Looking to make the jump from elite rookies to super sophomores, the 2011 NBA draft class is loaded with skill and talent.
The progression between Year 1 and Year 2 could have some bottom feeders in the playoffs come April. From Kyrie Irving to Kenneth Faried, the potential for long-term success is salient in this class.
Could Klay Thompson be the savior for the Golden State Warriors? Is Kawhi Leonard the next dominant player for the San Antonio Spurs?
Looking forward, there could be multiple second year players in the All-Star game this season. Here are eight sophomores who will break out in 2012-13.
Heading into his second season, Thompson looks ready to be the second banana to Irving, and comprise a nice inside-outside combination for the Cavs.
Thompson’s numbers were never especially prolific last season, but he did start to put the pieces together down the stretch. In April, he enjoyed his best month of the season, averaging 9.4 PPG and 7.4 RPG.
More in his comfort zone this season, the big man could shine for the Cavs in 2012-13.
Coming off of a strong rookie campaign in which he demonstrated his inside-outside prowess, Parsons looks to be a capable rotation player on Kevin McHale’s squad.
While Parsons is by no means the centerpiece of this Rockets’ team, he will have ample playing time to progress and develop on a scrappy Houston squad.
A team desperately looking for a franchise player, the Detroit Pistons are hoping that Brandon Knight will make a giant leap in his sophomore season.
Knight displayed a complete game of playmaking, scoring and rebounding last season and served as a compelling complement to Rodney Stuckey in the backcourt.
He certainly has some deficiencies, however.
If Knight is to turn into an elite guard, then he will need to tighten up his subpar 41.5 field-goal percentage. Some of his decision making has been suspect as well, but that should change with more experience.
The Pistons have a lot of young talent on their roster. Precocious play from Knight could turn them into an up-and-coming squad in the Eastern Conference.
Coming off a solid outing against the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the NBA playoffs, Kenneth Faried looks poised for a breakout season on the Denver Nuggets.
The Manimal does it all for the Nuggets, contributing to the team-first mentality that George Karl has instilled in his young roster. With aspirations to play like Dennis Rodman, Faried is the perfect candidate to do the dirty work for Denver.
Every team needs someone to grind on every possession, and the Manimal appears to be that player for the Nuggets.
Until Ricky Rubio went down with an ACL injury in March, he looked like a viable contender for the Rookie of the Year Award.
Rubio’s brilliant court vision and excellent decision making proved lethal on offense for the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Spanish guard is a maestro with the rock, putting up 8.2 APG last season, nearly three more dimes per contest than his closest rookie competitor.
As Rubio recovers from injury, the timetable for his return is still up in the air. With a superb second outing, he and Kevin Love could turn into a potent one-two punch for years to come.
With the smoothest stroke in the Bay Area, Klay Thompson looks ready to break out this season.
After leading all rookies in three-point field goal percentage at 41.4 percent last season, Thompson will keep the threes raining down in Oracle Arena this season.
The sharpshooter really found his mojo once the Dubs shipped the ball-dominating Monta Ellis to the Milwaukee Bucks. In April, Thompson was averaging 18.6 PPG on 45.9 percent shooting.
On a young Dubs squad, Thompson has the opportunity to find his game and help forge a new team identity for the Golden State Warriors. The Washington State product is just 22 years old and could turn into the franchise player that the Warriors have so long sought.
Kawhi Leonard already looks like a veteran playing in Gregg Popovich’s complex system on an experienced San Antonio Spurs team.
The lanky forward routinely knocked down open corner three-pointers in the playoffs against the Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder last postseason.
With more opportunities on offense and defense, Leonard could be the next great young gun to don the silver and black. It would not be shocking in the least bit to see Leonard bring home the Most Improved Player of the Year Award in 2012-13.
The 2011-12 Rookie of the Year and unanimous All-Rookie first team guard, Kyrie Irving looks to be the most talented and gifted player of the 2011 draft class.
Irving has all the skills to become a star for the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Duke guard led all rookies in scoring last season at 18.5 PPG. He was an above-average rebounder and a willing distributor.
Perhaps his best qualities were his poise and confidence.
Irving was the Cavs’ go-to player down the stretch, and had the confidence to take and make the last shot. His game winner in the hostile Boston Garden was something of a coming-out party.
Despite the lingering aftermath of the infamous Decision, the future looks to be bright in Cleveland once again.