NBA 2010-11: 10 Young Players Poised For A Breakout Season
Year after year, whether it be a trade or circumstance, there are always a handful of promising young talent on the verge of breaking out.
This year is no different.
After the NBA landscape drastically changed this past summer in arguably the biggest free agent class ever, well over a dozen teams are looking to turn their fortunes around.
Instead of splashy free agent signings, most teams will turn to the young players already on their team to lead them into a new era.
After being passed up on in favor of Danilo Gallinari during the 2008 draft, this versatile wing still somehow managed to find himself under the bright Broadway lights. Proof that he was destined to don the Knicks uniform.
This freakishly athletic forward has wallowed in Don Nelson's doghouse for the past two years. Now that he's free to run rampant in Mike D'Antoni's fast paced system, there's nowhere to go, but up.
Anthony is a blossoming young talent with near unlimited potential. Having all the tools to excel in New York, he will undoubtedly play a major role in the Knicks bid for a playoff berth.
Able to guard nearly any position on the floor, he will become a nightmare for opposing teams. His 7'3" wingspan, coupled with his propensity for swatting away shots, will parlay into plenty of minutes as Mike D'Antoni leans on him for his defensive prowess.
No slouch on offense, PG Raymond Felton must be licking his chops in anticipation of lobbing alley-oops to him. With a standing reach of 9'1" and a 35" vertical—a combination rarely, if ever, heard of—his athleticism is off the charts. He may very well fill the role Shawn Marion enjoyed while playing under D'Antoni—a period in which Marion was selected to four All-Star teams.
With a developing mid-range jumper, a soft touch around the rim and strong ball handling skills, his dazzling offensive repertoire will only soon begin to flourish. Having played under a similar system while with the Warriors, his game should quickly adapt to the "seven seconds or less" mentality.
Mark my words, he is a budding superstar in the making.
After a stellar rookie season, Eric hit what many consider to be a sophomore slump. His numbers more or less mirrored his first year and he didn't take that next step forward that many were predicting.
With an important bench role on Team USA, Gordon's confidence will shoot through the roof heading into his third year. If you've been paying attention to the FIBA Men's World Championship this summer, you can see that he is a vital cog on the team.
Having his lights out shooting showcased for the entire world to see will only help to raise his profile, which in turn should do wonders for his game.
Eric already has a killer instinct instilled inside of him. He attacks the basket with reckless abandon, but has not yet earned the respect of referees. This has led to less calls and trips to the free throw line. As he is generally not very vocal, this is an area that he needs to address if he wants to move into the upper echelon of guards and be considered a leader.
If his attacking mentality finally translates to his on court performance, he will be one dangerous player to contend with.
The Clippers are in the midst of transitioning into a full on youth movement, with Gordon currently leading the charge. If former number one overall pick, Blake Griffin, makes the impact many are anticipating, Gordon's future will only be brighter.
Already a strong defender, Gordon has all the tools to become a perennial All-Star. While he will most likely have to wait for a certain somebody in purple and gold to retire, he will make a strong case this upcoming season.
As a rookie, Darren was initially expected to sit behind Chris Paul and learn from arguably the best PG in the league. In the wake of Paul's injury, he was quickly given the reigns to a Hornets team struggling to find its identity.
Stepping up to the challenge, Collison excelled in the role and quickly made a name for himself in the NBA. While Tyreke Evans and Brandon Jennings grabbed all the headlines, Darren quietly put himself in contention for Rookie of the Year.
After Paul allegedly demanded a trade this past summer, the Hornets brass quickly got to work in order to quell their unhappy superstar. In a four team trade, Indiana managed to steal Collison away and fill the glaring void at their PG position.
Correction—they blindfolded and robbed the Hornets of the only insurance they had.
Instead of being mired behind Chris Paul, fighting for minutes, Darren is the unquestioned starting PG for the Indiana Pacers.
Not only is he expected to surpass his impressive rookie numbers, he could very well push himself into the conversation of top 10 points guards in the league.
Even with a loaded Warriors backcourt, Curry managed to solidify a starting role during his rookie campaign.
After a slow start to the year, Stephen made his bid for Rookie of the Year during the second half of the season. He out shined nearly all rookies after the All-Star break with jaw dropping numbers.
With new management in place and the erratic coach, Don Nelson, on his way out, Curry is clearly the centerpiece for this Bay Area squad.
Trading away some of the more talented players from the team last year in a deal for forward David Lee, Curry will have free reign to run this team. Having a legitimate low post threat in David Lee should do wonders for his game. If he can master the pick and roll, something David Lee excelled in while with the Knicks, they will form an offensive duo to be reckoned with.
Only trigger happy Monta Ellis and near senile Don Nelson stand in his way to superstardom.
Another member of the Team USA "B-Squad", Love will be getting some major run this upcoming season.
Having shipped out Al Jefferson—a player coach Kurt Rambis purportedly had trouble pairing Kevin with—there will be an overabundance of minutes and touches for the talented young forward on this Minnesota Team.
An absolute beast on the boards, Love has a legitimate shot at dethroning the reigning rebounding king, Dwight Howard.
With a logjam at the point guard position and too many wing players to count, the Timberwolves have questionable depth along the front line. Having only Dark Milicic and Michael Beasley to truly compete with—and I use the word compete lightly—Kevin will be heavily leaned upon to do all the work down low.
Until Rubio decides to come join the fray—or David Kahn realizes that Rubio, among others, don't want to play on the Timberwolves—Love will be their franchise player for the foreseeable future.
After a strong start to the season, Larry O'Brien opted to cut Hibbert's minutes in favor of his veteran big men. Roy's performance suffered as a result of his inconsistent playing time.
