Thomas has made please believe in him
With the first half of the season now over, NBA teams, coaches and players have had the chance to battle against one another for playoff position. Some players have made a major splash once given the opportunity as Jeremy Lin has done so far. With the second half of the season ready to get going next week, let's take a look at some players who are primed to continue there quest for greatness and recognition amongst their peers for their improved play.
Isiah Thomas: Sacramento Kings
With much higher profile players such as Jimmer Fredette receiving all the attention early, Thomas, who was drafted last in the second round has seen his minutes go up and down during the season. It wasn't until coach Keith Smart inserted Thomas into the starting line that we saw what Thomas could be capable of.
The 5'9" Tacoma, Wash. native has used his blazing speed and ability to put the ball in the basket to give the Kings a much needed spark to start off games with. In the five games he started in late February, Thomas poured in over 20 points, four assists and three rebounds while shooting 46 percent from the field and almost 40 percent from three-point range. His scoring prowess was never questioned but his consistency on the court has.
His game shows many similarities of fellow 5'9" Washington Alumnus and NBA player Nate Robinson with the difference being that Thomas is left handed and he seems a bit more in control of what he is doing on the court. With starter minutes in his horizon, Kings fans should expect to see more of what he has done of late.
Leonard has fought his way into the Spurs rotation
Kawhi Leonard: San Antonio Spurs
At only 20 years of age, sky's the limit for the Los Angeles Native drafted by the Spurs this year. While team injuries forced Leonard to be thrown in to the fire early, his number were a bit inconsistent while minutes were plentiful.
Upon the return of Manu Ginobili and Gary Neal and in only 21 minutes of playing time, his stats were comparable with what he was doing in almost 30 minutes earlier in the year. His field goal shooting in February was up to 50 percent and his three-point shooting has soared to 47 percent.
With the strain of multiple games over the second half of the season coming up, Leonard and his young legs should find himself playing more often as the team looks to rest starters for the playoffs. In essence, Leonard has a good opportunity to see his number go up a bit. In a recent loss, he scored 24 points, pulled down 10 boards and had five steals in 43 minutes of play.
Smith's game has paid dividends for Knicks
J.R Smith: New York Knicks
Upon his return from China, Smith wasted no time getting to Madison Square Garden, getting his physical and getting on the court right away to contribute. While his numbers won't wow you at first, if you were watching the energy and effort he has given the Knicks, fans should be plenty excited about the second half of the season on 33rd Street.
Let's look past the so-called million dollars in fines and the altercations in China. Smith seems to be revitalized upon his return close to home and playing for the Knicks. His ability to shoot from deep and get up and down the court while playing way over the rim are tailor-made for the Knicks style of play.
His play on both ends has sparked many a run in his first four games. He has broken up alley oops with his hustle, played Iman Shumpert type of defense after recording five steals versus Atlanta last week and has been in full attack mode from start to finish of games. His ability to create his own show and shots for others will be showcased with more frequency in the second half of the season.
Does he stay or go?
Brook Lopez: New Jersey Nets
After a bum foot caused Brook Lopez to miss basically the whole first half of the season, the seven footer is back and ready to go. After scoring 20 points a game last season, he proved to the league that he could put the ball in the bucket.
Now he has a chance to show his team that he can be the centerpiece of the organization.
With talks of Howard coming to New Jersey sure to be constant, Lopez should be auditioning for Deron Williams to help him decide to stay in New Jersey while proving to him that he is the big man to play with when they move to Brooklyn next year.
If he can become more assertive on the boards and on the defensive end the Nets could see their win total increase. In the second half, he is surely going to have easy buckets set up for him while teams key in on stopping Williams. His motivational level should be very high and his presence alone should help the struggling Nets get back on track.
Serge has come up big as of late
Serge Ibaka: Oklahoma City Thunder
Serge had such a poor start that after the first month numbers of six points and rebounds you had to scratch your head wondering where was the natural progression for the 22-year-old. Fantasy owners, like myself, made the dubious mistake of letting him go a bit too early.
Let's skip two months ahead and the 6'9" Brazzaville, Congo native has shown the rest of the league how much of a major presence he can be on defense. His numbers for the month of February have gone up to almost a double double in points and rebounds and his blocks have soared to nearly five a game.
In the same month Ibaka had three games of ten or more blocks on while his team went 11-3 for the month. With momentum on his side, Thunder fans should see plenty more of what they experienced this past month with Ibaka great play on both ends of the court.