5 NBA Early-Season Studs Who Are Due for 2nd-Half Letdowns

Marques Eversoll@MJEversollAnalyst IJanuary 1, 2013

5 NBA Early-Season Studs Who Are Due for 2nd-Half Letdowns

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    Early in the 2012 season, a handful of NBA players have been pleasant surprises for their respective teams.

    Milwaukee power forward Larry Sanders has went from a largely unknown former first-round pick to being one of the league's most athletic and versatile big men. But even guys who have been great early in the season have the potential to have a second-half letdown.

    On the other hand, some players who have enjoyed success while a star player is out of the lineup could be in for a decreased role when the team is finally at full strength.

    Let's take a look at five NBA players who are likely due for second-half letdowns.

5. Damian Lillard, Blazers

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    At this point of the NBA season, Lillard is the Rookie of the Year. There’s no other way to put it—he’s been great.

    But Lillard has been so good that it’s almost inevitable that he’ll have some sort of letdown in the second half of the season. Typically, rookies don’t put up the numbers Lillard is putting up for a full season.

    It will be interesting to see how the Blazers offense evolves over the final stretch of the season. Lillard is certainly doing a great job running the show right now, but this team has other capable scoring options.

4. Larry Sanders, Bucks

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    Sanders is one of the NBA’s most improved players this season. He’s a long, athletic player capable of running the floor, rebounding the basketball and blocking shots.

    But the Bucks are extremely deep at power forward. They just dished out a boatload of money to Ersan Ilyasova, drafted John Henson in the first round and Drew Gooden is still on the roster.

    If Sanders starts to produce less with his playing time, he could find a permanent spot on the bench. Again, at this point, it’s hard to see Sanders doing anything but continuing to ascend as a player.

    It’s just that, much like Damian Lillard, Sanders has been so good early in the season that it seems entirely possible that he’ll fizzle out as the season rolls on.

3. Richard Hamilton, Bulls

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    In the absence of Derrick Rose, several Chicago Bulls have been forced to step up. One such player is 34-year-old guard Richard Hamilton.

    Averaging 13.4 points, 2.2 assists and 2.1 rebounds per game, Hamilton has proved to be a reliable player in the Bulls’ guard rotation. But when Rose returns and the team starts to find its true identity, Hamilton will likely be an odd-man out.

    There’s no question Hamilton has found a bit of resurgence in 2012, but the recipe is in place for him to be phased out as the season goes on.

2. O.J. Mayo, Mavericks

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    Mayo and Larry Sanders, another guy on this list, have been among the league’s most pleasant surprises this season.

    In the absence of star forward Dirk Nowitzki, Mayo has assumed the role as the team’s top scoring option. He’s started all 31 games and is playing 35.2 minutes a night, averaging 18.3 points.

    He’s played well and is likely the league’s best offseason free-agent acquisition up to this point in the season. But when Nowitzki returns to the lineup, Mayo’s role will diminish in the Mavericks’ offense. Both players need the ball in their hands to be at their best, and unfortunately for the Mavericks, there is only one ball on the court at a time.

1. Paul George, Pacers

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    The Pacers are an extremely athletic team, and Paul George may be their best overall athlete.

    George is a long and versatile player capable of playing inside or outside on either end of the court. With forward Danny Granger out of the lineup with an injury, George has stepped up for Indiana and become a reliable player.

    This season has easily been George’s best as a professional. George is averaging career-highs in points, rebounds and assists in his third NBA season.

    When Granger returns to action, George’s role within the offense will slightly decrease. He’ll still be an important piece for the Pacers in their push to he playoffs, but he’ll likely be in for a statistical letdown as the season goes on.