NBA Predictions: 10 Breakout Players to Watch in the Second Half

Eric Ball@@BigLeagueEballFeatured ColumnistFebruary 12, 2011

NBA Predictions: 10 Breakout Players to Watch in the Second Half

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    ORLANDO, FL - FEBRUARY 03:  Forward Mike Miller #13 of the Miami Heat passes against the Orlando Magic at Amway Arena on February 3, 2011 in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this phot
    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    The 2010-2011 NBA season has featured its fair share of amazing players. The All-Star game is as stacked as it’s ever been.
     
    But that doesn’t mean there hasn't been some disappointments. There are a handful of star players and rookies that haven’t earned your attention this season.

    Good thing there is still plenty of season to go.

    Factors such as contracts, increased playing time for rookies and injuries will be shaking up each NBA team down the stretch

    Here are 10 players that are going to play outstanding basketball down the stretch this season.

10. Derrick Favors

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    ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 07:  Damien Wilkins #3 and Josh Powell #12 of the Atlanta Hawks defend the basket against Derrick Favors #14 of the New Jersey Nets at Philips Arena on December 7, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The 19-year old rookie out of Georgia Tech has gotten off to a slow start in his NBA career.
     
    Not surprising for such a young guy.
     
    Now that the trade rumors sending him to Denver are seemingly finished, Favors can now focus on his team and on getting better.
     
    January was his best month as a pro, averaging seven points and just under five rebounds a game.
     
    His blocks are up and his fouls are down in the last few weeks as his defense improves before our eyes.
     
    With the season all but over, Avery Johnson would be smart to run more plays for the young guy and play him more than the 20 minutes a game he currently averages.

9. Ben Gordon

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    ORLANDO, FL - JANUARY 24:  Ben Gordon #7 of the Detroit Pistons sets up a play during the game against the Orlando Magic at Amway Arena on January 24, 2011 in Orlando, Florida.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and
    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    Classic case of an overpaid player that has nothing to prove on a team going nowhere. He is only scoring 12.6 points and two rebounds and assists a game.
     
    Does this sound like the numbers for a guy that makes $10.8M a year?
     
    Gordon’s struggles are a bit puzzling. He’s shooting percentage of 44 percent is right at his career average. Ditto with his three point and free throw shooting.
     
    The biggest difference is in the amount of minutes he gets a game. Right now his 27.8 a game are the lowest since his rookie season with the Bulls.
     
    With Richard Hamilton having played his last game in a Pistons uniform, the minutes should increase for Gordon and his production will go with.
     
    Talk about a guy that is an after thought in today’s NBA landscape—as is teammate Charlie Villanueva.

8. Kenyon Martin

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    DENVER - DECEMBER 28:  Kenyon Martin #4 of the Denver Nuggets collects the ball against the Portland Trail Blazers at Pepsi Center on December 28, 2010 in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Blazers 95-77. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Show me the money!
     
    K-Mart is in the finally year of his contract and is looking for one last, fat payday. His tenure with the Nuggets is surely over after the comments he made about the signing of Al Harrington this summer.
     
    He told the Denver Post that he wasn’t working hard to rehab his knee because he knew the Nuggets had already signed his replacement.

    What a team player.
     
    He has averaged six points a game and 5.1 rebounds in 22 games since retuning. Expect him to up his stats as much as possible over the last two months.

7. Evan Turner

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 03:  Evan Turner #12 of the Philadelphia 76ers drives on Trevor Ariza #1 of the New Orleans Hornets in the second half at New Orleans Arena on January 3, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges a
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    The No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft has not played up to expectations in his rookie season. His 41 percent shooting percentage leaves a lot to be desired, as does his 25 percent success rate from downtown.

    Overall he is scoring 7.3 points and 2.2 assists per game in 24 minutes of action.

    That’s the other problem.

    With Jrue Holiday, Louis Williams and Andre Iguodala all firmly entrenched ahead of him in the rotation, Turner isn’t getting the minutes he needs to make a nightly impact.

    As the trade deadline approaches, I expect the 76ers to move one of their guards (most likely Iggie) for a big man.

    This fills a need for the upstart Sixers and also frees up more minutes for Turner.

