Predicting NBA Sophomores Who Will Slump or Soar in 2012-13

Bryant KnoxFeatured ColumnistOctober 15, 2012

Predicting NBA Sophomores Who Will Slump or Soar in 2012-13

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    Every NBA season begins with more questions than answers, and heading into the 2012-13 campaign, it's natural to wonder which players will thrive and which will fall during their sophomore seasons.

    The 2011-12 season saw a few outstanding performances from the league’s first-year players, but for the most part, the lockout-shortened campaign produced a fairly modest rookie class.

    Every prospect wants to soar in his second season, but the sophomore slump is a fate to which many fall victim.

    Each player has a chance to show what he's got in year two, but not everyone is able to produce at the level that was expected early in his career.

Soar: Kyrie Irving

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    The choice to name Kyrie Irving the 2011-12 Rookie of the Year was about as easy as a decision gets in the NBA.

    Irving came into the league, showed what he could do and helped the Cleveland Cavaliers inch closer to the playoffs than most imagined they could.

    The 20-year-old point guard will continue to lead the team in 2013, and with his incredible skill set and undeniable scoring ability, he’ll continue to make his mark as one of the game’s best point guards.

    If you want to put an area of doubt in Irving’s game, it’s that he still has yet to prove he is a true distributor at the NBA level. His average of 5.4 assists per game is solid, but when the double-teams start coming, how will Irving handle spreading the ball around a lackluster Cleveland Cavaliers roster?

    Despite being a score-first guard, Irving displayed the fifth-highest PER among all NBA point guards in his rookie season, debunking any doubts about his value following such a small sample size of collegiate experience.

    Simply put, Irving was exactly what Cavs fans needed, and he’ll be exactly whom they rely on in 2013.

Slump: Iman Shumpert

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    Iman Shumpert had a promising rookie campaign in 2012, but his development was brought to a halt when he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the playoffs against the Miami Heat.

    Season-ending knee surgery isn’t good for any player at any point in his career, but for it to happen to Shumpert so early in his career makes you hope that his development isn’t stunted heading into his second NBA season.

    If his injury proves to slow him down defensively whenever he returns, it will take away the part of his game that was the most reliable his rookie season.

    The direction of the New York Knicks is a bit unclear at this point, which could go one of two ways for Shumpert.

    If the sophomore is able to put himself on display through times of adversity, he may turn out to be a gem in the rough if the season turns south. On the other hand, a bad year in New York is rarely good for anybody involved, and it could shut down his growth drastically if the team can’t find success.

    There are a lot of question marks surrounding Shumpert, which makes him a tough player to gamble on at this point in his career.

Soar: Klay Thompson

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    Following the surprising trade of Monta Ellis for Andrew Bogut, nobody stepped up more on the Golden State Warriors roster than rookie shooting guard Klay Thompson.

    Thompson broke out big-time following the All-Star break, averaging 17 points per game and showing fans that they may want to wait and see before they blast management for sending away their best scorer.

    As a lights-out shooter in a fast-paced system, life looks good for Thompson at this point. However, the one thing that could hinder his success is the insertion of Bogut and Harrison Barnes into the lineup.

    With a healthy Bogut on the floor in 2013, the Warriors may look to establish more of a half-court game that looks inside to the big man. On the other hand, even if the offense remains relatively the same, Thompson will be competing with Barnes for touches, even if Thompson gets the edge on most nights.

    Contrasting styles and competing skill sets will challenge the 2-guard, but if his rookie campaign is any indication, he’ll be just fine heading into his sophomore season.

Slump: MarShon Brooks

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    The Brooklyn Nets have gone through a decent-sized makeover, and while MarShon Brooks has potential to make it in this league, he may slow down the pace in 2013.

    Brooks averaged 12.6 points per game in 2012, but having yet to show he can grasp the idea of team basketball, it’s tough to imagine him being that productive alongside the go-to players in his second season.

    The addition of Joe Johnson will certainly take away touches from Brooks, but don’t underestimate the value of having a healthy Brook Lopez either.

