It’s no secret that the NBA’s biggest stars—like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant—are the barometers of team success. However, key X-factors within contending teams playing rotations are often the difference makers over the long haul of an 82-game season.
While NBA All-Stars will be expected to play at a high level to keep their respective teams in the playoff picture, unsung heroes will aim to make an impact that is just as meaningful.
J.R Smith (who won Sixth Man of the Year with the New York Knicks), Paul George (who stepped up in Danny Granger’s absence by becoming an All-Star and Most Improved Player with the Indiana Pacers) and Larry Sanders (who evolved into a shot-blocking specialist and defensive force with the Milwaukee Bucks) were all major X-factors for their respective teams a season ago.
Now a new collection of players will try and follow in their footsteps.
Predicting the NBA’s biggest X-factors for the 2013-14 season will rely on targeting players who are either poised for a breakout year, or put in a position to contribute toward a bona fide contender.