New NBA Stars Basking in the Playoff Limelight

Bryant KnoxFeatured ColumnistMay 24, 2013

New NBA Stars Basking in the Playoff Limelight

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    There's a fine line between being a good NBA player and a great one. There's no one definition to distinguish between the two, but the postseason is where we start to separate the posers from the superstars.

    The playoffs offer a grand stage for players to make the transition. The regular season is where players show what they have to offer, but the postseason is where they tease us about what is yet to come.

    In case you're wondering, 2013 has been no exception.

    It goes without saying that LeBron James has dominated the show. He's the best player on the planet for a reason, and the championship is his to lose at this point in the process.

    But there are a handful of players who don't care about James and his status as the best player in the league. Every player has something different to offer, and we're seeing the future of the league begin to develop before our eyes.

Stephen Curry

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    Before the 2013 playoffs began, we all knew that Stephen Curry was a lethal shooter. We saw him score 54 points against the New York Knicks, and many believed that he was the biggest snub of the 2013 All-Star Game.

    Now that the playoffs are coming to an end, it's clear that Curry is one of the best young guards that the game has to offer.

    Say what you want about Curry's first quarters; the man came to play when it mattered most. He made the third quarters his own in both Round 1 and Round 2, and he finished the postseason with 24.3 points, 9.3 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game while shooting 44.2 percent from deep range.

    Between Curry's progress and the absence of Kobe Bryant, Curry appears to be a lock for the 2014 All-Star Game. As long as that pesky ankle doesn't get any worse, we're looking at one of the next great superstars of the NBA.

Ty Lawson

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    Stephen Curry may have been the one grabbing headlines during Round 1, but Ty Lawson showed just how great he can be during the 2013 postseason.

    Lawson, who stands under 6'0" tall, averaged 21.3 points, 8.0 assists and 3.3 rebounds during six games in the playoffs. He also grabbed 1.7 steals, and while that's partly due to sloppy play on the other end, his quick reactions and blinding speed helped him interrupt the passing lanes of the Golden State Warriors.

    Fans in Denver have been waiting for Ty Lawson to break out. It's easy to argue that the sample size in the postseason was small, as he only led his team two wins against Golden State, but the production he displayed is impressive nonetheless.

    The 25-year-old has a bright future in the NBA, and a solid showing this time around could be the catalyst to a great career moving forward.

Joakim Noah

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    Joakim Noah was an All-Star for the first time during the 2012-13 season, and while part of that is due to the absence of Dwight Howard, it's easy to see why he was chosen to represent the Eastern Conference.

    The Chicago Bulls entered the postseason as one of the worst offensive clubs in the league, if not the worst. They never fully made up the offense that was missing with Derrick Rose on the sidelines, but the defensive mindset of the team helped make up the difference.

    Noah is a big reason the defense was able to succeed. The big man averaged 2.1 blocks per game during the regular season, and he kept up the pace during the playoffs. 

    Noah has earned a reputation for his energy and emotion for a reason. He is one of those rare players who shows emotion every play down the court, but you can't take away from his production just because he wears his heart on his sleeve. 

    The Bulls, even with Noah, couldn't get it done against the Miami Heat, but that's more of a testament to their opponents' greatness and less about what they were able to do without their star on board.

Marc Gasol

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    Once upon a time, Marc Gasol was known only as Pau Gasol's younger brother. The center was involved in the deal that sent his older brother to the Los Angeles Lakers, and people considered the trade highway robbery in favor of L.A.

    Now, the man in Memphis is proving that he's a man of his own, as he's surpassed the other Gasol in the eyes of most fans watching the postseason.

    Gasol doesn't have all facets of the mid-range game or soft touch of his older brother, but that's not his role within the Memphis Grizzlies' system. Memphis is about physicality and defense, and any offense Gasol provides is simply a luxury. 

    But while offense is a luxury, it's not ignored when it comes to Gasol's skill set. He's averaging 17.3 points on 46.7 percent shooting during the postseason, showing he has become one of the best two-way centers left in today's game.

Paul George

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    If there's anybody in the NBA who is giving us a glimpse at the future, it's Paul George.

    The 23-year-old has established himself as a franchise player and a No. 1 option for the Indiana Pacers. Yes, he's struggled to contain LeBron James, but who hasn't? The youngster is making a name for himself, and he's proving that he can be counted upon both early and late in contests.

    The Pacers, who struggle on offense, could have crawled into the fetal position and given up without Danny Granger on the floor. However, with defense being a focus and George scoring nearly 20 points per game during the playoffs, their hopes are still alive in the Eastern Conference Finals.

    During the 2013 postseason, George is having a major impact. According to NBA.com, the Pacers' offensive rating drops 4.3 with the forward off the court. The bigger story, though, is on defense, where the team's rating changes 14.6 the wrong way.

    George is showing us all that a great player can have an impact on a small market, and he's making a name for himself heading into the 2013-14 season.