2010-2011 NBA Predictions: 10 Players Due To Break Out This Season
Yes, another list predicting breakout players in the NBA this season.
What's different about this one, aside from simply being another opinion?
There are many possible definitions for "breakout season." In this one, I am not looking at those players looking to make the leap from good to great, or from great to superstar. I'm also excluding all first-year players.
In my definition of a breakout season, I'm looking at players with at least two years of service and who averaged around 10 points or less per game last season.
Where it gets interesting (hopefully) is in the prediction itself.
I expect all ten of these players to essentially double their points production this season. Becoming a reliable double-digit scorer is usually a good indicator that you've arrived in the league, and people will really start to pay attention to your game.
Feel free to call me out on any of these predictions, and also let me know if you think I've completely overlooked anyone who fits the criteria that I've laid out.
And now, the list...
1. Jrue Holiday
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Starting off with an easy one.
Jrue Holiday is the second-year point guard for the Philadelphia 76ers.
The 20 year-old appeared in 73 games for the Sixers last season, starting 51. He had fairly promising averages of eight points per game and nearly four assists per game and has been tapped as the Sixers' point guard of the future.
Holiday is expected to be the starting point guard this season, and with the ball in his hands more, I would expect his scoring to go up accordingly. He shot 44 percent from the field and 39 percent from three-point range last season. If he maintains or improves upon those figures, a doubling of his scoring average is not too hard to fathom.
2. J.J. Hickson
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Another one without going too far out on a limb.
J.J. Hickson is one of the few truly bright spots on the Cleveland Cavaliers roster.
Just 22 years-old, Hickson saw his minutes increase by over 80 percent, and his point production doubled. With LeBron James now in Miami, most observers are predicting that Hickson will be playing starter's minutes and become more of a focal point for the offense.
The 55 percent shooter should easily be able to increase his scoring from the eight points per game last season to at least 16 this season. If not, the Cavs are in more trouble than we think.
3. Bill Walker
This is probably the first risky pick.
Bill Walker spent a season and a half unable to get off the bench for the Boston Celtics. He was part of the trade deadline deal that sent Nate Robinson from the New York Knicks to the Boston Celtics.
With New York, people were able to get their first real glimpse of what Walker could do in an NBA game. He made 27 appearances for the Knicks, averaging over 27 minutes and almost 12 points per game.
For the season, Walker's scoring average was just under 10 per game.
Is it possible that Billy jumps to 20 a game? Absolutely.
Walker can play.
He likely would have been a lottery pick in the 2007 draft had he not suffered an ACL injury during his freshman season at Kansas State. He teamed with Michael Beasley the following year to lead the high scoring Wildcats to the second round of the 2008 NCAA tournament.
Walker was again expected to be a lottery pick in the 2008 draft, but he again injured his knee, this time during the pre-draft workouts. He slipped to the second round and found a home on the Celtics bench.
Walker is fully healthy and showed his old explosiveness last season with the Knicks. In their fast-paced offense, I would be surprised if the talented small forward didn't flourish. Maybe he doesn't hit 20 points per game, but I think he'll come awfully close.
4. Amir Johnson
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Amir Johnson was a second round pick in the 2005 draft. He has the distinction of being the last high school player to be drafted, as the NBA instituted the "one-year" rule the next season.
Johnson, a 6'9" forward, barely got out of his warm ups with the Detroit Pistons. After four years getting splinters in his butt, Detroit traded the unproven youngster to the Milwaukee Bucks in June 2009. The Bucks, in turn, traded him to the Toronto Raptors two months later.
Johnson played in all 82 games for Toronto in the 2009-10 season, averaging a whopping six points per game.
On the first day of free agency, Toronto signed Johnson to a five-year, $34 million contract that caused quite a few head-shakes around the league.
My guess is that Toronto strongly believes that Johnson is ready to take the starting power forward position vacated by Chris Bosh and finally make his mark on the league.
If Johnson doesn't break out this season and at least double his scoring output, the Raptors are going to look mighty foolish.
Before you jump on the "Raptors were stupid" bandwagon, recall a teenager drafted out of high school who languished on the bench for the Portland Trailblazers for four years before busting out as a member of the Indiana Pacers.
Who dat? Jermaine O'Neal.
5. Nicolas Batum
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Nicolas Batum, the 6'8" small forward from France, is entering his third season with the Portland Trailblazers and is considered one of the more important members of the team.
