Five breakout players for 2012-13

These guys should continue their playoff heroics next season

Updated: May 25, 2012, 10:17 PM ET
By Chris Palmer | ESPN The Magazine
LeonardJoe Murphy/NBAE/Getty ImagesKawhi Leonard has elevated his game during the playoffs and could carry it over to next season.

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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.

Chris Palmer

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