With Troy Murphy gone, Hibbert will be the man in the paint for the Pacers. He will have plenty of opportunities to prove himself and you can hedge your bets on him taking full advantage of the opening.
The draft was a curious event, as the Pacers came away with several wing players. With several choice big men available early on, the Pacers opted to gamble on Paul George, a forward in the mold of Danny Granger. If that is not a vote of confidence from the Pacers front office, than I don't know what is.
Having the legendary forward, Larry Bird as your GM, opens many doors for you. In a report by the Indy Star, Bird approached Hibbert with an offer he couldn't refuse—Bill Russell, Bill Walton or Kevin McHale? Who would you like help from as a potential teacher?
Choosing Bill Walton as his mentor, the Big Red graciously accepted Bird's request and took Hibbert under his wing. The already gifted, shot blocking center will enter his third season a changed man, putting a focus on defense.
Admitting to having conditioning issues, which would explain his inconsistent play, Roy has dedicated himself to getting in peak condition for the upcoming season. With the entire gamut of starter's minutes available, only he can keep himself from reaching his full potential.
After a solid, if unspectacular rookie campaign, DeMar heads into his sophomore season with a lot riding on his shoulders.
Losing Chris Bosh to Miami's masterful coup, DeRozan will be looked upon to step forward and fill the void left by Bosh.
On top of the loss of their former leader, the Raptors traded away malcontent, Hedo Turkoglu. They got back a solid starting shooting guard in Leandro Barbosa—giving the coaching staff the opportunity to move DeRozan to his more natural position, small forward.
Another player gifted with first-rate athleticism, he should thrive playing along the wings.
With limited offensive looks, DeMar made the most of his opportunities and efficiently worked to score last year. Now, with a substantial increase in touches set to come his way, expect the young forward to take full advantage.
After a Summer League run in which he led a Raptors squad to an undefeated record, coaches and media members alike praised him for his much improved game. Don't be surprised if he grabs the reigns from Andrea Bargnani and guides this team out of the failed Chris Bosh era.
This French native has played a large role on the Portland Trailblazers for the past two years. Even so, he is a largely unknown commodity, something that should soon change.
On a depleted French National squad, Batum's world class athleticism has been on display with plenty of highlight reel dunks and alley-oops.
Already known for his strong defense, Batum's offense has taken a backseat in his first two years. He is an efficient scorer with good range on his shot and will finally get more opportunities to showcase his skills.
Even though he still needs work on creating his own shot, he fits in perfectly with this Portland team as a knockdown shooter. He won't be called upon to be a playmaker—something the Trailblazers already have in Brandon Roy and Andre Miller—but to play tough defense and hit his shots on the constant kick outs he should expect to receive.
Also, with Andre Miller on the team, expect to see plenty of lob passes—a Miller specialty—go his way.
On limited playing time, Batum has consistently put in all his effort on both ends of the court. Now that the Trailblazers no longer have as much depth along the wings, expect coach Nate McMillan to call on his number on a regular basis.
This young point guard didn't get to start until nearly halfway through his rookie season. Playing on a beleaguered 76ers team, he made the most of his opportunities.
Realizing that Louis Williams was not a true point guard, Coach Jordan switched to Jrue as their playmaker. Even still, the team struggled. However, the team's woes was blamed on Eddie Jordan's "Princeton offense" and rightfully so—Jordan was fired at the end of the season.
The 76ers front office hired well respected and former broadcast announcer, Doug Collins, as their new coach. He should help revitalize this sagging franchise and utilize Jrue to his maximum potential. Doug will be a steady influence, both in and out of the locker room, and should help Holiday's game tremendously.
While Jrue initially had some trouble adjusting to the pace and play of the NBA, he showed marked improvement at the end of the season. With a strong, albeit limited showing at this year's Summer League, Jrue looks prepared for the big stage.
After shipping Samuel Dalembert to the Kings, the starting roster is looking primed for a fast paced offense. Something Jrue should greatly benefit from.
Also, with only Louis Williams nipping at his heels, the lack of true competition for his starting position should help his confidence. Look for big things from this UCLA alum.
Robin Lopez, or perhaps better known as "Sideshow Bob"—with his moppy head of hair—has played in the shadow of his twin brother, Brook Lopez, since joining the league.
Injuries have also more or less derailed his first two years in the NBA. Now that he's healthy, the Suns will heavily rely on him during the upcoming season.
After the Knicks managed to woo Amare Stoudemire, the Suns head into next season with a serious lack of depth along the trenches. Lopez is arguably the only true center on this Phoenix squad and will get substantial playing time.
With Steve Nash still running the show, Lopez will be on the receiving end of pinpoint passes thrown his way. Lopez has shown a lot of potential running the pick and roll with Nash—a staple of Phoenix's offense. What he manages to do with those easy setups will play a large role in determining both his personal and team success.
He's very athletic and has a big strong body capable of banging down low. With a decent mid-range jumper, he has enough tools to make defenses respect his offensive game.
His strong defensive instincts and determination in grabbing rebounds will give the Suns a force they haven't had in years. Plus, he has a natural affinity for blocking shots. Coach Alvin Gentry will surely look to exploit those traits of his best defensive player.
While you won't find many people, if any at all, that believe he can be as good as his brother, he at least has the tools to make even his harshest critics respect his game.
Listed in no particular order.
- Terrence Williams
- D.J. Augustin
- Serge Ibaka
- DeJuan Blair
- Marcus Thornton
- James Harden
- Thaddeus Young
- Blake Griffin
- John Wall
- J.J. Hickson
- George Hill
- Ramon Sessions
- Rodrigue Beaubois