Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons have been instrumental for the Houston Rockets. (Photo: thepanamerican).
Stars are born in the NBA Playoffs. The same can be said for professional sports across the board, whether that be MLB or the NFL. It’s simple. If you take your game to another notch in the playoffs, you instantly gain respect regardless of past performances.
The 2013 NBA Playoffs will be no different.
The NBA doesn’t always see a huge amount of under-the-radar players evolve into stars because it’s a team game. The already-established stars will get their numbers, leaving little room for others to emerge. In the MLB, one swing of the bat can turn into stardom. In basketball, there are more chances. Same goes for the NFL.
However, there are a handful of Western Conference players that deserve more attention and the national stage is the perfect event to further prove themselves.
Let’s take a look at four of those guys:
Chandler Parsons, Houston Rockets
When you think about the Houston Rockets, two names instantly come to mind–James Harden and Jeremy Lin, which is understandable. They are indeed Houston’s two most valuable players, thus making it easy to skip past some of the Rockets’ unsung heroes.
Chandler Parsons is one of those names many fans and pundits overlook.
The 38th overall pick in the 2011 draft is easily having his best year as a pro. In 36.3 (an eight-minute increase on last year’s total) minutes per game, he’s averaging 15.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists. He has improved his 3-point stroke dramatically, going from 33.7 percent in last year to 38.1 percent this year. This trait fits in well with the Rockets, who fire up nearly 30 3-pointers a game.
Parsons has been even more impressive over his last 17 games, averaging 17.8 points on 50.6 percent shooting and 43 percent from downtown.
Come playoff time, opposing defenses will have one goal in mind: stop James Harden. Lin isn’t a true scoring threat, so Harden will be the ultimate focus, as his penetration can create opportunities for himself and others. This creates a near-perfect situation for Parsons to make a name for himself.
Keep an eye on the youngster out of Florida.
Ty Lawson of the Denver Nuggets in a Jan. 25, 2011, game against the Washington Wizards. (Photo by Keith Allison/Flickr.com)
Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets
The Denver Nuggets’ offense is a well-balanced unit. Even if you barely follow the game, I guarantee you’ve heard that they don’t have a star player on their roster. Yeah, it’s starting to become old.
And perhaps Ty Lawson is on a mission to prove that the Nuggets do in fact have a star on their roster.
He is averaging 16.9 points and 6.9 points in 68 games this year. But lately (last 17 games), he’s been much better, averaging 21.6 points and 7.1 assists. Is it only a coincidence that the Nuggets have a 16-game winning streak going? Doubtfully.
In the playoffs, a balanced attack sometimes shifts into someone emerging. The Nuggets will be in close games and someone will have to become “the guy” who takes the big shots. Lawson is more than capable of being that guy.
Lawson averaged nearly 20 points in last year’s postseason. Compound that with a series win and Denver’s starless repetition could become a thing of the past.
Marc Gasol is one of the NBA’s most underrated big men.
Photo Credit: Mark Runyon, Basketball Schedule, Flickr.com
Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies
One of the bigger surprises of the All-Star selection process was Marc Gasol not being selected to the festivities. The fans didn’t vote for him, which isn’t much of a surprise. But the coaches didn’t pick him either when he was clearly deserving.
Gasol is averaging 14.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.9 assists in 68 games this season. Obviously, nothing out of the ordinary. His 14.3 points ranks ninth in the league among centers, though.
Gasol lacks the athleticism that Dwight Howard possesses, but he compensates for it with intelligence. His 3.9 assists is second in the league to only Joakim Noah among centers, and he’s a threat when the Grizzlies dump the ball to him at the top of the free-throw line because he’s a triple threat–he can pass, knock a jumper or post his defender up.
Gasol’s ability to space the floor is a crucial factor to Memphis’s offense. It allows Zach Randolph to work with single coverage and also allows guards to penetrate with a relatively clear middle.
The Grizzlies will end up with the third, fourth or fifth seed, depending on how they finish. The fifth seed might be their best bet, as Gasol is out indefinitely with an abdominal tear. It took Chris Bosh two weeks to recover from this same injury, so the Grizzlies might be without their center for a while.
When Gasol returns, though, he will have the national stage to display his cunning abilities. Perhaps he’ll garner more respect, too.
Jarrett Jack is a Sixth Man of the Year candidate.
Photo Credit: HeelSports, Flickr.com
Jarrett Jack, Golden State Warriors
Jarrett Jack doesn’t start for the Warriors, but he plays in crunch time and plays nearly 30 minutes per game. And while Stephen Curry is Golden State’s point guard by definition, Jack is the better point guard of the two, explaining why he handles the ball when both he and Curry are on the floor at the same time. This won’t rotation won’t change in the playoffs.
Of the four names on this list, Jack probably has the most to gain in terms of money. He’s scheduled to become a free agent this summer and could very well have a big payday in his future.
Actually, there’s little question as to whether or not he’ll get paid. The Warriors probably won’t be the team that writes him the big paycheck because he’s a starter for a handful of other teams and will demand that type of money. But there certainly won’t be a lack of interesting in the veteran guard.
Jack has cooled off lately, but he’s still averaging 13.2 points and 5.5 assists. If there’s one surefire way to increase his free-agent stock, it would be a dominant playoff showing.
The Warriors are underdogs to get out of the first round, but even a seven-game series could have a dramatic impact on Jack’s foreseeable payday.