HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — For NBA players who reside outside of the superstar city limits of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant and their kind, the chance for stardom is more complex than just strapping on a jersey and someone turning the arena lights on.
Taking that step from player to star player requires not only the desire to be great but also the space and opportunity to do so, the right team at the right time, etc.
(See Jeremy Lin for further reference …)
Those roads will intersect for many during the 2012-13 season. Some will seize the moment and embrace their revised roles and others will miss the opportunity to move up the league food chain. It’s a seemingly never-ending cycle that we love to observe, if only to see which budding stars rise to the occasion.
One player with all of the pieces in place for that breakout season is Suns point guard Goran Dragic, who has a window between the end of the Steve Nash era and rookie Kendall Marshall‘s formative years, to make the case that the flashes of greatness we’ve seen from him in the past are more than just momentary bursts of greatness.
Dragic has clearly done the hard work (check the video, above … and yes, we’ll talk with him about getting us a pair of those shorts later) necessary to become the sort of player he, and so many other who have championed his cause over the years, believe he can be. Opportunity is banging on his door something fierce.
We’ll find out soon if he’s as ready as he appears to be, because if not …. there are plenty of other guys willing and waiting for their chance to pounce.
FIVE GUYS TO WATCH IN 2012-13
In addition to Dragic, these are the other guys on HT’s list of potential breakout stars this season:
MarShon Brooks, Brooklyn Nets
Brooks will have the benefit of playing in the shadow of much bigger stars — All-Stars Deron Williams, Joe Johnson in the backcourt alone — while also having a clearly defined role as the Nets’ sixth man. He could be the Eastern Conference’s version of James Harden — a sub capable of taking games over with his scoring when called upon.
Avoiding the sophomore slump should be no problem for this young star in training.
Goran Dragic, Phoenix Suns
Dragic is just 26 and entering what should be the prime of his career. At 6-foot-4 and roughly 190 pounds, he’s a much more physically imposing matchup for some point guards than you might realize. And, finally, instead of working as someone’s understudy or fill-in (as he often did in Houston and in his last stint with Phoenix), he gets the reins of the team from the start of a season.
The Suns will go as far as he and Luis Scola (his partner last season in Houston) can lead them this season.
Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets
It took Faried a little over a month to make Nene expendable in Denver. And you saw his work last season and during the playoffs (10.4 points and 10.0 rebounds), when his motor and refusal to surrender an inch to taller and longer frontcourt foes made him an instant hit with Nuggets fans and basketball purists everywhere. “The Manimal” nickname is simply a perfect fit.
The Nuggets’ know they have three young gems in Faried, Timofey Mozgov and JaVale McGee.
Derrick Favors, Utah Jazz
We wondered how long it would take Favors, who was a raw-but-super-talented teenager when he entered the league after one season at Georgia Tech, to mature into his massive frame and become a consistent factor for a loaded Jazz frontcourt. He answered that question for us, and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, during the playoffs (11.8 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.5 blocks).
A 6-foot-10, 250-pound behemoth in training, Favors, just 21, has perhaps the highest ceiling of any player on this list. And he’s already clamoring for more playing time this season.
Brandon Knight, Detroit Pistons
Knight’s rookie year accomplishments (12.8 points, 3.8 assists, 38 percent from 3-point range) were obscured by the Pistons’ struggles and the fact that he was playing alongside another young point/combo guard in Rodney Stuckey. But Knight’s focused on becoming not only a better player but a better leader in his second season.
He has the smarts and skills to join Kyrie Irving as one of the elite point guards in their draft class.
We gave you our five.
Now we need to hear from you. Cast your vote (write-in candidates are welcome)!