    When the big man is healthy, he has the potential to be one of the best centers in the league, and a two-man game with either Johnson or Deron Williams doesn’t leave much of the shot clock for Brooks to control the ball.

    Brooks showed that he can be a good scorer in his rookie year, but with his turnover-prone, selfish mentality, the Nets may not give him the opportunity to soar in his sophomore season.

Soar: Chandler Parsons

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    Chandler Parsons slipped to the 38th overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft, but he proved to be a pleasant surprise for the Houston Rockets throughout his rookie season.

    Averaging 9.5 points and 4.8 rebounds in 2012, Parsons put his size and athleticism on display throughout his first year in the league. He become known for his putback finishes, but he is also a solid ball-handler for someone with his 6'9" frame.

    The Rockets could go one of about 100 different directions in 2013. They didn’t get their treasured prize in Dwight Howard, but they did manage to obtain a number of nice prospects in the process.

    With all the young players on the roster, this team is either going to grow at an astounding rate, or it's going to struggle until it can get the final piece to a very complicated puzzle.

    Parsons' future as a star is still up for debate, but alongside his fellow youngsters in 2013, he could very well prove to be a top option if he improves his shot, especially from the line.

Slump: Josh Selby

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    To say that a player who averaged 2.3 points and 1.1 assists per game and had a PER of 3.36 in 2012 will slump may be considered an obvious claim, but following Josh Selby’s Summer League performance, his name is being floated about as a candidate for a breakout season.

    There’s no denying that Selby’s performance in Las Vegas was impressive. He was scoring at a high rate, he was hitting his shots from beyond the three-point line and he was arguably the biggest surprise of the entire exhibition.

    What we saw out of Selby, however, is closely comparable to what we witnessed out of Jerryd Bayless—his new teammate—back in 2008.

    Bayless averaged 29.8 points and 4.8 rebounds in his Summer League MVP performance, but when he got to the regular season, he quickly found out that his shot wouldn’t fall and he could no longer make plays with his athleticism.

    Bayless has finally started to come into his own, but when it comes to Selby, he has a few more things to work on before his Summer League performance translates into anything special for the Memphis Grizzlies.

Soar: Kenneth Faried

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    On the surface, Kenneth Faried was probably the most valuable rookie to his team behind Kyrie Irving and Ricky Rubio in 2012.

    Faried averaged 10.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per game in his rookie season, but it's his unmatched level of energy that makes him a high-flying fan favorite.

    Whether on offense or defense, the 22-year-old provided a spark for the Denver Nuggets night in and night out.

    There’s no doubt that the 6'8" forward needs to work on both his inside and outside game, as he’s primarily a finisher at the rim at this point in his career. That being said, the guy creates energy on both sides of the ball, and his PER was an impressive 21.94 during his rookie season.

    His overall value may take a hit in 2013 with the addition of Andre Iguodala, but his ferocity and aggressiveness should keep him at the forefront of sophomores who have solid second seasons.

Slump: Ricky Rubio

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    Ricky Rubio surprised everyone who believed his game wouldn’t translate to the NBA during his first season. The point guard averaged 10.6 points, 8.2 assists and an impressive 4.2 rebounds per game before his season-ending injury.

    But while Rubio started strong, he began missing shots at a high rate and never proved he could finish at the rim.

    The reality is, if he can correct those things, he can come back and be even more productive than he was in his first year. However, a torn ACL is tough to recover from, no matter who you are.

    The thing that Rubio has in his favor at this point is that his game has never been reliant upon his athletic abilities.

    The 6'4" guard is a good athlete; there's no denying that. But if the second-year player returns a bit slower, it’s not going to hurt his court vision.

    Where it will hurt, however,  is on the defensive side of the floor. As a rookie, Rubio averaged 2.2 steals per game—the second-highest among all active NBA players.

    It’s all speculation at this point, but if Rubio comes back and either hasn’t improved his shot or has lost a step in his rehab, it may take him a whole season to get back on track.