10 Most Surprisingly Productive NBA Players Thus Far in 2012-13 Season

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistDecember 2, 2012

10 Most Surprisingly Productive NBA Players Thus Far in 2012-13 Season

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    We're into the second month of the 2012-13 NBA season, meaning we're approaching the point where we can effectively gauge the level at which players will be able to produce for the rest of the season. 

    Because of that, it's also the right time to take a look at which players have been the biggest surprises of the seasons.

    There are three categories that allow a player to be considered a surprise. 

    The first is obvious: guys who played poorly last season, but are now playing well. The other two are a bit harder to identify.

    There is the group of guys who played well over the course of the past few seasons but are playing so well right now that their performance is standing out.

    Finally, there is a group of players formerly thought to be washed-up who are suddenly producing. They might not be dominating, but the fact that they are contributing is astonishing in its own right.

     

    Note: All stats are accurate as of Dec. 2, 2012.

10. Kemba Walker

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    2012-13 Season Averages: 16.3 points, 5.9 assists, 3.8 rebounds, 2.1 steals 

    On the surface, Kemba Walker's improvement can be attributed to his increase in minutes. The Bobcats starting point guard is putting up per-36 minute stats that are nearly identical to last season.

    However, his ability to lead Charlotte's offense has been impressive, but not the most surprising thing about him this season.

    Early on, Walker has played the passing lanes as well as anyone in the NBA. His calculated gambles have certainly helped make up for his lack of size and strength on the defensive end. 

    His 2.1 steals per game are nearly double what he was able to do a season ago.

9. Kobe Bryant

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    2012-13 Season Averages: 27.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.5 steals

    In what world is Kobe Bryant leading the league in scoring a surprise? In a world where he's doing it on less than 19 shots per game, that's where.

    To help you get some bearings, the last time Kobe averaged less than 19 shots per game was way back when he had to share the stage with Shaquille O'Neal, Gary Payton and Karl Malone.

    If Kobe were to keep up his current rate up for the rest of the season, he would have a career-high field-goal percentage (.489), free-throw percentage (.878) and three-point percentage (.395).

    Hopefully, Kobe realizes how much better his team is when he picks his spots, and we can see one of the most amazing seasons a 34-year-old has ever put up in league history. 

8. Jrue Holiday

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    2012-13 Season Averages: 18.5 points, 9.3 assists, 3.5 rebounds, 1.4 steals 

    With Kyrie Irving injured, Jrue Holiday should garner a lot of All-Star buzz in the coming months should he keep up his stellar productivity. After all, he is the best point guard in the Eastern Conference not named Rajon Rondo or Deron Williams. 

    Holiday is not only averaging career-high numbers, but he is obliterating his old career-highs to the tune of five more points per game and three more assists.

    Where he has been most impressive, however, is with his leadership of the Philadelphia 76ers.

    By all means, the team should be struggling mightily after trading away Andre Iguodala and missing Andrew Bynum for the first month of the season, yet they are holding strong at 10-7.

7. O.J. Mayo

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    2012-13 Season Averages: 20.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 0.7 steals

    As far as improvement in the scoring department goes, nobody in the NBA has been as impressive as O.J. Mayo.

    The most impressive part, however, has not been his huge up-tick in scoring, but his gargantuan improvement in efficiency.

    In the past two seasons, Mayo has shot 40.7 and 40.8 percent from the field to go along with a 36.4 percent clip from the three-point line in each season. This year, he is up to 47.6 percent shooting from the field 52.7 percent shooting from the three-point line.

    Will he keep up this insane improvement in efficiency?

    While his conversion rate from beyond the arc is unsustainable, his mark from inside the arc might be able to hold up. 

6. J.R. Smith

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    2012-13 Season Averages: 13.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.3 steals

    J.R. Smith has done a lot of growing up over the summer, and it has shown in a big way on the court.

    The star sixth man is averaging an impressive 13.6 points per game for the Knicks, and he's doing it while shooting 41.8 percent from the field and 45.7 percent from deep. 

    Aside from that, Smith has actually decided to care about shot selection, leading to him taking less than three three-pointers a game. 

    The most impressive development, however, has been on the defensive end, averaging a career-high in rebounds while actively playing the passing lanes. 

5. Jamal Crawford

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    2012-13 Season Averages: 17.5 points, 1.9 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.1 steals

    It's been over two decades since Detlef Schrempf won his second Sixth Man of the Year award. Since then, the list has added 20 different award winners. 

    That streak might be coming to an end if Jamal Crawford can keep up his high level of play. 

    Forget about the number of points Crawford is scoring; we've always known that he can put the ball in the basket. 

    What's more impressive is that Crawford has bounced back from one of the most miserable years a star player could have to become one of the most critical players on a very good team. 

    He went from shooting 38.4 percent from the field with the Portland Trail Blazers to shooting 45.3 percent so far this season, to go along with a 40.7 percent clip from the three-point line.

4. Jerry Stackhouse

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    2012-13 Season Averages: 7.3 points, 1.4 rebounds, 0.8 assists. 0.6 steals

    Jerry Stackhouse is nowhere near as impressive as the players that came before him on this list, but if you take a look at just how long he's been a non-factor in this league, there's no way that he is one of the league's biggest surprises. 

    The last time Stackhouse had a productive hand on a playoff team, he was creaking around the court for the Dallas Mavericks back in the 2007-08 season. 

    Five years, four teams and a handful of workouts with P90x later and Stackhouse is back. Well, sort of.

    The two-time All Star only had a few noteworthy games this season, but the fact that he has had an impact on the outcome of any games is stunning. 

3. Andrei Kirilenko

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    2012-13 Season Averages: 13.0 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.8 blocks

    For a guy coming back to the NBA after spending a season in Russia, Andrei Kirilenko has been extremely impressive. And considering the Timberwolves were missing their two best players for three weeks and five of their six best players for a stretch, Kirilenko has been invaluable. 

    Factor in that the Timberwolves are hovering around .500 and you've got a guy who should be getting a lot more recognition than he has thus far. 

    AK47 is shooting 50.8 percent from the field and playing defense like a hawk, blocking shots, stealing passes and covering multiple positions. 

    If he keeps playing at this level, the Timberwolves have a real shot at making the playoffs.

2. Omer Asik

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    2012-13 Season Averages: 11.0 points, 12.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.3 blocks

    Anybody who got a peek at Omer Asik a season ago will remember him as the guy bumbling around the court behind Joakim Noah. He was an asset on the glass, but pretty much useless offensively.

    You could make an argument that Asik's rebounding numbers aren't a huge surprise, but the fact that he is pouring in a double-double is a shocker. 

    Some of the credit has to be given to Jeremy Lin and James Harden, who have been force-feeding the the Turkish big man whenever they have a window.

    It's still early, but it looks like the money the Rockets invested in Asik is going to pay off long-term. 

1. Anderson Varejao

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    2012-13 Season Averages: 15.1 points, 15.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.4 steals

    What Anderson Varejao has been doing so far this season is nothing short of amazing. 

    The Brazilian big man is shooting 54 percent from the field—his highest mark since LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers—to go along with nearly double his previous career-high in assists per game. 

    Varejao is leading the league's rebounding race by a sizable margin and he is sixth in the NBA in player efficiency rating. 

    There are several candidates for his most impressive game of the year. His near-triple-double against Washington was impressive, as was his 35-point, 18-rebound game against Brooklyn.

    However, his domination against the likes of the Memphis Grizzlies is unparalleled.

    Going up against Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol—two of the better big men in the league—Varejao came away with 15 points and 22 boards.

    Varejao is on the fast track to his first All-Star Game appearance if he keeps this up.