We sure do love a good breakthrough story. There are so many young potential filled players who are due to break out onto the scene of eliteness. Today, we’ll highlight a few players (one from each team that is) that could experience a breakthrough season this upcoming season!
Atlanta Hawks – Kevin Huerter
Huerter was one of the surprises in the draft last year. Huerter was not really expected to contribute at all, and was widely accepted as a g-league bound bust player. Huerter raised some eyebrows last season, and when he puts on a little bit more muscle, he could experience a breakthrough and potentially be one of the sophomores that avoids the sophomore slump. Huerter has the opportunity to grow as a shooter and could certainly be someone who works his way into the starting lineup by the end of the season.
Boston Celtics – Gordon Hayward
I want to say Robert Williams III, but Hayward is a higher likelihood choice. Some would argue that Gordon Hayward should not be included in this list, however I have decided that ANYONE can be a breakthrough player. Hayward is a former all star, and the gruesome injury has changed his career, but maybe not forever. Hayward will be playing with a little bit easier of a point guard to play with in Kemba Walker, and he has now had almost 2 years to rehab and heal. Hayward could return to his former level of play, and maybe even be the second best player on the Celtics.
Brooklyn Nets – Jarrett Allen
One of the more promising young players in the league, Jarrett Allen is one break away from being an all star. Allen is an incredible rebounder, shot blocker, defender in general and very well rounded big. Allen will have a new look on his team, now playing with Kyrie and Durant when he returns, Allen’s growth won’t be stunted when playing with Kyrie, as he is not reliant on having the ball in his hands like Tatum and Rozier were with Boston. Allen can continue to do his own thing, and maybe even reach the next level.
Charlotte Hornets – Malik Monk
Since being drafted with the 11th overall pick 2 years ago, Malik Monk hasn’t shown anyone that he is ready to be an elite NBA player. But this season is Malik’s best chance to prove himself. Monk is known for his offseason grind, which will certainly pay off as he is one of the only active shooting guards on the Hornets, Charlotte is looking at a lineup that includes Terry Rozier at PG, Nic Batum at SF, Miles Bridges at PF and Cody Zeller at C. This leaves the starting SG spot open for players like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Dwayne Bacon and Malik Monk. Monk has the perfect opportunity to take advantage of a minutes upgrade this season, with the departure of two Hornets guards, Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb.
Chicago Bulls – Wendell Carter Jr.
The Bulls haven’t fully allowed Wendell Carter Jr. to reach his full potential. But now Robin Lopez is gone to Milwaukee, and the Bulls really have nobody who can take Wendell’s minutes. The Bulls have a nice looking lineup that includes Kris Dunn, Otto Porter Jr., Zach Lavine, Lauri Markannen and probably Wendell Carter Jr. Wendell will be looking to make his mark as one of the young players who will see a minutes increase, with the departure of a former big man.
Cleveland Cavaliers – Larry Nance Jr.
Since the Cavaliers received Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson for Isaiah Thomas, Nance really hasn’t had an impact on the Cavs. Nance only averaged 9 points a game, and got 30 starts. Nance is someone who has shown us he has so much potential, and now Nance is going to be 27, which is prime break out time for players. There’s no question Nance is capable of breaking through, potentially even becoming the best player on the Cavaliers, however he will need to see Kevin Love’s departure in order to see proper minutes.
Dallas Mavericks – Delon Wright
Delon Wright has raised a lot of questions over the last year. Is he a starter? Should he get paid? Does he have any true upside? These questions could be answered with his new role on the Dallas Mavericks. Right now, the Mavericks are looking to Delon Wright as their point guard. Wright will have a chance to prove himself and make a name for himself in the league. For Wright’s entire career thus far, he’s played behind star point guards like Kyle Lowry and Mike Conley. Nothing is holding Wright back now and he will be free to demonstrate his worthiness.
Denver Nuggets – Jamal Murray
Jamal Murray has already experienced a breakthrough in his career. Now entering his fourth year, Murray saw his points per game increase from 9 to 16 in his second year. This year Murray continued to make strides towards reaching the next level. Murray isn’t done yet. He is only 22, and will likely be looking to lead the Nuggets to yet another deep playoff run. This year, Jamal Murray being an all star is a very serious possibility. Despite a stacked point guard western conference, Jamal Murray is destined to be a top level point guard in this league. Do not sleep on Jamal Murray knocking players like Chris Paul, Mike Conley, Demar DeRozan and Devin Booker out of the mix. Klay Thompson’s injury also helps Murray’s chances, as his only real competition will be Curry, Harden, Westbrook and Lillard.
