Players who surpass the expectations set for them are always a coach’s delight. They are a key component to building a brand of winning basketball and are capable of being the difference between postseason play and the draft lottery.
The Miami Heat is a team built out of players who are tasked with living up to massive expectations instead of surpassing realistic ones, so you won’t find the name of a Heat player on this list. Instead, we will stick to players who actually do surprise you, making plays you never knew they could and providing a boost for their teams with solid play night in and night out.
5. Louis Williams-After seven seasons in Philly, Williams came to the Hawks looking to continue his ascent into the ranks of elite bench players who qualify for the Sixth Man of the Year award. Averaging near career highs with 14.3 points, 3.1 assists and 1.2 steals per game while playing just 26 minutes per night, Williams is making a valid case for himself to be considered the Hawks sixth man of the year at the very least.
4. Arron Afflalo-In his sixth season, Afflalo is continuing what has been a gradual growth in his production throughout his career. He seems to be comfortable in his new home with the Magic, averaging career highs in points (16.5), assists (2.7), rebounds (3.9) and shooting 86 percent from the free throw line. In Orlando, Afflalo is no longer hampered by big name stars around him demanding the ball and can continue to develop his game. If he does, Orlando will have a shot at the postseason despite lacking a true superstar.
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3. Nikola Vucevic-A big part of the Magic’s success is down to the play of their front court. Vucevic is no Dwight Howard, but his 10.7 point and 9.8 rebound average has been more than respectable and doubles his rookie averages in Philadelphia. Granted, his minutes have also doubled but his consistency and ability to cut to the basket is a pleasant surprise for Magic fans. It seems now that replacing Howard is no longer the priority, but rather finding the right point guard to run Jacque Vaughn’s offense.
2. Jordan Crawford-From game winning shots to averaging career highs, Crawford has been the best part of Washington’s season without John Wall in the lineup. He’s averaging a career high 15.5 points, 4.7 assists and 4 rebounds in 29.7 minutes per game. In Wall’s absence, Crawford has become the Wizards go-to guy, but when the two get back together, Randy Wittman could have one of the most talented backcourts in the Southeast Division, now he just has to hope their egos don’t clash.
1. Kemba Walker-A lot of criticism found its way to Walker after his rookie season. The former UConn Star found life in Charlotte difficult as was shown in the team’s record, an NBA all time worst. But, this season Walker has come back with an improved understanding of the pick and roll, better court vision and a much improved jump shot. He is shooting 43 percent in 2012 compared to 35 percent in 2011 and has increased his scoring and assists numbers to 18 points and 6 assists per night compared to 12 points and 4 assists last year. Walker, combined with rookie small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and second year center Bismack Biyombo could be in the midst of remaking the face of Charlotte basketball. Another painful year of losing lies ahead for this team, but with another lottery pick, the team soon to be known as the Hornets once again could be back on the track to success.