sure the Heat would be a playoff team in the East. Then of course the injury bug hit and the team went downhill. Dwyane Wade is also another candidate to come back, but I think the Eastern Conference is learning how to deal with him. Shawn Marion is still fairly unknown in the East and his shooting ability should provide the head with another All-Star-caliber year.
Greg Oden may not really qualify as a comeback, instead an arrival, but he still falls under the category of not being around last year and being a great player this year. I still feel Portland is a team on the rise and Oden should complete the transition. Oden’s return will make the Trailblazers a playoff team this year in a difficult Western Conference. Oden is going to become much like Yao only slightly more athletic. Oden and the Blazers caught a horrible break when he went down without even playing a single game for the team, but he should return this season to make the young team a threat. Seven footers are always dangerous in the NBA, but especially ones with his athleticism and youth. He has amazing talent for that size and he will be a major force in this league for many years to come.
Staying in the Western Conference and young talent, I’m still a fan of Shaun Livingston. He really started to get going before horrendously messing up his knee and missing a ton of time. He was beginning to look like the player the Clippers thought he was going to be and he just had another run of terrible luck in his career. I really wish the best for him and I think he deserves the chance to be healthy and finally build up some playing time. Whether or not he can come back from the knee injury may be the question, but the bigger question may be the lack of talent he now has playing with him. No more Lamar Odom or Elton Brand or Corey Maggette to give the ball to and take the attention away. Now he has Baron Davis to attempt to play with and Chris Kaman who can’t stay healthy either. The odds are a little worse than they were, but he still has the ability to be the player everyone thought he would be. Livingston could be the best feel-good story in the NBA this season.
Vince Carter and Gilbert Arenas kind of fall into similar situations for me. Similar to Dwayne Wade in Miami actually. All of them have been clear All-Stars in past years but have also spent random times injured and struggling. Their teams rely on them and have seemingly been just fine without them but also desperate to have them back at the same time. Both Washington and New Jersey played very well without Carter and Arenas even though the sides wanted them back more than anything. Both players could technically be coming back from something but most feel they never real lost a step. Some of course feel they’ve destroyed entire seasons, but both are pretty much perennial All-Stars in my mind.
A few players fall into the unsung hero type of role and I think they’re great players who should be appreciated and may have breakout seasons. These players include Richard Jefferson of the Nets and Corey Maggette, now of the Warriors. Ron Artest would also qualify for this nomination. These are players who have always been solid and have randomly performed extremely well but always have an opportunity for All-Star status. They can all be great players when healthy and given the chance to actually play.
So the question is which one of these players can actually pull an entire season together and be the type of player they should be? I’ve got my money on Elton Brand moving back into the Eastern Conference and dominating once again, but anything could always happen. Any one of these players could return to glory or get there for the first time, but only time will tell. Let me know what you think. Who has the best shot to find the limelight once again this season?