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NBA: 5 Breakout Stars for the 2012-13 Season

Zach BuckleyNational NBA Featured ColumnistJuly 11, 2012

NBA: 5 Breakout Stars for the 2012-13 Season

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    Today's professional athletes enjoy a shelf life that lies somewhere between bananas and Tyler Perry movies.

    In other words, this could prove to be a long year for the media darlings of last season—Jeremy Lin and Tim Tebow.

    But, it's this same immediacy that allows players breakout seasons.

    If an average player posts a good stretch, some media members will take notice. If a good player suddenly appears great, ESPN will roll out highlight reel after highlight reel.

    The players on this list have enjoyed varying amounts of success during their NBA careers. But all five players look poised to boost their stock (and subsequent Twitter presence) in the 2012-13 NBA season.

5. Rodrigue Beaubois, Dallas Mavericks

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    Beaubois may be poised for more of a resurgence than a breakout but, due to the aforementioned short-term memory of today's sports world, that qualifies him for a spot on this list.

    The 6'2, 185-pound combo guard shined in his rookie season after the Mavericks acquired his draft rights before the 2009-10 season. He needed six games to reach double-figures, then poured in his first 20-point outing by game 38 of his career.

    The world failed to take notice until game number 48. On March 27, 2009, Beaubois dropped 40 points (including a ridiculous 9-for-11 three-point shooting night) against the Golden State Warriors.

    By season's end, he would become the first rookie in NBA history to shoot 50 percent on field goals, 40 percent on three-point shots and 80 percent from the free-throw line.

    But after breaking his foot working out with the French national team over the 2010 summer, he struggled to find his way back into the Dallas rotation. If two foot surgeries in two years were not bad enough, the Mavericks became loaded in the backcourt with savvy veterans who kept Beaubois on the bench even when healthy.

    But, times have changed in Dallas. Jason Kidd, Jason Terry and DeShawn Stevenson have all found new homes. And Beaubois is a full year removed from his last foot surgery.

    He has the best opportunity he's had since arriving in Dallas, and he's as healthy as he's been since his rookie season. The 24-year-old is talented enough to make Mavs' fans forget the Jasons, Stevenson and even their failed pursuit of Big D's native son, Deron Williams.

4. Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors

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    Thompson left Washington State after his junior season with one of the sweetest strokes in the 2011 draft class.

    But, the sharp-shooter locked in his sights on the top spot on nba.com's rookie ladder, and spent last season steadily climbing.

    He ultimately finished as the fifth-rated rookie on the ladder, well clear of the projections for an 11th pick who began the year backing up his team's best player (Monta Ellis, who's now with Milwaukee).

    Thompson's rookie campaign was a story of two halves, which isn't that surprising considering that blockbuster trade deadline deal that freed up a spot in the starting lineup. He went from being left out of the All-Star Weekend's Rising Challenge game to finishing the year as a member of the NBA's All-Rookie First Team.

    He won't enjoy the full benefit of playing in the Las Vegas summer league (reportedly at the behest of Warriors' GM Bob Myers, according to Contra Costa Times reporter Marcus Thompson), but he has reaped the benefits of matching up with Team USA as a member of the USA Select team.

    With the support of an organization behind him and a spot in the starting five for the year ahead, Thompson should set his sights this season on the league's Most Improved Player Award.

3. Derrick Favors, Utah Jazz

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    Unlike the previous two players, Favors entered the league with expectations of greatness (or, at least goodness).

    The third overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, Favors had impressed scouts during his lone season at Georgia Tech with his rare combination of size (6'10", 248 pounds) and athleticism.

    But, to this point in his career, Favors' biggest mark in the NBA has been his inclusion in the trade that brought Deron Williams to the (now) Brooklyn Nets.

    During his first full season with Utah, Favors set career highs in points (8.8), rebounds (6.5) and minutes (21.2), despite starting just nine of his 65 games.

    He showed enough to force his way into coach Tyrone Corbin's big lineup, playing alongside Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. And that was before he posted back-to-back double-doubles in the Jazz' first-round sweep at the hand of the San Antonio Spurs.

    While Utah clearly has some decisions to make regarding their quartet of talented bigs (Favors, Jefferson, Millsap and Enes Kanter), this much appears clear—Favors will not be leaving town.

    Should the Jazz opt to part ways with one of the other three (presumably Millsap or Kanter), Favors will have more minutes than he can handle next year.

    But, the truth is, he could have that many minutes even if none of the other three change uniforms.

2. Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Putting the NBA's leading shot-blocker and the starting power forward on the reigning Western Conference Champions as a potential breakout player probably begs for an explanation.

    On the surface, it looks like this is at least a year late.

    But this isn't projecting Ibaka to have another good season. This is calling for Ibaka to make a push at greatness this season.

    As good as he was last season (a league-best 3.7 blocks per game, a triple-double that included 11 blocks and an 11-for-11 shooting night in the postseason against the Spurs), Ibaka has plenty of room for growth—particularly on the offensive end.

    While he possesses one of the best mid-range jumpers ever seen from an elite shot blocker, he needs to improve his post offense. As strong as the other facets of his game are, his offensive struggles have kept him from ever averaging over 27.2 minutes per game.

    But with blog.newsok.com reporting that Hakeem Olajuwon would like to work Ibaka, those post improvements could be right around the corner.

1. John Wall, Washington Wizards

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    The top pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, Wall's numbers (career 16.3 points and 8.2 assists) may suggest limited upward mobility.

    Whether due to playing on bad Washington teams (43-105 in his two seasons) or the lack of progression in his sophomore season (his scoring and assist numbers dropped, while his turnovers increased), Wall has seen his name drop among the ranks of the league's best young point guards.

    Ricky Rubio, Jeremy Lin and Kyrie Irving have seen far for more favorable coverage in their brief careers.

    But, Wall appears to be on the brink of changing every perception about him.

    For starters, his Wizards team has playoff aspirations and a roster capable of realizing them. The team's transformation started when they acquired Nene in a trade deadline deal for JaVale McGee, then continued with an offseason deal that relived them of Rashard Lewis' contract and brought back defensive stalwarts Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza.

    Not only has the locker room improved, but Nene's ability to score in the post and the potential increase in transition opportunities should all create more opportunities for Wall in situations he can succeed in: attacking the basket and the fast-break.

    But, Wall himself has underwent a transformation this offseason, earning his own spot alongside Klay Thompson on that USA Select team. That daily exposure to tough defense has forced Wall to improve on the floor.

    But, the exposure to champion veterans should increase his drive to make the Wizards a winning franchise.

    He has the teammates and the talent to compete for not only the playoffs, but an All-Star berth as well.

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