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NBA: 10 Young Players to Break Out in 2009

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NBA: 10 Young Players to Break Out in 2009

I know, I know the typical list of Break Out Youngsters goes Al Jefferson, Devin Harris, Chris Paul, Andrew Bynum, Rudy Gay, Deron Williams, etc...

All the analysts have predicted the top youngsters, and dissected the league to find the next class of All-Stars. 

This list however looks through the "diamond in the rough" guys who have the opportunity to step up and prove their worth in the NBA. 

Whether through trades, injuries or good old fashion hard work, these 10 players are ones to keep your eye on for excitement. 

In no particular order, here we go:

 

Sean Williams PF NJ Nets
Laurence Frank consistently refers to Williams as the "game-changer" and after the past few seasons in NJ, that's exactly what their team needs... a change.  He's 6'10 with a 7'0 plus wingspan and can defend any shot attempted in the paint.  His athleticism is oozing out of every pore of his body.  The Bonus... he has the drive to match it.  Often times in the NBA, uber-athletic big men don't utilize their talents and end up with broken dreams.(Williams has Stromile Swift at the end of NJ's bench as a constant reminder of that). The package deal bringing Devin Harris to NY only helps his stock on the offensive end. Harris is probably the second fastest player in the NBA (behind Monte Ellis) and with Keyon Dooling, it  will open up plenty of opportunities for dishes, dunks, and alley oops. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K82cRehInqA


Danny Granger SF Pacers
I know, he's technically already a big time performer in the league averaging a shade under 20 ppg and 6 rebounds per contest.  The off season move of getting rid of J. O'neal coupled with the additions Dunleavy, JJack and Roy Hibbert completely restructured not only the appearance but the attitude of the Pacers.  Instead of having the Pacers v. Pistons brawling team, we might have a team with the composure of Reggie, Rick Smitts, and Dale Davis. 
Granger is a perfect candidate to take the lead of the team and put up numbers closer to 25 and 10.  His scoring should increase with JJack and Tinsley distributing the ball and the inside presence of Hibbert shouldn't hurt either.  Hibbert has always been a pass first big man, and Dunleavy can distribute the ball well too.  I think the total package of the Pacers, while they might not be a great team, will make Granger a stand out this year.

Chris Duhon PG Knicks
The Knicks HAVE to be better than they were last year.  While living in NYC, I went to upwards of 20 of their games and decided that only a hand full of them deserved to be in the league. Then comes D'Antoni with his run and gun offense and his strength on the point guard play. 

Duhon has the right type of team first attitude to succeed in NYC with a team full of shoot-first teammates.  He could distribute the ball like Mugsy did when he had Alonzo, LJ, Dell Curry, and Hershey Hawkins (Thats a drastic overstatement I know).  But his trigger-shy style of play could make him a HUGE benefit to the Knicks who are drastically trying to change their selfish image of last season.

 

Andrew Bogut C Bucks                                                                                                       He's similar to Granger in that he's somewhat already pr oven himself.  But to be a first pick of a draft class, teams have to expect more than what he's given so far.  Not to say he's got the status of Michael Olowokandi, but he certainly isn't Dwight Howard either.
The reason why I think he'll drastically improve his numbers is because of two factors:
1. His play after the all-star break last year. He averaged 16.3 ppg, 11.6 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks... that's tough to match by any big man in the league... other than of course DHoward.  Bogut has steadily improved his numbers each of his first three seasons, and I think this one could be a career year.
2. Mo Williams is gone.  I like Mo and think he's a very good player, but he is another shoot-first PG who wants the ball in his hands at all times.  This has a tendency to create a lack of opportunities for post players.  With Richard Jefferson's experience now on the wing, the bucks should have more of an inside out game.

Randy Foye PG Timberwolves                                                                                         
Foye is back healthy after an injury-plagued first half of last season and has been the starting PG throughout preseason (over Sebastian Telfair). Similar to Bogut, he scorched the later half of the season averaging 14.3 ppg and 4.8 assists.  If he can stay healthy all year he should be able to produce similar numbers. 
The fact that the Timberwolves are overflowing with young talant does nothing but help Foye's assist numbers.  His ability to get to the lane and dish to Al Jefferson and Craig Smith has now been coupled with the addition to Mike Miller on the outside.  Miller and Rashad McCants will share time at the SG and SF positions and both have the consistent ability to stroke the three.  With all of these options, Foye should have the opportunities to finally have the break out year fans have been waiting for. 