Detroit Pistons – Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk
Most forget that Svi is on the Pistons, following the one year rental for Reggie Bullock that the Lakers completed just before the trade deadline. Svi was relatively quiet for the Lakers in the regular season, but for two years now Svi has been playing very well in the Summer league. If the Pistons are willing to take a chance on the Ukrainian, Svi could see his points jump from 3.2 to 12+. Svi has been very entertaining to watch and although he is so far rather inneficient, he showed great strides of improvement on the Pistons. This was a harder one honestly, since the Pistons have few players who could be due for a breakout. By no means do I think Svi will be a star, but he could emerge into a solid bench scorer for the Pistons.
Golden State Warriors – Kevon Looney
For some reason, it feels like Kevon Looney has been in the league for years. But Looney is only 23 this season, he’s very young, and has tons of championship experience. Looney has reigned with the Warriors, who are now left without any true centers. Willie Cauley-Stein is the only other center on the Warriors roster, and if Looney can beat him out for the starting spot, Looney could experience a massive breakthrough. Looney reacted well to more minutes when DeMarcus Cousins was injured, so there’s no question he is ready. Looney is also extremely tough, and played through a broken collarbone in the finals. These are the traits that make a superstar in a hard 82 game schedule.
Houston Rockets – Clint Capela
Let’s put it this way. There’s going to be a lot of deep shots going up this year for Houston. The Rockets have heavily relied on the three point shot, and now Westbrook is here?! Clint Capela will be drowning in put backs. There’s a good chance Capela’s points per game will shoot up, and he’s certainly ready to take the next step. Don’t be surprised if Capela’s rebounds per game take a nose dive, as Capela’s lack of an ego will allow Westbrook and Harden to scoop up everything that comes off the glass. Capela as an individual has been ready for a breakthrough for a long time, however now may be his time to shine.
Indiana Pacers – Myles Turner
Myles Turner is already one of the most improved players in the league. But the sky is the limit for Myles Turner. Turner is an incredible two way player who can shoot, rebound, drive, and most importantly defend. Myles Turner is without a doubt in my mind, the most skilled and potential filled player in the entire league. I would be extremely surprised if Myles Turner didn’t become a top three center in the league at some point in his career. Turner has a new squad where he will thrive, Turner is the only dominant big on his team and he will be able to thrive so well with the Pacers this year.
Los Angeles Clippers – Landry Shamet
Shamet for three!! Landry Shamet has been one of the best rookie shooters in the league, and certainly made his mark on the Clippers last year. Now, all eyes turn to the Clippers with the acquisitions of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. But don’t forget about Landry Shamet. Shamet will provide excellent shooting for the Clippers and continue to help the Clippers be one of the best teams in the league. Shamet will need to continue to be aggresive and not stand aside while Leonard and George do all the dirty work. If he does this, the Clippers could have one of the most complete lineups of all time.
Los Angeles Lakers – Alex Caruso
Last season, Alex Caruso garnered some attention for his flashy inside scoring, notably headlined by an insane put back dunk. This year, Caruso is back with the new look Lakers and looking to have another impressive season. To be honest, nobody on this team is going to break through and shock the world, it’s going to be the Lebron and AD show. Caruso is the best bet for anything in the neighborhood of a breakthrough season, he could become the 4th best player on the Lakers and maybe even earn himself a starting role. Caruso is still young and has lots of potential that the Lakers should build as Lebron and AD run the show for a few years in LA.
Memphis Grizzlies – Jaren Jackson Jr.
Last season, Jaren Jackson Jr. had a great rookie showing. Notably being one of the best shot blockers in the league. Jaren’s season was cut short by an injury, however he is expected to be healthy and ready to go for the beginning of next year. Jaren could quickly emerge into an all star candidate and should be considered for most improved player, as well as defensive player of the year next season. Jaren will have to knock out some of the top big men in the west in order to be an all star, however he is certainly capable of doing so, as Jaren will be the 1st option and best player on the team, dependent on Ja Morant’s return.
