Five breakout players for 2012-13
These guys should continue their playoff heroics next season
Updated: May 23, 2012, 1:10 PM ET
By Chris Palmer | ESPN The Magazine
The playoffs are an excellent proving ground to see what a player is truly capable of. Will he shrink? Will he adjust to the rigorous postseason style? Perhaps he may deliver a few surprises. The goal is to end the season on a strong note to build for the future. Here are five young playoff performers whose efforts in the postseason could carry over to next year and have them on the way to big things in 2012-13.
1. Kawhi Leonard, F, San Antonio Spurs
Early in the season Leonard operated in anonymity in the Spurs' clockwork offense, doing little things like boxing out, playing quality position defense and hitting the occasional deep 3-pointer off a Tony Parker kickout. But in the playoffs his versatility has really stood out. Against the Clippers he shot 50 percent from 3 and no small forward is averaging as many rebounds (4.9) in as few minutes (24.4). For a rookie his willingness to mix it up so aggressively underneath the boards in the playoffs is uncommon. His long arms and huge hands make him a constant threat on the glass and a hassle to shoot over defensively.
While still a bit raw (he's just 20) Leonard is developing into a dangerous shooter from several spots on the floor, especially the corner 3-pointer on which he's shooting an excellent 47 percent. He also has the potential to be an effective midrange shooter, which is essential for a small forward. Leonard would be well served to improve his ballhandling in the offseason so he can better use his shooting ability and get to the rim more frequently, which in turn will earn him more trips to the line. With Manu Ginobili's advanced age, he'll be called on to play a much bigger role next season. Here
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