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Summer Dreaming: Who will have best Comeback story?

Taking an early look at 10 names primed for a top return to the court in the 2016-17 season

POSTED: Sep 1, 2016 10:21 AM ET

By Fran Blinebury

BY Fran Blinebury


Injuries limited superstar big man Anthony Davis to just 61 games in 2015-16.

Today we're popping open another cold drink and quenching our thirst with an unofficial award in our Summer Dreaming series, Comeback Player of the Year, which the league has not handed out since the 1984-85 season.

Summer Dreaming: Kia MVP
Summer Dreaming: Executive of the Year
Summer Dreaming: Coach of the Year
Summer Dreaming: Kia Most Improved Player of the Year
Summer Dreaming: Kia Rookie of the Year
Summer Dreaming: Kia Sixth Man of the Year
Summer Dreaming: Kia Defensive Player of the Year

We're looking at star players on the mend from injuries, veterans trying to hold on and young names that haven't yet panned out.

So our next stop on our annual Summer Dreaming series, where we pick the award winners for the 2016-17 season way ahead of time, are those gritty candidates for Comeback Player of the Year. Here's a look at our top 10 picks (and you can send us your picks here):

Joakim Noah, New York Knicks: You know what they say: If you can come back here, you can come back anywhere. Nobody needs to prove they've still got it more than Noah. He was benched, injured, confused, angry and eventually out the door in Chicago, where he'd been part of the fabric until coach Fred Holberg ripped him out. The big question is whether all those years of hellbent play have taken a toll on Noah's body. If he can stay healthy and deliver that old attitude and edge, he'll have the masses at Madison Square Garden eating out of his hand.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte Hornets: He's young to be making a comeback at 22. But he played only seven games last season due to a recurring shoulder injury at a time when his promising career was ready to take off. There's a good chance the Hornets win that first-round playoff series against the Miami Heat with him. The athletic forward is just the kind of player the Hornets need following a summer that saw Al Jefferson leave for the Indiana Pacers, Courtney Lee head to the New York Knicks and Jeremy Lin depart for the Brooklyn Nets. He could become a regular on the NBA's All-Defensive team.

Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans: Do you need a comeback when you averaged 24.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game? Yes, if you're the 23-year-old that a lot of folks had painted in the MVP race before the season started. Davis was less forceful and less imposing in his first season under coach Alvin Gentry. And he had to be shut down early for surgery on his left knee and must still prove he can go the distance. Davis has missed at least 14 games in each of his first four seasons.

Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards: It was one heck of an offseason for the fourth-year guard, getting a maximum contract worth $128 million. Now Beal's got to show that he can stay healthy and stay on the floor more as John Wall's sidekick that averages 17.4 points per game. Leg and ankle injuries sidelined Beal for another 27 games last season as the Wizards missed the playoffs. He's only played more than 63 games once in his career.

Derrick Rose, New York Knicks: It's one thing to show you can come back and play in the league, but quite another to prove that you can reach the MVP form of 2011. That's kinda what Rose hinted at upon arrival in New York when he talked about the Knicks joining the Warriors as a "super team." One step at a time, there. Rose and fellow Chicago refugee Noah have to stay healthy, for one. Rose also has to regain more of his old swagger and explosiveness in order to run the offense, make buckets and have anybody using the word "super" in connection with the Knicks.

Rose On Move To Knicks

Derrick Rose speaks with the media about being traded from the Chicago Bulls to the New York Knicks.

Pau Gasol, San Antonio Spurs: His two seasons in Chicago didn't quite work out like he expected and now, Gasol moves to Texas in an attempt to prove that he's not on a downward spiral to the end of his career. He'll fit perfectly in the middle of the Spurs' passing game and coach Gregg Popovich will manage his minutes scrupulously. This is a perfect landing spot for Gasol to have a last hurrah.

Chandler Parsons, Memphis Grizzlies: It was two years ago when Parsons and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban were posting photos on social media of their partying after he signed in Dallas. Both seasons ended with Parsons on the shelf, unavailable for playoff duty. He moves on to the Grizzlies for $95 million as the perimeter scorer they need ... if he can stay healthy.

Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers: He was on his way to another All-Star berth and perhaps the best season of his career until Griffin suffered a torn quad that put him on the shelf for months. He then punched out an assistant equipment manager that led to him breaking his hand and drawing a four-game suspension from the team for the incident. A bizarre season ended with Griffin injuring his quad again as the Clips lost to the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round of the playoffs. He's very talented, but he's also constantly in the middle of trade rumors. It's time for him to get serious about his career.

Griffin Leaves With Injury

Blake Griffin leaves the game late in the 4th quarter gripping his left quad.

Dion Waiters, Miami Heat: It seems like he's been trying every year to come back from the mistake the Cleveland Cavaliers made when they took him with No. 4 overall pick in the 2012 Draft. He certainly doesn't lack in supreme confidence, which is one of the biggest things that has held him back.

Serge Ibaka, Orlando Magic: A new city and a new start for the athletic leaper who at one time figured to be a permanent fixture in OKC. Ibaka wasn't happy with being asked to move farther out on the floor with the arrival of Steven Adams and then Enes Kanter. So he pouted and it showed on the court. He says he's ready to go back to bring a defensive monster in Orlando.

Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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