We're getting to the stretch run and pretty soon all of our focus will be on the main players on the contending teams, as playoff positioning and award races dominate the conversation.
Before we hit that point, we have time to look at some players toiling in relative obscurity who could make a major impact next season. I'm not talking about the John Walls and DeMarcus Cousinses of the league. I mean players who are relative unknown but have started to turn the corner for what are in most cases lesser teams.
I call this my All-2012 team, first because I'm trying to stay optimistic that there will be an actual season next season but mostly because what these players are doing right now is a harbinger (there's that word again) of potentially greater productivity a year from now. All of these guys are young, only one or two are well-known and most of them don't even start, but each has played well enough of late to raise my expectations for their respective futures.
So, my All-2012 team:
One thing new Indiana coach Frank Vogel did was give Hansbrough a consistent role, playing him about half the game off the bench at power forward. That strategy has allowed Hansbrough to play more freely on offense, and he's averaging nearly a point every two minutes on the season and proving adept at drawing fouls. But to be a long-term starter, he needs to raise his shooting percentage from 43.0 percent.
Paul George, Pacer
If there is one reason to watch the Pacers this year, it's this guy. While the Griffin-Wall-Cousins rookie trio still hogs all the attention, it's become increasingly clear that George was flat-out stolen at No. 10 by Indiana. A long, silky finisher who looks as if he could easily ramp up to the go-to scorer role, George is shooting 56.7 percent on 2-pointers.
His main shortcoming has been that he has taken a ton of 3-pointers and struggles to make them. That talent should develop in time, as his shooting stroke looks solid, and if it does the 20-year-old will be nigh unguardable.