10 Under-the-Radar NBA Players Who Will Be 2013-14 Training-Camp Stars
NBA training camp is a time for young up-and-comers to truly make their presence felt. Not all of them will become stars on a league-wide level, but they'll begin to show what they're capable of with the 2013-14 season just around the corner.
When it comes to under-the-radar players, we're not talking about budding stars who have already arrived. We're talking about players who have yet to make their mark and even a few who have unfairly been ignored by the casual fan.
Ignorance may be bliss when it comes to certain things, but talented NBA prospects shouldn't be one of them. Fans should know whom to look for in training camp, as a few names might surprise some people when it's all said and done.
Undrafted out of Old Dominion, it's safe to say that Kent Bazemore has flown under the radar through the early part of his career.
Entering the 2012-13 season, ESPN ranked him as the 499th-best player in the NBA out of 500. That's hardly a vote of confidence for a young guard, but his recent performance in the Las Vegas Summer League showed that there's more to the prospect than most originally thought.
The Golden State Warriors are a deep team, but Bazemore has a chance to land a more prominent role with a solid showing in training camp. As a converted point guard, the 24-year-old will compete for the spot behind Stephen Curry, which is wide open at this juncture.
Originally touted for his defensive attributes, Bazemore showed that he can have an impact on offense in Vegas. He averaged 18.4 points per contest, and while it's true that the competition wasn't elite, it's clear he belongs on an NBA floor.
If you ask Orlando Magic fans, Tobias Harris has already arrived. The 21-year-old forward averaged 17.3 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks after being traded by the Milwaukee Bucks, making him arguably the best player on his new roster when the 2012-13 season came to an end.
But while fans in Orlando got more than a glimpse of what Harris has to offer, the rest of the league is just starting to learn what this kid is all about.
At 6'9", Harris has great size at the small-forward position. Following his trade to Orlando, he played with a poise that showed his potential as a leader. More specifically, he showed that the Magic aren't completely doomed as they continue the rebuilding process.
The truth is that we need to see a larger sample size to really gauge Harris' ceiling, but Orlando should feel good about what it has. The youngster caught people by surprise in his second season, which won't be the case in 2013-14.
Sticking with the Orlando Magic, let's shift to the center position and look at a player who broke out in 2012-13 but was widely overlooked because of the team he played for.
Nikola Vucevic was placed in an impossible situation when he was told to replace Dwight Howard. Nobody could have made the city forget about the big man spurning the Magic, but the truth is that Vucevic exceeded most expectations in his sophomore season.
What makes the 22-year-old special is his work on the glass. He averaged 11.9 rebounds in 33.2 minutes, and he pulled down at least 20 boards four different times.
To add icing to the cake, all four of those 20-rebound performances were complemented by at least 20 points. The sky appears to be the limit for this kid, and he's sure to be noticed far more often entering his third season.
Fans got a taste of Reggie Jackson when Russell Westbrook went down in the playoffs. The backup averaged 13.9 points, 3.6 assists and 4.9 rebounds during his postseason showing, and now he has a chance to earn the sixth-man spot with Kevin Martin leaving town.
As good as the Oklahoma City Thunder are, they need a third scorer. Nobody is going to claim Jackson will be the next James Harden, but that role of energizer off the bench is an important one that the 23-year-old can fill.
As much as fans should pay attention to Jackson in training camp, keep an eye on Jeremy Lamb as well. The two guards have a chance to earn minutes, and they'll be competing with each other for playing time.
Jackson has more experience at this point, but Lamb will push his teammate every step of the way with his own scoring ability.
Jamaal Franklin really isn't being talked about much entering his rookie season. The former San Diego State Aztec sat out the summer league, which means training camp will be the first time we'll get to see him play since he averaged 16.9 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game during his final collegiate campaign.
Part of the reason Franklin is flying under the radar is that he's a member of the Memphis Grizzlies. The relatively new contenders still aren't the focus of most preseason discussions, meaning their players have a tendency to stay out of the spotlight.
The truth is, as long as people are talking about them at the end of the year, being underrated in the early going won't matter. This is a team that will contend in the playoffs, and Franklin has a chance to be a contributor—especially if his shot is falling.
Under new head coach David Joerger, Memphis can be expected to play a little bit faster than we've seen of late. This will benefit Franklin right out of the gate, giving him more opportunities to do a little bit of everything.
