Chris Kaman with the Dallas Mavericks: The Mavs have traditionally skewed toward defense with their centers (Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood) as a complement to scoring power forward Dirk Nowitzki. Kaman is a multi-faceted scorer, but he'll need to hug the low post in Dallas, with Nowitzki more of a high-post jump shooter.
Andre Iguodala with the Denver Nuggets: He's past the point where he's a franchise-type player, but he's still being paid like one. Iguodala now affects the game primarily as a defender, and the Nuggets need that. He's also a great teammate, subjugating himself for the greater good, and Denver coach George Karl values those guys.
FIVE ROOKIES OF IMPACT
Anthony Davis with the New Orleans Hornets: Blocking shots was his calling card at Kentucky, but he's a whole lot more. He played guard until experiencing a sudden 7-inch growth spurt in high school. That means he handles, passes and makes jump shots with a skill not typically associated with big men.
Damian Lillard with the Portland Trail Blazers: A scoring point guard from Weber State, Lillard blew up the Las Vegas Summer League. That's not always a sure indicator of success, but Lillard will define hard to guard. He has everything an elite point needs: a speedy handle, an eye for creative passes and a reliable scoring touch.
Bradley Beal with the Washington Wizards: If you were teaching your kid how to shoot, you'd simply say, "Watch Beal." He has a smooth, mechanically-ideal stroke, which means he'll make big shots when tightly guarded and off the dribble. He's also mature in a way that belies him being a rookie.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with the Charlotte Bobcats: He'll have immediate impact as a takeaway defender, and the Bobcats (last in the NBA in scoring last season) sure need the easy transition baskets resulting from those steals. The question is how well he'll fix a flawed jump shot.
Harrison Barnes with the Golden State Warriors: He fell short of all that was expected of him at North Carolina as the country's top recruit. But he's still an elite jump-shooter, playing with a low-post scorer (David Lee) and a point guard with a wide skill set (Stephen Curry). He's well situated for success.
THE VAN GUNDY AWARDS
This will be just the second season since 1996 that neither Jeff Van Gundy, nor brother Stan, will be working referees along an NBA sideline. Who picks up the slack, "helping" officials be their best?
Doc Rivers of the Boston Celtics: Maybe the most articulate coach in the league, Rivers uses an entirely different set of words when complaining about calls.
Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs: Pop seems permanently exasperated and indignant, so complaining comes naturally.
Scott Brooks of the Oklahoma City Thunder: Maybe the NBA's most animated game coach. How many Red Bulls does it take to get that wound up?
Scott Skiles of the Milwaukee Bucks: He has a perma-scowl that shouts "I'm only happy when I'm unhappy." The Bucks give him plenty of reasons to worry.
Avery Johnson of the Brooklyn Nets: Not quite as excitable as Brooks, but no one sprints from scorer's table-to-baseline faster to scold.
TAKING A DIVE FOR TEAM
The NBA is cracking down on floppers, so it's a good thing Vlade Divac is long-ago retired. The five current pros who turn falling backward into performance art:
Shane Battier of the Miami Heat: Great body control and anticipation allows him to simulate collisions that didn't really happen.
Manu Ginobili of the San Antonio Spurs: He's getting a little old to be giving up his body to draw a few extra offensive fouls. But he was a master of the art.
Anderson Varejao of the Cleveland Cavaliers: Best among big men; can convince you a 6-foot-3, 180-pound guard really did run into him.
Raja Bell, late of the Utah Jazz: Great at getting to a spot before the player he's guarding does, but he also knows how to sell a charging call.
J.J. Redick of the Orlando Magic: Taking charges is really the only way he can survive, trying to guard NBA shooting guards.
IN A STATE OF CHANGE
Five NBA franchises going through major transitions:
The Brooklyn Nets: They moved across the river from New Jersey, into a spectacular new arena. The Knicks must consider them a real threat to be the primo franchise in the boroughs.
The New Orleans Hornets: Regrouping after losing Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Clippers, the Hornets build a future around Davis and shooting guard Eric Gordon.
The Orlando Magic: Dwightmare is over and Van Gundy is out as coach. They're starting from scratch, even more so than when Shaq left them years ago.
The Phoenix Suns: It's been eight seasons since the Suns didn't have Nash to run the show. Is rookie Kendall Marshall up to taking over?
The Washington Wizards: They remade their locker room with high-character guys like Emeka Okafor and rookie Beal. It's overdue for John Wall to realize his potential.
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