The 2013 NBA preseason is set to commence at 9:00 a.m. ET on Saturday, Oct. 5. From there, it will be a month of high-octane offense that allows low-profile players to improve their spot in the rotation and stars to establish an early rhythm.
The question is, which under-the-radar players are bound to shine during the 2013 NBA preseason?
For every player that steps up during the preseason and receives no additional trust come the regular season, there's one like Brian Roberts of the New Orleans Pelicans. After playing in both Israel and Germany from 2008 to 2012, Roberts averaged 17.0 minutes per game as a 27-year-old rookie in 2012-13.
There may not be an identical story in 2013-14, but Roberts' success continues to build upon the importance of preseason. So who will this year's under-the-radar preseason stars be?
Vander Blue, Philadelphia 76ers
Position: Shooting Guard
2012-13 College Averages
33.0 MPG, 14.8 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.0 SPG
The Philadelphia 76ers have a roster with nothing but youth and inexperience. In turn, there are countless spots in the rotation that are available to be taken by unproven commodities who will step up and shine during the preseason.
No unproven Sixer has as much upside as undrafted rookie Vander Blue.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, Philadelphia has signed Blue to a partially guaranteed contract. Blue will play in training camp and likely receive the opportunity to take the court during the preseason.
For a team that lacks a go-to scorer, Blue has the opportunity to step up and earn his spot in the rotation with his slashing prowess.
Blue was a star at Marquette, stepping up in the clutch against some of the best defenses in all of college basketball. During his final six games of the 2012-13 college basketball season, Blue hit three game-winning shots.
Overall, Blue averaged 14.8 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.0 steal on 45.4 percent shooting from the field and 52.8 percent on two-point field goals.
Blue will need to shine in his rare opportunities to play early, but at this point, the best scorer on the roster is Evan Turner. That's a scary thought considering Turner is an all-around player who lacks a reliable jump shot and rarely takes over as a scorer.
Khalif Wyatt is another player who could serve this purpose on a wide-open 76ers roster.
Isaiah Canaan, Houston Rockets
Position: Point Guard
2012-13 College Averages
36.5 MPG, 21.8 PPG, 4.3 APG, 3.5 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 37.0% 3PT
Anyone who is familiar with my articles knows that I believe Jeremy Lin is the ideal point guard to run the pick-and-roll with Dwight Howard. Unfortunately for Lin, James Harden is arguably the most ball-dominant shooting guard in the NBA, south of Kobe Bryant.
That's not a bad thing, but for the Houston Rockets, it means that their point guard must be able to work off of the ball and shoot the three.
That makes rookie Isaiah Canaan, who was selected No. 34 overall at the 2013 NBA draft, a captivating player. Canaan shot a career-worst 37.0 percent from three-point range in 2012-13—I'll let that "low" sink in for a second—and made 304 three-point field goals in four years at Murray State.
As the numbers display, Canaan is the perfect fit to play alongside Harden.
He'll have the opportunity to prove that during the preseason, and fans should expect him to shine when on the floor. It'll be a misleading period of time due to the fact that Harden's availability will be limited and Canaan's role will become that of a primary ball-handler, but the upside will be displayed.
From there, it becomes a question of fit for the Rockets, who could actually help their title dreams by giving extended minutes to the most inexperienced point guard on the roster.
Erik Murphy, Chicago Bulls
Position: Power Forward
2012-13 College Averages
26.4 MPG, 12.2 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.4 APG, 45.3% 3PT
Arguably the most underrated selection of the 2013 NBA draft was made by the Chicago Bulls when they selected Erik Murphy at No. 49 overall. Chicago, an elite defensive unit without much consistency offensively, selected the smooth-shooting 6'10" power forward from the University of Florida to help cure those woes.
Murphy will display his value during the preseason.
During his 2012-13 campaign with the Florida Gators, Murphy averaged 12.2 points and 5.5 rebounds in 26.4 minutes of action. Those aren't spectacular numbers, but Murphy also shot 45.3 percent from beyond the arc and made 72 three-point field goals.
Murphy made 59 on 42.1 percent shooting from three-point range in 2011-12.
For the Bulls, Murphy provides a big body who can run the pick-and-pop or space the floor in a smaller lineup with Carlos Boozer or Taj Gibson working down low. Alongside Joakim Noah, Murphy can serve a similar purpose to Boozer with deeper range on his jump shot.
For an offense that relies heavily on Derrick Rose and his drive-and-dish tendencies, Murphy could be an important piece to Chicago's title aspirations by season's end. Expect him to show you why in the preseason.
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