Lonzo Ball, De'Aaron Fox and Other NBA Rookies Primed for 2nd-Year Breakouts
NBA rookies aren't typically big producers. It typically happens during their sophomore year, when they enter the season more confident and comfortable with the pro game.
While this year's class progressed sooner than most—Ben Simmons, Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell, Kyle Kuzma and Lauri Markkanen have already made it—most rookies will need at least another year to find themselves.
The following rookies have been inconsistent because of their roles and lack of polish, both physically and fundamentally, but have shown promise. Their big breakouts will come next season.
Lonzo Ball (Los Angeles Lakers, PG)
2018-19 stat predictions: 14.0 points, 7.5 assists, 7.0 rebounds, 42 percent FG, 35 percent 3PT
The Los Angeles Lakers caught a glimpse into the future Saturday night when Lonzo Ball guided a fourth-quarter comeback at San Antonio.
He drilled six threes and he's now hit 14 of his last 22. Ball's rookie shooting percentages aren't strong, but his shot works and it will start falling more frequently as his comfort and confidence increase.
He's already starting to pick up on the NBA's nuances. Basketball IQ was always his most distinguishable strength, and one that should help him adjust and ultimately succeed without John Wall's speed or Kyrie Irving's scoring ability.
Averaging 10.4 points, 7.1 rebounds and 7.1 assists, Ball is filling up box scores despite shooting just 40.3 percent inside the arc and 33.6 behind it, percentages that seem guaranteed to rise as his physique and shot-making confidence improve.
Josh Jackson (Phoenix Suns, SF)
2018-19 stat predictions: 15.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 43.0 percent FG, 30.0 percent 3PT
A late-season breakout won't save Josh Jackson's rookie numbers, but it does hint at a breakout sophomore season.
He averaged 17.7 points in February, and that's without his three-ball falling. We're starting to see Jackson find ways to create and score inside the arc as he continues to make strides with his handle and off-the-dribble maneuvers.
By next year, he should have more confidence in his jumper, which he's shown he can make, considering he's hit 46 NBA threes. Assuming he can raise his three-point mark to around 30 percent in 2018-19, Jackson should be good for around 15 points per game alongside Devin Booker.
Jarrett Allen (Brooklyn Nets, C)
2018-19 stat predictions: 13.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, 55.0 percent FG
Playing just 19.0 minutes per game as a rookie, Jarrett Allen should expect his workload to increase dramatically.
Coming off a season-high 34 minutes against the Sacramento Kings on Thursday, he is averaging 13.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.6 blocks on 61.9 percent shooting over the Brooklyn Nets' last five games.
And though he's not challenged as often as the NBA's top rim-protectors, opponents are shooting 54.1 percent against him, a tougher mark than Clint Capela's and Myles Turner's.
De'Aaron Fox (Sacramento Kings, PG)
2018-19 stat predictions: 14.5 points, 5.5 assists, 42.0 percent FG, 33.0 percent 3PT
Since the Sacramento Kings traded George Hill, De'Aaron Fox has averaged 14.8 points and 4.9 assists, numbers likely to rise during his sophomore year.
His speed and athleticism have been a problem for opposing defenses. His skill level and feel should both be sharper next year.
Fox has even been better than expected shooting the three, making 33.6 percent of his attempts.
As he continues to get more reps as a lead guard, we should see his pull-up game (1.6 makes, 36.0 percent) and facilitating feel keep improving.
Zach Collins (Portland Trail Blazers, C)
2018-19 stat predictions: 11.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.0 blocks, 45.0 percent FG
The emergence of Zach Collins could play a role in the Portland Trail Blazers' offseason strategy. Do they match a big offer for restricted free-agent Jusuf Nurkic? Collins' promising play of late suggests the Blazers may want to turn to him in 2018-19 instead of breaking the bank for the inconsistent Nurkic.
Coming off a 12-point (two three-pointers), five-rebound, two-block effort in 28 minutes against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday, Collins looks the part of a modern-day, inside-out center. He's a big 230-pound body who can run, and he's flashed intriguing skill that likely led the Blazers to move up and draft him in the lottery.
If Portland lets Nurkic walk, Collins becomes an under-the-radar breakout candidate.