Martell Webster SG Trailblazers                                                                                         For the past year everyone has been bubbling with the thoughts of how much young, explosive talant the Blazers have - Greg Oden, Brandon Roy, J' Bayless, Rudy Fernandez, Lamarcus Aldridge, Nicholas Batum.  For the majority, Webster has been unmentioned.  This should work in his favor.  The 6th Pick in the 2005 Draft was a heralded three point shooter out of high school with range that extends as soon as he enters the gym.  Last season he shot almost 40% from behind the arc  (38.8) and averaged a respectable 10.7 ppg (almost three points higher than his career average). 
What I see different this year is the fact that everyone overlooks him for the bigger and better players that line this squad.  Defenses will have to tailor their approaches to stop Roy and Bayless from penetrating and double down on Oden and Aldridge.  This should conveniently leave Webster the odd man out around the three point circle.  While he might lose some playing time because of the Bayless-Roy duo, if he shoots like everyone knows he can his numbers should drastically increase.... so should his credibility in the league. How good of a player would Mitch Richmond, Steve Kerr, Dell Curry, or Steve Smith have been if they couldn't shoot the three? Exactly.

Al Thornton PF Clippers                                                                                                   Trade talks and drama surrounded the Clippers this entire summer.  Brand is coming, no he's not, Baron Davis is coming... etc.  With Brand leaving, Thornton steps up to the #2 option on offense (behind BDavis) which should equal a lot of scoring opportuinties.  A healthy Chris Kaman should also free Thornton up to increase his rebounding averages and open looks at the basket.  While Thornton won't be floating under many peoples radar this year, like he was last year, his ability to move as a big man should make it extremely tough for defenses to set up against him. 
As a starter last year, he averaged close to 16 ppg, 6 rebounds and 2 assists.  This being his first full season as a starter, I expect he has tailored his offseason accordingly.  I look Thornton to put up all-star numbers.

Nick Young SG Wizards                                                                                                 Injuries. Injuries. Injuries.  I won't beat a dead horse, but with the injury plague going around the Chocolate City, second year Nick Young should reap benefits of more time on the hardwood.  While the Wizards originally stated they wanted to take it slow with Young's development on the court, he has the opportunity now. 
Young is a born scorer who can shoot the lights out from long range.  Last season he shot 40% from behind the arc and showed flashes of unmatchable athleticism.  Ill go ahead and say it, he doesn't play defense but then again that's not the reason he succeeded at USC and was drafted. 
Coming off the bench in preseason, he has shot the ball extremely well and shown drastic improvement on the defensive glass.  I look for Young to be a valuable contributor to the Wiz this year and potentially develop into a starter if the injury bug stays around.
Worst case scenario: Please god get him enough minutes to be in the slam dunk competition.

Robert Swift PF Thunder                                                                                          Remember Swift?  The #12 pick in the 2004 draft from Bakersfield who refused to work out for any teams?  The pick who has played in less than 50 games in his four year career? Well he's finally back from three seasons of continuous injuries.  Im not sure if he has any talent, no one really is.  However, he is in the best situation he could hope for.  Recently relocated and with a team full of young leadership, the Thunder need a player to fill the hole in the middle. Bad.  The competition for Swift? Johan Petro and the undersized Nick Collison who the team publicly stated they will only play at center if they have no other options.
Im going to trust in the Sonics old talent scouts and say that Swift does have something resembling a post game, and his thicker stronger frame will allow him to pull rebounds from other Western big men.  Now is his change.  If he steps up and seizes the starting role, he is looking at a low expectation position where he can thrive.  Attention will be payed to KDurant, Collison and Jeff green, leaving Baker to be covered by the forth or fifth best defender on the court.
He's still very young, and when he did play had a pretty good touch around the rim.

Jason Maxiell PF Pistons
A complete animal.  Through and through one of the toughest players in the league.  As an undersized forward, Maxiell brings a tremendous defensive presence in any game.  Why hasn't he broken out yet? Because of lack of opportunities on the Pistons.  With McDyess, Rasheed,  and Amir Johnson, Maxiell has had some tough competition to earn floor time. 
He can't be held back for long.  Im not saying that he will break out for the Pistons, but for some team this year he will.  Just this week he rejected a $15 million dollar extension handed out by the Pistons which leads him toward the unrestricted free agent category.
 Maxiell has one of the biggest upsides of the young players in the league.  We saw him develop in the playoffs and we definitely remember his block on Garnett.  Throughout the season he averaged 8 ppg and 5 rebounds in just 21 min. per contest.  Imagine with more minutes? He could easily be a nightly double-double machine.
As always, thanks for reading let me know if I missed anyone? forgot any players? Predictions were dumb?  Thanks!
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