6. Mike Miller

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    MIAMI, FL - FEBRUARY 08: Mike Miller #13 of the Miami Heat shoots a jump shot during a game against the Indiana Pacers at American Airlines Arena on February 8, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by download
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    The 10-year vet started off the season on the shelf and didn’t play in a game till almost January.
     
    Getting into game shape was a slow process for Miller, but he is finally back and even played 42 minutes in a game late last month.
     
    His three-point shooting will be key for the most talked about team in the NBA and Miller showed the rest of the league a sneak peek in his 6-for-11 performance from behind the arc in route to 32 points against the Raptors.
     
    As the season rolls on the rested Miller is just beginning to find his grove. When Miller is the fourth-best scoring threat on your team, the franchise is in a good place.

5. Gilbert Arenas

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    CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 28: Gilbert Arenas #1 of the Orlando Magic moves past Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on January 28, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Magic 99-90. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges a
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    The first half of this season has been a complete disaster for Arenas. From career lows on the court to the messy divorce in another court—there is nowhere to go but up for Gilbert.
     
    The Magic need a productive Arenas to compete for a championship and are banking on a strong second half.
     
    He is already starting to right the ship. He scored six points and dished out five assists in a key stretch in the fourth quarter of a Magic win against the Clippers on Tuesday.
     
    On the season he is averaging 12 points and 4.7 assists a game for both the Wizards and Magic.
     
    His knee may not ever be the same, but he is getting used to his new role of a distributor and that is music to the ear's of Stan Van Gundy and the Magic.

4. Kendrick Perkins

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    BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 06:  Kendrick Perkins #43 of the Boston Celtics takes a shot over Earl Clark #3 of the Orlando Magic on February 6, 2011 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The Celtics defeated the Magic 91-80. NOTE TO USER: User expressly ac
    Elsa/Getty Images

    After tearing his ACL in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, Perkins finally returned to the Celtics lineup on January 25th.

    His minutes are slowly increasing and he already has put up a 13 point and 12 rebound night. Perkins is averaging over 10 boards a game in five games this month.

    The fans of Boston know that Shaq and Jermaine O’Neal provide little more than just a big body in the lane. Perkins is a stellar defender that is one of the premier rebounders in the league.

    Expect Perkins production to increase ten-fold over the course of the next month as he regains the strength in his leg.

3. Devin Harris

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 22:  Devin Harris #34 of the New Jersey Nets drives the ball around Jarrett Jack #2  of the New Orleans Hornets at the New Orleans Arena on December 22, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.    The Hornets defeated the Nets 105-91.
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    What’s the deal with Harris this season?

    His points per game have dropped every month down to a season low 11.2 so far in February.
     
    On the season he is averaging 15 points a game and almost eight assists for one of the worst teams in the NBA.
     
    He has taken on more of a true point guard role and that has resulted in fewer points and more assists. But at what point does head coach Avery Johnson realize that Harris is his best offensive player?
     
    Let Harris create shots with his quickness and ability to beat his man of the dribble and watch the 29th ranked offense improve.

2. John Wall

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    NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 24:  John Wall #2 of the Washington Wizards dribbles the court against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on January 24, 2011 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    He may not know what it feels like to win a road game in the NBA, but Wall is slowly becoming one of the better PGs in the league.
     
    His 15 points and nine assists a game are impressive—but expect even better numbers down the stretch.
     
    As the Wiz fall further and further out of contention in the playoffs, everything needs to revolve around the 2010 No. 1 overall pick.
     
    Coach Flip Sanders needs to realize this and the keys over to Wall full-time and watch the show.

1. Joakim Noah

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    CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 28: Injured player Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls shouts encouragement to teammates from the bench during a game against the Orlando Magic at the United Center on January 28, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Magic
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Noah has been out with a thumb injury since Dec. 15th but is scheduled to comeback right after the All-Star break.
     
    The Bulls have been one of the best teams in the entire league over the last month and the addition of Noah will make them a very dangerous bunch.
     
    He was scoring 14 points and almost 12 rebounds a game before going down. He has yet to play with Carlos Boozer and the combination of the two has Bulls fans drooling.
     
    With most of the attention going to Boozer—expect Noah to put up around 20 points a night for a team that will be getting more and more attention as the season goes on.
     
    Remember: The Bulls didn’t pull the trigger on a deal for Carmelo Anthony because they didn’t want to give up their 25-year old center from Florida.