Three players in small markets who could become the face of a heavyweight franchise

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The NBA has a bounty of talents lurking throughout it's 30 storied franchises, but not all of them are household names like LeBron James.

Not all of them find their way to a glorious destiny like Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan did on draft day. They never had to leave their storied franchises to find their success.

However, some players travel a less conventional route. Shaquille O'Neal looked like he might help the Orlando Magic become a powerhouse in their own right before heading to the L.A. Lakers and he truly moved on to the next level -  and helped Kobe build his legacy in the process.

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The Cleveland Cavaliers were a lottery team when King James was drafted by them, and although he took them deep into the playoffs he couldn't quite make them a top franchise.

He took a four-year sabbatical to Miami where they won two championships in four straight trips to the Finals, but ultimately returned to the Cavaliers and brought them their first ever Larry O'Brien trophy this summer.

The point is, sometimes there is a franchise star out there waiting in a smaller market for the big time opportunity to arise. Carmelo Anthony surely thought the same when he traded the Denver Nuggets for the New York Knicks, but, that's proven pretty fruitless thus far.

That could all change with the recent acquisitions in the Big Apple, but we're going to take a look at three prime contenders for players that could be a game-changer with a title-hungry franchise. These are stars who have the potential to lead a powerhouse to glory, but will likely never fulfill their potential in their current small market.

DeMarcus Cousins

Boogie is the best offensively-minded center in the league. That's barely even debatable at this point.

The Sacramento Kings pivot will be 26-years-old by the start of next season and has grown tremendously in his six years in the league. He is a palpable double-double threat and finished fourth in scoring overall in the league last year.

Most of the question marks surrounding Cousins lie in his temperament. He shared a strained relationship with former Kings coach George Karl which ultimately led to the latter's demise and isn't afraid to speak his mind.

He is very animated on the court with his frustration and he has made no secret of his confusion around Sacramento's offseason moves. Perhaps these facts have put prospective organisations off from making a major play for him in the past, but there is no doubt he could anchor a top side with ease.

If he was to join the Lakers right now, they'd instantly become playoff contenders, and probably title contenders in a few years. If he can up his career average of 1.2 blocks, he will be a formidable, near unstoppable presence.

Paul George

The NBA 2K17 cover star just turned 26-years-old in May and the small forward has overcome a lot in his short career thus far.

He suffered a shocking and brutal leg break while taking part in a Team USA scrimmage two years ago. Although the injury could have ended his career, the Indiana Pacers man recovered to secure his place as an All-Star starter last season, record a career-season in points and resume his place with Team USA.

PG-13 put up an average of 23.1 points per game last season and is only going to get better. He can score in a variety of ways and he also has the valuable trait of being one of the best perimeter defenders in the league today.

Such a potent two-way player has incredible value, but the Pacers are unlikely to ever want to give him up unless the offer was something incredible.

In a league where Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and LeBron James are the top-tier small forwards, George is seriously not far off the pace. If he could be trusted to lead a heavyweight unit, he might just be seen in the same light as his peers.

Anthony Davis

Anthony Davis doesn't just have the potential to be the best power forward in the league, he could go on to be the best player full stop. Honestly, the guy really is that good.

After setting multiple records in college, there was little surprise Davis was the number one pick in the 2012 draft, unlike George and Cousins who went 10th and 5th respectively in their draft classes.

The 23-year-old literally has it all. He's an athletic freak in the same way that LeBron is a unique breed, he is a big man who has an increasingly improving three-pointer and he blocks shots like it's routine.

His career averages after four seasons in the league read 20.8 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.4 blocks. That's pretty insane.

The Chicago-born star produced the second-highest points total in a single game of any player last season when he dropped 59 points and pulled down 20 rebounds against the Detroit Pistons.

Kobe Bryant's swansong 60-point outing against the Utah Jazz would steal that record away from Davis, and the 6'10" star had his season climax early after both knee and shoulder injuries required surgery.

The Pelicans were heavily reliant on their franchise man last season and they still finished 12th. There's no doubt Davis is destined for big things in the future, but he'll probably have to wait for a blockbuster free agency period; it's hard to imagine anyone putting together a package that could prize Davis away from the Pelicans' lucky grasps.

By the same token, it's hard to imagine the Pelicans being a realistic title contender. Something has to give.

Paul George
Indiana Pacers
Central Division
Eastern Conference
LeBron James
Cleveland Cavaliers
Kobe Bryant
L.A. Lakers
Pacific Division
Western Conference

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