NBA's top late bloomers

These players' careers started slow, but they're hitting their stride now

Updated: January 30, 2014, 3:22 PM ET
By Amin Elhassan | ESPN Insider

Lance StephensonAP Photo/Michael ConroyAfter struggling early in his career, Lance Stephenson has blossomed this season.

When a player first enters the league, all parties involved usually would like to see immediate productivity. The player wants to earn more playing time, the team wants the player to contribute to wins, the agent wants to see a client flourish to raise his value and so on.

In many cases, however, this is not immediate. Players can be relegated to smaller roles than what they envision for themselves or outright stuck to the bench due to lack of ability, lack of maturity or the vagaries of the depth chart.

For some, the career progress fizzles. For late bloomers, the payoff arrives down the line. Here's a look at five of the best late bloomers from draft classes going back from 2010, which means they've been around for a few years:

Lance Stephenson | Indiana Pacers

40th overall pick, 2010 (Indiana)

Stephenson's career arc has come almost full circle. A talented prospect with major hype surrounding him as a youth, he was on the radar of talent evaluators as an eighth-grader, gifted with physical abilities and skills that belied his age. (I saw him at the 2005 ABCD Camp as a rising ninth-grader going head-to-head against an older O.J. Mayo.)