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Cullen: 10 NBA players looking at bigger roles next year

Scott Cullen
7/24/2014 1:18:34 PM
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While much of the focus of the NBA Offseason is about stars changing teams, there isn't necessarily a dramatic impact, say to LeBron James' production going from Miami to Cleveland. Leaving aside the possibility of more changes to come with the Cavaliers' roster, there isn't an obvious reason that James' numbers should be significantly different next season. His greatness will travel.

On the other hand, there are some players that are looking at better opportunities next year, with the possibility of more playing time and touches leading to potentially better production.

Here are 10 guys that could have bigger roles with their respective clubs next season:

Chris Bosh, C, Miami - Wooed by the Rockets, Bosh decided to return to the Heat, even in the wake of LeBron James' departure. Sure, newcomers Luol Deng and Josh McRoberts will have big roles in the frontcourt, but if anyone is going to have a bigger role in LeBron's absence, doesn't it have to be Bosh? He had 12.1 field goal attempts per game last season, his fewest since his rookie year (2003-2004!) and this while he's become a more effective shooter, with a career-best 55.5% effective field goal percentage, dramatically increasing his three-point attempts to 4.5 per game. That's up from 1.6 per game, which had been a career-best, the year before. Sure, there won't be as many open threes if Deng is handling the ball instead of LeBron, but it should come as no surprise if Bosh sees his field goal attempts go back to 15-16 per game and he gets back over 20 points per game.

Darren Collison, PG, Sacramento - After Isaiah Thomas departed for Phoenix, Collison moved north from the Clippers to take the Kings' starting point guard job. Collison played a career-low 25.9 minutes per game last season, yet was effective enough, scoring 11.4 points and dishing 3.7 assists per game. With presumably more minutes and possibly more shots (Thomas was one of three Kings to average more than 15 field goal attempts per game), 26-year-old Collison is in position to have his numbers bounce back signfiicantly this season.

Lance Stephenson, SG, Charlotte - Moving from starting shooting guard in Indiana to starting shooting guard in Charlotte doesn't necessarily mean a big change, but the Hornets let Gary Neal jack up 12.8 shots per game last season while shooting 35.3% from the field. Why not give those looks to Stephenson, who shot a career-best 49.1% from the field, averaging a career-high 14.1 points, 7.3 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game with the Pacers last year.

Jordan Hill, C, L.A. Lakers - There are newcomers at power forward for the Lakers, including Carlos Boozer, Julius Randle and Ed Davis and, between them, they will eat some minutes in the middle, but Hill is looking at a prime opportunity to start for the Lakers, a chance to build on a great finish to last season, when he averaged 15.9 points, 9.9 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game in March and April. Hill shot a career-best 54.9% from the field last year and played more than 20 minutes per game for the first time in his career. If he can maintain that efficiency, he could be a real asset over 28-30 minutes per game as a starter.

Patrick Beverley, PG, Houston - With the Rockets sending Jeremy Lin to to the Lakers, Beverley is head-and-shoulders above his competition for playing time at the point with the Rockets. Beverley may not play a bunch more, than the 31 minutes a night he averaged last season, but there are more touches available and if Beverley takes an extra couple shots per game and dishes a few more assists, he will continue on his

Andrei Kirilenko, SF, Brooklyn - A 33-year-old forward coming off a season in which he averaged 5.0 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game, while playing a career-low 19 minutes per game, Kirilenko will have to compete with younger Euro forwards Sergey Karasev and Bojan Bogdanovic for playing time but, as an established NBA player, Kirilenko should have first crack at replacing Paul Pierce in the starting lineup. With significant playing time, Kirilenko has an opportunity for something resembling a bounceback season.

Donatas Motiejunas, PF, Houston - One other reason that the Rockets should have some shots available is that they let Chandler Parsons go to Dallas and only James Harden (16.5) had more than Parsons' 13.3 field goal attempts per game. With a thinned-out roster, because they were trying to lure a premier free agent, there is opportunity in Houston for someone like Motiejunas, a 23-year-old left-handed 7-footer who has put up 5.6 points and 3.0 rebounds in a little over 14 minutes per game through two NBA seasons. Motiejunas had a strong showing in the Las Vegas Summer League so maybe he'll find his way into a regular spot in the Houston rotation and put up some decent numbers as a result.

Cody Zeller, PF, Charlotte - With Josh McRoberts moving on, there is opportunity available in the Hornets' frontcourt and last year's fourth overall pick, Zeller, should have the edge over this year's ninth overall pick, Noah Vonleh, for a spot in the starting lineup. Zeller started slowly as a rookie, shooting 38.0% from the field before the All-Star break, but he hit 50.7% from the field after the break, averaging 7.7 points and 4.8 rebounds per game in 18.3 minutes per game. If Zeller is a starter, 12 (points per game) and 8 (rebounds per game) should be possible.

Anthony Morrow, SG, Oklahoma City - While the Thunder are looking at a starting lineup that will effectively include two point guards, Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson, there should be a regular rotation role for Morrow, a three-point bomber who hit 45.1% from beyond the arc last season and has made 42.8% on threes for his career. Morrow played under 19 minutes per game in New Orleans last season, but effectively takes over a spot from Thabo Sefolosha, who was playing 26 minutes per game for the Thunder last year. Some of those minutes would figure go to Jackson, but if Morrow plays 24 minutes a game, he could score in double figures.

Hollis Thompson, SF, Philadelphia - 23-year-old Thompson started 41 games for the Sixers last season, averaging 6.0 points, 3.2 rebounds and 0.9 assists per game. An undrafted free agent out of Georgetown, Thompson made 40.1% of his three-pointers as a rookie and there just aren't that many great offensive options for the 76ers. Once Michael Carter-Williams and Thaddeus Young get theirs, why couldn't Thompson double last year's 4.8 field goal attempts per game?

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.




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