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Fran Blinebury

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Chicago's Omer Asik (left) and Milwaukee's Ersan Ilyasova seem ready for a true breakout season soon.
Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images

These well-seasoned (and young) free agents poised to rise


Posted Jun 29 2012 10:22AM - Updated Jun 29 2012 12:03PM

Not everybody rolls into the NBA on a wave of publicity and becomes an instant hit, filling up the stat columns and padding out the resumes with All-Star appearances.

For every overnight sensation there are handfuls of players who have to go to work, pay their dues and carve out a place in the league. In some cases it's just a matter of time until they get their chance. In others it takes a change of scenery, finding an organization and a roster where they fit. Here's a six-pack of those types who might be ready to shine:

Ersan Ilyasova

Height: 6-10
Weight: 235
Position: PF
Age: 25
Status: Unrestricted
13 ppg, 8.8 rpg

Returning to the team that drafted him in 2006 after spending two seasons in Europe playing for FC Barcelona, he's steadily growing in confidence and in what he can do. Ilyasova has good size, length and range and was a 45 percent shooter from 3-point range last season. He's also one of only three players (Andrew Bynum, Al Jefferson) to pile up at least Video 25 points and 25 rebounds in one game last season.

It's a very big stretch to make the comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki with his all-around skills, but there's reason to think that he's only begun to scratch the surface. Developing consistency has to be job one.

Goran Dragic

Height: 6-4
Weight: 180
Position: PG
Age: 26
Status: Unrestricted
11.7 ppg, 5.3 apg, 2.5 rpg

He might look like a choirboy at first glance, but there's a fiery competitor and first-rate point guard hidden behind that tender face. Dragic was clearly paying attention in practice during those three seasons he spent going up against and learning from Steve Nash.

His previous notoriety came from great shooting performances against Golden State and Video San Antonio. But when Kyle Lowry was sidelined by an infection last season, he shined as the Rockets' starter. He's an excellent ballhandler, a good passer with extra flair and he's tough as nails. Many will come calling, but most likely he doesn't get away from Houston.

George Hill

Height: 6-2
Weight: 180
Position: PG
Age: 24
Status: Unrestricted
9.6 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.9 apg

It wasn't that long ago when Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was calling this guy his favorite player. That's why it was a surprise to see San Antonio trade him to the Pacers in a 2011 Draft-night deal for Kawhi Leonard.

Hill's got athleticism, quickness, long arms and can attack at both ends of the floor. He's still more of a scorer than a creator, but works diligently and looks ready to get tossed the keys to his own team soon.

Jeff Green

Height: 6-8
Weight: 235
Position: SF
Age: 25
Status: Restricted
Did not play -- heart surgery

Talk about a guy who needs a break. He was supposed to be part of the blueprint in Oklahoma City that would have placed him in The Finals this past season. He was supposed to be a key piece of the puzzle in Boston after he was traded for Kendrick Perkins. Then he loses a full season to heart surgery.

Green is an all-around talent who can play both forward spots and is a scorer, rebounder and passer. Not much of a ball-handler, but has range behind the 3-point line. The next hurdle is bouncing back from a full year of recovery and being away from the game. If he can regain his form and conditioning, he can be a key reserve for a contender.

Courtney Lee

Height: 6-5
Weight: 200
Position: SG
Age: 26
Status: Restricted
11.4 ppg, 2.7 rpg

What if he had made that difficult, end-of-regulation alley-oop that would have forced overtime Video in Game 2 of the 2009 Finals and maybe enabled the Magic to gain a 1-1 tie with the Lakers? If Orlando had won that series or even made it more of a fight, would Lee be possibly looking at playing for his fourth team in five seasons?

He can stroke the 3-pointer, run the floor and get to the basket. He isn't bad at on defense, either. If he could hook up in the right spot -- say, Chicago -- Lee might find himself back in The Finals with another chance to make that big shot.

Omer Asik

Height: 7-0
Weight: 255
Position: C
Age: 25
Status: Restricted
3.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1 bpg

He's a big man with an extra long wingspan who can take up plenty of space and block plenty of shots. Asik will always battle hard on defense.

He does most of his scoring as a garbage man. But in an age when guards dominate the ball and make things happen with penetration, he can thrive just by being a presence around the hoop.

Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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