The NBA All-Breakout Team: 10 players who could make the leap in 2018-19 season
Players like Myles Turner and Brandon Ingram have a chance to change the way we think about them
Dinwiddie put particular emphasis on the third part, which is largely beyond a player's control. In 2017-18, he managed to completely change the perception of what kind of player he can be, but he never lost sight of the fact that it took injuries to guards Jeremy Lin and D'Angelo Russell for him to get his chance.
"If a tree falls in the woods and nobody's around the sound don't matter," Dinwiddie said. "No matter how talented you are, no matter what you can do, if you're not out there and having the opportunity to do it, it's nothing. At the end of the day, credit the performance staff for working with me all summer. Credit coach Kenny [Atkinson] and Adam [Harrington] for letting me develop and also giving me the leash while I was out there, but with all that, if I didn't play, if I never stepped foot on the court, if Jeremy, D-Lo, all of them are healthy and I'm playing let's say 10 minutes a game, none of that happens. That's the reality of the situation."
There you have it. Talent and confidence is wasted without opportunity. Here are 10 players who have not only shown flashes of brilliance in the league, but should be blessed with a platform to do more this coming season.
If your first reaction is that he's too good for this list, fair. Generally, averaging 24.9 points and scoring 70 points in an NBA game disqualifies you from being seen as an up-and-comer. Booker, though, has yet to gain the full respect of the basketball intelligentsia, and I posit that this is the year it will happen. He needs to get his buckets with more efficiency, dedicate himself to defense and use his offensive skills to make his teammates better. Basketball nerds might pick on him too much -- he's just 21! -- but their criticisms are valid: It's not great when a team is outscored by 10 points per 100 possessions with its franchise player is on the floor.
Some of this, obviously, comes down to his environment. If you are optimistic about new Suns coach Igor Kokoskov, believe Josh Jackson will be significantly better in Year Two and are bullish on rookies DeAndre Ayton, Mikal Bridges, De'Anthony Melton and Elie Okobo, then you should expect Booker's production to be more meaningful. At the very least, veterans Trevor Ariza and Ryan Anderson should provide more structure than Phoenix has had for a while, and Booker himself said that 2018-19 will be a "special year" and a "turning point."
He didn't make summer spent transforming his body after a frustrating season has Pacers fans expecting a new-and-improved Turner. Unlike a year ago, the 22-year-old is entering the season healthy. He wants to play alongside Domantas Sabonis more often, which would allow him to average more than the 28.2 minutes he averaged last season. For that to work, his workouts and yoga sessions will have to translate to him being in the right place at the right time on defense much more often.because he'd played too well the season before, but a
Turner has some "unicorn" characteristics, but he looked too much like a traditional big man at times in last year's first-round series against the Cleveland Cavaliers. He will likely continue to increase his 3-point attempts, but the most important thing to watch is how he moves. The ideal version of Turner is a dominant rim protector who can also be trusted to defend the perimeter. A diversified offensive game would be helpful, too -- his shooting makes him a threat, but the Pacers would love for him to earn more touches and finish better on the inside. It's all possible.
Murray is a ridiculously mature defender for his age -- he turned 22 last week -- and is either the best or second-best rebounding guard in the league depending on how you feel about the way Russell Westbrook puts up his numbers. If he becomes a more confident, decisive offensive player, stardom could be in reach. A lot of that, though, depends on what happens with his jump shot. While the Spurs made him a starter last season, his usage rate was nowhere near that of a traditional lead guard. Teams are going to dare him to shoot until he proves he believes in his jumper.
With Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili out of the picture, there should be plenty of room for Murray to expand his game within San Antonio's offense. Until we see this new team, though, it's hard to know how the spacing will work. DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge both like to operate from the midrange, and DeRozan can function as a point guard on offense, potentially marginalizing Murray if his jumper isn't real. A promising sign: Spurs assistant Ettore Messina told ESPN's Zach Lowe that "it looks like a completely different game for him" after an offseason spent tweaking his shot with the legendary Chip Engelland.
You knew a Laker would be on this list -- LeBron James tends to elevate his teammates -- and I went with Ingram over Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and Kyle Kuzma because of the way he fits next to the best player in the world. He was drafted with the promise of being a No. 1 offensive option one day, and his current skillset makes him a perfect second option. James will deliver him clean, in-rhythm looks from 3-point range, and if he can maintain his 39-percent mark with greater volume, it will open up his already-impressive off-the-dribble game. Ingram's length helped him get to the rim fairly easily in his second season, and he made some progress in terms of finishing there. As he gets older, he should continue to improve when it comes to initiating contact and getting to the free-throw line.
