Young NBA Ballers Ready to Break Out Next Season

Maxwell Ogden@MaxwellOgdenCorrespondent IIIApril 24, 2013

Young NBA Ballers Ready to Break Out Next Season

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    With the 2012-13 NBA regular season behind us and the playoffs officially underway, there are 30 teams instantaneously evaluating their future. From contenders with young stars on the rise to teams on the outside looking in with players beginning to reach their potential, we've seen it all in 2012-13.

    The question is, which young ballers are ready to carry that success into the 2013-14 season as they break out into stardom?

    There are familiar faces that have gone under-appreciated and not-so-known names that have produced while remaining under the radar. There are also players whose output is not properly measured by basic statistics or advanced metrics.

    So who will the young stars of 2013-14 be?

Honorable Mention

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    Eric Bledsoe, Los Angeles Clippers

    Los Angeles Clippers reserve point guard Eric Bledsoe has become every NBA pundit's favorite rising star. From his explosive athleticism to his lockdown defense, there aren't many areas of Bledsoe's game for detractors to target.

    The question is, will Vinny Del Negro actually grant Bledsoe with the playing time he deserves? As likely as it may be, there are no signs that VDN will give him starters minutes.

    Keep in mind, Bledsoe averaged 5.1 less minutes after the All-Star break than before it.

    For that reason, the "Honorable Mention" tag is fitting, as playing time is too much of an X-factor to make a definitive evaluation—a sad, but honest, truth.


    Lance Stephenson, Indiana Pacers

    The Indiana Pacers are an elite defensive team with All-Stars in Paul George, David West and Roy Hibbert. They also have a dynamic point guard in George Hill and are quietly receiving contributions from Lance Stephenson.

    It's not about the numbers with Stephenson, as the 22-year-old is more inclined to apply elite defensive pressure. With the ball in his hands, however, he can attack off the bounce and finish in traffic.

    A true breakout season could be one year away, but Stephenson is a player worth watching.


    Derrick Williams, Minnesota Timberwolves

    Derrick Williams finally began to quiet the critics in 2012-13, averaging 15.0 points and 6.3 rebounds after the All-Star break. With that being said, Williams was also playing in the absence of star power forward Kevin Love.

    Assuming Love returns to full health, we can't help but ask what that means for Williams' future.

    It's clear that Williams can play at the NBA level, but playing time is just as important as ability. If Williams is forced to play out of position or in a manner not fitting to his style or approach, his numbers could suffer.

    For that reason, a breakout season is difficult to predict when playing time is so uncertain.

Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls

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    Position: Shooting Guard

    Age: 23

    Experience: Two Seasons

    2012-13 Season Averages

    15.26 PER, 26.0 MPG, 8.6 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.0 SPG, 38.1% 3PT


    If there's anything you need to know about Chicago Bulls shooting guard Jimmy Butler, it's that he lacks any definitive weaknesses. Since his time with the Marquette Golden Eagles, Butler has been a well-rounded player that can shoulder the load on both ends of the floor.

    In 2012-13, Butler proved that.

    In 20 games as a starter, Butler posted averages of 14.5 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.8 steals per game on a slash line of .457/.458/.776. In that time, Butler was often tasked with defending elite shooting guards and even played in pinch defensive situations against anyone from the 1 to the 4.

    As previously stated, Butler oozes versatility.

    In 2013-14, his numbers will likely be capped by the fact that Derrick Rose will return to the starting lineup. With that being said, head coach Tom Thibodeau trusts Butler as a defender and Rose needs a catch-and-shoot weapon.

    With Butler shooting 47.5 percent after the All-Star break, the Bulls appear to have found their 2 of the future.

DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors

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    Position: Shooting Guard

    Age: 23

    Experience: Four Seasons

    2012-13 Season Averages

    14.81 PER, 18.1 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 2.5 APG, 0.9 SPG

    No individual has benefited from the acquisition of Rudy Gay quite like shooting guard DeMar DeRozan. In 2012-13, DeRozan posted career-best numbers in scoring, rebounding, assists, field-goal percentage, three-point field-goal percentage and free-throw percentage.

    After the All-Star break, DeRozan elevated his play to an All-Star-caliber level.

    DeRozan averaged 19.1 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists on 46.4 percent shooting from the field. In that time, he improved his jump shooting and helped lead the Raptors to a respectable record of 13-16 since the All-Star break.

    Expect him to build upon that success in 2013-14 and make the leap to stardom.

    With Gay commanding attention, DeRozan has finally found lanes in the opposing defenses to penetrate and attack. As a world class finisher in the lane, the former USC Trojan has finally found the perimeter partner necessary to maximize his abilities.

    As long as his jump shot continues to improve, DeRozan could be in line for an All-Star bid in 2013-14.

Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons

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    Position: Center

    Age: 19

    Experience: One Season

    2012-13 Season Averages

    21.69 PER, 20.7 MPG, 7.9 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 1.6 BPG, 1.0 SPG


    Diehard NBA fans are well aware of the fact that Andre Drummond of the Detroit Pistons played at an All-Star-caliber level in disturbingly limited playing time. The average fan, however, is likely to view Drummond as a rookie whose season averages are what matter most.

    When you're averaging 13.7 points, 13.2 rebounds, 2.8 blocks and 1.7 steals per 36 minutes, you're looking pretty good.

    Despite averaging just 20.7 minutes per game, Drummond tallied nine double-doubles and topped double-figure rebounds in 20 of his 60 appearances. This displays just how high Drummond's upside truly is, as the 270-pound big man is much more than just dazzling athleticism.

    As long as he receives starter's minutes in 2013-14, Drummond should complement Greg Monroe as a nightly double-double threat and a defensive anchor.

Derrick Favors, Utah Jazz

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    Position: Power Forward

    Age: 21

    Experience: Three Seasons

    2012-13 Season Averages

    17.57 PER, 23.2 MPG, 9.4 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.7 BPG, 0.9 SPG


    The Utah Jazz are in a very interesting predicament, as both Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are pending free agents. Although their level of ability suggests that the Jazz will do all they can to re-sign the duo, they possess two top five draft choices in Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter.

    Expect Favors to enter the starting lineup next season and shine while there.

    Favors may have just completed his third season in the NBA, but he's still just 21 years old. This is most significant when evaluating the fact that he averaged 9.4 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in just 23.2 minutes per game.

    Since the All-Star break, those numbers are up to 9.6 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.1 blocks in 25.4 minutes of action.

    In games in which Favors played at least 30 minutes, he averaged 12.7 points, 11.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks. For a 21-year-old big man, those are the type of numbers that suggest Favors has the upside to be a star.

    Expect him to begin that leap to elite in 2013-14.

Maurice Harkless, Orlando Magic

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    Position: Guard/Forward

    Age: 19

    Experience: One Season

    2012-13 Season Averages

    12.54 PER, 26.0 MPG, 8.2 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 0.8 BPG


    I'll be the first to admit that I questioned Maurice Harkless' decision to leave St. John's and declare for the 2012 NBA draft. I'll also be the first acknowledge how surprised I was to see Harkless break out during the second half of the season.

    If we're talking about All-Rookie team selections, Harkless should be at the top of the list.

    After the All-Star break, Harkless posted averages of 13.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game. During 16 games in March, Harkless posted nearly identical numbers while shooting 39.6 percent from beyond the arc.

    That includes a 25-point, nine-rebound, four-block and four-steal performance against Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

    Although Harkless struggled to piece together these brilliant performances on a consistent basis, they happened often enough to prove he is legitimate. During his second year in the NBA, we can expect to see Harkless average upwards of 15 points, five rebounds and 1.5 steals.

    Did we mention that Harkless is only 19?

Tobias Harris, Orlando Magic

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    Position: Small Forward

    Age: 20

    Experience: Two Seasons

    2012-13 Season Averages

    16.05 PER, 23.6 MPG, 11.0 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.8 BPG


    Tobias Harris posted season averages that suggest he's on the path to being a quality role player. After being traded from the Milwaukee Bucks to the Orlando Magic, however, Harris posted numbers that suggest he's on the road to stardom.

    As a member of the Magic, Harris averaged 17.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.4 blocks and 0.9 steals per game.

    Harris has proven to be more than just a big body with intriguing athleticism. Upon being granted starter's minutes, Harris thrived at both small and power forward, crashing the glass and scoring at elite level's by today's standards.

    There are no signs of his slowing up, as Harris averaged 19.8 points and 9.8 rebounds during the month of April.

    Not only has Harris found his niche with the Magic, but he's performing at a star-caliber level at the age of 20. Although his time with Milwaukee might suggest this could be a fluke, Harris is improving over time, not slowing down.

    This young man is a legitimate star in the making.

Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs

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    Position: Small Forward

    Age: 21

    Experience: Two Seasons

    2012-13 Season Averages

    16.46 PER, 11.9 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.7 SPG


    The San Antonio Spurs are one of the most well-run organizations in all of professional sports. Not only have the Spurs built around superstars in Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, but they have limitless depth and promising youth.

    No individual embodies the second statement quite like small forward Kawhi Leonard.

    Leonard is a tantalizing athlete with a massive wingspan and an uncanny ability to crash the boards. After the All-Star break, Leonard put those abilities on full display as he averaged 14.0 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.4 steals per game.

    As Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan continue to age, expect Leonard to receive more of the offensive duties.

