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NBA Players to Watch in 2014


Russell Westbrook leads the Oklahoma City Thunder in the absence of superstar Kevin Durant. Tiago Hammil/Flickr

With the tipoff of the 2014 NBA season, all eyes have been focused on forward LeBron James and his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers. After winning two championships and losing two championships during his four-year stint in Miami, James decided it was time to head home. Once James resigned with Cleveland, the Cavs were able to trade No.1 overall picks in the past two drafts in power forward Anthony Bennett and shooting guard Andrew Wiggins to the Timberwolves for PF superstar power forward Kevin Love.
Along with 22-year-old point guard Kyrie Irving (who already has won the 2014 NBA All Star Game MVP and FIBA MVP) the Cavs have a big three core to build around as they are arguably the best of all time. With the addition of Love, who averaged 26.1 points per game (PPG), 12.5 rebounds per game (RPG) and had 190 three pointers last season, the Cavs now have two of the top seven players in the NBA according to These three players will be under the spotlight during the season, but it still doesn’t mean that they will be the only players to watch.
New Orleans Pelicans power forward Anthony Davis has quietly had two fantastic seasons to start his NBA career. Davis, a block machine, nearly averaged 3 three blocks a game last season with nearly 21 PPG and 10 RPG at the of age 20. One NBA executive made a comment regarding the Clippers sale to former Microsoft Steve Ballmer.
However, The Pelicans are a young team playing in the hardest division in the NBA. Every team could be a legitimate play off contender. With a healthy Jrue Holiday at point guard and Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon at shooting guard, the Pelicans have a potential championship caliber team in years to come. With Davis at the head, the team could start developing sooner rather than later.
After winning his first Most Valuable Player (MVP) award and his fourth scoring title, Thunder small forward Kevin Durant’s 2014 season was anticipation waiting to happen. Unfortunately, Durant fractured his foot in the preseason and is expected to miss six to eight weeks. With no Durant, the pressure of team leader falls on Oklahoma City’s point guard, Russell Westbrook. Westbrook has come out as a top three point guard in the NBA since being drafted out of UCLA in 2008.
Westbrook has given the Thunder a great 1-2 punch behind Durant, but has gotten criticism for shooting the ball too much, especially for being a point guard. After missing 38 games last season, the Thunder not only need Westbrook to step into Durant’s shoes while he is out, but also to stay healthy while he is doing it. If Westbrook is able to hold the Thunder until Durant comes back, the Thunder could potentially still be in a position to finish first in the Western Conference. If Westbrook shoots the ball too much and tries to become a one man team, the season may be lost by the time Durant returns.
The Washington Wizards made one heck of a playoff run last season, when they defeated the Chicago Bulls in the first round four games to one before losing to the Indian Pacers in the second round in six games The Wizards have come a long way since they picked point guard John Wall first overall in the 2010 draft. With shooting guard Bradley Beal (third overall pick in the 2012 draft) out for six to eight weeks with a fractured foot, the Wizards like the Thunder will be leaning on Wall. The Wizards went out and added small forward Paul Pierce to the team, giving them a veteran to help lead the team as a still productive presence.
In his first full season since he was drafted (due to injuries) Wall played in all 82 games, averaging 19.3 PPG, 1.8 SPG (steals per game) and 8.8 assists per game (APG). Wall was named to his first All Star Game and along with Beal, gave Washington a great 1-2 punch at their guard position. Wall this season is playing for more than getting back to the playoffs. He is playing to impress Kevin Durant enough for Durant to consider coming to Washington during the 2016 offseason. The rumors about Durant returning to Washington D.C (his home) have started becoming louder and louder and with John Wall and the Wizards proving to be a team has young talent to build around and a team that can and will win a championship in the next five years.

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