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Hibbert
03-21-2012, 03:05 PM
http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/7717976/nba-five-emerging-stars-quietly-having-great-seasons

Everybody's looking for his time to shine. This season, a host of previously under-the-radar players, such as Kyle Lowry and James Harden, have risen from the ranks of relative obscurity, thanks to productive seasons and added exposure that had them flirting with All-Star nods.

And of course, there was Jeremy Lin, whose breakout was anything but quiet. But who is in the next crop of emerging stars? They could be future All-Stars or key pieces to a championship puzzle. Here are five players who have quietly had great seasons so far. Keep an eye on them now, as they won't go unnoticed for very much longer.

Ty Lawson, PG, Denver Nuggets, PER: 18.11

In his first year as a full-time starter, Lawson has emerged as the Nuggets clear-cut most important player. First check the numbers: career highs in points (15.2), assists (6.8), rebounds (3.9) and minutes (35). He's also getting to the line more and shooting it at the highest clip of his career (81 percent, up from 76). His 22 points, 11 rebounds and 9 assists on March 4 against San Antonio were a big reason he won Western Conference Player of the Week for games played through March 4.

His jump shot and shot selection have improved, as evidenced by his career-best field goal percentage from 3-9 feet (46 percent) and 10-15 feet (48.3), which edges contemporaries Deron Williams and Derrick Rose from those spots. But the third-year point guard's true value is perhaps because no team in the league mimics the personality of its floor leader night in and night out like the Nuggets do with Lawson. When he attacks the rim and pulls up his shorts on defense, it more often than not ignites the team. This is a huge reason coach George Karl has been imploring his point guard to assume a more vocal leadership role, despite it conflicting with his natural laid-back personality.

Karl knows that Lawson's level of aggression on both sides of the ball could very well determine how far Denver goes in the postseason, considering how his teammates almost instinctively mirror his mindset. With a consistent killer mentality stuck in attack mode, Lawson could one day soon be knocking on the door of the game's elite point guards.

Marcus Thornton, SG, Sacramento Kings, PER:18.06

Thornton's breakout was foretold when his scoring average rocketed 13.5 points over the final 27 games of last season, after he was traded from New Orleans to Sacramento, but in his first season as a full-time starter Thornton has established himself as one of the league's most consistent scorers with a career-best 18.6 points per game. He won't win many accolades for playmaking and will probably never be a lockdown defender, but he was never advertised as such. Thornton's prime objective is to score the basketball. And he does that very well.

By far the least recognizable name in the top 30 in scoring, Thornton ranks fifth among shooting guards in scoring and has more 27-point games (six) than bucket-fillers Danny Granger (two) and Rudy Gay (one). One of his most dangerous weapons is the catch-and-shoot from the elbow or short corner -- usually after ball reversal -- which he can get off with an alarmingly quick release.

But his bread and butter is creating pull-ups or getting to the basket off the dribble, which is why he doesn't need to rely on quality point guard play to get him good looks. Most of his attempts come from behind the arc (fifth in the league at 6.2 attempts per game) or at the rim, but he's actually shooting better on long 2s than feared marksmen Carmelo Anthony and Ray Allen.

Paul George, G/F, Indiana Pacers, PER: 16.31

The lanky second-year man starts at shooting guard for the Pacers but can match up defensively with a variety of small forwards, so we're gonna throw him in this spot. George is an exceptional athlete brimming with possibility. Never was that more on display than when he turned in one of the season's best stat lines in a Feb. 2 win against the Mavericks with a Swiss Army knife-like 30 points, 9 rebounds, 5 steals and 5 assists.

George has a long, fluid stroke from behind the arc that is commanding more and more attention. This season he's shooting 40 percent on 3-pointers (up from 29 last year) good for second best on the Pacers. He's had games this season of 5-for-5, 7-for-11 and 4-for-6 from 3-point land. George is also tops in steals and second on the team in assists. If pass deflections were an official stat, George could likely lead the league, as his long arms and anticipation allow him to routinely break up passes and disrupt opponents' sets.

In fact, George has the potential to be one of the very best defenders in the league, and for now you'd be hard-pressed to find a better stopper the same age. Like a lot of young players -- he's still just 21 -- he's prone to bouts of inconsistency and lack of focus, which cause his field goal attempts and production to fluctuate wildly. But in time those kinks should be worked out.

Greg Monroe, F/C, Detroit Pistons, PER: 22.87

Had it not been for the Pistons' dismal 16-29 record, Monroe would have likely been this season's breakout player. He's one of just five players drafted in the last six years averaging a double-double in points-rebounds. In fact, he's averaging more points, rebounds, assists and steals than All-Star Roy Hibbert while shooting better from the field and the line.

