Sunday, September 9, 2007

4 to Watch for Next Season

Of the top 20 players ranked by double-doubles last season, four of them were not expected by most to finish in this elite group.

Emeka Okafor, C, Charlotte Bobcats
39 double-doubles, 9th
After injuries forced Okafor to miss most of the 2005-06 season, he came back very strong this past season maintaining a strong points per game average and improving both in rebounds per game and blocks per game. Okafor still needs to improve greatly from the free throw line. When he catches the ball on the block, he needs to recognize double-teams and then find the open man more consistently. Continued superior play on defense and improving his scoring average will help the Bobcats contend for a playoff position for the first time in their franchise history.

Al Jefferson, PF, Minnesota Timberwolves
38 double-doubles, T10th
From March 1 to the end of last season, Jefferson was sixteenth in the league in points plus assists plus rebounds per game, beating out players like Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan, and Dwight Howard. If Jefferson can maintain this level of play, now with Minnesota, he will continue his leap as one of the best post players. Jefferson will be a key component of Minnesota's rebuilding process and will be looked to score consistently each night this season. On defensive, Jefferson still needs to make major strides and has to cutdown on the number of fouls he commits.

Tyson Chandler, C, New Orleans Hornets
34 double-doubles, 14th
Chandler was second in league last season in rebounds per game and thirteenth in blocked shots per game. Chandler's biggest problem continues to be a large amount of turnovers committed. He often is called for setting illegal screens or committing three-second violations. Additionally, Chandler frequently struggles to catch the ball and throw passes away. Playing with a talented point guard like Chris Paul, these problems cannot continue. With their core locked up for the next several years, the success of this current version of the Hornets may be tied to Chandler's development.

Josh Smith, SF/PF, Atlanta Hawks
32 double-doubles, T17th
Smith is a unique player with incredible athleticism, who can play the shooting guard, small forward, and power forward positions. Last season, Smith was one of only six players who averaged more than 15 points per game, 7 rebounds per game, 1 steal per game, and 1 block per game. Kevin Garnett, Elton Brand, Amare Stoudemire, Gerald Wallace, and Shawn Marion were the only other players to reach this milestone. Smith excels at finishing on the fastbreak, but struggles with any consistentcy on his outside shot. He excels at blocking shots and getting into passing lanes to steal balls, but he tends to have mental lapses on the defensive end. In order to improve, Smith needs to get better at creating his own shot and shoot the ball from the perimeter with more consistency.

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