5 NBA Training Camp Studs Who Will Prove to Be Fool's Gold
Diamonds in the rough are tough to unearth, but they do exist. Even in the NBA.
While a majority of our time is spent critiquing, following and, in some cases, worshiping the Association's star athletes, we cannot always allow the relatively unknown and the afterthoughts to remain, well, afterthoughts.
As October winds down and the 2012-13 regular season approaches, rosters are not only solidified, but rotations are shored up; this is the time when teams begin to set their blueprint in stone.
And when that opening whistle finally blows, there will be a handful of players who went into training camp with little-to-no expectations and come out the other side an integral part of that very blueprint.
Scott Machado, PG, Houston Rockets
Scott Machado began making waves in late July and hasn't stopped since.
From telling the New York Daily News' Mitch Abramson that he was a "real point guard" while Jeremy Lin was not, to his 11 assists in 23 minutes against the San Antonio Spurs, Machado has proven he belongs in the NBA.
The rookie out of Iona went undrafted in this year's extravaganza, and by now, no one understands why.
He has proven to be a formidable distributor, courtesy of his superb court vision, and his deficient athleticism hasn't hindered the Rockets' defensive attack—no more than Lin has at least.
Factor in Machado's penchant for pushing the ball and thriving in transition, and Houston may have just found its unquestioned backup to Lin—in the form of a 6'1", undrafted, unknown and completely underestimated point guard.
Jared Sullinger, PF, Boston Celtics
From draft-day afterthought to potential starter, Jared Sullinger's stock has known no bounds.
After Sullinger was relegated from a potential lottery selection to an end-of-first-round risk, courtesy of looming back issues, he found a home in Boston, where he has thrived ever since.
The undersized power forward provides the Celtics with a much-needed rebounding presence, a reality his 7.2 rebounds per preseason contest won't allow us to forget.
And while conditioning and his inability to play above the rim on offense remain pressing concerns, thus far Sullinger has proven to be a two-way workhorse, someone who won't just battle for boards, but fight for points in the post as well.
Throwing Sullinger into the fray that is the starting lineup may not be the right move out the gate, but there's no denying that whatever risk Boston took when they drafted him is about to pay off.
Jordan Hamilton, SG, Nuggets
Jordan Hamilton disappointed a lot of people during his 2011-12 rookie campaign. If training camp has been any indication, though, he's not destined for a repeat in 2012-13.
The volume-scoring guard's stock fell drastically before the 2011 NBA draft. He went from a potential lottery pick to barely making a first-round appearance.
But that's all in the past.
Hamilton is averaging an impressive 14 points per preseason contest and shooting an even more impressive 50 percent from beyond the arc and 44.4 from the field overall.
Though the Nuggets have a surplus of wings on the docket, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari and Andre Iguodala aren't the sturdiest of athletes. And at 6'7", Hamilton has the size and quickness necessary to defend a wide array of positions.
Simply put, Hamilton won't be buried on the bench this season. Far from it, in fact.
Festus Ezeli, C, Golden State Warriors
It's become clear Festus Ezeli was a draft-day steal for the Warriors.
Everyone knew he was a low-post monstrosity, one that could bang with the biggest of interior presences, but he had the makings of a heavier Andrie Biedrins.
Sure, Ezeli could rebound and defend, but could he overcome his offensive deficiencies and was he fit enough to excel in any facet of the game in general?
As it turns out, he's more than ready to see some meaningful action.
Ezeli is averaging 10.8 rebounds per 48 minutes during the preseason, and while he hasn't turned heads on offense, he hasn't made them cringe either; his average of seven points per preseason game is anything but laughable, and the same goes for his 80 percent shooting from the field.
The big man has also showed restraint on defense. He isn't taking unnecessary risks, committing just two personal fouls per contest, and hasn't struggled to navigate the floor as much as his 264-pound stature originally suggested.
With a perpetual injury risk like Andrew Bogut and a perennial disappointment like Biedrins on the roster, Ezeli will prove to be a low-post necessity for Golden State this season—and a more than capable one at that.
Chris Copeland, PF, New York Knicks
Hello instant offense.
The Knicks' interior core is anything but durable. Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas and Rasheed Wallace are all pushing 40 while Tyson Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire are known to battle re-occurring injuries of their own.
Sure, there's Steve Novak, who according to Newsday's Al Iannazzone is working on becoming a more versatile offensive threat, but there's also Chris Copeland, the 28-year-old rookie who spent the last five years playing in Europe.
In just two preseason bouts, the forward is averaging 12 points on 50 percent shooting in just 17 minutes per game. That's including a 21-points-in-19-minutes explosion against the Celtics.
Yes, he must improve both his defensive anticipation and execution on the glass, but Copeland has proved to be a source of consistent offense in an area on the floor where the Knicks are habitually inconsistent and, quite frankly, unstable.
With New York set to become the oldest team in the history of the NBA, it won't be long before injuries and inescapable cases of Father Time make franchise glad it latched itself onto to his unheralded frontcourt scorer.