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3 Breakout Stars of the 2021-22 NBA Season

The success of the Golden State Warriors and the Boston Celtics during the 2021-22 NBA season will come as no surprise to anyone.

They have solid rosters that are boosted by the presence of elite stars like Stephen Curry and Jayson Tatum, quality coaching teams and formidable home-court form - it's little wonder that both were so highly fancied by those who bet on NBA before a shot or pass had even been made.

But, sometimes, it's fun to reflect on the progress of those underrated gems that go under the radar, producing big numbers for franchises with little to no hope of postseason glory.

So here's a look at three players who broke out in a big way in 2021-22:

Karl-Anthony Towns

The Timberwolves run to the playoffs was something of a surprise - most expected the Trail Blazers to join Utah and Denver in dominating the Northwest Division, and much of the credit for that has to go to Karl-Anthony Towns.

The former NBA Rookie of the Year hasn't always lived up to his billing as one of the hottest new talents in the sport, but he seemingly came of age during a 2021-22 campaign in which he netted 1,818 points - the ninth -best tally in the competition.

Only MVP Nikola Jokic and Mikal Bridges had a better field goal percentage for those who played 2,400 minutes or more, and so Towns is likely to be hot property in the offseason trade wranglings – unless Minnesota can tempt him to stay with a major pay rise.

Julius Randle

Given that he was called up to the All-Star game in 2021, it would be hard to describe Julius Randle as going "under the radar" this term.

But even so, he is playing for what can only be described as a pretty retched New York Knicks outfit, and yet the 27-year-old continued to deliver stellar numbers despite the obvious flaws in his franchise.

Averaging more than 20 points per game, Randle and colleague RJ Barrett did so much of the heavy lifting for the Knicks this season, but it was the former's all-court action – he also found time to make 591 defensive rebounds - that marked him out as a key performer in the East.

Darius Garland

To even make the play-in game was a major achievement for the Cavaliers, who many expected to stink the place out in the Eastern Conference.

While far from being a particularly effective offensive unit, Cleveland relied heavily upon the individual brilliance of Darius Garland to ensure they got points on the board.

The 22-year-old served up 1,473 points and ranked seventh in the NBA for assists as well, and his selection for the All-Star game saw Garland cross over from underrated gem to bona fide stud in 2021-22.

He is eligible for a max contract extension in July, and the suggestion is that Garland will be offered a huge deal that could net him $181 million across five years. "Hes going to be in Cleveland for a long time, and he embraces it here," said the Cavs president Koby Altman. "He loves it here. We're fortunate that he's a Cavalier."

A stellar 2021-22 has ensured that Garland, as well as Randle and Towns, have increased their standing in the NBA significantly.