5. Festus Ezeli, Golden State Warriors
Golden State has the most potential to make best use of in the coming years. Stephen Curry is young, Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes are being nurtured by Mark Jackson and then there is this someone named Festus Ezeli who looks ferociously monstrous just to be up against. Despite his injured knee, Ezeli has helped the Warriors with his shot blocking and mobility. He is agile in the paint, reads the offense well and on a given day, can shut down other big men in the league.
Although JaVale McGee and Kosta Koufos of the Denver Nuggets overpowered him in terms of skill set, Ezeli still has a way to go in the playoffs and could be the unsung difference maker. Stay close to the screens and watch out for this big man’s defence in the upcoming matchup against the experienced San Antonio Spurs.
4. Pablo Prigioni, New York Knicks
The man from Argentina was a huge threat to the Boston Celtics frontline. Averaging nearly 2.5 steals a game; Prigioni has adjusted well to the line-up when put in for Jason Kidd. One thing Prigioni could improve his rating by is working on his poor shooting especially within the arc. A 27.8 FG % makes any player look below average especially in a team of sharp shooters like Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith. Mike Woodson doesn’t expect Pablo Prigioni to go and put up 5 PPG and 5 APG numbers. But the coach would most definitely need the Argentinean’s help with a raging hot Anthony and the Knicks should they make a deep run in the playoffs. They meet the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.
3. Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
Just imagine the damage the Warriors will cause in the league with a red hot Curry and David Lee with a more mature trio of Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli and Draymond Green in the upcoming years? The Michigan State product drafted in the second round has been energetic, bustling and lively. In fact, when Green does come on to play, the tempo pumps up and the crowd go crazy. To add to his entertaining side, Green’s stats speak high of him as well. 50% from the arc, 5.6 PPG and 3.4 RPG, Green has elevated his game in the playoffs to help the Warriors register a first playoff series win in over 10 years.
2. Pat Beverly, Houston Rockets
We know who the most hated figure in Oklahoma is. It is indeed a shame that a player’s first year in the league will be remembered for Russell Westbrook’s injury. But on a true basketball sense, Beverly has been the revelation of this year’s playoffs. Everyone expected James Harden to show up. Many hoped Jeremy Lin(sanity) would make big until the chest injury sidelined him. But only a select few predicted the Beverly factor in Houston’s stomp surge against the Thunder to force Game 6. They would eventually lose the series 4-2.
Beverly is a beast when it comes to drive in to the paint especially against a slower Derek Fisher and Reggie Jackson. He is also an incredible defender when it comes to dodging the renowned OKC Thunder pick and roll. Stacking up 13 PPG and 5 APG, Beverly should be a great sophomore to watch in the league in the 2013-14 season.
1. Harrison Barnes, Golden State Warriors
Harrison headed into 2011-12 college season as the best prospect available in the 2012 draft class. He was good but far from his best. He headed into the NBA playoffs as the best rookie solely in terms of talent. So far, he hasn’t disappointed one bit. In a team loaded with shooters like Curry and Lee, it is hard to imagine a rookie averaging nearly 16 PPG in the playoffs. Well, that is Barnes for you – the product from North Carolina whose athleticism hasn’t been threatened yet. Barnes is also making 1 out of every 2 shots from the field and 1 out of every three from the arc. For a rookie in the playoffs, those are laudable stats there.
In Game 5 against the Nuggets, Harrison Barnes shot for 23 points and picked up 9 rebounds where his contribution clearly showcased his sometimes undervalued talent. Barnes has one experience that not many other lottery picks get – a deep run in the playoffs in his first season. It will be interesting to see what Barnes comes up with for next year.