The 2013 NBA All-Star Game is normally all about the biggest stars in the sport, but there are some under-the-radar big men who will no doubt impress in this contest.
Talented bigs in the NBA are at a premium nowadays; however, this game will give fans a great opportunity to see the very best the league has to offer at the center and power forward positions.
Among the under-the-radar participants are Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez, Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah and Golden State Warriors power forward David Lee.
Let's take a closer look at each player and what he brings to the table.
Brook Lopez, Center, Brooklyn Nets
Hands down, Lopez is the best scoring center in the NBA. He leads all centers in the league with 19 points per game, which is a full point ahead of Miami Heat center Chris Bosh.
During his short tenure in the NBA, Lopez has been known as an offensive big who displays great moves in the low post that have led to him becoming a lethal scorer. As the Nets' leading scorer, he is undoubtedly the most important player on the team.
The knock on Lopez has been he can't rebound or play good defense, but he's done his best to dispel both of those notions this season.
Lopez's numbers fell from eight rebounds per game or more in his first two seasons to just six rebounds per game in his third. After missing just about all of the 2011-12 season, Lopez's rebounding totals are back up to 7.4 per game.
On top of that, Lopez is averaging a career-high in blocks with 2.2 per contest, which is good for No. 6 in the NBA and No. 4 amongst centers.
I'd say Lopez is developing into a solid all-around big man who can play defense, rebound and score. That's why it came as a surprise that he was originally snubbed for the All-Star Game. But the NBA got it right by choosing him to replace the injured Rajon Rondo.
Joakim Noah, Center, Chicago Bulls
Noah is the anchor of one of the finest defensive units in the league today and is widely considered a top interior defender.
On top of his 11.4 rebounds per game, Noah is also averaging two blocks per contest, and both of those numbers are career highs for the big man. As a result, Noah is certainly in the conversation as a Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
Adding to his career-best season, Noah has proven he can score, with a scoring average of 11.4 per game—again, a personal high.
The Florida product has never been known for his offensive prowess, but Noah has added a decent mid-range game to his repertoire. Before this season, you didn't have to respect Noah from anywhere on the court but in the paint; however, that has changed during the 2012-13 campaign.
Hacking Noah isn't an effective strategy, as the Chicago center has improved his free-throw percentage to 75 percent this season.
Noah might not have the prettiest game around, but it is no doubt effective. With so many great offensive players on either side of this game, Noah should have plenty of chances to show his defensive abilities while flashing his newly found offensive skills.
David Lee, Power Forward, Golden State Warriors
Lee has come a long way since being drafted by the New York Knicks in 2005, and he has become a quality big man in that time.
For starters, Lee is a solid defender in the low post, and while he doesn't necessarily block shots, he is an effective rebounder. Lee is averaging 10.8 rebounds per game, which is good for No. 7 in the NBA.
The Florida product is good for a double-double per night, as he's averaging 19 points per contest.
Things didn't always come so easily for Lee scoring the ball, however. It's taken time, but Lee has developed into a threat from the mid-range with enough athleticism and strength to finish in the paint.
His charity stripe numbers have improved from about 78 percent the last two seasons to 80 percent during the 2012-13 season. Clearly, he is no liability at the free-throw line.
Lee's place in this game is a bit more important to his franchise than most. He is the first Warriors player to appear in an All-Star game since the immortal Latrell Sprewell did it back in 1997.
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