All the Kevin Durant comparisons coming out of college were unfair, but kind of understandable. Ingram is the human embodiment of upside. If you watch the right example of him running the pick-and-roll, attacking the rim or covering ground on defense, you can come away thinking he'll be a superstar. He has a long, long way to go there, but I'll bet on LeBron helping to bring him along.
I wrote an entirebecause his jump shot might be the most fascinating player-development variable in the NBA. Hyperbolic as that sounds, this guy can guard all five positions, might be the fastest big man in the league and has some point-forward stuff in his game. If those starts shot to fall at even an average clip, hot damn.
Aside from his work ethic and his strong summer, there is another reason to expect more from Siakam: his new coach. Nurse is a man who will or play weird lineups. He will explore all the options that the Raptors' roster gives him, and that means a versatile oddball like Siakam should be given ample opportunities to show what he can do.
Two things working in Bell's favor: The Warriors aren't using more than a third of their roster on centers this time around, and DeMarcus Cousins will miss at least the first month of the season. He could very well be the starting center on a superteam, which means he will be the beneficiary of the best spacing imaginable and defenses that are geared toward stopping everybody but him. Bell had an up-and-down rookie season, but the high points indicated he can be an ideal fit in Steve Kerr's system, finishing on the inside and defending everywhere. Kerr said at media day that Bell has a "much more steady" approach now, and he expects to see him take a step forward.
One more thing: At summer league, Bell showed a willingness to shoot jumpers, even venturing beyond the 3-point line. I don't know if he will earn the freedom to fire away this season, but if he has genuinely developed that part of his game, it really is unbelievable, maybe even unfair, that Golden State got him.
I never thought Prince would crack 30 points in an NBA game, but he did it four times in the second half of last season, including two 38-point games in mid-March. Of course, the Hawks were thoroughly tanking at that time, and it is unclear what to make of those outbursts when combined with Prince's general inconsistency and the regression he showed on defense. Theoretically, though, there is now a clear path toward the 24-year-old turning himself into more than a 3-and-D guy. If he can clean up his handle, maintain his 38.5-percent mark from 3-point range and play the sort of defense he did as a rookie, he will earn himself a lot of money.
Atlanta is not talented enough to restrict Prince to a small, supporting role. It is also not desperate enough to allow him to maintain the usage rate he had at the end of last season. Trae Young and Jeremy Lin should be the lead playmakers here, and Prince should get a chance to operate as a secondary creator. His breakout might not involve averaging way more than the 14.1 points he did last season -- it is more about him proving that he is a winning player with a well-rounded game.
The forgotten man in the Kawhi Leonard trade, Poeltl should thrive in San Antonio. He sets good screens, rolls hard to the basket, finishes well, loves to pass and has excellent timing. Gregg Popovich adores players like him, and it wouldn't shock me if the coaching staff decides to start him and make Pau Gasol the focal point of the second unit.
It's hard to talk about Poeltl's progression without talking about Gasol, who played a career-low 23.5 minutes per game last season. Will they split minutes? Will Alridge spent lots of time at center? Poeltl averaged 18.6 minutes for the Raptors in 2017-18, and there is a world in which that number is much higher in San Antonio. It just depends how all the pieces fit.
Kevin Love isn't the only Cavalier who is going to have the ball in his hands in the post-LeBron era. Osman could be the opening-night starter at small forward, and on a rebuilding team, he should be given a chance to succeed as a playmaker, floor spacer and hustle guy. If you watched him at summer league or with the Turkish national team in FIBA qualifiers, you know that he is talented. It is simply a matter of empowering him and letting him play through mistakes.
Lots of smart people thought Osman deserved more minutes as a rookie. If he was slowly given more minutes as the season went along, perhaps he could have made the Cavs a more versatile team in the playoffs. Regardless, there is no reason for Cleveland to limit him now.
Back to Dinwiddie. He referred to Allen as the foundational piece in Brooklyn on Monday, and he said that he has seen changes in him since the end of last season.
"His attention to detail is even a notch higher," Dinwiddie said. "He understands the NBA and the rigors. You can feel that sense of calm. That's really good. And obviously we all know he's uber-talented. He can do everything from shoot 3s to touch almost the top of the backboard. He's a great talent."
Allen shot 5-for-15 from 3-point range in his rookie season, and he worked on his shot in the summer. He also appeared to be stronger, though at media day he didn't make any over-the-top claims about putting on 15-20 pounds of muscle. The key thing here is that the Nets know what they have with him, and that he Clint Capela; let's see if he can show the same type of year-to-year improvement.to know he can be an impact player. Everybody compares him to
Dinwiddie also said Allen's afro is "a lot more shapely."
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