12 NBA Players Poised for a Breakout Season

Sam CooperCorrespondent IIIOctober 22, 2011

12 NBA Players Poised for a Breakout Season

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    The NBA season is in jeopardy right now, as we have already learned that there will be some missed games. Neither the owners nor players are moving closer to a deal that would finally put an end to the lockout.

    However, I am still optimistic that there will be a compromise and that the NBA season will turn out looking like it did in 1999, when there were only 50 games played. The NBA's popularity is only growing, so I find it hard to believe that both sides will be content with missing an entire season. There is still a great chance at having an NBA shortened season, and all seasons come with their new set of breakout players.

    Many players will be able to improve tremendously this year, and here are 12 of those players who should find themselves having much improved seasons. 

Marcin Gortat

2 of 13

    Age: 27

    Experience: four years

    2010-2011 Stats:

    MPG    PPG    RPG     BLK    FG%

    25.4    10.2      7.9        1.1    .561

    Before he was traded to Phoenix in that blockbuster trade last December, Marcin Gortat was stuck on the bench as a backup to Dwight Howard, and it seemed as if Gortat would never be anything more than a bench player.

    He was only given about 15 minutes of play a game, and although his stats suggested he could produce, he was never given an opportunity to play more time until he was traded to Phoenix.

    Phoenix found a diamond in the rough with Gortat, and he provided amazing explosiveness, scoring 13 points and over nine rebounds a game off the bench. By the end of the season, when Gortat was put into the starting lineup, he was the most dangerous player on the roster other than Steve Nash. He could rebound, block, pick and roll, perform post moves and effectively shoot jump shots.

    This year I expect him to be even better. His stats from last year suggest that given an every day starting role, he could average 15 points along with 10 or more rebounds and about 1.5 blocks a game, and I expect no less from him. Phoenix seems to have finally found an effective center. 

Tyler Hansbrough

3 of 13

    Age: 25

    Experience: two years

    2010-2011 Stats:

    MPG    PPG    RPG   STL    BLK    FG%

    21.9     11.0      5.2      0.5     0.2     .465

    Hansbrough only got to play 29 games in his 2009-2010 rookie season, but proved durable this year playing 70 games, including 29 starts. He averaged just 22 minutes a game but was able to put up 11 points an outing. He isn't a great defensive player or shot-blocker, but an everyday starting role for Indiana would help his stat line.

    I don't see him having an All-Star year, but he could put up 15+ points and around seven or eight rebounds in a starting role. 

Arron Afflalo

4 of 13

    Age: 26

    Experience: four years

    2010-2011 Stats:

    MPG    PPG    RPG    AST    STL    FG%    3P%

    33.7      12.6     3.6       2.4     0.5     .498     .423

    Afflalo had an everyday starting role for the second straight season last year. For each of those two seasons, he was averaging something close to 10 points, about three or four rebounds and he shot a dangerous 42 percent from three-point range. If he has already done this two straight seasons, why will he breakout now?

    Simply due to the fact that he will get many more touches this season. Afflalo is a rare case of a player who may end up benefiting from the lockout, or at least when it comes to his stat production.

    Both J.R Smith and Wilson Chandler signed deals in China that oblige them to stay with their teams until the end of the Chinese season in March. The Nuggets will scramble to find solutions, but you can expect Afflalo to be on the court a lot more, and he will have to step up in order to help his team win games. Afflalo should see a nice rise to his production this season. 

Jordan Crawford

5 of 13

    Age: 22

    Experience: one year

    2010-2011 Stats:

    MPG    PPG    RPG    AST    STL   FG%    3P%

    24.5      11.7     2.5      2.8       0.9   .384    .258

    When Jordan Crawford was taken 27th in the 2010 draft, nobody expected him to have a great rookie season, and his performance early on only seemed to prove he wasn't going to immediately be an elite player. He played just 16 games with the Hawks and averaged about four points a game before being traded to the Washington Wizards.

    He enjoyed great success after that, playing 26 games in which he started in 18, and he averaged 16.3 points in 33 minutes a game. He turned the ball over 2.6 times a game once traded to Washington, but was also able to put up three rebounds, four assists and 1.5 steals a game.

    He will be given an opportunity to start full time this year, and I expect him to continue to grow from his performance last year. He may have a shot at 20 points a game. 

Omri Casspi

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    Age: 23

    Experience: two years

    2010-2011 Stats: 

    MPG     PPG     RPG     AST      STL    FG%    3P%

    24.0       8.6        4.3       1.0        0.8     .412     .372

    An interesting thing about the Israeli SF Casspi is that his stats actually regressed last year from his rookie season. He played 71 games, starting in only 27 of them, and he took a loss in almost every single category. However, he was still an explosive player with a dangerous three-point shot and he played nice defense.

    He was traded to the Cavs along with a first-round pick for J.J Hickson, and moving to Cleveland will be a fresh start for Casspi, where he should get more starts, minutes and overall production.

    Look for him to have the sort of season Dorell Wright had for the Warriors last season. He'll play a lot, grab a decent amount of boards, get steals pretty often and be one of the biggest threats from three-point range in the league. 

Gordon Hayward

7 of 13

    Age: 21

    Experience: one year

    2010-2011 Stats: 

    MPG     PPG     RPG     AST    BLK     FG%    3P%

    16.9       5.4        1.9       1.1       0.3      .485     .473

    Gordon Hayward's season stats don't express what he was able to do. Hayward didn't do too much until the season was practically over, but in those final few, when he was given an opportunity to start, he took advantage of it, scoring in double digits seven times in the last 10 games of the season, including a 34-point performance for the last game of the regular season.