Big men who exclusively play defense are among the most unrecognized players in today's game. The NBA is a star-driven league, and simply put, those kinds of players don't reach superstar status.
But while defensive-minded bigs are often overlooked, there's a place for them on every roster. The Charlotte Bobcats are no exception, which is why Bismack Biyombo is a player to watch during training camp.
Now that Charlotte has a legitimate low-post scoring option in Al Jefferson, placing Biyombo in the starting lineup makes sense. There's a chance the team goes with Cody Zeller at the power-forward position, but Biyombo's defensive abilities perfectly complement Jefferson's knack for putting the ball in the basket.
At 6'9", the power forward blocked nearly two shots per game in 2012-13. He has incredible lateral movement, and he can stop shots at the rim against virtually all five positions.
Biyombo may never be an offensive threat; however, with Jefferson on board, Charlotte doesn't need him to be. He won't be a star, but he has a chance to be a Larry Sanders-type playmaker at just 21 years old.
The Portland Trail Blazers got an absolute steal when they acquired Thomas Robinson from the Houston Rockets. Houston needed to free up cap space in order to sign Dwight Howard, and Portland was there ready and willing to take on a player who has loads of untapped potential.
Robinson has a chance to do some damage control on his new team. He's with his third NBA team as a sophomore, but relentless energy and proficient rebounding will prove he was worthy of the fifth overall pick in 2012.
In the beginning, Robinson will be overshadowed by players all over Portland's roster. Damian Lillard is the reigning Rookie of the Year, Nicolas Batum is constantly on the verge of breaking out and LaMarcus Aldridge is a two-time All-Star starting at power forward.
However, when it's all said and done, an impressive training camp will show that he knows his role and he's ready to start fresh in Rip City.
Nobody in Clutch City—or across the league, for that matter—should give up on Jeremy Lin as the starting point guard for the Houston Rockets. That said, the team should feel good knowing that if things don't pan out, Patrick Beverley is right there ready to make his mark.
Beverley saw his first NBA action in 2012-13, averaging 5.6 points, 2.9 assists and 2.7 rebounds per game. His points and rebounds more than doubled in the postseason (his minutes nearly doubled as well), and he showed that he's going to provide value on both ends of the floor.
During the regular season, Beverley proved he can light it up from long distance, shooting 37.5 percent from deep. Defensively, though, is where he'll make a name for himself, as opposing teams scored nearly five points more per 48 minutes when he was off the court, according to 82Games.com.
Beverley unfortunately became a household name for his play involving Russell Westbrook during the postseason, but he'll have fans talking for a whole different reason during training camp. He's not going to make headlines behind Dwight Howard and James Harden, but he could prove to be one of the unsung heroes when it comes to reliable role players.
As unlikely as it seems that anybody on the Los Angeles Lakers can fly under the radar, Jordan Hill has somehow managed to do just that.
Entering his fifth year in the Association, Jordan Hill believes that his team "could definitely be in the top three in the West," according to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News. That's a bold statement following a disappointing season, but it's the kind of confidence that leads you to believe he can be an integral part of a new-look rotation.
With Dwight Howard gone, there's a good chance we'll see Pau Gasol return to the center position. If that's the case, Hill could earn the nod as the team's starting power forward.
This is a kid with a ton of potential, and as long as he can stay healthy, he has a chance to help the Lakers prove everybody wrong in 2013-14.
Entering the 2013-14 season, people are talking about three big names on the Utah Jazz roster: Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Trey Burke.
Following the departure of Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson, Favors and Kanter have finally been given the keys to Utah's frontcourt. Burke, on the other hand, is the future of the backcourt, as he'll start from day one as a highly touted rookie.
These three players can do some serious damage in Salt Lake City, but the truth is that Gordon Hayward is being criminally overlooked at this stage in his career.
The Jazz are not going to be good in 2013-14, which is 100 percent by design. This team is rebuilding, but the nice part for fans is that it has a solid nucleus that will provide entertainment.
During training camp, we should see Hayward step up as the "veteran" of the starting lineup. He may be just 23 years old, but he has a deadly three-point shot and solid court vision.
His ceiling may not scream superstar, but he has a chance to be the Jazz's unanimous leader in his fourth season.