NBA’s Best Third-Year Players

1/26/14 in NBA   |   Andrew_Ericksen   |   230 respect

Jan 10, 2014; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving (2) dribbles up the court during the first half against the Utah Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY SportsWhen we look over progress in the league, rookies are usually the ones that get the most attention, and sophomores are usually under the microscope as well. But what about the third-year players? Here’s a look at how the 2011 NBA Draft class is sizing up today:
10) Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets, 22nd overall
Though his name has come up on the trade block quite frequently lately, Faried has done nothing but prove he deserves 20 to 30 minutes per night in the NBA. A solid rebounder and monstrous finisher, Faried has averaged 10.8 points and 8.4 rebounds across his two-and-a-half year career.
9) Tristan Thompson, F/C, Cleveland Cavaliers, 4th overall
Despite Cleveland’s struggles this year, Thompson has continued to develop nicely. He’s averaging nearly a double-double - 12.2 points, 9.8 rebounds - and shooting 46% from the field while playing 33 minutes a night. And considering he started shooting the ball right-handed for the first time in his career this year after being a life-long lefty, you should expect his numbers to only increase as the big man turns just 23 years old in March.
8) Nikola Vucevic, C, Orlando Magic, 16th overall (drafted by Philadelphia, sent to Orlando in 2012 as part of the Dwight Howard trade)
Last year, Vucevic came out of almost nowhere to average a double-double. His 11.9 rebounds per game last year were second to only Dwight Howard. This year, Vucevic has remained steady, averaging 13 points and 11 rebounds while shooting 51% from the field, becoming one of the most reliable big men in the Eastern conference.
7) Tobias Harris, F, Orlando Magic, 19th overall (traded to Milwaukee on draft day, then traded to Orlando last season)
Since being traded to Orlando, Harris has been one of the team’s most promising players. He averaged 17 points and 8.5 rebounds in 27 games with the team last year and since coming back from injury this year, he’s slowly worked his way back to form, averaging 13.7 and 7.8. But after a 28-point, 20-rebound performance against the Lakers this past Friday, it’s probably safe to say Harris is back in form and ready to take his game to the next level.
6) Kawhi Leonard, G/F, San Antonio Spurs, 15th overall (drafted by Indiana, traded to San Antonio on draft day)
Leonard’s value goes well beyond the stat-sheet. He was a key member in San Antonio’s NBA Finals run last year, both as an elite perimeter defender and as a valuable offensive weapon. If San Antonio is to make another run this season, they’ll once again need to rely heavily on Leonard, who played nearly 37 minutes a game in the postseason last year.
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