This summer has been intriguing, to say the least. NBA legends Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett all said goodbye to the game of basketball. Free agency was full of headlines. Kevin Durant joining the Warriors has shaken the NBA landscape, with teams once again preparing to play the association’s newest “super-team”. But with all of the off-season changes and the landscape looking very different, there are plenty of players who have found themselves in much better situations than last season – whether it be because a teammate left town or the player himself found a new home. Today, we will be focusing on five of those players.
NBA Players Set For Bigger Roles in 2016-17
Dennis Schroder – Point Guard – Atlanta Hawks
With the Atlanta Hawks trading point guard Jeff Teague to the Indiana Pacers, German guard Dennis Schroder is set for a much larger role in the upcoming season. Schroder showed promise last season, which is what led to the Teague trade. The rapid German plays with incredible speed; Schroder might be one of the fastest players in the NBA. Speed seems to be a key quality for point guards in today’s game, with players like Russell Westbrook and John Wall thriving off of it.
Schroder will have to adapt quickly as Atlanta’s full time starter. Having only started 16 games in his three-year career, Schroder will need to not only run fast, but adjust just as quickly. Despite coming off the bench last season, Schroder still averaged 11 points and 4.4 assists per game. He doesn’t struggle to put up points, but taking care of the ball appears to be a problem. Last season, Schroder averaged 2.3 turnovers per game, a number that must go down if he is to hold down his new role of starter.
Schroder is set to start for the first time in his whole NBA career, and it will be a test for him. As a young point guard, he will have pressure heaped upon him. The Hawks are a team expected to make the playoffs, despite being in transition. With new additions such as center Dwight Howard, Schroder does have a big paint presence to help him, along with All-Star Paul Millsap. The Hawks understand Schroder’s situation, as the team went out and signed experienced point guard Jarrett Jack. Having Jack by his side should greatly benefit Shroder next season.
Harrison Barnes – Small Forward – Dallas Mavericks
Last season for the Golden State Warriors, Harrison Barnes was the odd man out on a spectacular team. Despite starting at small forward, Barnes was was regularly subbed out for Andre Iguodala in big defensive situations. There is no doubt that Barnes is talented, but some question if he is really worth the $94 million deal he was given. Barnes is now set to start at small forward for the Dallas Mavericks. Former Warriors teammate Andrew Bogut is also a Maverick. Mavs owner Mark Cuban seemed keen on bringing both players to Dallas, especially considering the loss of Chandler Parsons and Zaza Pachulia in free agency.
In Barnes and Bogut, Dallas added two key pieces in its efforts to make the playoffs. Barnes offers athleticism and shooting. But saying that Barnes will develop into an All-Star in Dallas is going too far. If anything, he’s not even an upgrade over Parsons. Where Cuban puts his money is up to him, but at the end of the day, the Mavericks are the only ones who will suffer from their potentially poor free agency spending.
Serge Ibaka – Power Forward – Orlando Magic
On 2016 draft night, the Orlando Magic made one of the more confusing moves of the off-season. The Magic traded Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova, and the draft rights to Domantas Sabonis to the Oklahoma City Thunder, all in exchange for big man Serge Ibaka. Ibaka has been a part of a star-studded Thunder team for a long time. But has always been the team’s third wheel. Having been overshadowed by Westbrook and Durant for such a long time, it’s finally time for Ibaka to show what he can do as the Magic’s first or second offensive option.
Ibaka offers a lot, but having joined a Magic team that is not even close to competing, his impact could be for nothing. The Magic won 35 games last season, but with the loss of Oladipo, it’s difficult to say that Ibaka will help them reach 40 wins. Ibaka is very good defensively and is improving every year on the other end. The Magic will benefit from having Ibaka in the line-up, but this team is still young. Don’t expect miracles in Ibaka’s first season with the Magic.
Clint Capela – Center – Houston Rockets
Capela is a player who all Houston Rockets fans should be excited about. The athletic big man from Switzerland is set to start at center this season in Houston. With the loss of former All-Star Dwight Howard, Capela is set to benefit. Capela is a strong player who has shown in the past that he’s a very promising talent. Having only starting 35 games in his two NBA seasons, Capela will need to step up big in his first season as a starter.
Last season, Capela averaged about 7 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game off the bench. That’s a very solid stat line which undoubtedly played a part in Capela becoming a starter. Capela is promising, but he does have one glaring weakness. Just like so many big men in the NBA, Capela cannot make free throws. In his first season, Capela shot just 17.4 percent from the line – a number that would make any head coach cringe. Capela did improve in his second season, shooting a much better 37.9 percent. That’s still a paltry number, but if Capela improves again and shoots around 50 percent, it should make Mike D’Antoni smile.
Timofey Mozgov – Center – Los Angeles Lakers
One of the most talked about free agency signings was Timofey Mozgov. Many believe that Mozgov was overpaid, as the Los Angeles Lakers signed him to a four-year, $64 million deal. However, Mozgov was a necessary addition, as the Lakers needed a new starting center. Mozgov was a member of the NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers last season, but he played a very limited role for them. Lakers fans appear to be more excited about draft pick Ivica Zubac than Mozgov. Because of that, Mozgov will need to be prove himself in purple and gold, if he is to be truly appreciated.
Mozgov does give a young Lakers team experience and a strong mentality. The big man will definitely aim to clean the glass when he’s on the court. Mozgov will be the full-time starting center for the Lakers during the 2016-17 season, so get used to seeing that 7’1” frame in the paint at the Staples Center.