Miami Heat – Justise Winslow
Justise Winslow showed great strides on the Miami Heat last year, often taking over as the starting point guard for the Heat. Now, Miami continues to search for trades for Goran Dragic, and Justise Winslow’s opportunity is becoming more and more open. Even if Dragic isn’t traded, a trio of Dragic, Butler and Winslow could really help Winslow grow as a player. Winslow would likely be the dominant ball handler, and would get great scoring mentorship from Jimmy Butler. Scoring is the only part of Winslow’s game that needs work in order for him to reach the next level, next year Winslow will have an opportunity to average 20+ points per game if used correctly.
Milwaukee Bucks – Donte Divincenzo
Divincenzo made serious noise during the 2018 March Madness Tournament. Now, the Milwaukee Bucks rotation has opened up a little, notably with the departure of Malcolm Brogdon. This allows young players like Donte Divincenzo to step up and thrive on a winning team. Divincenzo is an impressive shooter, which is something the Bucks will be begging for now that Brogdon is gone. We could see Donte’s minutes rise big time this year, and see him potentially averaging up to 15 points per game if given the right opportunities, maybe even a starting spot by the end of the season.
Minnesota Timberwolves – Andrew Wiggins
I am willing to bet that Andrew Wiggins has heard the noise surrounding him. Wiggins has been heavily criticized by all NBA fans for his disappointing performances compared to his expectations, especially after receiving his max contract. Many have accused Wiggins of playing with no heart. Any Timberwolves fan would know that Andrew Wiggins has been working really hard this offseason. Potentially harder than anyone in the league. Wiggins will be entering this season with a huge chip on his shoulder, as he looks to desperately save his basketball career and earn another big pay day. Most importantly, the Timberwolves need Wiggins now more than ever, as they attempt to capitalize on Karl-Anthony Towns’ prime and make the competitive western conference.
New Orleans Pelicans – Jahlil Okafor
This could go either of two ways. Okafor could be benched for Jaxson Hayes, or he could finally get the starting nod. Last year, we saw very little of Okafor, however when Anthony Davis spent games on the bench near the end of the season, Okafor was allowed to step into the spotlight. Okafor was quite honestly impressive. Okafor responded very well to increased minutes, When Okafor was given over 30 minutes in a game (3 times during the season) he recorded 25, 22 and 30 points in each of these games. These are elite numbers. The Pelicans should allow Okafor the opportunity to repeat these performances on a nightly basis, and maybe he’ll finally reach his true potential.
New York Knicks – Elfrid Payton
The Knicks team is full of players looking to have a breakout season. In fact, every single player on that roster (except maybe Taj Gibson) is looking for their big break. This is how the Knicks signed so many free agents. Elfrid Payton seems like a likely breakthrough candidate for the Knicks. Payton finished off the season last year very well, famously recording 4 consecutive triple doubles. Payton also recorded 26 points and 14 assists in his second to last game against the Kings last year. Payton consistently puts up impressive 20 points 15 assists + games. Next year on the Knicks, Payton has the opportunity to repeat these performances once more, and become a more conservative version of Russell Westbrook. Westbrook with less athleticism, but a higher IQ.
Oklahoma City Thunder – Steven Adams
You’re probably wondering why I didn’t choose Shai Gilgeous Alexander. The answer is simple. The Thunder have 3 starting caliber point guards on their team, in Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous Alexander and Dennis Schroeder. Steven Adams however, is going to benefit huge from Westbrook and George’s departure. Adams will finally be able to get rebounds, and play the inside scoring game. Westbrook has typically done everything that Adams can do. Now Adams can finally thrive and grow as a player. Adams will have an opportunity to stuff the stat sheet, as he might be playing with an all star playmaker in Chris Paul, who lets big men do their thing, and has meshed well with players like Deandre Jordan and Clint Capela in the past.
Orlando Magic – Mo Bamba
Expectations were so high for Bamba going into his rookie year. Bamba missed most of the season with a leg injury and only recently returned to summer league play, where he shined. Bamba is a specimen that doesn’t get nearly enough attention for his skill (especially since his injury) Bamba and Fultz will be a great duo for the future as they both look down the road to a healthy future. Bamba can shoot, attack, block and defend, which makes for a deadly modern big man that could soon take over the league. The only reason I didn’t choose Fultz (who obviously has more upside if healthy, being the first overall pick) is because the Orlando Magic still have no timetable for his return. It seems Orlando has no clue when Fultz will return, or at least won’t share any info. This is somewhat concerning, and considering Bamba is back playing again, it makes sense to select him.
