DiBiase: Risers and decliners that could shape NBA season

Justin Dibiase

The commencement of the ’07-’08 NBA season is upon us. The Western Conference still reigns supreme, and Mark Cuban is still loud and in love with his Dirk. However, the landscape of stars in the NBA is changing. New faces with amazing talent are springing up across the league, while old stars will be seeing a lot more pine time during this season. So before the season starts, allow me to introduce you to the new faces of basketball and allow you to say your goodbyes to some of the falling stars.

On the Rise

Deron Williams (PG) Utah Jazz- Williams made a name for himself during his outstanding performance in the ’07 postseason.

Jameer Nelson (PG) Orlando Magic- After a tumultuous offseason in which his father passed away, the former St. Joe’s Hawk is having a terrific preseason and is ready to lead the young and talented Magic deep into the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Gerald Wallace (SF) Charlotte Bobcats- Everyone knows that Wallace can jump out of any arena, but he has also developed a well-rounded game since being selected by the Bobcats in the expansion draft. Look for Wallace to make great strides this season.

Josh Smith (SF) Atlanta Hawks- Similar to Wallace, Smith is a young, incredibly talented athlete who is also in the midst of developing a mid-range game. Look for Smith to break out with a huge season in Hot-lanta.

Luol Deng (SF) Chicago Bulls- Duke is more known for their NBA flops than their NBA stars, but Deng is an exception. Deng is spreading his wings in Chicago and is developing into a true threat from the wing.

Al Jefferson (PF) Minnesota Timberwolves- Jefferson has the tough task of filling the low-post presence of Kevin Garnett in the Timberwolves rotation. The good news for Minnesota is that Jefferson is capable of handling himself around the basket. He is no KG, but Jefferson is special in his own way.

Andrew Bogut (C) Milwaukee Bucks- The former No. 1 overall pick from Utah has all the tools to become a solid center for the up-and-coming Milwaukee Bucks. Bogut will play hard on each possession, as rookie Yi Jianlian is breathing down his neck for playing time.

Also on the Rise: Randy Foye (PG) Minnesota, Kevin Martin (SG) Sacramento, Brandon Roy (SG) Portland

On the Decline

Antoine Walker (SF) Minnesota Timberwoves- Walker was once a scoring machine in Bean Town beside Paul Pierce, but times have changed. The Timberwolves acquired Walker two weeks ago in hopes that he can supply a veteran presence in the frontcourt but not much else. Walker and the younger Timberwolves will struggle in a tough division.

Kenyon Martin (PF) Denver Nuggets- The oft-injured power forward from Cincinnati is coming off his second microfracture knee surgery, a rare sight. Martin’s game will not be what it was, and he will try to find time in the Nuggets’ rotation behind Nenê. All hope is not lost for Martin, however. Amare Stoudemire and Jason Kidd have successfully returned from the same surgery.

Andrei Kirilenko (SF) Utah Jazz- Kirilenko struggled with many facets of his game last year after being an all-star performer. His latest problems with Jerry Sloan should alienate Kirilenko even more from Sloan and Utah and make him one step closer from playing overseas.

Samuel Dalembert (C) Philadelphia 76ers- Every year this big man is labeled with the “P” word. True, Dalembert has plenty of potential, but the Haitian center cannot develop a consistent inside game. A stress fracture in his foot will further slow the 26-year-old.

Brad Miller (C) Sacramento Kings- The 7-foot center is turning 32, an age at which most 7-footers see a decline in their game. Miller’s rebounds, points and minutes were all down last season; expect more of the same from Miller this season.

Ray Allen (SG) Boston Celtics- One thing is always true of Allen: the man can shoot the basketball. The aging guard, however, will have to battle through ankle problems and an aging body. Allen has still “got game,” but how much will he see the ball with KG and Pierce beside him?

Shawn Marion (PF) Phoenix Suns- Don’t get me wrong, Marion is still a great player, but he slipped a bit last season and looks to be headed that way again. Marion, who is nearing 30, will never produce the eye-popping numbers of his ’05-’06 season.

Also on the Decline: Ben Wallace (C) Chicago, Steve Francis (PG) Houston, Cuttino Mobley (SG) Los Angeles Clippers

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Justin DiBiase is a junior civil engineering major from Franklinville, N.J. He can be reached at [email protected]