10 Budding NBA Talents Who Will Become Household Names in 2013-14 Season
The 10 budding NBA talents who will become household names in 2013-14 have not yet earned a trip to the All-Star game.
They each have demonstrated enough during their professional career, however, to suggest a major step forward this season.
While these players will not emerge as the household names that LeBron James and Kevin Durant have become, for example, they will become generally known among casual NBA fans everywhere.
Some players on this list will become household names for embracing their respective role as well as anyone else in the league. Others will even go so far as earning All-Star consideration.
Each player is listed according to how much of a household name he will become by season's end.
No. 10: Lance Stephenson, Indiana Pacers
Lance Stephenson's maturity has finally caught up with his talent.
After breaking onto the scene as a superstar from Abraham Lincoln High in Brooklyn, New York, Stephenson at first struggled to adjust to life in the spotlight. He eventually attended Cincinnati before entering the league as a second-round pick in 2010.
This past season, however, the Indiana Pacers earned a significant return on their investment in Stephenson.
The wing-playing 23-year-old started 72 games for the runners-up in the Eastern Conference while contributing defensively and scoring 8.8 points per night.
As Danny Granger returns to the lineup in 2013-14, Stephenson's maturity will be under the microscope again as he's forced into a sixth-man role for Indiana. Expect Stephenson to respond to that challenge, however, and establish himself as a household name among NBA fans while contending for Sixth Man of the Year honors.
No. 9: Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
Equipped with a healthy John Wall for the duration of 2013-14, Bradley Beal will have an opportunity to thrive at the off-guard position consistently for the Washington Wizards.
During eight games this past February, after Wall returned from injury, Beal averaged 17.5 points and 5.1 rebounds while feeding off the attention that defenses paid to his teammate.
Beal scored at least 20 points during four of those games and remains capable of reaching the 20-point plateau on a nightly basis.
While he will need to avoid the poor shooting games that left the 13.9 point-per-game scorer on the year in single digits moving forward, Beal is capable of making those improvements. When he does, the No. 3 overall pick in 2012 will begin to remind fans around the league why he was drafted so high in the first place.
No. 8: Dion Waiters, Cleveland Cavaliers
Dion Waiters will enter his second season with the Cleveland Cavaliers playing alongside an All-NBA candidate in Kyrie Irving. He will also be supported by the recently acquired Jarrett Jack and the newly rehired Mike Brown.
These three elements will create a more stable on-court environment for Waiters than he experienced as a rookie in Cleveland under Byron Scott. This consistency and collective competitiveness should also fuel a more concentrated and efficient effort from Waiters in 2013-14 that will help him take a major step forward.
While the biggest knock on Waiters as a rookie was his 41.2 percent field-goal percentage—with good reason—he also demonstrated a toughness and knack for scoring that helped him average 14.9 points.
If Brown and company can help increase that scoring total by moving his shooting percentage closer to 50 percent, Waiters could become a household name among fans all over the league much quicker than many expect.
No. 7: Kemba Walker, Charlotte Bobcats
Despite the lack of support and difficult circumstances surrounding the lowly Charlotte Bobcats, Kemba Walker managed to improve during his second year.
After averaging 12.1 points per game as a rookie, Walker increased his scoring to 17.7 during the 2012-13 campaign.
He also managed to start all 82 games for the Bobcats while doing everything he could to help his team compete on a nightly basis.
This summer, Walker's continued improvement was aided by the signing of free-agent Al Jefferson. The attention Jefferson will now command on the interior will only open things up for Walker. The development of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will be significant as well for Walker and the Bobcats, along with the arrival of Cody Zeller.
This improved support will only help Walker climb the NBA's scoring column, after finishing tied for 26th a year ago, and increase his exposure along the way.
No. 6: Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix Suns
Eric Bledsoe averaged 14.9 points, 5.4 assists and 5.2 rebounds per 36 minutes for the Los Angeles Clippers last season according to Basketball-Reference.com.
