The best part about the first month of the NBA season is seeing which players come out of nowhere to become key factors in their team's performance. These players vary in experience, from rookies fresh out college to veterans who have just taken an extra year or so to get the playing time they need to perform well. In a short amount of time, these men go from being no-names to the talk of the league.
Just why people talk about said players also varies. They could be hot scorers, star defenders or just plain fun to watch. For example, Charlotte Bobcats point guard Kemba Walker surely planted a seed for a large NBA fanbase after some fine play during his college days at the University of Connecticut, and his performance this year is reminding everyone just why they fell in love with him.
The same can be said for Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried, who left Morehead State as the NCAA's all-time leading rebounder.
No matter how you look at it, a great number of young players are starting to establish themselves among the NBA's elite, and everyone is starting to take notice.
2012-13 Stats: 13.4 PPG, 8.3 RPG, .386 FG%
In his fourth NBA season, Mullens has finally found a situation in which he can accumulate significant minutes and make an impact. His 7'0", 275-pound frame has given Charlotte some much-needed help in the paint, and his body is perfect for defending in the low post.
The only problem the former Ohio State Buckeye has is that he is still struggling to find consistency on offense. He attempts just over 13 field goals per game, 5.5 of which come from three-point range, and the Bobcats do not need him to be that much of a factor on offense. Mullens can best suit the team on defense, and has done just that in providing his fine rebounding skills.
That isn't to say that Mullens should completely abandon his offensive game. Seven-footers that stretch the floor are always a good thing to have on any team, and he should incorporate those skills accordingly.
Mullens just first needs to continue the fine work he has done on defense, and then he can work on becoming an offensive force for the Bobcats.
2012-13 Stats: 10.6 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 1.7 SPG, .504 FG%
Aminu may seem a bit undersized at 6'9", 215 pounds, but he has broken out for the Hornets this season. Rather than try to be the type of small forward who plays good defense and also scores a lot of points, he has stayed committed to being a pest.
He has only produced as necessary on offense and is 100 percent focused on being a pest on the defensive side of the court. Every so often, he'll drive the lane and unleash the fury with a phenomenal dunk.
Aminu is only 22, so this season is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how much potential he has. As the year progresses, so will his overall game.
2012-13 Stats: 9.8 PPG, 3.2 RPG, .529 FG%, .471 3P%
Singler was drafted by the Pistons in 2011, but opted to spend a year in Spain refining his game before coming to the NBA. It appears to have paid off, for he is now getting some quality minutes in Detroit.
The former Duke star still has a lot to learn about becoming a valuable forward in the NBA, and his defense still needs work. His 10-rebound performance against the Portland Trail Blazers Monday night, despite being impressive, isn't what he'll normally produce on a regular basis, but still bodes well for his future.
The best thing about Singler is that he comes into every game ready to learn something new and become an even more complete player. He is a born leader and will surely assume a similar role for the Pistons in the very near future.
Singler is on a team that has so much potential to do well, and his future performances are only going to drive that message home further, both to his teammates and the Detroit fans.
2012-13 Stats: 11.5 PPG, 4.6 RPG, .476 FG%
In the Wizards' seemingly never-ending quest for frontcourt help, Seraphin has stepped up his efforts. He has used his 6'9", 275-pound frame to provide a big body under the basket and has been Washington's best low-post player.
Seraphin's rebounding numbers may seem low, but he is working to improve it night after night. He has averaged five boards per game over his past five games and had a 21 and 10 game against the Atlanta Hawks on November 21.
Granted, Seraphin is still young at just 22 years old and has a lot to learn about playing defense on the NBA level. Given his willingness to learn and step up for the Wizards in their search for a win, his future his only going to get brighter.
2012-13 Stats: 10.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG, .440 FG%, .382 3P%
Green averaged 11.4 points per game over the final month of the season in 2012, and the Spurs rewarded him by making him their starting shooting guard this year. He has adjusted well to his new role, serving as the deadly shooter among coach Gregg Popovich's starting five.
This role is nothing new to Green, who was a shooter at North Carolina and has a magic touch from long range. His commitment to excellence has the Spurs performing amazingly as usual, and his performance this season is just the beginning.
The Spurs are slowly getting younger players like Green and Kawhi Leonard more involved, with the veteran core starting to show signs of age. If they keep playing well, look for them to play an even bigger role on both sides of the floor going forward.
2012-13 Stats: 12.9 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 4.1 APG, .413 FG%, .421 3P%
Turner initially struggled over his first two NBA seasons, but has finally found his stride now that he is back at his natural position of small forward. His scoring is starting to improve, he's showing more tenacity on defense and he's even willing to dish out an occasional assist.
This type of approach is perfect for Sixers coach Doug Collins' system, which calls for tough defense and a balanced attack from every player. Philadelphia needs Turner to produce like this consistently now that Andre Iguodala is on the Denver Nuggets, and he has responded accordingly. It also helps that he played a very similar type of game at Ohio State, where he was a triple-threat forward who also spent some time at shooting guard.
