Young NBA Studs Guaranteed to Have a Full-Fledged Breakout Next Season
Every year we come across a couple of young NBA studs who finally get their opportunity. Some of them you can see coming miles away. Others break out without warning.
Whether it's because of a new team, roster changes or it's just that time, these are the players you can expect to hear more from in 2013-14.
Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls
With Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich on the shelf for the playoffs, Jimmy Butler is getting some valuable burn and experience.
Breakouts typically occur around a player's third year in the league. It took Butler a year to get comfortable and another to adjust and improve. Next year is the one where Butler really emerges as a can't-miss NBA wing.
During his adjustment year this season, Butler built up his three-point percentage to an excellent 38.1 percent. He's also a capable shot-creator and -maker in the mid-range, where he'll continue to gain comfort and confidence with the increased reps.
We already knew he's an effective slasher and perimeter defender based on his 6'7'' size and fluid athleticism. Next year is the one where he puts it all together and raises his scoring average into the mid-teens.
Eric Bledsoe, Los Angeles Clippers
Even Chris Paul acknowledged that the Clippers won't have the bills to bring back Eric Bledsoe when he eventually becomes a free agent next summer.
Bledsoe got just 20 minutes a game in the regular season and 16 minutes a game in the playoffs this year. There's likely to be teams out there courting Bledsoe on the trade market that believe he's capable of becoming their new starting point guard.
He finished 2012-13 with an impressive 17.6 PER, making 39.7 percent of his three-point attempts and averaging 3.1 assists in limited action. Showing he can run a half-court set as a facilitator will allow him to become a more complete point guard.
Given Bledsoe's explosive athleticism, speed and hops, he's going to do all sorts of damage now that his game has come around and an opportunity likely awaits.
Enes Kanter, Utah Jazz
You have to assume that the Utah Jazz will lose at least one of its prized big men (either Al Jefferson or Paul Millsap) if not both, to free agency.
They can afford this because of the talent they have seasoning deep on their bench. Enes Kanter only got 15 minutes a game in his second year, but he produced nearly every chance he got.
In one game the Jazz were forced to play without Jefferson or Millsap, Kanter got 44 minutes and went for 23 points and 22 rebounds on 10-of-12 from the floor.
Only two other times all year did Kanter gets 30 minutes of action, finishing with 18 and eight in one and 18 and 10 in the other.
Kanter is a beast physically with a good nose for the ball. He's got a great feel around the rim and understands how to use his body to create higher percentage looks inside.
Next year will be Kanter's third, and Utah would be silly not to expand his role. With the likelihood that they lose either Jefferson, Millsap or both, chances are 2013-14 is the season that Kanter breaks out.
Tobias Harris, Orlando Magic
Tobias Harris was sent to the Orlando Magic at the trade deadline, which is a move that's likely to jump-start his career.
Harris averaged 16 points and 8.3 boards in the month of March and nearly 20 and 10 in April. It was as if the Magic removed his straightjacket on the offensive end. Harris had a couple of superstar performances late in the year, including a 30-point, 19-rebound, five-assist game in a win over his old team in Milwaukee.
Harris defines the term combo forward thanks to his skill set as a wing and strength on the interior. He'll need to get that three-point percentage above the 31 percent mark, but all signs point toward his accuracy improving.
Given his versatility, high basketball IQ and on-court maturity, he possesses all the intangibles needed to take the next step. We've seen the talent in place over the past two months of the season. Expect Orlando to feature Harris as the team's top offensive weapon in 2013-14.
Jeff Green, Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics were initially ridiculed for giving Jeff Green a four-year, $36 million deal. The contract doesn't look so bad anymore, after Green's gradual improvement over the course of the year.
Green averaged 15 points on 51 percent in February, 17 points on 48 percent in March, 17 points on 49 percent in April, and 20 points in six playoffs games. He's proven to be a difficult mismatch considering his size and mobility for a wing. Green can knock down shots from behind the arc, attack and finish at the rim, or score on the move with touch.
It's possible Boston's lineup will be without Paul Pierce next season, which would really open up even more scoring opportunities for Green.
Green will need to improve as a rebounder, but otherwise, he took a big step offensively in his fifth year in the league. With more trust and probable freedom given to him from Boston's coaching staff, expect Green to have a full-blown breakout in 2013-14.
Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers
After reaching for him fourth overall in 2011, the Cleveland Cavaliers likely had Tristan Thompson on a three-year development plan. That would make the 2013-14 season the final stage.
Thompson averaged 11.7 points and 9.4 rebounds on 48.8 percent shooting in Year 2. He's an excellent finisher around the basket thanks to his athleticism and massive wingspan, which also makes him a consistent factor on the glass.
The areas he'll need to improve in are linked, as he's not much of a face-up or jump-shooting threat and only converts 60.8 percent of his free throws.
But Thompson showed flashes of excellent low-post play. He averaged 15 points and nearly 11 boards in 14 games during February and finished the year strong with averages of 13.7 points and 10.8 boards in April.
Offensive consistency will be the name of the game moving forward, but Thompson looks poised for his big breakout.