Last year, it was Goran Dragic and Kyle Lowry. The year before, it was Paul George - every year, an unexpected player or two breaks out onto the NBA scene, and it's a virtual lock that someone else is going to join the ranks in 2014-15. The most likely candidates? Read on...
Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics
Bradley was white-hot after moving to shooting guard last season, but a nagging ankle injury and Boston's struggles prevented his solid year from getting the attention it deserved.
This coming season, an improved Boston squad will once again look to Bradley as one of their primary offensive options - better chemistry with Jeff Green and greater familiarity with coach Brad Stevens will be a huge help.
The Celtics are still a long ways off from title contention, but look for Bradley to grow into a bona-fide star as they work their way back to the top of the Eastern Conference.
Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
In his second year with Detroit, Drummond led the league in rebounds per 48 minutes, came in second in field goal percentage, and still got hardly any love outside of Detroit. Oh, and he won't be legally allowed to drink until his 21st birthday on August 10th.
Drummond will reap the benefits of having Stan Van Gundy around - anyone who remembers what SVG did for Dwight Howard in Orlando should be more than a little terrified of this obscenely-talented big man and his potential.
DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors
An All-Star selection last year hasn't broken out yet? Really? DeRozan was overshadowed last year by the emergence of Kyle Lowry, and he's about as unknown (outside of Toronto) as All-Stars get. He was just as important as Lowry to the Raptors' second-half run - a natural scorer with elite athleticism, the only thing separating DeRozan from the league's top shooting guards is his inefficiency from range. If he can improve his outside shooting this summer, DeRozan can make the leap from good to great in 2014-15.
Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto Raptors
When Valanciunas isn't busy bringing traditional Lithuanian dance to the NBA, he's rapidly developing as a scorer and a rebounder. He came on strong in the last few months of the NBA season, and we'd expect the 22-year-old to carry that momentum into next year.
The Raptors have a fantastic young core, and the only thing standing in Valanciunas' way are the crowded roster in Toronto and the lack of media coverage the Raptors get in the States. If the Raptors manage to win their way into the public eye, look for Valanciunas and DeMar DeRozan to get a lot more attention.
Derrick Favors, Utah Jazz
It's only a matter of time before the NBA finds out about Derrick Favors. Hidden by the dumpster fire that was the 2013-14 Utah Jazz, Favors registered career-high averages in points, rebounds, steals, assists and minutes. Starting and seeing significant minutes for the first time, Favors looked like a future franchise cornerstone - look for him to continue his improvement this coming season.
Jeff Teague, Atlanta Hawks
Teague was quietly excellent for Atlanta last season, and at 26, he's just entering his prime. The Hawks have built an effective, if unspectacular roster, and with Teague at the wheel, they should be playoff contenders for some time.
Next season, look for Teague to improve on his solid numbers from last season (16.5 ppg, 6.7 apg) while finally getting some love in the national media.
Tobias Harris, Orlando Magic
Harris and teammate Victor Oladipo are both headed for big years in 2014-15, but Harris gets the edge. He's managed to fly under the radar despite emerging as an exciting, high-potential shooting guard...but don't expect him to stay that way for long.
The Magic will challenge for a playoff spot in 2014-15, and Harris will be at the center of the action as his team's main offensive outlet. With Arron Afflalo out of the way, Harris will see even more action - look for his numbers to rise accordingly.
Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
Beal is right up there with DeRozan as the most established name on this list, but he'll shine on a whole new level next season. The Wizards are one of the league's fastest-rising teams, and the attention that'll come their way is perfectly timed for Beal to shine on a national stage.
Beal might be the best young shooting guard in the NBA right now, and fans will start taking notice once the Wizards get some games on the national airwaves.
Gorgui Dieng, Minnesota Timberwolves
More of an unknown than the other players on this list, Dieng stands to benefit the most if Kevin Love leaves town. An instinctual rebounder, Dieng shone in short cameo appearances last year, and should capitalize if he gets more minutes in 2014-15.
Kemba Walker, Charlotte Bobcats
Lots of fans remember Walker from his NCAA tournament heroics a few years back, and he's spent his NBA career to date honing the skills that made him such a game-changer at the college level.
Last season, there were flashes when it looked like Walker had put all the pieces together - not many NBA players have the skill set necessary to take over games, but Walker can do just that. Still a streaky shooter, the former UConn standout needs to improve his consistency and take better care of the ball - if he can do that, the sky is the limit.
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