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Sam Smith predicts NBA season’s busts and bust outs

So who is on the way up in the NBA this season and who is on the way down? Sam Smith provides a look at who may be ready to bust out this season and who may be a bust.
Sam Smith at Bulls.com

Predicting the NBA season’s busts and bust outs


The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

Joakim Noah Joakim Noah is healthy and in shape for the first time in his career and we tend to forget the guy was a heck of a competitor in college. He should be a double-double guy if he can only stay out of foul trouble.
(Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images)

So who’s on the way up in the NBA this season and who’s on the way down? It’s a bit early to say with certainty, but here’s a look at who may be ready to bust out this season and who may be a bust.

Bust Outs:

Brook Lopez: The Nets center has a chance to begin putting up some big time numbers not only because the team is a mess. In a league of the vanishing center, he looks like a classic post man who can run the floor and have an impact.

Rudy Fernandez: This also depends on the goofy rotations they keep playing in Portland. Nicholas Batum? What’s that about? This guy can score, shoot and is an exciting player and ought to be at a small forward or wing position regularly.

Joakim Noah: Chicago’s own is healthy and in shape for the first time in his career and we tend to forget the guy was a heck of a competitor in college. He should be a double-double guy if he can only stay out of foul trouble.

Kevin Love: He’s this era’s Bailey Howell. The Hall of Famer was what they called affectionately a “garbage man” in the old days, a guy with limited athletic ability with a nose for the ball and strong fundamentals who got a double/double without jumping.

Anthony Randolph: The second year pogo stick should get plenty of opportunities in the dysfunctional Warriors open game, especially with Brandan Wright gone with surgery.

Nick Young/Randy Foye: You never can tell what will happen with all those guards in Washington. But you figure one of these guys has to replace DeShawn Stevenson and will begin lighting it up in their open game.

Channing Frye: Underused and underutilized in New York and Portland, he’ll get plenty of chances in Phoenix as a running, shooting center.

Jason Thompson: The Kings should be awful. But he’s better than Spencer Hawes and new coach Paul Westphal is an offensive guy who will get a runner like Thompson plenty of opportunities.

Ryan Anderson: This shooter may be the big prize for the Magic in the big Vince Carter deal. He should get a nice chance with Rashard Lewis suspended to open the season.

Marco Belinelli: They were initially high on him in Golden State but things are too fluid there. He’s got a good shot now in the right system for him in Toronto.

Emeka Okafor: Not that he’s been invisible. It just seems that way. He’ll play with a point guard who passes the ball for the first time in his career and could be an All-Star in the center starved West.

Lou Williams: Maybe it’s obvious with Andre Miller gone. But he has a chance to put up big numbers, though not necessarily assists.

Busts:

Shaq: I know he’s there for the playoffs and Dwight Howard. But their system is so defensive oriented and Shaq is anything but. I see LeBron deferring to the perimeter too much and Cleveland easier to handle in the regular season.

Allen Iverson: Too easy. This can’t possibly work with all those scorers and at a time when Iverson’s amazing body finally seems to be giving out on him.

Rodney Stuckey: He just isn’t a point guard. So how’s he going to fit with Ben Gordon and Richard Hamilton? Nice player, but I actually think they’ll end up using Will Bynum at the point more the way he runs pick and roll.

Stephen Jackson: This may be easier than AI. He’s already been suspended and demanded a trade. And his value around the league with a long contract is nil. This is going to be ugly.

Yi Jianlian: You hate to keep saying soft. Let’s say too much of a finesse player. He stays outside too much, isn’t that great a shooter and doesn’t defend much.

Trevor Ariza: So he plays off Kobe and Pau and makes a few shots and he’s a big time free agent. Yes, things are going to get even worse for the Rockets if they expect much from this nice role player.

Danilo Gallinari: This may not be fair since the guy has basically not played. There’s always too much hype in New York, but he seems fragile and frail and isn’t going to deal well with being the latest New York savior.

Tyson Chandler: Poor Tyson loses Chris Paul and good guy Byron Scott for Scott Skiles-esque Larry Brown and shooting point guards. Too bad. It’s back to this good guy’s worse days with the Bulls.

Beno Udrih: Probably was a bust already after getting benched with a big free agent contract and the team then using a lottery pick for a point guard. He doesn’t seem to have much future with the Kings, which may be good for him.

Mo Williams: I just don’t see him as an All-Star. The playoff Mo Williams was the one I recall. Good combo guard who can make some shots. But an All-Star? C’mon.