    He also shot 58 percent from the field in those 10 games. He proved that he was capable of being an everyday starter, and although he almost definitely won't keep up his pace and shoot 58 percent for a single season, he very well could end up getting himself 15 points a game and shoot 50 percent from the field. 

DeMar DeRozan

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    Age: 22

    Experience: two years

    2010-2011 Stats:

    MPG     PPG     RPG     AST      STL    FG%    3P%

    34.8       17.2      4.0       1.9         1.1    .467     .096

    Some might argue that DeRozan broke out last year when he impressed everyone by doubling his PPG and starting all 82 games of the season, but I don't think his growth is done. DeRozan will continue to improve immensely this year, and he could score 20+ points and have four to five boards, three to four assists and a couple steals a game. He will also continue to be a great slam dunk contest candidate and will most likely improve his defense.

    Hopefully he'll also be able to improve his three-point shot, which is way too low for a shooting guard. He shot 10 percent from behind the ark, which was his only unsightly stat. He shot 25 percent in his rookie year, but even in college was never a good three-point shooter and I don't really expect him to start now. Overall though, expect a great season from DeRozan. 

Evan Turner

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    Age: 22

    Experience: one year

    2010-2011 stats: 

    MPG     PPG     RPG     AST      STL    FG%    3P%

    23.0       7.2       3.9        2.0        0.6     .425     .318

    When the 76ers drafted Turner second overall last year, almost everyone suspected that Philadelphia had drafted a player that was ready to produce in the NBA immediately. However, Turner struggled towards the beginning of the season which started to worry fans. Towards the end of the season Turner stepped it up a little, though. He had been shooting around 39 percent towards the beginning of the year where as he shot 48 percent in April. April was also the only month in which he averaged more than 10 points a game.

    Something that would really help Turner is the departure of Andre Iguodala, which has been rumored for the past season. Iguodala's departure would mean more minutes and ultimately more touches for Turner, and this season could be his transition year where the game comes more easily to him and he is ready to produce and become a consistent and feared player. 

Jrue Holiday

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    Age: 21

    Experience: two years

    2010-2011 Stats

    MPG     PPG     RPG     AST      STL    FG%     3P%

    35.4       14.0      4.0       6.5         1.5     .446     .365

    Jrue Holiday had a great sophomore season in which he improved in every category across the board. Not only did he put up better stats, but he was one of the most durable players in the league, playing and starting all 82 games of the season. I believe that in his third season, he will make another jump, turn into an elite PG and also make the 76ers a lot more interesting this year.

    Recently, it has been a pattern for a young PG to become an elite PG in his third season. Deron Williams and Chris Paul did it, and more recently, Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose. He has the tools to be an amazing player, with great defensive skills and good shooting and court vision, and this could be the season where he evolves into a star. 

Eric Gordon

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    Age: 22

    Experience: three years

    2010-2011 Stats:

    MPG     PPG     RPG     AST      STL    FG%    3P%

    37.7       22.3      2.9       4.4         1.3    .450     .364

    Eric Gordon had a fantastic season last year. However, being a guard on the Clippers doesn't exactly make you famous, and he wasn't too well-known around the league even with the stats he produced.

    This year is the year that he will make a name for himself. An injury held him to only 56 games last year, and he just barely missed being an All-Star, but this year he should be able to stay healthy and develop his skills to the point where he will be recognized as an All-Star.

    Gordon has only played in the NBA for three years; he still has room for improvement. He has potential to be a top guard in the league one day, and this year will be a test to see if he can continue to grow into the superstar that many people believe he might become. 

Marc Gasol

12 of 13

    Age: 26

    Experience: three years

    2010-2011 Stats:

    MPG     PPG     RPG     AST    BLK     FG%

    31.9       11.7      7.0      2.5        1.7       .527

    Marc Gasol is no longer known as Pau Gasol's brother. He now is becoming known as one of the best centers in the Western Conference. He had another solid season last year, shooting the ball well and playing nice defense, especially with those 1.7 blocks a game. But what really made Gasol stand out from the rest of the crowd was his performance in the playoffs. He led the No. 8 seed Grizzlies, who were without Rudy Gay, past the No. 1 seed Spurs and then almost past the Thunder in the second round.

    He averaged 13 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.1 blocks in 13 playoff games, and had some amazing performances where he worked extremely hard, including the 133-123 Game 4 loss to the Thunder in which he played 57 minutes and had 26 points and 21 rebounds. Gasol led his team through the playoffs, and I expect him to continue to be a leader for the Grizzlies this year and possibly earn himself an All-Star appearance. 

John Wall

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    Age: 21

    Experience: one year

    2010-2011 Stats:

    MPG     PPG     RPG     AST      STL    FG%    

    37.8       16.4     4.6        8.3         1.8    .409    

    John Wall's great rookie season last year is too often overshadowed by Blake Griffin's fantastic year. Wall shot the ball well, he passed well and he had almost two steals a game. He's one of the fastest players with the ball from end-to-end, and he is very explosive and sets up his teammates very well.

    He was also the first rookie to average 16 points and eight assists in 15 years. I think that he'll take it one step further this season and could become close to a 20-10 guy who may be a top 10 point guard by the time the season ends. 

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