Same goes for
In those early, developmentally delayed days of their career, any one of them could have been had without major sacrifice in a trade. And was.
The point of all this is that "hidden gems" offer teams caught in limbo hell the best path toward significant improvement. They're not good enough to contend for a championship and they're not bad enough to get a high draft pick. The best way to move forward, then, is to locate someone else's short-term disappointment who can become their own long-term difference-maker.
The Indiana Pacers, for example, had to restructure their team after reaching the NBA Finals in 2000 when
Which begs the question: Are there other early versions of Nash, O'Neal and Billups in today's NBA? Are there hidden gems who could be had for a song, maybe even a catchy little melody, who will glisten when exposed to the heat and light of playing time at the right time in the right place?
Who are they?
Sorry, it's not that easy.
A hidden gem, for clarification, isn't a promising young player who makes gradual improvement and then emerges. That's a breakout player. A hidden gem is someone devoid of expectation who makes a surprising leap to stardom, or, more likely, was once highly regarded but became viewed as a disappointment, yet could flourish with more time. He is the sporting world's version of a battered stock that has become a bargain, but has major upside.
It happens all the time in the sports and entertainment worlds. The Beatles labored long and hard and developed a rabid local following in Liverpool, but were rejected by two record companies before signing with the equivalent of a D-League label, Parlophone. They came cheaply, too.
In the NFL,
Identifying their equivalents in the NBA is largely guesswork, but there are common elements that provide clues.
Given those parameters, here are our nominations for the top three potential hidden gems of the 2009-2010 season. Not all of them will rebound to meet their once-lofty expectations, but one or two of them could. Maybe. With more time. Who knows? But get 'em before they're hot.
If one of these players doesn't rise and shine, perhaps someone else will. Some team's general manager will find one soon, and look like a genius. A lucky genius.