It’s All In The Game: Five NBA Sleepers

The 2007-08 NBA season is up and running, and even though everybody has a clean slate, there are a few sure things that are likely to happen. You can count on the Suns and Celtics being tough, LeBron and KG are going to get theirs... but every season there are surprises, and there will be a few players who will have breakout years. Last year, Monta Ellis and Daniel Gibson were those guys. As for this year? Here are five players who might be household names come May.

Marvin Williams - Atlanta Hawks

Two years ago, Williams was the second pick of the 2005 NBA Draft. Picked ahead of Chris Paul and Deron Williams, the Atlanta Hawks forward has not come close to living up to his billing so far. He is in jeopardy of being labled the next Sam Bowie - the guy picked ahead Michael Jordan in the ‘84 Draft. But before you call Williams a bust, here a few reasons we think he won’t be. For starters he is just 21 years old. He only played one season at North Carolina and he didn’t even start! So he is still young and is still learning how to play the game.

Physically Williams has all the tools – he is an athletic 6-9 who can play three positions, he has a soft shooting touch and he has a good attitude. In the pre-season, Williams put up good numbers – 17 points and 5 boards per game. With an improved Hawks squad, this could be the year Williams blows up. Joe Johnson is obviously the man down in A-town, but don’t be surprised if the versatile Williams becomes the second option on the team as the season rolls on.

Dorrell Wright - Miami Heat

Drafted straight out of high school in 2004, Wright spent the majority of his first two years with the Heat in street clothes – appearing in only 23 games. Last season, he showed flashes of brilliance as his PT increased. Though he is still raw, Wright has handles, hops and a decent “J”. Shaq is aging and Wade is injury prone, so this is a perfect chance in South Beach for Dorrell. He must start capitalizing on his potential and prove he was worthy of that first round selection back in ‘05.

Louis Williams - Philadelphia 76'ers

Another member of the ’05 class, Williams was a late second round coming out of high school in Georgia. So far, his claim to fame was being boys with Bow Wow – he even appeared on B-Dub’s appearance on MTV Cribs. However, Williams has the opportunity to jump off the rapper’s coat tail and get his own shine. He proved in the last summer’s Vegas Summer League and Rocky Mountain Revue that he has game. The 6-2 guard used his quick first step to get to the rim at will - often finishing above the rim. He can also deliver the ball and run the team.

Williams has yet to develop an adequate three-point shot, but again, he is only 21. With Allen Iverson gone to Denver, there is no question Williams will get a lot of burn this season. So far he has impressed, dropping 33 in a pre-season game against the Nets.

Nate Robinson - New York Knicks

Out of all the players mentioned on this list, Nate has been the most proven player. This tiny 5-9 Knicks guard has electrified crowds with his unbelievable athleticism and scoring ability. But Nate the Great has also proven that he was immature. Cocky and loud-mouthed, Robinson has been criticized for his child-like outbursts with opposing players, refs and even his own teammates. The brawl against Denver last season validated his immaturity even further. On the court, there were also some issues. Robinson hogged the ball too much, was defensively challenged and had failed to prove he can play the point.

After teammate Mardy Collins emerged at the end of last season and with the Knicks bringing in three more guards in the off-season, it was looking like Nate was odd man out. But Nate responded to the challenge. Playing the point guard, he dominated the Vegas Summer League, earning MVP honors and leading his team to a perfect record. Then he spent the entire off-season working out in New York getting reading for this season. The hard work has shown so far, as he has played well in the pre-season and during the first few games of the season. Don’t be surprised if he starts over Stephon Marbury at the point at some point in the season.

Von Wafer - Denver Nuggets

Sometimes a player has to take a step backwards before they can go forward. After leaving Florida State early in 2005, Wafer was a second round pick of the Lakers. Clearly not ready for the big stage, he found himself in the D-League the very next season. Second chances rarely come along in this league, but Wafer has worked his way back up scoring a 10-day contract late last season with the Clippers.

Playing with Denver’s summer league team, Wafer took full advantage, torching the Knicks for 42. Wafer had an impressive pre-season with the Nuggets and could very easily replace the immature J.R. Smith in the rotation. The Nuggets are also a lock for the playoffs, so look for Wafer to get some serious shine this post-season.