It starts somewhere.
Whether it’s an injury that creates an opening for a young blossoming star, or a trade that reopens the door for a savvy veteran—whatever the circumstance, it all culminates in an ascension to relevance.
Each year players appear from seemingly nowhere during the 82 game marathon who capture the fates of their teams and ultimately alter the complexion of the season.
Young and old, these players have quietly emerged as central figures and look to take their recent surges into the New Year.
Channing Frye—Phoenix Suns
Even after a dismal start, the hybrid forward is on track to have the best season of his career. Frye’s turnaround began on November 15th when the veteran big man was inserted into the starting rotation and since then, Frye has scored in double figures in all but one of those appearances.
A 6’11’’ center who shoots above 40 percent from three point land? That’s a gift to get excited about.
Mike Dunleavy—Indiana Pacers
Left for dead after Brandon Rush was granted a starting role, Dunleavy has returned to glory in the Hoosier state and presented himself as a viable number two option behind All-Star Danny Granger.
The former Dukie has put a disadvantageous 2009-10 season behind him, and returned to the form that earned a contract with the Pacers in 2005. A large reason for his success has been an improved shooting touch that saw Dunleavy shoot a mere 21 percent from three and cough up a one for one assist to turnover ratio.
2011 looks to be much kinder than 2010 for the veteran forward.
Wesley Matthews—Portland Trail Blazers
The Portland Trail Blazers weren’t sure what they had acquired in the 24-year-old Matthews after a mid-summer swap with the Utah Jazz. This season, the former Marquette Golden Eagle has been an effective scorer hovering around the 15 PPG mark all year and demonstrated his role as a lock-down defender seen in his 1.2 steals per contest.
With questions swirling around Brandon Roy’s health, it seems evident that Matthews may be the heir to a steep scoring workload.
Leandro Barbosa—Toronto Raptors
Who would have thought Barbosa could survive without Steve Nash and the track meet that is known as the Phoenix Suns’ offense. Though he may not be a part of Toronto’s first five, the Brazilian sharp shooting guard has been explosive off the bench with a handful of 20 point December scoring performances.
Toronto will undoubtedly be in the conversation for the league’s worst record in April, but in the meantime it’ll be hard to ignore what Barbosa is accomplishing north of the border.
Daniel Gibson—Cleveland Cavaliers
It seems that the Cavaliers have dispelled their allusion of themselves as a contender and instead are looking towards the future...