LeBron James was the talk of the offseason. But with NBA training camps getting started, which of the league's biggest names have the most to prove this season? Click onward for answers. Follow Randy Hill on Twitter
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY SportsKen Blaze
Derrick Rose, PG, Chicago Bulls
A hometown hero and former league MVP, Rose has played in 10 regular-season games since injuring the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during the opening round of the 2012 playoffs. Having returned from last season's tear in his right knee meniscus, Rose regained some timing and rhythm while playing for Team USA during its gold-medal run at the FIBA World Cup. Although his efficiency rate wasn't exactly cause for celebration, Rose did -- at times -- demonstrate the burst and change-of-direction chops that made him an elite player. We'll see how quickly his quest to recapture past stardom can blend with Chicago's formidable front line.
NBAE/Getty ImagesBrock Williams-Smith
Kevin Love, PF, Cleveland Cavaliers
There is considerable evidence that this scoring-rebounding statistical machine wasn't capable of lifting a marginal array of surrounding talent into a playoff spot in the Western Conference. What we're now interested in finding out is how much K-Love can provide while working alongside LeBron James and Kyrie Irving as the Cavs attempt to overpower the Eastern Conference. His ability to rebound and locate sweet scoring spots where LeBron can find him shouldn't be an issue, but it might get interesting if Irving's determination to insinuate himself into the offense pushes Love to third-wheel status. Still, the really big question could be how well Love adjusts to Coach David Blatt's methods of team defense.
Kobe Bryant, SG, Los Angeles Lakers
This is a guy who has spent a large chunk of his sensational career searching for (or inventing) the next challenge to be overcome in an inspired march through greatness. With that variable in mind, he has nothing to prove. But, much like Derrick Rose, Kobe must rally from back-to-back catastrophic injuries in another sustained effort to play at an elite level. At age 36, can Bryant's reduced-to-mortal athleticism keep pace with his still explosive basketball mind?
NBAE/Getty ImagesKent Smith
Phil Jackson, President, New York Knicks
All Phil has to do is disconnect himself enough from the Xs and Os negotiated by his coaching hire (first-timer Derek Fisher) to limit the hue and cry for his return to the bench when things go badly. And they will. Well, maybe not as badly as last season, but Jackson's return to New York won't do anything to increase the level of patience in fans and the fourth estate. Aside from his ability to provide guidance without meddling, Phil also must demonstrate sufficient talent-evaluation skill to continue putting the Knicks in a better position to upgrade the roster. Oh, yeah. There's also the challenge of helping elevate Carmelo Anthony to a higher realm of hoop awareness.
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Kevin Durant, SF, Oklahoma City Thunder
Considered a nice-guy superstar for his entire career, KD didn't add many fans by walking away from Team USA while the process of his next shoe-endorsement deal was winding down. By the way, Durant might be the first player we've heard of who entered the summer as a restricted sneaker free agent. Anyway, how much does last season's MVP need to prove? Well, his annual challenge in Oklahoma City is finding enough space to make the requisite superstar, gave-saving plays with Russell Westbrook trying to do his own superstar thing. And it wouldn't hurt his rep to avoid an efficiency drop during the playoffs.
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DeMarcus Cousins, C, Sacramento Kings
Cousins' burden goes quite a bit beyond statistical measures. According to Basketball-reference.com, the former Kentucky Wildcats big man was fifth among NBA players in efficiency last season. Unfortunately, Cousins and the Kings were unable to make a dent in the Western Conference standings. With a little more on-court help at his disposal, DeMarcus should continue to flourish. Sacramento also seems to have an upgraded organizational plan. But the help is young and the conference is deadly, which means a collective improvement might be tricky to quantify. One promising note: Evidence of a more mature player was gathered while Cousins pitched in during Team USA's gold-medal run.
Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY SportsEd Szczepanski
Eric Bledsoe, PG, Phoenix Suns
Had he not landed that five-year, $70 million contract to remain in Phoenix last week, this guy might have had more to prove than anyone in the NBA. But instead of auditioning for the league at the risk-taking rate of $3.73 million, all Bledsoe must do is demonstrate he's worth an average of $14 million per season. The Suns also have two other ball-dominant point guards to dilute the numbers, but if they fully commit to playing two point guards at the same time, they have 96 minutes per game to distribute among Bledsoe, Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas. The really big burden of proof over the next few seasons, however, seems to be riding on Bledsoe's knees.
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY SportsJoe Camporeale
Chris Bosh, PF, Miami Heat
Rather than abandon Miami in the brackish wake of LeBron James' departure -- and retain third-option status in Houston -- the talented big man reenlisted with the Heat. The enticement was a five-year contract worth a reported $118 million. A deal with that much pop always begs for scrutiny. The companion issue is just how much can Bosh provide after 11 seasons in the league? He was an All-Star, made 51.6 percent of his shots from the field and averaged 16.2 points last season. The skills haven' exactly eroded. Just 30 years old, Bosh will attempt to morph back into some semblance of the leading man he was in Toronto, where he averaged at least 22 points per game during his last five seasons.
Chris Paul, PG, Los Angeles Clippers
Now 29 years old, CP3 is approaching the crest of his physical powers. He had another top-notch performance last season, leading the league in assists, steals and insurance commercials. We also should point out his numbers didn't drop during the Donald-Sterling-interrupted postseason, which (again) ended earlier than any sprint toward a superstar legacy should allow. All he has to do is prove he's good enough to pull the Clips past everyone else in the loaded Western Conference. To do that, CP3 has to maintain his level of production and make the game easier for teammates while still creating ample room for Blake Griffin's ascension. No problem.
Getty ImagesStephen Dunn
Deron Williams, PG, Brooklyn Nets
For around 18 million scoots, Williams gave the Nets 14.3 points and 6.1 assists over 64 games last season. In Brooklyn's not-so-dandy dozen playoff games, his field-goal shooting dipped to slightly below 40 percent from the reasonable 45 he managed during the regular season. But after two seasons on bad wheels, Williams has announced his ankles are fine. With Paul Pierce in Washington and Shaun Livingston in Oakland, there'll be more required of Williams if the Nets are to make a push in the Eastern Conference. A healthy Brook Lopez can help. And so can first-year coach Lionel Hollins, whose familiarity with the position certainly didn't hinder the development of Mike Conley in Memphis.