- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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If the Lakers can't acquire Howard, then they'll look for a shooter-slasher like the Bucks' disgruntled Stephen Jackson. And the Celtics could preemptively launch their overhaul by trading Rajon Rondo: Remove the glue that holds their old parts together, and suddenly it becomes much less painful to trade everyone from Kevin Garnett to Ray Allen to (gulp) Paul Pierce.
Each of these players has exceeded expectations—though not quite so dramatically as Lin, of course.
C ROY HIBBERT, Pacers The first-time All-Star keeps reinventing himself; he's now a scoring threat on either block.
F PAUL MILLSAP, Jazz The former second-rounder has carried Utah, which is .500 with only two players averaging double figures in scoring.
F RYAN ANDERSON, Magic Once a three-point specialist, he's evolved into a well-rounded offensive threat and solid rebounder.
G KYLE LOWRY, Rockets Small (6 feet, 175 pounds) but aggressive, he is averaging career highs in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals while growing as a team leader for the surprising Rockets.
G LOU WILLIAMS, 76ers Another second-round pick, he embraces his role (go-to scorer) off the bench.
ULTIMATE WILD CARD
In December the big question was whether the lack of a full preseason and less recovery time between games would result in more players getting hurt or struggling to get in shape. Well, the list of players who have suffered from injuries or poor conditioning includes Dirk Nowitzki, Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Manu Ginóbili, Zach Randolph, Luol Deng, Stephen Curry, Spencer Hawes, Al Horford, Eric Gordon, Andrea Bargnani, Andrew Bogut, Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Jason Kidd, George Hill, Thabo Sefolosha and Eric Maynor. Will a major injury emerge to change the title race? The only certainty of this lockout season is that there will be more surprises in the weeks ahead.