NBA

NBA AM: Players Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind

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This week, the Basketball Insiders team will be providing you with a series that ranks the top 10 players at each position.  The top 10 point guards in the game was released earlier in the week and there could be a case made for Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe being worthy of consideration.  

However, Bledsoe missed a significant portion of the 2016 season and this likely led to him being excluded from consideration. The NBA is truly a “what have you done for me lately” league. Today, we’ll explore some players who are arguably top 10 talents at their respective positions but aren’t going to get the love this week – largely due to their inactivity.

Here are a couple of guys who likely won’t show up on the radar in our series, but can still perform at (or near) a top-10 level if they can remain on the court full-time.

Eric Bledsoe, Guard, Phoenix Suns
2015-16 Stats: 20.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 37 percent from three

Bledsoe’s omission from the top-10 point guard list, on the surface, appears to be glaring. However, Bledsoe missed 51 games last season due to injury and the guys who rounded out the list (Kyle Lowry, Isaiah Thomas, Mike Conley and Kemba Walker) all led their teams to the postseason and deservingly got the nod here.

But Bledsoe has the talent to ultimately secure a spot on this list, provided he can stay healthy enough to fully reach his potential.

Tyreke Evans, Guard, New Orleans Pelicans
2015-16 Stats: 15;2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 6.6 assists, 38 percent 3PT

When Basketball Insiders’ top 10 shooting guards list is released this afternoon, Evans in all likelihood won’t be on it. Evans missed 57 games last season due to an assortment of injuries that forced him to shut his season down early. But when healthy, Evans is easily one of the most versatile guards in the game – capable of scoring 20-plus points on any given night, while also carving up defenses as a strong playmaker.

Bledsoe and Evans are extremely talented, but raw talent alone isn’t enough to get you a mention on the preseason list.

It’ll be interesting to follow how these guys are doing – on the court and health-wise – as we get deeper into the season.

Fresh Start for Ty Lawson in Sacramento

The Sacramento Kings haven’t reached the playoffs since 2006 and the scarcity of success experienced by the team in many ways can be attributed to a lack of leadership – on the court and roaming the sidelines.

Heading into 2016-17 campaign, Sacramento will be relying on two new “coaches” to provide the necessary leadership in order to be relevant in playoff talks this season. On the sidelines, the team hired head coach Dave Joerger, who takes over after spending three seasons with Memphis in the same capacity. The team also signed veteran floor general Ty Lawson to a one-year pact in order to replace the departed Rajon Rondo, who led the league in assists last season. The Lawson signing will also provide insurance in the event guard Darren Collison will need to miss extended time after a turbulent summer off the court.

Lawson appears to be treating the campaign as part of his redemption quest. The veteran was once considered a borderline All-Star-caliber talent with career averages of 16 points and 7.8 assists on 46 percent shooting from the floor in 320 games as a starter. But last season, Lawson’s trajectory appeared to be more in line with a journeyman talent – having uneventful stints with Houston and Indiana while averaging a meager 5.7 points and 3.6 assists in 66 combined appearances.

“Sometimes, an experience, you have to grow from it,” Lawson said Monday at the Kings’ Media Day, according to the Associated Press. “I think I’ve grown a lot and I’m just ready to move forward. I heard a GM said, ‘I think he lost a step. He can’t shoot anymore.’ I’ve got a lot to prove and I got a chip on my shoulder to prove it.”

Part of Joerger’s success in Memphis was due to stability at point guard, with Mike Conley calling the shots on the floor. It’s clear that Joerger has high expectations for Lawson to deliver and carve out as significant role in the team’s rotation.

“I’m counting on Ty to be a pro,” Joerger said. “It’s an important year for him. I have a lot of confidence in him. I’m looking forward to him playing well and being a leader for our team.”

Lawson’s decision to sign with Sacramento was influenced by recently dismissed Kings coach George Karl, who once coached the veteran in Denver and gave the organization a solid thumbs up endorsement.

“I talked to him three or four times before I made the decision to come here, just about the organization, how everything is, was it really as bad as what everybody was saying,” Lawson said. “He had good things to say. That’s what made me ultimately choose Sacramento over New Orleans.”

The Kings figure to have a contested three-way battle for starting honors with Collison, Lawson and veteran Jordan Farmar in the mix for big roles.

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About Lang Greene

Lang Greene

Lang Greene is a senior NBA writer for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last eight seasons

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