Five players ready for next step

Kevin Seraphin, Mike Conley are primed for increased roles and production

Updated: November 10, 2012, 2:17 PM ET
By David Thorpe | ESPN Insider
Derrick Rose/Mike ConleyJoe Murphy/NBAE/Getty ImagesNow is the time for Mike Conley to show he belongs among the league's elite point guards.

Conventional wisdom suggests that NBA players who suddenly become valuable contributors rather than just potential ones merely flip a switch to begin the change. "The light went on" is a cliche we frequently hear, and it could not be more wrong. How a player takes the next step in terms of production and role is infinitely more complicated than that. It perhaps can be best described like a math formula:

O x P (D) = Production

"O" represents opportunity, which of course translates to minutes played as well as how the player is used. Players alone don't have the say in this part of the equation, as it is their coaches who can dictate much of this. A new coach, or the departure of a teammate, can offer new opportunities for a player.

"The light went on" is a cliche we frequently hear, and it could not be more wrong. How a player takes the next step in production and role is infinitely more complicated than that.

"P" stands for preparation and for perspiration because most opportunities will be blown without both. This is not just for the offseason because, as the season evolves game after game, early success will quickly be forgotten as opponents make adjustments. Therefore, the player must be prepared to adjust, as well.

"D" can be best described as "desperation." I use this term because that is the feeling I get from players who take their work ethic to a new level. There is urgency to their efforts, a desperate attempt to change their playing status from whatever it currently is to something much better. Desperation is what drives players to work harder in the weight room, to choose healthy foods over unhealthy at the dinner table, to take red-eye flights home on summer weekends so they won't miss their Monday morning workout or the last plane out on Friday night so they can attend that day's practice.

That simple formula can be applied to players such as Omer Asik and Kosta Koufos, two big men who will show huge improvements this season in large part because they followed that formula and now will be playing a lot of minutes starting at center. Although some might simply say "the light went on" for them, we know their production will step up this season because it required them to step up their offseason efforts.

Asik and Koufos are not alone. Indeed, there are other players primed to take that next step up and develop into in-rotation studs. And which rotation players look to take that step up into being one of their teams' top players?