Jeremy Lin, posing with with team owner Les Alexander after signing a three-year-deal in Houston last summer, will have a lot of expectations on his back, along with several top sophomores heading into the NBA season that kicks off Oct. 30. (Photo : Reuters)
Last year, these newcomers wowed NBA fans worldwide.
With the NBA season just six days away, Latinos Post takes a look at some of the Top 5 sophomores to watch this year.
1. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers:
Not since the once-beloved-and now hated-LeBron James has Cleveland basketball had such a talked-about new star.
After playing one season at Duke University, Irving, the top draft pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, took Cleveland by storm, averaging 18.5 points, 5.4 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game on pace to becoming the league's Rookie of the Year.
While Irving shined last season, he will have to continue his upward momentum, particularly when it comes to his assists per game totals, in order to not only become an elite point guard but to lead the Cavaliers to the playoffs, which they haven't made since 2010, when James elected to "take his talents to South Beach."
Averaging a few more points per game wouldn't hurt him, either, but as long as Irving can become a more effective ball distributor, the Cavs will be a fearsome team to compete with.
2. Jeremy Lin, Houston Rockets:
Okay, technically, he's not really a sophomore, but after the breakout year he had in what was essentially his breakout season last year in New York, expectations are sky high for the former Harvard grad who took his explosive offensive talents to Houston to join the Rockets.
Averaging 22 points and 8.7 assists during the Linsanity craze before finishing up with 14.6 points per game for the season, Lin is expected to be the centerpiece of both the offense and the franchise this season. As a result, questions have been surrounding him lately about his slow start to the preseason, and the status of his surgically repaired knee.
However, if Lin can bounce back and show flashes of the explosive offensive game that made him an overnight star, the Rockets could conceivably make a lot of noise out west.
3. Iman Shumpert, New York Knicks:
The rookie out of Georgia Tech surprised many last season by establishing himself as both a capable scorer and a top notch defender, a trait needed desperately by the Knicks. But that was before a ghastly misstep tore Shumpert's ACL while driving the ball upcourt in Game 1 of the first round of the playoffs against the Heat.
Even as he recovers, New York hoops fans are still anxiously awaiting the return of the staunch defensive guard that averaged 1.7 steals, 2.8 assists and 9.5 points per game.
On a veteran team that will be the league's oldest by far, Shumpert's youth would be a nice addition to complement the offensive talents of Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire and the defensive presence of Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler. But that's only if Shumpert can return to form. If he can, New York's chances for playoff success will be that much higher.
4. Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves:
The young Spanish point guard out of Barcelona turned heads and caught eyes last season with an 8.2 assist, 10.6 point game average that sparked life in the Timberwolves offense over 41 games. However, his brilliant debut season was cut short when he tore his ACL when colliding with Kobe Bryant during a regular season game against the Los Angeles Lakers.
With Kevin Love now missing time due to his hand injury, the Timberwolves will be eagerly awaiting Rubio's return even more so than before. A team with Rubio's ball distributing skills and the go-to offense that Love brings could seal the deal for a Minnesota playoff birth. But all hinges on whether Rubio can return to being the player he was last year. Or better.
5. Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors:
In a recent poll of general managers around the league, the young Golden State guard out of Washington State was voted as the player most likely to have a breakout season in 2012-13.
No pressure, right?
"That's pretty cool," Thompson told the San Francisco Chronicle Tuesday. "No pressure."
Expectations should probably not be that surprising, considering that Thompson broke out of the gate last season for the Warriors, averaging 12.5 points per game, 2.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists.
And with talents such as David Lee and Harrison Banes as his teammates, a breakout year for Thompson could punch Golden State's golden ticket to the NBA Playoffs. Coach Mark Jackson certainly is expecting big things from Thompson this year.
"We're expecting big things from Klay this year, on both sides of the ball," head coach Mark Jackson told the Chronicle. "This training camp thus far, he's been an elite defender. I'm really pleased with what he's doing on the defensive end."
That can only mean good things for Golden State-and bad news for potential playoff contenders out West.