The 2013 NBA playoffs have been a showcase for some of the game's most promising young stars—some of whom not receiving the proper attention before the postseason got underway.
There is a particularly captivating trio that have led their teams to more success than was expected at the outset. Each player has shown grit, toughness, clutch play and made an impact on both ends of the floor throughout.
Below is a breakdown of three studs 25 years old and younger who have fared well and should only continue to improve.
Stephen Curry, PG, Golden State Warriors
Not only can Curry shoot, but he is as crafty as anyone at creating space off the dribble and also taking opponents to the rack in those situations.
Curry isn't the most formidable player in terms of physicality, yet he finds a way to consistently finish around the rim. Oh, and that's not even to mention how fantastic he is at passing. There have been fewer true combo guards in recent memory.
What has been most impressive is how well Curry has improved as a defender, and how he's gutted through injuries to both ankles to still be out there for his team, which is already shorthanded without David Lee.
ESPN Stats & Info highlights how resilient Curry has been to the pain he's experienced:
#SportVU data: Stephen Curry's run 14.7 miles vs Spurs despite ankle injuries. Only Klay Thompson & Harrison Barnes have ran more in series— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 17, 2013
Though his shooting percentage is beginning to decline in the Western Conference semifinals against the San Antonio Spurs, there's no question Curry is an All-Star player.
It's mind-boggling that Curry wasn't selected to the prestigious squad, but he isn't likely to be snubbed for many years to come.
Paul George, SF, Indiana Pacers
The sheer athleticism that George brings to the table is staggering, and he only continues to develop into a better all-around product.
Which young player excites you the most?
George has struggled to find his shooting groove in the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the New York Knicks, but has contributed so vitally in many other areas.
What George does isn't always evident in the box score. He can handle the ball well, shoot nicely and throw down thunderous dunks. The reason the Pacers entered Thursday with a 3-1 lead is because of George's prowess as a defender, which has helped shut down the likes of Carmelo Anthony.
ESPN's Chris Palmer points to a historic achievement George notched in the regular season:
Only 22-year-old in NBA history to be an All-Star and make All-Defense: Paul George.— chris palmer (@ESPNChrisPalmer) May 15, 2013
The NBA's leading scorer, Anthony, is shooting just 32 percent when George guards him in this series, which is truly phenomenal (h/t ESPN).
For the postseason, George is averaging 18.3 points, 8.8 rebounds and five assists from the 3 position while playing a treacherous amount of minutes. It's impossible to discount him as a future max contract-caliber player.
Mike Conley Jr., PG, Memphis Grizzlies
There may not be a more underrated point guard in the NBA than Conley, who has been quietly improving since being the No. 4 overall pick in the 2008 draft.
With phenomenal lateral quickness, Conley can get past anyone off the dribble and shuffle his feet against even his most athletic counterparts.
Check out the company he joined in dominating the Oklahoma City Thunder in a Game 2 triumph (h/t ESPN Stats & Info):
Mike Conley is 4th different player in last 25 seasons w/ 26 Pts, 10 Reb & 9 Ast in road playoff win, joining Jordan, LeBron & Baron Davis.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 8, 2013
The least respected aspect of Conley's game, though, has been his baffling efficiency with the basketball. Conley has averaged 7.6 assists to just 1.9 turnovers per contest in these playoffs—a 4-to-1 assist-turnover ratio.
That's a large reason why the Grizzlies find themselves in the Western Conference finals, awaiting the winner of the Spurs-Warriors series.