Batum averaged 10.1 points over the 37 games he played last season after returning from a shoulder injury.
His double-digit average make him a borderline candidate for this list, but he was included because I believe he is on the verge of going boom. He also hadn't appeared in enough games to qualify for the NBA's official scoring list.
While currently known primarily for his stellar defensive skills, it would not surprise me at all to see Batum average over 20 per game and help Brandon Roy lead the Blazers to one of the top seeds in the Western Conference.
His offense is still evolving, but he still shot over 50 percent from the field and over 40 percent from long-range last season. I'd expect him to at least maintain both figures this season.
6. JaVale McGee
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The 7'0" 250 pound JaVale McGee is one of the few true centers on the Washington Wizards roster capable of playing major minutes.
Playing mostly as a reserve last season, McGee averaged around six points in 16 minutes per game.
McGee will likely come off the bench again this season, playing behind Andray Blatche, but his minutes are sure to rise.
The athletic McGee is sure to find himself scoring at least a dozen points per game this season and may even earn a starters role by season's end.
Of course, my man Hilton Armstrong's wickedly cool new spin move could put a cap on McGee's minutes.
7. Jeff Teague
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Jeff Teague was the the 19th pick in the 2009 NBA draft. The 6'2" point guard from Wake Forest didn't get a lot of playing time behind Mike Bibby and Jamal Crawford last season, averaging just three points per game in about 10 minutes of playing time per contest.
That doesn't change the fact that I think Teague is the best point guard on the Hawks roster. Never a Bibby fan, I wouldn't be surprised at all if Teague is challenging for the starting point guard spot.
Regardless, Teague is way too talented to keep on the bench. His minutes will be going way up this season, and his output will increase accordingly.
Expect Jeff Teague to score at least 10 points per game this season and make it a lot easier for the Hawks to eventually part ways with Bibby.
8. Hakim Warrick
Hakim Warrick can play.
No spring chicken, Warrick in entering his sixth season in the NBA following a stellar four-year career at Syracuse.
The retrospecters (made that word up) like to give Carmelo Anthony credit for winning a national championship by himself. They forget that Warrick was the real leader of that team. Warrick took over the primary scorers role after Anthony left and was a first-team All-America in his senior season.
After four relatively productive years with the Grizzlies, Warrick signed as a free agent with the Milwaukee Bucks before last season. He was part of a mid-season trade to the Chicago Bulls, but never found his groove with the Bulls.
Now a member of the Phoenix Suns, Warrick is poised to be a recipient of the Nash Effect. Warrick will be fighting for minutes with Grant Hill, Josh Childress and Hedo Turkoglu, but he has the ability to do well in that fight.
If Warrick can make the jump for a 10-point guy to a 17-point guy, I'm going to declare victory on this prediction.
Not likely, but it is possible.
9. Daniel Gibson
Everyone likes Boobie, no?
Daniel Gibson, once LeBron James' favorite li' buddy and a briefly glittering star in 2007, has a chance to really shine in new head coach Byron Scott's system.
Gibson averaged just over six points per game in limited action last season and is averaging just over seven points for his career. He is also at a career-defining junction.
There are points to be had with the Cavaliers this season. There is ample opportunity to help fill the massive void left by James' departure. If Gibson can step up this season and become a regular rotation player, he has a chance to become more than a novelty.
If Gibson fails to double his scoring output this season, or if he fails to break out, he will likely be playing for a new team next season.
Gibson has impressed so far in the preseason. Maybe this is the year that Boobie puts his big boy pants on.
10. Anthony Randolph
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Okay, I'm cheating a little bit on this last one. Anthony Randolph is on everyone's radar.
The 6'10" (at least) athletic freak averaged over 11 points per game during an injury-riddled season with the Golden State Warriors. The third-year player is now a New York Knick and playing for a sane coach for the first time.
The Knicks are desperate for Randolph to break out and become a legitimate star playing alongside Amare Stoudemire.
It is possible that this do-everything, absurdly versatile forward comes off the bench all season for the Knicks. It is equally possible that he figures out how to harness his abilities at some point this season and explodes into a certified star.
Predicting Randolph to score 20 a game is both obvious and risky. He's just 21 years old, but frequently plays like he's 12. The only real limit on Randolph's game is his maturity level.
Either way, he'll be a lot of fun to watch in New York this season.