While all eyes are sure to be on Miami’s trio of Dwyane, LeBron and Chris this season, I’ve got a few other guys I’ll be watching to see if they can make this year their year. Here are three guys with interesting story lines leading into this season:
Donte Greene, Sacramento Kings
Donte Greene remains a curious case; he’s shown the ability, desire and commitment needed to be an NBA player but thus far, he has been unable to be a consistent NBA player. After a successful freshman year at Syracuse, Greene was selected with the 28th pick in the 2008 NBA draft, but would be traded twice before the 2008-2009 NBA season began. Settling with the Kings as part of the deal that sent Ron Artest to Houston, Greene showed glimpses of his scoring ability but struggled with the NBA game. Flourishing during a D-League stint, he proved he belonged in the big leagues where he needed time to adjust and become comfortable. In his sophomore season last year, Greene had moments where he looked like a legit scoring threat and then stretches where he struggled to get it right. Playing with the reigning rookie of the year, Tyreke Evans, and now, DeMarcus Cousins, Greene will try to piece things together this season, finally. Will he be able to find his place in the Kings’ offence? Can he commit himself defensively — where he has shown vast improvements since his rookie season — to remain on the floor? With the tools in place, we’ll see when the regular season tips off.
Chris Douglas-Roberts, Milwaukee Bucks
Anyone that uses Twitter knows I’m a CDR fan. Watching him in Memphis, I loved his tweener game and the way he always seemed to find a way to score, even if it wasn’t in ways that were expected from him. Getting drafted to the Nets ended up being a bit of a disaster for Douglas-Roberts, at least, once they sent Lawrence Frank packing and brought in Kiki Vandeweghe. While the Nets had one of the worst seasons in NBA history, Douglas-Roberts got lost in the shuffle and fell out of the rotation. When he was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks in the offseason, I’m sure he breathed a sigh of relief, getting what must feel like a second chance. A crafty player who is more than willing to put the time in, regularly coming back to the gym at night to get up extra shots, Milwaukee might just be a perfect situation for Douglas-Roberts. Paired with star rookie Brandon Jennings, bigman Andrew Bogut and a solid bench full of offseason acquisitions, Douglas-Roberts is a player looking to prove that while last season was a year to forget, he’s a talent worth remembering.
Wesley Matthews, Portland Trail Blazers
From undrafted rookie with the Utah Jazz to inking a monster five-year, $34-million contract with the Portland Trail Blazers this offseason, it’s going to be really interesting to watch Wesley Matthews this season. Over the course of his rookie season, Matthews matured and by the postseason was not only starting, but had the task of guarding Kobe Bryant. While Bryant ultimately won that match up, Matthews hung with him, not giving an inch. Impressive, to say the least. After all of the praise the rookie received as the season went on, a contract was expected. The contract he signed, though, blew everyone away, Matthews included. Now, it will be up to the 23 year-old to prove he deserves a contract after just one year of being a professional under his belt. With one of the most supportive fan bases in the NBA, his workmanlike approach should endear him to Blazers faithful while also making the transition to a new city and team easier. Sure, he’ll never have memories of his draft day suit and shaking hands with David Stern, but while the rest of his star-studded rookie class are still on their rookie contracts, Wesley is getting paid. While he didn’t do it the normal way, or even the easy way, he certainly has shown, hard work and persistence really, really pays off.