Breakout Candidates for Each Team:
- Marcus Smart: Simply put, he is a bulldog. Checking in at 6’4” and 220 pounds plus, Smart is truly a rare breed of point guard with the ability to defend four positions – watch his defense on Millsap. Defensively, he’s already very good, and can get better. Offensively is where he has struggled thus far, where he’s shot a paltry 35.7% from the field and less than 30% from three in his two professional seasons. Yikes. His fit as a lead guard initiating the offense is also questionable at this point. However, Celtics fans should expect him to make a big leap this season. Smart showcased offensive ability at Oklahoma State and there’s no reason to suggest that he won’t improve. Don’t believe me? FiveThirtyEight’s CARMELO rankings peg Smart as a future all-star due for a massive pay raise. Think of Smart as a Tony Allen type defender with much more potential offensively.
- Honorable mention(s): Jordan Mickey and Terry Rozier
- Rondae Hollis-Jefferson: “If RHJ had a jump shot, he would’ve been a top 10 pick”. That’s what I heard all of last year from draft pundits around the US. Well, now the kid without the jumper is poised to make a leap in year two. He is such a unique basketball player. How many players can claim to guard all five positions? Not many. Hollis-Jefferson has a legit claim to that exclusive club, as he’s a long and active defender with great instincts and measurables. He’s a terrific rebounder too for his size. The one thing that many think will hold him back from reaching stardom is his non-existent jump shot. The jumper is still shaky to say the least, but he’s improved his handle and thus his ability to create for himself and others off the dribble. Good news for RHJ is that he will have a lot of freedom to improve and make mistakes on such a terrible team. Think MKG.
- Honorable mention(s): Chris McCullough
New York Knicks:
- Kristaps Porzingis: Yeah, this Knicks team did get better this off-season. But they also depleted what little young talent they had left – aside from Porzingis Thank the Zen Master – for aging and oft-injured former stars. Phil Jackson is sacrificing the Knicks’ future so they can be a middling 7th seed playoff team in the East. This leaves the Knicks without many possible breakout candidates. I wouldn’t call Porzingis a big breakout candidate, as he had a terrific rookie season, but he will surely improve. Hopefully the newly acquired old dogs won’t take too many touches away from this potential superstar.
- Honorable mention(s): LOL
- Joel Embiid: It looks like ole’ Joel will finally be able to play next year. The only questions with him are: a) conditioning and b) durability. Just watch his highlights from Kansas. He would’ve been easily the number 1 pick had he been healthy. He’s a superstar if he can stay conditioned and on the court.
- Honorable mention(s): Richaun Holmes, Nerlens Noel, Dario Saric
- Norman Powell: To this day, I still have no idea how Powell wasn’t a first round pick. The rich get richer, I guess. Powell only played in 49 games in his rookie season, but started half of them, and average almost 15 minutes a night. He has legit 3-and-D potential, as he shot 40% from three last season and proved to be a good defender. He should replace the overrated Terrance Ross in the rotation this next season. I would expect his minutes to be around 20 per game this upcoming season, with the possibility of near 25 especially if the Raptors deal Ross.
- Honorable mention(s): DeMarre Carroll (rebound season)