These projections have inspired many to be bullish on Bledsoe's ability to take a major step forward after posting a career high of only 8.5 points per night. There's good reason for the optimism too.
The highly coveted 23-year-old guard is now expected to start for the Suns alongside Goran Dragic and will have ample opportunity to demonstrate his ability on a consistent basis.
Expect the combo guard to use his quickness and athleticism to average numbers closer to his per-36-minute projections last year as a result of the increased playing time.
No. 5: Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
Dikembe Mutombo established himself as a household name on the strength of his shot-blocking ability. His finger wag that followed a rejection is even still celebrated today by insurance companies.
Like Mutombo, Andre Drummond has an opportunity to build his brand on the defensive end of the floor. Though Drummond is a more skilled offensive player than Mutombo was, he possesses the skill set necessary to be a difference-making defender.
Drummond's 1.6 blocks per game for the Detroit Pistons ranked 16th in the league among all players in 2013-14, although he only averaged 20.7 minutes per game.
No. 4: Harrison Barnes, Golden State
After a postseason run that will be described in Golden State Warriors' folklore for decades to come, Harrison Barnes has done enough to earn a starting NBA job.
The acquisition of free-agent Andre Iguodala may force Barnes into a sixth-man role, but expect major production regardless.
While combining the same mix of size and athleticism that helped him emerge as the No. 1 overall high school prospect in a class that included Kyrie Irving, Barnes averaged 16.1 points per night during the playoffs.
Powered by a year of experience, he is in a position to capitalize on those strengths even more heading into his second professional season.
Whether his scoring opportunities will now come alongside Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, or against opposing reserve units as a sixth man, expect Barnes to find quality looks on a consistent basis.
No. 3: Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
Kawhi Leonard has already started 35 career playoff games for the San Antonio Spurs.
This postseason success, combined with his all-around production, will help the 22-year-old small forward become a household name among NBA fans everywhere by the end of his third season.
While Leonard doesn't post gaudy numbers from a statistical standpoint, the 11.9 points and six rebounds he did average in 2012-13 came along with consistent production on the defensive end.
In support of Tony Parker and Tim Duncan, Leonard has maximized his role on the wing by contributing in all phases of the game. By simply continuing to do specifically that, as San Antonio competes once again for an NBA championship, Leonard will make the impressions needed to be recognized everywhere.
No. 2: Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
If you're sleeping on Anthony Davis after what may be perceived as a slightly disappointing rookie season, it's time to quit that.
Davis will enter the 2013-14 campaign with an improved roster featuring a proven All-Star in Jrue Holiday running the offense. The backcourt in New Orleans will also be aided by the healthy return of Eric Gordon along with the arrival of Tyreke Evans.
After struggling through 26 starts from Austin Rivers a year ago, the more consistent threat posed by the Pelicans perimeter this time around will help Davis immensely inside.
If he can remain healthy, after a year of adjusting to life in the NBA, Davis could improve his averages of 13.5 points and 8.2 rebounds to somewhere around 16 and 10. By posting that type of double-double on a nightly basis, fans everywhere will begin to notice all over again.
No. 1: Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Just as Kyrie Irving built upon his Rookie of the Year performance in 2011-12 to establish himself as a household name among casual NBA fans, Damian Lillard will do the same.
After arriving in Portland by way of Weber State University, Lillard averaged 19 points and 6.5 assists for the Trail Blazers during the 2012-13 campaign. If he can simply prove that those numbers have staying power, while defenses attempt to adjust, Lillard will compete for an All-Star spot in the Western Conference.
The upgraded bench in Portland, featuring Mo Williams, C.J. McCollum and others, should also provide Lillard the opportunity to rest at times after leading the NBA in minutes with 3,167.
The re-energized time he'll spend on the floor as a result will help Lillard solidify his place among the NBA's stars for many years to come.