    Leonard converted 37.4 percent from beyond the arc and is a primary beneficiary of Parker's elite facilitating abilities. Paired with dominant on-ball defense, Leonard has all of the tools necessary to be the next great wing player in San Antonio.

    At 21, Leonard's prime is still a long way's away—a very scary thought.

Chandler Parsons, Houston Rockets

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    Position: Small Forward

    Age: 24

    Experience: Two Seasons

    2012-13 Season Averages

    15.33 PER, 15.5 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.0 SPG, 38.5% 3PT


    For those unfamiliar with the Houston Rockets, the most common perception is that James Harden is surrounded by dull role players. Although Omer Asik may rebound at a high rate, the average fan believes it's Harden, Jeremy Lin and a bunch of no-name non-factors.

    Au contraire.

    Chandler Parsons is one of the most well-rounded small forwards in the NBA, regardless of his age or experience. Not only can Parsons shoot at a high clip, but he can attack off of the bounce and make accurate passes.

    If that's not enough, Parsons has supreme size, rebounds well and defends at a high level.

    Since the All-Star break, Parsons is averaging 18.0 points on a slash line of .517/.439/.740. That displays just how far he's come as an offensive player, specifically when the Rockets task him with defending the opposition's best scorer.

    Parsons' numbers could take a hit depending on what Houston does in free agency, but there's no reason to believe he won't continue developing into one of the NBA's top small forwards.

Jeff Teague, Atlanta Hawks

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    Position: Point Guard

    Age: 24

    Experience: Four Seasons

    2012-13 Season Averages

    16.82 PER, 14.6 PPG, 7.2 APG, 2.3 RPG, 1.5 SPG


    No matter what the statistics may tell you, Jeff Teague has made the leap to elite in terms of facilitating. While his average of 7.2 assists is impressive, it's the fact that the Hawks ranked second in the league in assists per game.

    The X-factor here is that Josh Smith steals touches from Teague, thus capping the numbers he produces individually.

    Beyond the averages, Teague has become one of the most complete point guards in the NBA today. Not only has he improved his outside shooting and distribution abilities, but Teague is one of the better on-ball defenders, as well.

    Possessing tantalizing athleticism and an undeniable knack for finding the ball is a major reason why.

    Moving forward, the Hawks could be without Josh Smith, as he prepares to enter free agency. With that being said, their postseason dreams are from linked to his presence, and the tandem of Teague and Al Horford should produce surprisingly successful results.

    It'll be for Teague to make an All-Star squad in such a deep conference, but he should put up All-Star caliber numbers and be in the running for the Most Improved Player of the Year award.

Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Position: Power Forward

    Age: 22

    Experience: Two Seasons

    2012-13 Season Averages

    16.12 PER, 11.7 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.9 BPG


    Tristan Thompson is the type of player who gets better with every game he plays. From his improving low-post game to his reasonable development in his face-up attack, Thompson has made significant strides since his rookie season.

    In turn, he's coming off of a sophomore campaign in which he ranked fourth in the NBA in offensive rebounds per game.

    The key for Thompson in 2013-14 will be to create points off of more than just those hustle plays and rebounds. For instance, he must improve his pick-and-roll dive and finish better with his off hand while around the basket.

    Fortunately, he improved in every area I just acknowledged throughout the course of the 2012-13 regular season.

    Since the All-Star Break, Thompson averaged 12.1 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. This helped Thompson accumulate 31 double-doubles, which ranked 16th amongst all NBA players.

    A breakout is on the horizon, folks.

John Wall, Washington Wizards*

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    Position: Position

    Age: 22

    Experience: Three seasons

    2012-13 Season Averages

    20.91 PER, 18.5 PPG, 7.6 APG, 4.0 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 0.8 BPG


    There is a strong majority of people that believe that John Wall does not classify as either a star or superstar. Those people classify as one of three things.

    They're either out of their minds, have never watched him play on a consistent basis or still hate his rise to stardom while attending the University of Kentucky.

    In that same breath, there are people who will view his inclusion and claim that he's already "broken out." Unfortunately, playing for a team of the Washington Wizards' national popularity leaves Wall without the necessary attention.

    Despite posting elite numbers, Wall is in the same situation as the others on this list.

    Since the 2013 NBA All-Star break, Wall is averaging 20.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.5 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 0.8 blocks per game. As for those who believe that Wall is simply putting up meaningless numbers to fill his stat sheet, think again.

    Without Wall, the Wizards were 5-28—with him, Washington went 24-25.

    When you go from top pick contention to postseason contention with the return of one player, it's a testament to that individual's value. It's also a sign that Wall's elite two-way production is worthy of the hype it never receives.

    Wall is a full season of health away from superstardom—expect him to make that leap in 2013-14.