3 Players With The Most To Prove in 2022-23: Western Conference

As we get set for a new season, most of the talk in the summer has been on the dramas surrounding the likes of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Russell Westbrook and Donovan Mitchell. 

But there are several other key players around the league who have something to prove this season—either to make it back to elite status, or to fulfill the promise so many have had for them. 

With that in mind, we'll take a look at the three players in each conference with the most to prove in 2022-23. And we'll start in the West.

The obvious one is Zion Williamson, who sat out all of last season, and has only played in 85 of a possible 205 games in his three seasons with the New Orleans Pelicans. Can he finally prove that he can stay healthy?

Here are the next most important trio:

Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers

What LeBron James' sidekick in LA needs to prove, more than anything else, is that he can stay healthy. A year ago, Charles Barkley dropped a new nickname on the oft-injured Davis for his tendency to spend so much time on the bench, not  in a Lakers uniform. 

"It's going to come down to one thing," said Sir Charles, speculating on the Lakers' potential success last season. "'Street Clothes'. If 'Street Clothes' can stay out of street clothes..."

Turns out that AD missed 42 games last season with an assortment of injuries to his knee and foot, after he sat out 46 games the year before. 

He wasn't quite to the Zion level of absences, but Davis must prove this season that he can stay on the floor, and help co-lead the Lakers back to the promised land.  

D'Angelo Russell, Minnesota Timberwolves

The Timberwolves made it back to the playoffs last season for the first time in four years, and only the 2nd time in 18 years. And this summer, they went "all-in", trading their future for 3-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert. 

Gobert pairs with Karl-Anthony Towns for a formidable frontcourt, now at both ends of the floor. And with Anthony Edwards, they have a third star. Can D'Lo join them?

He had a fine regular season, averaging 18 points and a career-high 7.1 assists, but his production fell off in the playoffs. He was even benched in a critical Game 6 in their series loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. Russell needs to elevate his game to ensure that KAT and Ant are well-fed. But his true time to prove himself will come in April, May (and, hopefully for the Timberwolves) June. 

Anfernee Simons, Portland Trail Blazers

Simons exploded into prominence at the beginning of January last season for the Trail Blazers, and earned himself a $100M extension this summer. 

But after three previous seasons that were mostly 'meh' (averaged less than 8 points per game), Simons will need to prove that that one 27-game stretch (he missed the last month with a knee injury) was legit. The Blazers are certainly banking on it.

Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports