Pretty much every wing player — i.e., a two-guard or small forward, typically someone who can play both — in the NBA is athletic. It’s one of the job requirements. And if they’re not very athletic, they can at least compensate by shooting your face off. So simply being able to do a YouTube-friendly dunk or knock down a rack’s worth of threes isn’t always enough to make an impact in the League.
The key is expanding your game. Here are five wing players who have added pieces to their original arsenal and are poised for a breakout season in 2010-11:
Bill Walker — In his high school days, nobody was more exciting to watch than Bill Walker. When he was catching alley-oops from O.J. Mayo back then, everybody thought he had at least one NBA Dunk Contest trophy in his future. After knee injuries and a benchwarmer role in Boston cooled off that hype, Walker was traded to New York, where he’s shown flashes of the exceptional talent (11.9 ppg in 27 games) we saw when he was a teenager. After losing a noticeable amount of weight since last season, Walker is lighter, quicker and seemed to have more bounce at the Vegas Summer League.
C.J. Miles — It’s hard to believe he’s still only 23 years old. With five seasons under his belt, C.J.’s confidence is increasing with each and every game, and he played a big role in Utah’s playoff run last year (14.4 ppg). Miles has great size for a two-guard but can also play the three, putting pressure on the defense with his shooting and athleticism going to the rim.
Terrence Williams — We’re still waiting to see where new Nets coach Avery Johnson sticks Williams on the court, but wherever it is, the second-year kid is ready to explode. Williams was one of the few bright spots in New Jersey’s terrible season, and his strong Orlando Summer League performance indicated he’ll be even better this year. If the Nets are better as a team, T-Will should make a name for himself.
DeMar DeRozan — With the Raptors trying to compensate for Chris Bosh’s absence, DeRozan could average 15 or more points a night in his second year. He was one of the most impressive players in the Vegas Summer League, and should contend for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award.
Nicolas Batum — Last year he was competing with Martell Webster, Travis Outlaw and Rudy Fernandez for minutes in Portland. Now Webster is in Minnesota, Outlaw is in New Jersey, and if Fernandez doesn’t get traded soon, he’ll probably have a seat in Nate McMillan’s doghouse for his public pouting and inconsistent play. That leaves Batum with plenty of minutes and a chance to have a breakout season. When he’s healthy, Batum is like a poor man’s Trevor Ariza or a rich man’s Jamario Moon.
Honorable Mention — Brandon Rush, Von Wafer, Austin Daye