NBA Phenoms Waiting for Their Turn in the Spotlight
If you turn over enough rocks, you're bound to find something.
There's hidden young talent all over the NBA landscape just waiting for the first taste of the limelight.
Some of them might not get the opportunity playing in their current uniforms because of the guys ahead of them in the pecking order. Others are just too young to let roam around the floor without a leash.
In a few years, these names will likely have a lot more relevance than they do now.
Enes Kanter, Utah Jazz
With Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors all ahead in the pecking order, the wait for playing time in Utah's frontcourt makes the DMV sound tolerable.
Enes Kanter can play, but just not from the bench.
He was drafted third overall despite not playing a single game for Kentucky. All scouts needed to see was one game: the Nike Hoops Summit in 2010, where he dropped 34 points and 13 rebounds on Kyrie Irving, Jared Sullinger, Brandon Knight, Harrison Barnes and the rest of Team USA.
Kanter might be considered an under-the-rim center, but at 6'11'', 267 pounds, he's more or less at the rim than under it.
He's consistently productive when he's inserted into the lineup. In the two games before facing the Lakers Friday night, Kanter scored 10 points in 11 minutes against Washington and 14 points with five boards in 18 minutes against Cleveland. He combined for 11-of-12 for 28 points.
It's obviously a small sample size, but it's recent, and it's a developing pattern.
The Jazz have value wasting away on their bench and need to do something about the overcrowding up front.
Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
Andre Drummond is one of those players who the ball just finds at the rim. Usually it takes a while before a player-ball relationship ever gets serious, but I guess Drummond just has that effect on leather.
Unfortunately, he has to wait his turn in order to get regular minutes in Lawrence Frank's rotation.
If you're into advanced stats, Drummond sports a PER of 22.77, which would be up there with Kyrie Irving and Blake Griffin had he qualified with more minutes.
He's a fearless 6'10'' with explosive athleticism reminiscent of DeAndre Jordan of the L.A. Clippers.
At only 19 years old, he's got years before he approaches the surface of his potential.
Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls
Jimmy Butler was one of the better-kept secrets in the NBA. Now that Luol Deng is out, so is the secret.
Since entering the league, Butler has brought a sense of maturity with him that translates on the court, and he can score as well as defend.
With Deng shelved thanks to a hamstring injury, Butler has stepped into the starting role and ran with it.
Over the last five games, Butler has averaged 15 points and 8.2 rebounds.
He's your prototypical wing with long arms, smooth athleticism and the ability to play face-up basketball. Money in the mid-range and active on the glass, Butler is a reliable three-point shot away from really taking off.
He may never play in an All-Star Game, but Butler has the potential to start for a number of NBA teams.
Reggie Jackson, Oklahoma City Thunder
I'll admit, phenom is pushing it. But there's a role in this league for Reggie Jackson, and it's not keeping the bench warm.
The backup point guard in Oklahoma City gets about the same amount of screen time as a stunt devil or double.
Reggie Jackson has appeared to beat out Eric Maynor for the job, and for good reason. This has become an athlete's game, and Reggie Jackson possesses some explosive athleticism.
The Thunder sent Jackson to the D-League earlier this year, and he averaged 28 points, 8.3 assists and 7.3 rebounds in three games.
His jump shot needs a trip to the mechanic and his decision-making could use some improvement, but he's not going to get better unless he starts seeing regular rotation minutes.
Eric Bledsoe, Los Angeles Clippers
Eric Bledsoe has become the most exciting 19-minute player around. His potent combination of speed, athleticism and explosiveness leads to at least one play every night that makes you stand out of your seat.
You wonder if he'll ever get the chance to shine in a Clipper uniform with Chris Paul dominating the show.
But there's no question Bledsoe will generate a market once his rookie contract expires. He's got the shooting range to light up the perimeter, the quickness to break down the defense and tremendous finishing abilities.
He's probably better off providing a spark as a reserve than starting at point guard, but Bledsoe should eventually be a 30-minute guard and a premier playmaker.