Hasheem Thabeet: I may be premature on this, but he looks way too slow for the game. I also saw that in Roy Hibbert last season, but he’s actually looked lots better and I almost considered him a bust out. Almost.

Charlie Villanueva: He’s not a power forward, but neither is just about anyone playing that position for the Pistons. Ben Gordon will give them what they paid for. I can’t see Charlie doing as well.

NBA news & notes:

-- Eddy Curry isn’t expected to be ready to even open the season with the Knicks with a new series of hamstring strains. … The 76ers’ Jason Kapono is wearing No. 72 this season. Asked about it, he said, "It's a rare number and I'm a rare person." It turned out he couldn’t wear his No. 24 as it is retired for Bobby Jones, so as a three point shooter he multiplied by three. Definitely a four-year college guy. … You figure at some point Rafer Alston will be on the move again this season with so many teams short point guards and Alston playing behind Devin Harris and Keyon Dooling with the Nets. Speaking of point guards, which the Bulls also looked like they could use with Derrick Rose out tus far, here’s who’s available: Tyronn Lue, Brevin Knight, Jacque Vaughn, Earl Boykins, Jamaal Tinley, Stephon Marbury and Bobby Jackson.

-- I know the fabulous Dwyane Wade dragged Miami to fifth in the East last season, but I don’t see how he can do it again. Jermaine O’Neal opened the preseason with one rebound in 22 minutes, Mario Chalmers remains uneven at point guard and Michael Beasley now moves out of position to start at small forward. … I like what I’ve seen from that Pistons rookie from Sweden Jonas Jerebko, who was suspended a game for fighting with Jamaal Magloire. He’s a tough guy and good open court runner who could be a surprise second rounder…You’ve got to like this issue for the Wizards. They can’t get Gilbert Arenas to shoot enough. Said coach Flip Saunders to the Washington Post: "He's got to be aggressive offensively. The way my offense is initiated, you look at the point guards I've had, they've always had high assists, but they've always been scorers. They're usually first or second on my team in scoring. If your point guard is not an aggressive scorer, it takes away.” Arenas took only five shots in a win over Memphis and then none in the first half the next game against Dallas before the team at halftime told him to shoot more. He’s still Agent Zero. … Dallas’ Josh Howard with ankle issues should start the season late again and you figure the Mavs will make him available as soon as he’s healthy. … Washington’s Mike Miller with that hair style that most women would wish for now appears to be dying his hair blond as well. … A surprise rookie could be Dallas’ Roddy Beaubois, who repeatedly stripped Arenas in head to head play in a Dallas win. He’s a jet like Tony Parker. … Another second rounder to watch is Pitt’s Sam Young with 22 points off the bench against the Thunder last week. Though teammate DuJuan Blair going in the second round was a big draft day story, there was a lot of head scratching about Young, who didn’t have physical issues like Blair. Memphis might be better off developing Young than trying to sell Allen Iverson. … Blair’s 19 rebound debut for the Spurs missed by one of being the first Spur to grab 20 rebounds in a preseason game since Will Perdue in 1996.

-- With Shaq traded and Yao out injured, the West’s All-Star center spot seems open with Tim Duncan, who plays more center now with Antonio McDyess added, insisting he is only a forward. The Nuggets say Nene should be the All-Star center. West starting centers include Drew Gooden, Channing Frye. Emeka Okafor, Greg Oden, Al Jefferson, Marcus Camby, Nenad Krstic, Jason Thomson and Andrew Bynum remain possibilities. Geez. … The Trail Blazers had to love Andre Miller’s comments to Yahoo Sports that if he knew he’d be talked about as a backup in Portland he wouldn’t have signed. Why the Blazers are considering Steve Blake the starter remains a mystery as well. You figure the Trail Blazers are regretting their decision not to pursue Kirk Hinrich, though it remains unlikely the Bulls would have made a deal. … Juwan Howard continues to hang on and is making a nice impression with the Blazers.

-- So Stephen Jackson picks up five fouls and a technical and nine minutes against the Lakers and then is suspended by the team for words with coach Don Nelson. That sure should make teams interested in taking on his contract through 2012-13. Nice move by the Warriors as Jackson would have been a free agent after this season and easily traded if Jackson hadn’t talked the management that fired Chris Mullins because he didn’t want to do the deal into that extension. … With hesitating on competing for USA Basketball next summer by potential free agents LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, it should open up spots for Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose.