Top 10 NBA Big Men Set to Break out in 2012-13 Season

Bryant KnoxFeatured ColumnistOctober 24, 2012

Top 10 NBA Big Men Set to Break out in 2012-13 Season

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    The NBA has seemingly transitioned to a point guard’s game, but the 2012-13 season could see a number of breakout performances from some of the league’s best bigs.

    Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum are largely considered the Association’s best centers, but following the two stars, there is a drop-off in both talent and production.

    While none of the NBA's big men will likely challenge these two atop the ranks, there are a number of players who are primed for their best seasons yet.

    Not every player reaches his full potential, but with prospects scattered all over the league, it's time to see which ones can step up and make a name for themselves in 2013.

Honorable Mentions

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    There are a handful of NBA bigs who have already established themselves in this league, but with room still to improve, they’ve yet to truly break out as prolific stars at their respective positions.

    DeMarcus Cousins: DeMarcus Cousins had a breakout season in 2012, but his maturity and consistency need another solid year before people can believe he’s a reliable option every game. His numbers are fantastic at this point in his career (18.1 PTS, 11 REB, 1.2 BLK), so doing it again in 2013 will help the doubters believe he is for real moving forward.

    Brook Lopez: Brook Lopez has two things to work on if he wants to become an elite center—blocks and rebounds. As a seven-footer, there’s no reason he can’t have more of an impact in those two departments, and assuming his injury problems in 2012 were a fluke, he should focus on becoming the best he can be down on the block.

    Al Horford: Al Horford has been productive up to this point in his career, but with Joe Johnson and his isolation tendencies gone from the Atlanta Hawks’ offense, the big man has a chance to establish himself as a primary option in 2013. At just 26 years old, Horford is entering his prime, and if he can stay healthy, he’s set up for a big season.

JaVale McGee

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    JaVale McGee has become known throughout the league for his questionable decision-making on the court, but he showed in the 2012 playoffs that he is more than capable of going off when he puts his mind to it.

    In the seven-game series against the Los Angeles Lakers, McGee had three games with at least 14 rebounds, including one 21-point, 14-rebound performance.

    McGee is set to play his first whole season with the Denver Nuggets, which means he could finally find himself in the right situation if he establishes himself as an option early.

    At this point, McGee’s flaws seemingly outweigh his potential, but if his athleticism and basketball instincts ever truly replace the bizarreness we’ve seen, so far, he’ll be one of the more dangerous bigs in the entire NBA. 

Tristan Thompson

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    Tristan Thompson is just 21 years old, but he may be primed for a breakout season in 2013.

    Thompson, a rookie in 2012, played under the radar of Kyrie Irving his entire first year. The big man started slow, but as the season progressed, he began to steadily improve with each passing month.

    The 6’9” forward has the ability to pull down rebounds on the offensive end better than most in the league. His offense as a whole needs improvement, but with more court time as a second-year player, he’ll be given the opportunity to work on his low-post game.

    Averaging 23.7 minutes in his rookie year, Thompson started in just 25 games. With Antawn Jamison now a part of the Los Angeles Lakers, the minutes will be there for him to avoid the sophomore slump and soar into a solid second season.

DeAndre Jordan

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    DeAndre Jordan has been a huge beneficiary of the trade that brought Chris Paul to L.A., and while his dunks are what he has going for him at the moment, the right offensive sets will help him stay involved in the half-court game.

    The big man is about as fun to watch as anybody in the league when finishing at the rim, but a lack of offensive moves and a downright awful shot limits him tremendously on that side of the floor.

    Defense is where Jordan is going to earn his time but only if he can stay consistent and put forth the necessary effort play in and play out.

    Whether or not Jordan ever truly earns the contract he received in 2011 is still up in the air, but in a league lacking true centers, the big man has a chance to stand out if he puts in the work moving forward.

Greg Monroe

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    Greg Monroe quietly had a much-improved 2011-12 campaign, and if he can build upon his individual success, he has a chance to become one of the league’s best centers sooner rather than later.

    In 2012, Monroe averaged 15.4 points, 9.7 rebounds and had a PER of 22.09. His per-40-minute averages was boosted up to 20.7 points and 12.6 rebounds, as he did his damage in just 31.5 minutes per contest.

    Monroe has a chance to become more of a leader in his third season. Fellow big man Andre Drummond is going to need a lot of help at the next level, and Monroe could very well learn a few things himself while teaching the young, raw center.

    Defensively, Monroe has underwhelmed at this point in his career. He averages just .6 blocks per game, and at 6’11”, there’s no reason he can’t be a more dominant force.

    Whether it be in one-one-one or help situations, Monroe must improve on the defensive end. If Drummond can teach Monroe a thing or two about defense in exchange for offense, the two will help each other improve drastically in 2013.

Kenneth Faried

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    Kenneth Faried didn’t stand a chance to win the 2012 Rookie of the Year award behind Kyrie Irving and Ricky Rubio, but he was the landslide choice for third place ahead of Kawhi Leonard and Iman Shumpert.

    The 6’8” forward may be a bit of a tweener, but that didn’t stop him from posting an impressive PER of 21.94 as a first-year player. The addition of Andre Iguodala to the Denver Nuggets’ lineup could take away some of his opportunities to thrive, but it will also force him to develop his post game moving forward.

    As the starting power forward in Denver, Faried must improve his low-post game on both ends of the floor. Offensively, he is more of a dunker than anything else, while defensively, he has difficulty stopping bigger opponents.

    When it comes to rebounding, he’s already where he needs to be, as his athleticism and timing helped him lead the league in rebound rate among power forwards.

    Playing in one of the fastest paces in all of basketball helps his cause, but if he can convert his game down to the block while maintaining his incredible energy, he’ll be one of the rising stars of the 2012-13 season. 

Derrick Williams

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    Derrick Williams will forever hold the weight of being a No. 2 pick on his shoulders, but if he can bounce back and have a good second season, the pressure will be lifted, if even just the slightest bit in 2013.

    After being touted as a pick-and-pop player coming into his rookie year, Williams struggled to knock down anything that wasn’t near the basket. Having averaged just 8.8 points per game, his rookie campaign was a disappointment, but if he improves his jump shot soon, fans will forget all about it on their way to the postseason.

    Williams is the true definition of a tweener, as he doesn’t possess the ball-handling skills to be a small forward, but his height prevents him from excelling at the 4-spot.

    Nikola Pekovic is another candidate on this list with Kevin Love injured early, but Williams has the potential to be a great athlete in this league, and he has a chance to step up right away with Michael Beasley gone from the lineup.

Glen Davis

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    Glen Davis had an average season for the most part in 2012, but it was his success toward the end of the year that gives fans hope moving forward.

    Davis finished the year averaging 16.4 points and 8.8 rebounds in the month of April, but it was his averages in the postseason (19 PTS, 9.2 REB, 1.2 BLK) that really stood out.

    At just 6’9”, Davis relies on the mid-range jumper far more than his abilities indicate he should, but when counted upon to carry the Orlando Magic into the playoffs, he stepped up when it mattered most.

    Davis will either improve drastically following the departure of center Dwight Howard, or he will disappoint hugely following his unexpected finish to the 2011-12 season.

    If he can carry his success into the new year, he’ll help ease the transition of a new roster in Orlando. If he can’t, his accomplishments will be short-lived, and the team will be looking for hope elsewhere in 2013.

Michael Beasley

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    Michael Beasley may not be considered a “big man” in the traditional sense, but the 6’10” forward has a chance to make a new name for himself with the Phoenix Suns.

    Decision-making has been one of Beasley’s biggest problems four years into his career, but with a fast-paced team that likes to shoot the ball, he’ll likely be given more freedom to be what he is truly is—a big small forward.

    If Beasley can’t succeed in Phoenix’s offense, he probably won’t find success anywhere; but his shot is solid, and his first step is quick, meaning he should blend in nicely.

    Beasley improved defensively in 2012, but he is still nothing to celebrate on that end of the floor. Luckily for him, he won’t need defense to excel in Phoenix, and if he can establish himself early in the year, he has the chance to become a No. 1 option on a rebuilding Suns roster.  

J.J. Hickson

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    J.J. Hickson disappointed fans in Sacramento in 2012, which made it so surprising when he showed flashes of brilliance after being picked up by the Portland Trail Blazers.

    Hickson went from averaging five points and 5.2 rebounds before the All-Star game to averaging 14.8 points and 9.2 rebounds in the final month of the regular season.

    The four-year player is a very good rebounder and can finish above the rim on a regular basis, but defensively, he struggles stopping bigger opponents.

    Starting at center this year will be an enormous task for the 6’9” forward, but a fast-paced offense in Portland should allow the big man to use his athleticism adequately.

    Hickson signed a one-year deal with the Blazers in the offseason, so he’ll be playing for a contract in 2013.

Roy Hibbert

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    Roy Hibbert began to show what he can do late in the 2011-12 season, but considering his tremendous size and versatile skill set, you have to believe he’s yet to truly reach his full potential.

    Stats of 12.8 points and 8.8 rebounds (in 2012) are respectable numbers for today’s center, but at 7’2”, 280 pounds, there’s no reason the big man can’t bump those numbers higher in 2013.

    A 19-point, 18-rebound, five-block performance against the Heat in the 2012 postseason proves that he has it in him, but it seemingly starts with his mindset and how aggressive he’s willing to be on a regular basis.

    The 25-year-old has improved his ability to avoid fouls as of late, which makes him a huge weapon on the defensive side of the court.

    Hibbert is now an All-Star center, and if he can continue to add to his low-post game without losing the hook shot or mid-range jumper, he’ll become one of the more unstoppable big men in the entire NBA.