Looking for more up-and-comers to tout? Try these three
KELENNA AZUBUIKE, 6'5", SG, Warriors
A high-scoring star at Victory Christian High in Tulsa (39.1 points per game as a senior), Azubuike (az-a-BOO-key) turned pro after three middling seasons at Kentucky (10.0 career ppg) and wasn't drafted. The London native, who will be 24 on Dec. 16, was cut by the Cavaliers before the 2005--06 season and spent a year and a half in the D-League before joining Golden State last January. Azubuike scored in double figures 12 times in 41 regular-season games, but during the postseason he played only 15 minutes. This fall, however, he has displaced last season's Most Improved Player, Monta Ellis, in the starting lineup and at week's end was averaging 14.6 points and 5.4 rebounds. Last Saturday, Azubuike hit a three with 6.2 seconds left in overtime to give the Warriors a 100--98 win in Philadelphia.
RASHAD MCCANTS, 6'4", SG, Timberwolves
McCants is far from an unknown commodity: He was an All-America at North Carolina and the 14th pick in the 2005 draft. But in his first two seasons he did next to nothing, averaging 7.9 points in 79 games as a rookie and just 5.0 in 37 games last season, when he missed 44 games while recovering from June 2006 microfracture surgery on his right knee. After trading Kevin Garnett to the Celtics, Minnesota believed its rebuilding blocks would be Randy Foye, Al Jefferson and rookie Corey Brewer, who grace the cover of the media guide. But McCants, 23, who had started all but one game through Sunday, was the team's second-leading scorer (14.6 ppg). On Nov. 14, in the T-Wolves' only win, McCants poured in a game-high 33 points against the Kings.
JAMARIO MOON, 6'8", SF, Raptors
No rookie has a more amazing story than the 27-year-old Moon. He signed with Mississippi State as a Coosa Central ( Rockford, Ala.) High senior but didn't qualify academically, leading him to Meridian (Miss.) Community College, where he played seven games before he was suspended for academic reasons. With few options he entered the 2001 NBA draft and was not selected. Thus began a six-year odyssey that included time with the D-League, the USBL, the ABA, the WBA, the CBA and the Harlem Globetrotters. Moon—who in a predraft workout reportedly touched a spot on the backboard 12'4" above the court—inked a two-year, nonguaranteed contract with Toronto in July. In the third game of the season he was put into the starting lineup, and he was averaging 8.7 points and 6.6 rebounds in 28.8 minutes at week's end while playing stellar defense. On Sunday he had 15 points, nine rebounds and six blocks in a win over the Bulls.