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NBA Playoff Predictions 2013: Players Who Will Be Breakout Stars of Postseason

DALLAS, TX - DECEMBER 30:  Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs at American Airlines Center on December 30, 2012 in Dallas, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistApril 17, 2013

Every season, a couple of players emerge from the shadows of their superstar teammates to help propel their teams to deep runs in the NBA playoffs. Those secondary contributors are crucial to every team, aside from perhaps the star-studded defending champion Miami Heat.

The reason they are so important is opposing superstars often cancel each other out, which means the team with a better supporting cast often is the key.

With that in mind, let's take a look at three players who have a great chance to become the breakout stars of this year's postseason.

 

Serge Ibaka (Oklahoma City Thunder)

Ibaka has always been a force on the defensive end, which isn't a surprise given his combination of length and athleticism. He's averaging over three blocks per game and will undoubtedly make his presence felt on that end of the floor.

It's his improvement on the offensive end that should really help the Thunder. He's come a long way with his mid-range jumper, as his shooting percentage has jumped to 57 percent. He also knocks down 75 percent of his free throws.

Oklahoma City's offense is going to get carried by its three perimeter players, most notably Kevin Durant. But there are going to be times when the Thunder need easy points on the interior, and it will be up to the improved Ibaka to provide them. He's ready for the assignment.

 

Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs)

The Spurs have a couple players capable of breaking out. Along with Leonard, Tiago Splitter has slowly developed into the secondary post threat they need behind Tim Duncan. But it's Leonard who's most likely to steal the spotlight.

Most of the focus will remain on the Big Three of Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili (assuming they're all healthy), but it's too much to ask them to carry the entire load. That's where Leonard, who's averaging 12 points and six rebounds per contest, comes into play.

His versatility is the key. He can score in the paint or step outside to knock down a crucial three. On the defensive end, he's proven capable of keeping an opponent's top wing scorer in check. These attributes will help the Spurs make a deep run.

 

Roy Hibbert (Indiana Pacers)

Hibbert has always been an intriguing player. His size (7'2'') means he should be able to take over a game at will, but he's lacked the aggressiveness necessary to do that. That's started to change over the last two months of the regular season.

He averaged 17 points, nine rebounds and three blocks per game in March. That's the type of production he's capable of over the course of an entire season if he asserts himself each and every night. The Pacers hope that's what happens in the playoffs.

The duo of Paul George and David West will handle the main offensive load, but if Hibbert is checking in around 17 points per night, Indiana will be a much more complete team. He appears ready to take the leap to stardom.

 

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