Six NBA players who are about to break out

The NBA season is underway, and every year there are a few players that raise the level of their games. This might stem from maturity, improvement or increased opportunity. These players aren’t household names, but they could be by season’s end.

Here are six players that have a great shot to break out. These guys aren’t rookies; but they’re all relatively young and for whatever reason, they just haven’t reached their potential. I’ve ranked them in the order of just how certain I am that they’ll break out this season.

1. Jose Calderon, Raptors
Calderon was the #4 PG last season in terms of PER, but he posted great numbers while T.J. Ford was out, which prompted the Raptors to trade Ford to the Pacers for Jermaine O’Neal. In 56 games as the starter, Calderon averaged 13.0 points, 9.1 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals. He’ll probably see 35-38 minutes per game this year, so those numbers are probably a baseline. On the season, he shot 52% from the field, 43% from 3PT and 91% from the charity stripe, making him one of the most efficient shooters in the league. Moreover, he’s just 27 years old and the Raptors wisely locked him up with a five-year deal worth $43 million, which might seem like a bargain in a year or two. Since he’s Spanish and plays for the Raptors, he’ll probably still be ignored. What a shame.

2. Devin Harris, Nets
Before his trade to the Nets, Harris already had something of a breakout season with the Mavs, averaging 14.4 points and 5.3 assists per game. In 25 games with the Nets, he averaged 15.4 points and 6.5 assists. After the trade, his shooting percentage dipped, so if he can get that back up to his career 47% mark, a 17/7 season is not out of the question. Harris is lightning quick – especially for someone that’s 6’3” – and he has an improving jumper. (He shot the ball well while at Wisconsin, but seemed to lose that touch a bit once he hit the NBA.) His numbers could jump even more if the team is able to trade Vince Carter. Do you think the Mark Cuban will regret the trade after he pays Jason Kidd $21.3 million to shoot 39% from the field resulting in a first-round playoff exit for the Mavs? Me too. Harris is one of the young pieces that the Nets will use to try to lure LeBron James to Brooklyn in the summer of 2010, and the Mavs never should have traded him away.

3. David Lee, Knicks
Last season, Lee finished ahead of bigger names like Emeka Okafor, Lamar Odom and Rashard Lewis in terms of PER, and now that Mike D’Antoni is in town, I fully expect Lee’s minutes to increase from the 29.1 he got last season (Isiah, what were you thinking?) to something in the 35- to 37-minute range. He averaged 10.8 points and 8.9 rebounds on the season, but in 27 games as a starting forward, he averaged 12.9 points and 10.0 rebounds in 33.1 minutes per game. (I’ll ask again – Isiah, what were you thinking?) His hard-nosed, energetic play fits D’Antoni’s style, and while he’s due for an extension next season, the Knicks have so many bad contracts that they might have to include Lee just to get a fresh start. The key will be for the Knicks to find a taker for Zach Randolph and the $33 million he coming to him over the next two seasons. Eddy Curry’s contract isn’t quite as bad, so if the Knicks can get out from under Randolph’s, they may be able to hold onto Lee.

4. Thaddeus Young, 76ers
In terms of PER, Young was the #18 small forward in his rookie season, finishing just behind Danny Granger and ahead of Tayshaun Prince. That is impressive company, especially for a first-year player. He averaged just 8.2 points and 4.2 rebounds on the season, but in 22 games as a starter, he posted 10.6 points and 5.0 rebounds in 29.1 minutes. But what was most impressive was his 55% shooting as a starter. Elton Brand’s arrival should free Young up to make more plays. Expect Young to average 12-15 points and 5-7 rebounds per game.

5. Randy Foye, Timberwolves
Foye isn’t a pure point guard, but he can play the position. In 31 games as a starter, he averaged 14.3 points and 4.8 assists even though he was coming off of a “stress reaction” injury in his kneecap. Now that he’s had an offseason to recover, he should get off to a fast start this season. He’s very solid from long-range (41%) and the free throw line (82%) and doesn’t seem to have any major holes in his game. Along with Mike Miller, the duo will make for a sharp-shooting backcourt that will keep opposing guards from double-teaming Al Jefferson. GM Kevin McHale hasn’t done a whole lot right over the past few years, but Foye was a pretty good get.

6. Mike Conley, Grizzlies
He had trouble shooting the ball (43%) in his rookie season, but he missed time due to shoulder and rib injuries, so we should probably cut him some slack. The Grizzlies drafted him to be the point guard of the future, so he should get lots of opportunity to prove he’s the guy this season. The Grizzlies want to run, and with O.J. Mayo on one wing and Rudy Gay on the other, they could be an exciting team to watch with the super-quick Conley running the show.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Related Posts