For those who haven't seen much of Monroe, his skills are quite similar to Lakers forward Pau Gasol with his ability to pass from the pivot and stretch the defense with a soft 15-footer. However, his ability to handle like a guard separates him from Gasol and most other bigs. The 6-foot-11 Monroe can make nearly any pass in the book as well as be the ball handler or screener in the pick-and-roll. He's particularly adept at hitting back-door cutters and has the court vision and unselfishness to kick it out to shooters on the wings after the defense collapses on his penetration.

Like Gasol, Monroe's game is rooted in smarts and patience, and his exceptional length and quality footwork around the basket make him a matchup nightmare for large and small defenders alike. His jewel of the season was a 32-point, 11-rebound outing against the Kings in which he shot 15-for-20 from the field. The beauty of Monroe's versatility is that he can plug nicely alongside a natural power forward or center without losing any effectiveness. Monroe is eager and coachable and by all accounts an affable teammate. In other words, the Pistons have found a guy around whom they can build.

Nikola Pekovic, C, Minnesota Timberwolves, PER: 21.57

Despite owning few offensive moves, Pekovic is among the most physically bruising players to defend in the NBA. Pekovic's best asset is his enormous 6-foot-11, 290-pound body, which he uses to slam into defenders when crashing the boards and executing his awkward drop step. While it might not be pretty, his hands are good enough to catch the ball in stride and finish at the rim.

His singular focus is to bully the ball to the basket, but it doesn't disrupt the offense since about 80 percent of his attempts come on offensive rebounds. Pekovic is relentless on the offensive boards (4.1 per game) and ranks second in the league. In fact, he's one of two players in the top 100 in rebounding who average more offensive rebounds than defensive boards.

He makes the most of his 26.4 minutes per game, drawing 3.7 free throw attempts on just 5.3 field goals attempts. Add that to the fact that he's the only player in the league averaging at least 13.5 points and 7.4 rebounds in 26 or fewer minutes. As a result, his hefty 21.57 PER is higher than about half of the current All-Stars. Pekovic's muscle, intensity and efficiency have surprisingly found a nice home amid the Timberwolves' superstar-centric, up-tempo offense.

TheDavisBrothers
03-21-2012, 03:17 PM
Thornton had actually been starting at SF, so they could have put him there and left Paul at SG...

cdash
03-21-2012, 03:40 PM
Thornton had actually been starting at SF, so they could have put him there and left Paul at SG...

Nah, they got it right. Thornton is forced out of position because of the precarious position his team is in with it's personnel. PG is much more of a natural 3 than Thornton could ever be.

TheDavisBrothers
03-21-2012, 03:44 PM
Nah, they got it right. Thornton is forced out of position because of the precarious position his team is in with it's personnel. PG is much more of a natural 3 than Thornton could ever be.

I fully understand all that, I was just sayin...

Haywoode Workman
03-21-2012, 07:39 PM
i'm so jealous of the pistons having greg monroe. he's already better than roy and he's going to get so much better. i really hope the pistons continue to suck so he'll bolt after his rookie contract, but i don't see that happening with the group they've got, plus whoever they draft.

ksuttonjr76
03-22-2012, 08:54 AM
i'm so jealous of the pistons having greg monroe. he's already better than roy and he's going to get so much better. i really hope the pistons continue to suck so he'll bolt after his rookie contract, but i don't see that happening with the group they've got, plus whoever they draft.

Why? It's not like he was available when we used our pick on....wait for this...Paul George.

bphil
03-22-2012, 08:58 AM
Handles. PG just need to improve his handles so he can consistently create his own shot in half court sets. If he can do that, he'll be virtually unstoppable.

Ratking
03-22-2012, 09:50 AM
I was really curious why Thornton didn't receive more attention as a FA last year. I wanted the Pacers FO to give him an offer, and would have been fine with paying him what he ended up taking from the Kings ($33 million for 4 years).

HickeyS2000
03-22-2012, 10:37 AM
Handles. PG just need to improve his handles so he can consistently create his own shot in half court sets. If he can do that, he'll be virtually unstoppable.

I was in the 3rd row for the Clippers game. During warm-ups, PG was messing around with Lance one-on-one right in front of me. PG started putting some ridiculous moves on Lance with the ball. He is one of the fastest I have ever seen go back-and-forth, back-and-forth between his legs with the ball, which is really hard to do so fast. From that point forward, I knew it was just a matter of time. He obviously has the handles, he just needs to figure out how to not get stripped.

My question is how long before we start seeing Paul George, the "Star" articles, instead of all these Paul George, the "Rising Star" articles?

HickeyS2000
03-22-2012, 10:38 AM
I was really curious why Thornton didn't receive more attention as a FA last year. I wanted the Pacers FO to give him an offer, and would have been fine with paying him what he ended up taking from the Kings ($33 million for 4 years).

Think Ben Gordon.

Pacergeek
03-22-2012, 11:09 AM
No Demarcus Cousins?

TheDavisBrothers
03-22-2012, 01:24 PM
No Demarcus Cousins?

He's not relatively unknown...