The best part of it all is that Turner has plenty of room left for improvement. He is only 24 years old and has yet to peak. This young man is only going to get better, and the 76ers will along with him.
2012-13 Stats: 16.6 PPG, 5.7 APG, 2.2 SPG, .401 FG%
Walker won a national championship with UConn before entering the 2011 draft, and he looked like anything but a champion as a rookie in Charlotte. He constantly struggled on offense, and shot just 37 percent from the field, though he did average 12.1 points per game off the bench. He had a point guard's size at 6'1", 184 pounds, but appeared to be trying to play more like a shooting guard.
This season, Walker's approach has completely changed.
Rather than just try and shoot the lights out, as he did his final year in college, Walker has taken on the role of a more traditional point man and has done a fine job. His field-goal percentage isn't what it should be, but the rest of his game is overshadowing that. Walker is passing to the open man and playing tough defense, both of which he can excel at with practice and patience.
The Bobcats have responded well to Walker's new attitude, not to mention new coach Mike Dunlap. The team is 7-6, already matching its win total from last season.
This time around, it's starting to look like Walker and the Bobcats won't be one of the teams in high contention for a high draft pick, and the second-year point guard is one of the largest reasons why.
2012-13 Stats: 13.4 PPG, 8.8 APG, 4.0 RPG, .420 FG%, .368 3P%
After two years as a bench player, Vasquez has been inserted into the starting lineup this season. The results have been beyond surprising.
The former Maryland Terp has used his 6'6", 211-pound frame to create key mismatches at the point and has done a fine job of stepping up on offense in the absences of both guard Eric Gordon and, more recently, rookie forward Anthony Davis. He can score, pass and has a knack for sinking clutch shots.
With Gordon still recovering from his knee injury and Davis out for at least two weeks, Vasquez is going to be the one to carry the struggling Hornets. He is a great athlete with a tenacious attitude, so head coach Monty Williams would be wise to make sure he stays involved even when New Orleans' stars do come back.
2012-13 Stats: 16 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 2.2 BPG, .493 FG%
Davis may only have six games under his belt this season, but he is already showing a ton of promise in the NBA at just 19 years old. He is fearless on offense, not hesitating to use his jump shot, and has been a monster on defense.
In New Orleans' November 9 game against the Charlotte Bobcats, he pulled down 11 rebounds and had five blocked shots on top of his 22 points.
The stress reaction in his ankle is a cause for concern, so we won't be seeing him on the floor for at least two more weeks. Once he does return, however, look for Davis to pick up right where he left off.
Be it in scoring, rebounding or shot blocking, he's going to show all opposing players that his age is just a number. He's going to be in the NBA for a long time and is only going to get better.
2012-13 Stats: 15.5 PPG, 7 RPG, 3.5 APG, .471 FG%, .413 3P%
In four years at Florida, Parsons established himself as a tall, lanky forward who could play solid defense under the basket while also stretching the floor. Naturally, this made him perfect for Houston Rockets coach Kevin McHale's run-and-gun game.
He was almost an immediate starter and has fit the system well. His shooting has been accurate, he has been holding his own on defense and his ability to create his own shot has been better than ever. Even his passing game is starting to develop, which is never a bad sign.
Granted, Parsons is still just 24 years old and is still learning the ins and outs of the NBA, but his recent performance against the New York Knicks says it all. This young man is talented and has a way of making opposing players who underestimate him pay.
2012-13 Stats: 13.5 PPG, 11.3 RPG, .568 FG%
At Morehead State, Faried averaged 12.1 rebounds per game over the course of four years. When he graduated, he was the all-time leading rebounder in NCAA Division I history. Today, he is the starting power forward for the Denver Nuggets and is fourth in the NBA in rebounding.
Ready for the crazy part? Faried is just 6'8", 228 pounds and actually passed Tim Duncan to become the all-time leading Division I rebounder.
He doesn't even care that he is smaller than most power forwards. Rebounding is what he does best, and he knows it. Faried plays as though he is much bigger than his actual size, fighting past mismatches and doing all he can to be the best that he can possibly be.
His Denver Nuggets are one of the NBA's deepest teams this year, ready to make a long playoff run. Once the postseason rolls around, keep an eye out for this young man.
2012-13 Stats: 19.1 PPG, 6.1 APG, 1.4 SPG, .443 FG%, .405 3P%
Lillard was a scoring point guard at Weber State, and the Portland Trail Blazers drafted him sixth overall with the hope that he would be the much-needed floor general who electrified the offense. He has done just that and more, improving his overall offensive game and also playing pesky defense through his first 14 games.
The best thing about Lillard's game thus far is how committed he is to improving his distribution skills. He only averaged 3.4 assists per game in college and is now averaging nearly double that on the professional level.
The fact is that he is more mature than his 22 years and will continue to play with that attitude for the rest of the season. Lillard has perfectly balanced his scoring with his passing and will become one of the NBA's best point men going forward.
His Blazers may only be 6-8, but they are a young team. In time, they'll return to being the force in the Western Conference that they were in years past.