NBA Players with the Biggest Breakout Potential During 2013-14 Season
The 2013-14 NBA season already contains hype with a handful of teams poised for a championship run, but there could also be some developing story lines due to players displaying a breakout season.
Which figures have the biggest breakout potential for the upcoming campaign?
In 2012-13, Jrue Holiday, Paul George and Omer Asik were a few names whose careers witnessed a significant ascent. Such individuals have cemented themselves into the NBA world for years to come.
Which players will replicate this dynamic in 2013-14?
This slideshow analyzes the top breakout candidates. These individuals are entering the season with a major opportunity to make a name for themselves.
JaVale McGee, Denver Nuggets
JaVale McGee has embraced a couple different reputations in his five-year NBA tenure. First of all, he's known for his growing list of bloopers, and secondly, he's regarded as a physical specimen whose potential is through the roof.
McGee has raised eyebrows the past few seasons with some stellar production. Consider his per-36 numbers from 2012-13, per Basketball-Reference:
|FG %||FT %||RPG||BPG||PPG|
These are All-Star caliber digits, so why did McGee only log 18.1 minutes per game in the Denver Nuggets' rotation last year? There are surely reasons behind this, especially since his coach was George Karl, the 2012-13 Coach of the Year.
While McGee's athleticism enables him to contribute in unique ways, his lack of consistency, focus and intellect strain his influence on a game. This is evident by the fact that Denver outscored the opponent by 6.6 points per-48 minutes when he was off the floor, according to NBA.com/Stats. When he was on the floor, the Nuggets were outscored by 2.2 points.
Furthermore, his defensive rating has always been a concern. He may tally an exorbitant amount of blocks, but his defensive positioning and overall discipline pose problems.
Granted, the Nuggets and his previous team, the Washington Wizards, are subpar defensive clubs, but he still found himself with one of the worst defensive ratings on Denver's roster in 2012-13 (1.08), according to 82games.com. This was also the case in 2011-12, when he played for both the Wizards (1.10) and Nuggets (1.10).
This analysis reveals that McGee's approach needs some fine-tuning. Denver's new coach, Brian Shaw, should eye McGee as one of his priorities. If he has a breakout year, he could not only become one of the league's marquee centers, but he could also help Denver prove they're true contenders in the deep Western Conference.
This process begins with his focus and understanding of the game. If these areas don't mature, then he could remain a quality weapon off the bench but by no means a reliable starter on the verge of superstardom. His hefty contract is certainly anticipating that the latter will unfold, and at 25 years old, the time for this is now.
Enes Kanter, Utah Jazz
Enes Kanter has been under the radar during his first couple NBA seasons with the Utah Jazz. He has served as the backup to Al Jefferson. Now that Jefferson has departed (now a member of the Charlotte Bobcats), Kanter's opportunity to shine has arrived.
We should expect big things from him. I mean, really big things.
Check out Kanter's per-36 figures from 2012-13, per Basketball-Reference:
|FG %||FT %||RPG||BPG||PPG|
Impressive, to say the least. His free-throw percentage is especially eye-opening, particularly for a 6'11'', 262-pound brute.
What's more, Kanter's promise extends beyond this. He possessed the highest defensive rating on the Jazz last season, and he was second on the squad in plus/minus (plus-114), according to 82games.com.
His defensive tenacity is all the more amplified when considering his opponent counterpart's 48-minute production, per 82games.com: 15.9 points per game, 11.9 rebounds per game, 45.6 percent from the field and a PER of 11.6. Compare these to his 48-minute production: 22.6 PPG, 13.5 RPG, 54.6 percent from the field and a PER of 18.3.
Needless to say, Kanter typically gets the best of his counterpart.
This highlights how well-rounded Kanter's game is, and at only 21 years old, it's scary to think of how good he could be in a few years. He could legitimately be the game's best center in time.
In 2013-14, anticipate a breakout campaign from Utah's blossoming big man. The young trio of Kanter, Derrick Favors and rookie point guard Trey Burke create a bright future. Making the playoffs could be a stretch, but they should bestow plenty of hope regarding their future outlook.
Kanter should be at the core of this, raising eyebrows across the NBA spectrum.
Jeff Green, Boston Celtics
Jeff Green is now 27 years old, so it may seemingly be late for a breakout year. However, the heart condition that caused him to miss 2011-12 stunted his trajectory. It delayed his career's ascension towards an All-Star level.
With these three individuals now gone (now members of the Brooklyn Nets), Green suddenly becomes a primary option in Boston's offensive attack. New coach Brad Stevens should heavily utilize Rajon Rondo and Green. This could lead to a monster year for Green, in which he fills the stat sheet on a consistent basis.
Despite being surrounded by the aforementioned veterans in 2012-13, Green still compiled per-36 numbers (via Basketball-Reference) as follows: 16.6 PPG, 5.1 RPG and 1.1 blocks per game.
Can you imagine what such statistics will look like once he's playing 36 or so minutes a game and is also a featured part of their strategy? His line could look something like this: 21 PPG, 7 RPG and 1-plus BPG.
This type of production coupled with the versatility he brings defensively (he can guard practically any position) could easily warrant him a trip to the All-Star game.
This could be the year where everything falls into place perfectly for Green. A breakout 2013-14 is most likely on the horizon.
Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix Suns
One thing is for sure: Eric Bledsoe is a wise fantasy hoops choice for 2013-14. Examine his 2012-13 per-36 minute production via Basketball Reference:
|FG %||FT %||RPG||APG||SPG||BPG||PPG|
His numbers are effective across the board, and this sheds some clarity on why his new teammate, Goran Dragic, recently referred to him as a "mini-LeBron James".
As a member of the Los Angeles Clippers in his first few seasons, he was by no means a focal point offensively. Playing with the second unit last year, he often shared the floor with playmaker and trigger-happy guard Jamal Crawford. While Crawford had a decent campaign, his presence limited Bledsoe's offensive output.
Now with the Phoenix Suns, Bledsoe should have much more flexibility as a starter in the backcourt. This could result in some eye-popping statistics for Bledsoe. Some reasonable projections are: 16.8 PPG, 6.1 assists per game, 5.2 RPG, 2.2 steals per game and 1.2 BPG.
The Suns will almost surely be horrible (they should likely be in the running for phenom Andrew Wiggins), but Bledsoe should be their redeemable story. 2013-14 should mark a major progression in the 23-year-old's career.
Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls
Unlike the previous players listed in this slideshow, Jimmy Butler's per-36 minute production from 2012-13 is nothing special (via Basketball-Reference): 11.9 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.9 assists per game and 1.3 steals per game.
Therefore, why is he a prime candidate for a breakout season?
Butler is one of those players for whom the stat sheet can be misleading. His influence on a game requires us to look under the radar at what he brings.
Perhaps the most valuable statistic related to Butler is this (per 82games.com): 7.0 PER. This is the production of his shooting guard counterpart per-48 minutes. This equals 14.8 PPG and 3.5 APG. Remember, this is over a full 48 minutes.
Butler is a defensive stalwart. There's no room to debate that.
The reason Butler's listed here extends beyond his defensive capabilities, though. Prior to the All-Star break in 2012-13, Butler's three-point percentage was an unimpressive 25.0-percent, according to NBA.com/Stats. Post All-Star break, his three-point rate was 47.5-percent.
His offensive arsenal developed on the fast track during the season's latter stages. This continued into the playoffs, where he averaged 13.3 PPG and possessed a three-point tally over 40-percent.
It's evident that Butler's offensive abilities are budding at a convincing pace. This unveils that the Bulls now have a potent two-guard as Derrick Rose's complement, something they've undoubtedly lacked in years past.
If Butler continues his elite defensive play while also proving that his offensive surge was no fluke, then he may not only have a breakout 2013-14, he could likely be the catalyst that vaults the Bulls to the top of the Eastern Conference.
Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto Raptors
Jonas Valanciunas, whose name is about as annoying to spell as Wally Szczerbiak, sparked some intrigue for the Toronto Raptors last spring.
In April, Valanciunas comprised averages of 14.9 PPG, 5.9 RPG and 2.4 BPG while also posting outstanding percentages: 55.8-percent from the field and 85.2-percent from the free-throw line.
Building off this momentum, and now inheriting a prominent spot in the frontcourt after Andrea Bargnani's farewell (now with the New York Knicks), Valanciunas should not merely show flashes of adept play in 2013-14, he should break out in distinct fashion.
One number that is concerning from last April is his low rebounding mark. Coincidentally, this is quite "Bargnani-like." Bargnani spent seven seasons with the Raptors, and his highest rebounding average was 6.2. Standing at 7'0'', this type of deficient work on the boards is mind-boggling.
Will the 6'11'' Valanciunas follow in Bargnani's footsteps in this regard? It's doubtful.
While his April rebounding rate was worrisome, his per-36 average over the course of the year was 9.0, per Basketball-Reference. Raptors fans can take a deep breath. The 21-year-old Valanciunas is more complete than Bargnani (in terms of rebounding as well as shooting percentage), leading to a more promising upside.
His potential should be realized in the 2013-14 season. A stat line as follows is plausible: 16.5 PPG, 8.5 RPG and 2.0 BPG. Throw in some premier percentages for a big man, and Toronto's young Lithuanian could quickly become one of the better centers in the Eastern Conference.
Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
Andre Drummond is imposing, standing at 6'10'' and weighing in at 270 pounds. It's crazy to think that this man just turned 20 years old last month.
His physical presence gives him remarkable promise for the years to come, and we shouldn't be surprised if his dominance on the inside takes off during 2013-14.
Drummond already pieced together notable numbers as a rookie in 2012-13. Here are his per-36 figures, according to Basketball-Reference:
|FG %||FT %||RPG||BPG||PPG|
In case you're wondering about the free-throw percentage...no, that is not a typo. Yikes, that's really all that can be said.
But, this shouldn't cause us to overlook the numerous positives here. His activity on the boards alone gives him great value. He also is a force in the lane in terms of rejections, and his scoring output proclaims that he is by no means inept offensively.
He should receive regular minutes in 2013-14, and this could lead to him ranking near the top of the league in RPG. It's quite likely that he'll average a double-double and solidify himself as one of the Association's best young big men.
There are certainly layers to Drummond's game that need refinement. The free-throw percentage is obvious, and he also must make some strides defensively. His opponent counterpart's PER was 22.1, per 82games.com.
With that said, the undeniable assets in his attack should instill hope in Detroit fans. Drummond is a young stud, and this should be decidedly apparent in the upcoming year.