Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Whether you are scoring touchdowns, hitting homers, shooting pucks or making baskets, it's really hard to score from the bench in any sport.
So the first step on a player's journey to becoming a star, both in the real and fantasy world, is the chance to show his stuff.
We saw a perfect example of this on Friday night in Utah where second-year center Enes Kanter exploded onto fantasy radar screens last night with a line score that reads 23 points on 10-for-12 shooting, 22 rebounds, one assist and a blocked shot.
Kanter took advantage of injuries to starting center Al Jefferson, PF/C Paul Millsap and foul trouble to Derrick Favors to play 44 minutes as Utah abused the Charlotte Bobcats 98-68.
It was the second career start for the third pick of the 2011 NBA Draft, the other being an 18-point, eight-rebound effort against Toronto back in early December.
The promise that Kanter and Favors have shown is the reason the Jazz were dangling Jefferson and Millsap at the trade deadline. Unfortunately, neither was dealt, and barring injury, fantasy owners will likely have to wait until next year for Kanter to blossom into a valuable fantasy asset.
In keeper leagues, however, given that Jefferson and Millsap will be free agents at the end of the season, Kanter should have already earned enough respect in his two starts to be stashed on more than a few rosters.
Below are a few more "ballers" who have thrived when given more chance to play or to get more involved in their team's offense.
Bradley Beal, Washington - The third pick in this year's draft out of Florida jumped all over a chance to lead the Wizards' offense when point guard John Wall injured his left knee in September. Beal was solid as the team's point guard, but since moving over to the shooting guard role has been merely spectacular averaging 21.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 2.3 apg over his last six games.
Moe Harkless, Orlando - The injury list in Orlando is long enough to choke a horse and has allowed a number of bench players to get a chance to start. Harkless, starting for the injured Hedo Turkoglu, has just recently begun to show his potential. Over his last 14 games Harkless is averaging 11.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg.
Nikola Vucevic, Orlando - Vucevic, like Harkless, came over from Philadelphia in an offseason deal and he's been a big-time performer for the Magic. For the Sixers he was buried on the depth chart and getting just 15 minutes per night. In Orlando he has started 59 games, playing 32 minutes a game and averaging a very fantasy-worthy 12.2 ppg and 11.4 rpg.
Paul George, Indiana - Now in his third season for the Pacers, George's value can be directly correlated to his playing time. He averaged 7.8 points in his rookie season playing 20 minutes, 12.1 ppg in his second year with 29 minutes of floor time and 17.8 ppg this season as coach Frank Vogel has played him almost 38 minutes per contest. George has blossomed into a fantasy stud by doing more than just scoring too. He's also averaging 7.9 rpg, 4.0 apg and 1.8 spg.
Tristan Thompson, Cleveland - When Cavs' center Anderson Varejao was injured in mid-December (and lost for the season), it was Thompson who picked up the rebounding slack. In the 33 games since, he's averaging 13.6 ppg and 10.5 rpg making himself a valuable fantasy asset ... at least until Varejao returns.
Damian Lillard, Portland - In 2011-12 the Trail Blazers used a combination of Raymond Felton and Jamal Crawford at the point guard position. Neither is with the team this season which opened up a huge hole for the rookie to fill. Lillard has been a revelation from the start, averaging 18.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 6.4 apg and even after 57 games doesn't appeared to have hit the "rookie wall." Since the All-Star break his minutes have increased and his scoring has gone up correspondingly (from 18.3 ppg to 20.3 ppg over a four-game span).
James Harden, Houston - Finally, it is impossible to ignore what Harden has done in his first season with the Rockets. Out from under the shadow of superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Harden has become "the guy" in Houston. He's a top-10 fantasy player averaging 26.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 5.7 apg, 1.9 spg and 2.1 threes per contest.