11 NBA Players Who Are Finally Living Up To Their Potential
December 3, 2013 - 7:11 pm
Arron Afflalo, Orlando Magic
Arron Afflalo has been a bit of an NBA journeyman in his seven NBA seasons. The inspiration behind Kendrick Lamar’s Black Boy Fly lyrics never put together a 20 ppg. season, even on teams where he played 30 minutes a game or better. However, he might have found the magic down in Orlando since he’s putting up 21 ppg., four rebounds and four assists. He’s always had the skill and as King Kendrick pointed out, the focus, it’s just taken seven seasons for him to hit his groove. He may have a new team and a new role, but it’s his new numbers that make him seem like a different player.
Michael Beasley, Miami Heat
Since the six year vet was prep star in Maryland, teaming with fellow DMV native, Kevin Durant, Beasley could get buckets better than anyone not named Uncle Drew. The question of just how meaningful and just how valuable those points were to the team. Let’s look at it like this: The Miami Heat draft Beasley in 2008, partnered him with Dwyane Wade and he averaged 14.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. But the only thing worse than his .461 shooting percentage was his off-court issues and his questionable on-court demeanor. Beasley heads to Minnesota and the Heat start winning titles. The Timberwolves look to build around him, Love and Spanish sensation, Ricky Rubio. But along with his career-high 19 points per game, Beasley brings his low shooting percentage and his bad attitude. Once his minutes decrease, he’s sent to Phoenix and Minnesota starts winning. The pattern isn’t looking good for young Be-Easy. Just when everyone is about to write him off, he’s back in South Beach looking like he actually gives a fuck. His numbers aren’t staggering (10 points, 3.8 rebounds a night) but he plays his role of backup forward to LeBron James with a new purpose. He seems comfortable being held accountable now. Which isn’t something anyone could write about him in the past.
DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors
It’s been a big year for Compton and Toronto, and no one embodies both cities more right now than the Compton native/Toronto Raptor, DeMar DeRozan. An all-world talent coming out of high school, DeRozan went from McDonald’s All-American, to USC Trojan to lottery pick in 2009. In his fourth season, Vince Carter reincarnate is having a career year on a team that forgot it was supposed to #TankForWiggins. DeRozan’s leading the Raptors at 21.6 ppg. and four rebounds, sitting at fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix Suns
Widely regarded as one of the leagues best athletes, Suns guard Eric Bledsoe was more in need of an opportunity than anything else. His first three seasons as a Clipper were more about learning than numbers. Who better to apprentice at point guard under than NBA champion Chauncey Billups and perennial MVP candidate Chris Paul. Prophetically, everyone agreed that once Bledsoe had a chance to run his own show, he’d be a star. His 21 points, 6.3 assists and 4.8 rebounds per night in only his fourth year is a strong indication that he’ll prove everyone right.
Evan Turner, Philadelphia 76ers
Evan Turner is fed up. In high school, the Chicago native was considered second best to the Windy City’s favorite son, Bulls star Derrick Rose. At Ohio State, Turner was picked second overall in the 2010 NBA Draft behind John Wall. Even when he was picked by the 76ers, it was to play second fiddle to then Sixers star Andre Iguodala. Well what’s the best way to change the perception about your game and how good you are? Bolster your output from 13.3 ppg. to a team leading 21.3 ppg. in just one season. No matter how bad Philly is right now, Turner is turnt up and he can’t be ignored.
Greivis Vasquez, Sacramento Kings
The Venezuelan born Vasquez has always had an NBA level passion for the game, but was considered a marginal talent coming out of the University of Maryland in 2010. A late first round pick, Vasquez saw a lot of bench his first season in the league while with the Memphis Grizzlies. Fast forward to his third year in the league and he became a legit playmaker, dropping nine assists a game to go along with 13.9 points. Last season, Vasquez started in all 78 games he appeared in for the Bugs. In his lesser role now with the Kings, he’s still a threat to hang 10 points and five assists on a team.
Jeff Teague, Atlanta Hawks
The Atlanta Hawks are in a position no one thought they’d be in: third place in the Eastern Conference. No lone player is more responsible for the Hawks surprising start to the season than Jeff Teague. Teague’s numbers have slowly improved every year and when the Wake Forest product was drafted by the Hawks in 2009, leading them in scoring (17.3 ppg.) and assists (8.1) while they challenge for the top spot in the conference had to be the vision. The fourth year guard is putting up all-star level numbers and is making a strong case to rep the East in New Orleans this February.
John Wall, Washington Wizards
Coming out of college, John Wall was a rock star. As much as people are losing their minds over Andrew Wiggins, it was Wall who reminded the country that college basketball existed. The North Carolina native could do no wrong on the court at Kentucky and attracted crowds and shoe companies alike off of his charismatic swag that can’t be coached. The kid even had a dance. His first two NBA seasons nearly mirrored each other, with Wall scoring roughly 16 points, dropping assists and shooting a horrific .183 (first two seasons combined) from three. Now in his fourth year, and his Wizards in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, it looks like Wall is ready to be the No.1 overall pick level Washington thought he’d be. Just 17 games into the season and he’s putting up 19.2 points and nine assists a night, with three games of 30 points or better under his belt.
Lance Stephenson, Indiana Pacers
Young Born Ready has been a beast since he was 15-years-old, but the skeptics were heavy on whether he had the maturity to play in the a league where there’s No Boys Allowed. Some saw him as the Brooklyn bad-boy who’d just never get it. One that would let his attitude and off-court issues get him ousted from the pros within three years. However, now in his fourth season, Stephenson is only showing signs of improvement and making mentors like the great Larry Bird look like he was worth the risk. At 23 years old, he’s averaging 12.6 ppg, nearly seven rebounds and 5.2 assists as the perfect Robin to the Pacers new Batman, Paul George.
Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers
Coming out of Georgetown, Hibbert was too slow and too raw to be labeled as a sure thing. At 7-foot-2, the former Hoya never even averaged double-digit rebounds and was generously considered a work-in-progress. In 2012, Hibbert was selected to his first NBA All-Star game, going from a rookie that averaged seven points and three rebounds a game, to defensive force that scores 12 points, grabs nine rebounds and swats 3.6 blocks away a night.
Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets
The Maryland native has won on every level and honestly, that’s why the Nuggets picked him in 2009’s NBA draft. Always the playmaker, Lawson’s role has changed from simply setting up teammates to also becoming a scoring threat. While he plays at a fast pace, his improvements have been slow. He proved well worth the wait last season, dropping 16 points and seven assists for the playoff bound Nuggets. But now the team’s second smallest player (the 5-foot-9 Nate Robinson has that honor) has the biggest role, leading the team in both scoring and assists (20 and eight, respectively).