Philadelphia 76ers – Josh Richardson
Richardson was recently acquired by the 76ers in a sign and trade for Jimmy Butler. Richardson will be looking to finally play on a winning team, an environment many good scorers thrive in. Richardson will have a chance to be the catch and shoot guy on the Sixers, a role that has allowed players like Klay Thompson and Eric Gordon to be considered some of the league’s best shooters. Richardson’s 3PA and 3PM will probably sky rocket as he takes and makes more three pointers. The Sixers will turn to Richardson many times this season, as shooting is something they’ve been missing through this dynasty they’ve built.
Phoenix Suns – Frank Kaminsky
Kaminsky was recently acquired by the Suns in free agency. When playing with the Hornets, Kaminsky got very little opportunity to let loose. The Hornets opted to start players like Marvin Williams, Cody Zeller and even Bismack Biyombo over Kaminsky. Kaminsky has responded well to increased minutes in the past, and he will likely receive a starting job in Phoenix. Frank the Tank will have more opportunities to shoot, and be a go to interior player along with Ayton. Another great thing about Kaminsky is his willingness to shoot the three pointer. Kaminsky is a threat from everywhere on the floor, and if used correctly, could surprise everyone as a key contributor to the young Suns roster.
Portland Trail Blazers – Hassan Whiteside
Hassan Whiteside was pretty much benched by the Miami Heat last season. Despite being an elite center, the Heat gave up all hope in Whiteside. Whiteside is still an elite big man with insane rebounding and interior scoring abilities. Whiteside seems excited about the prospect of playing with the Blazers (we got shooters!) Whiteside is going to have a great opportunity to kick out to Dame and CJ, and get their misses. But most of all, Whiteside can finally start again, and the Blazers have a deadly squad with Dame, CJ, Nurkic, Nassir Little and Whiteside. Hassan will benefit hugely from his trade to Portland.
Sacramento Kings – Harry Giles III
Giles will certainly have lot of competition for his starting spot this year. Players like Bagley and Bjelica will all be looking to pick up a starting spot. But Giles is different. Giles was an incredible player all the way through his high school and college career. However Giles has had a tough time adapting to the NBA game. But it seems like Giles might finally be ready to reach the next level. Giles has had so much time to improve his game, and could be on the way to a season much like Victor Oladipo’s breakthrough season. Giles could come as close as just missing the all star team, however this would be a great step in Harry Giles III’s career moving forward.
San Antonio Spurs – Lonnie Walker IV
Unlike many other teams around the league, the San Antonio Spurs is a team where players grow and develop into stars. The Spurs are no strangers to developing future all stars. Lonnie Walker will be no exception. Walker has shown his incredible skill and speed in the summer league and g league. It might finally be time for Lonnie to hit the big stage, as the Spurs’ expectations for this season have reached an all time low. Walker could emerge as a future superstar, and has already shown potential with no limits whatsoever. The Spurs would be smart to give Walker minutes, as it will be him who leads the next generation of the San Antonio Spurs dynasty.
Toronto Raptors – OG Anunoby
Everyone in the city of Toronto, and even the country of Canada loses from Kawhi’s departure… except one man. OG Anunoby benefits from Kawhi’s departure. While the Raptors may not be as succesful as they were before Kawhi left, Anunoby will be a great piece for the Raptors as they look to prove everyone wrong. Anunoby will be great for shooting and has likely learnt a lot from watching Kawhi play. It will be interesting to see if OG applies what he may have learnt to his game as he looks to fill some big shoes.
Utah Jazz – Rudy Gobert
Quite honestly nobody on the Jazz is breaking out this season. The roster is full of very established stars, with an aging supporting cast who will likely be just as good this year as they were last year. Rudy Gobert earns his way onto this list based on the fact that he is a likely choice to the all star team, which is a huge personal breakthrough for Gobert. Gobert has more shooters this year and a more open front court which will allow him to control all the traffic inside the three point line.
Washington Wizards – Isaiah Thomas
Isaiah Thomas has been desperately searching for an opportunity to redeem himself. Washington is that opportunity. Thomas is finally 100% healthy for the first time in two years. Thomas will have the opportunity to fill in for John Wall who will be injured for the whole season, and without a doubt IT will succeed. Talent doesn’t disappear, and Thomas isn’t injured anymore. Thomas could be someone who maybe doesn’t average 28 again (simply because of Bradley Beal’s scoring needs) but could average 22+ per game an return to a borderline all star in the east. Thomas is ready, Washington is ready, and the world is ready to see if Isaiah Thomas is really back.