We saw several players take important steps forward in their careers last year, including Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro and Jayson Tatum. Will there be any players this season who improve as much as those three?
As draft season wears on and we sift through the player pool over and over, here are five players who could be poised for a breakout campaign:
To be fair to Wood, he already had a mini-breakout in Detroit last season. He played with four different teams during his first three seasons in the league, never averaging more than 12 minutes a game. The Pistons finally gave him a chance at extended playing time, which resulted in him averaging 13.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, 0.9 blocks and 0.9 three-pointers across 21 minutes a game. He was also efficient on the offensive end, shooting 56.7 percent from the field.
The big difference for Wood was his increased playing time after Andre Drummond was dealt to the Cavaliers. Across 13 games after the deal, Wood averaged 34 minutes per contest. He showed his immense potential, averaging 22.8 points, 9.9 rebounds, two assists, one block and 1.7 three-pointers during that stretch.
Now a member of the Rockets, Wood finds himself on a much more competitive team. However, Houston doesn't have much size up front outside of Wood and DeMarcus Cousins, so playing time shouldn't be difficult for him to come by. Things could change significantly if the team does eventually trade James Harden, but after signing a three-year, $41 million contract, Wood is expected to play a significant role for the Rockets moving forward. He'll have to contend with Cousins, Harden, John Wall and Eric Gordon for touches, but Wood is on nearly everyone's breakout list for a reason.
The hype train has left the station for Porter and, yes, I'm on board. Particularly early on, Porter didn't play much last season for a talented and deep Nuggets squad, averaging only 16 minutes per game. Still, he had a 22.3 percent usage rate and demonstrated in the Orlando bubble that he has all the tools to become one of the more productive offensive forwards in the league.
The Nuggets lost a couple of key members in their frontcourt during the offseason when both Jerami Grant and Mason Plumlee departed for the Pistons. Although they brought in JaMychal Green to help offset the departures, Porter is lined up to be the starting small forward and also spell Paul Millsap at power forward. In the bubble, Porter averaged 14.2 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.0 three-pointers across 26 minutes a night. With a path for him to play around 30 minutes a night and to continue to expand his offensive game this season, Porter has a chance to shine. There's a reason he's among the favorites to win the Most Improved Player award.
There was a lot to be excited about with regard to the Bulls entering last season. They created a promising group of young talent that made fighting for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference seem like a realistic goal. One of those exciting young players was White, whom Chicago selected with the seventh pick in the 2019 Draft. However, it was yet another lost season thanks to injuries and a … disappointing coaching job by Jim Boylen. White was mostly relegated to the bench and finished with averages of 13.2 points, 2.7 assists and 2.0 three-pointers per contest.
Now under a new front office and coaching staff, there is renewed optimism for the franchise. One of the immediate changes appears to be inserting White as the starting point guard ahead of Tomas Satoransky. White is never going to be a pass-first point guard who racks up assists in bunches, but added playing time means added opportunities for him to have the ball in his hands. White has the potential to increase his scoring average by three to five points a game if he can play around 30 minutes a night. Again, White is far from the classic "pure point guard", but he projects as a high-level scorer and three-pointers contributor this season.
The Grizzlies may have pulled off the steal of the 2019 Draft when they selected Clarke with the 21st pick. During his rookie season, he showed an ability to contribute in multiple areas, which is what makes him so appealing in Fantasy. Despite only averaging 22 minutes a night, he averaged 12.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 0.6 steals, 0.8 blocks and 0.4 three-pointers. He also shot a lofty 61.8 percent from the field to go along with 75.9 percent shooting from the charity stripe.
Clarke is primed to take on an expanded role this season, especially early on with Jaren Jackson Jr. still recovering from surgery to repair a torn meniscus. Even when Jackson does return, expect the Grizzlies to be cautious with their talented young forward, which should leave plenty of minutes for Clarke. Considering he's generally still on the board in the seventh, or even eighth, round in many leagues, Clarke could end up being a steal in fantasy drafts, as well.
Murray's playing time increased in his third year in the league, but he still only averaged 26 minutes a night for the Spurs. Despite the limited role, Murray demonstrated why he's a uniquely appealing fantasy player. He averaged a modest 10.9 points per game but added 5.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.7 steals, while shooting 46.2 percent from the field. While he will probably never provide lofty assist numbers, Murray is also an excellent rebounder for a point guard, and he's one of the best per-minute steals producers in the NBA.
The Spurs didn't make any significant moves during the offseason, so they return mostly the same core, plus first-round pick Devin Vassell. Derrick White (toe) won't be ready for the start of the season, which further limits their depth at point guard. There's a reasonable chance that Murray approaches, if not surpasses, the 30 minutes per game plateau. If he does, expect a major bump in his fantasy value, given that he averaged 16.0 points, 7.2 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 2.4 steals in the 12 games in which he played at least 30 minutes last season.