Six NBA Players Primed To Breakout
Every year there are a handful of NBA players who have given us reason to believe that this season will be the one when they breakout. A potent mixture of development last season combined with opportunity can prime a player to make the leap in statistics and possibly leadership on the court.
The top six breakout candidates to watch in 2012-13 are:
6. Bismack Biyombo, Charlotte Bobcats
Bismack Biyombo arrived in the NBA as a freak athlete with limited basketball experience and he only played 12.7 minutes a game over his first two months in the NBA, but as his minutes ramped up his game started to blossom. In January, Biyombo averaged 3.2 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks, but in the second-half of the season, he got to play starter’s minutes and posted 6.6 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.0 blocks.
The Bobcats moved out big men Boris Diaw, Eduardo Najera and D.J. White and brought in Brendon Haywood, so Biyombo will be getting starter’s minutes all season and more of those minutes should come at the power forward position. Look for Biyombo’s defensive statistics, especially help-side blocks, to jump and for him to make another step in his offensive game. A 10 point, 10 rebound, and 2.5 block season should be in the works for the Bobcats sophomore as he starts to get noticed as one of the league’s better defensive big men.
5. Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers
Rookie power forward Tristan Thompson was brought along quietly by the Cavaliers, playing behind the two-time All-Star Antawn Jamison and in the shadow of first overall pick Kyrie Irving, but over the season, Thompson proved his game was getting better fast. Typical rookie season numbers of 8.2 points and 6.5 rebounds and a block in 23.5 minutes obscured his steadily increasing minutes and production.
The Cavaliers let Jamison leave in free agency to free up minutes for the fourth overall pick in 2011 draft and Thompson will get his chance to prove the Cavaliers’ brass were right when they selected him ahead of draft prospects Jonas Valanciunas and Biyombo. If he can keep developing at his rookie pace, Thompson’s sophomore season will be a breakout year.
4. Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets
It’s tempting to call Kenneth Faried’s rookie season a breakout year as the high energy forward’s 10.2 points and 7.7 rebounds were totally unexpected, but as Faried went from being nailed to the bench to starter, his production just kept accelerating month-to-month.
Al Harrington and Chris Anderson are gone and Faried’s playing time will benefit. In April, Faried was averaging 26.8 minutes, 11.6 points, 9.1 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and 0.9 steals. Playing starter’s minutes for an entire season, Faried will leave his rookie numbers in the dust.
3. Goran Dragic, Phoenix Suns
This isn’t the first time Goran Dragic was expected to breakout, but last season was his first opportunity to start for an extended period and show what he could do. Dragic started the final 26 games in Houston and put up All-Star worthy numbers on a .500 team. Naturally, Houston let him walk in free agency.
With the two-time MVP and multiple-time All-Star Steve Nash leaving Phoenix for the LA Lakers, Dragic is the Sun’s undisputed starting point guard in October and he’ll have former Rocket’s teammate Luis Scola to help ease the transition and pile up the assists. After four years in the NBA, Dragic is ready to breakout with the Suns.
2. Andrea Bargnani, Toronto Raptors
When All-Star Chris Bosh left Toronto in 2010, Andrea Bargnani was expected to carry the offensive load and prove he was deserving of the number one pick in the 2006 draft. While he averaged 21.4 points per game, it was not a breakout season as the Raptors lost 60 games and Bargnani missed significant time with a calf injury. Last season Bargnani showed why statistics are not necessarily the only indication of a breakout year. For 13 games, Bargnani averaged 23.5 points per game before he injured his calf the second time, but it was his vastly improved defense under the guidance of new head coach Dwane Casey that indicated a breakout season might be in progress. Bargnani missed half of last season to injury and the pending breakout died with the missed games.
Bargnani is expected to start next season like he started last season and the hope is he avoids the fluky injuries that has cost him so many games recently. A healthy Bargnani will finally have the breakout season expected from a number one overall draft pick.
1. Andrew Bynum, Philadelphia 76ers
An offensive-minded player in the role of third option can easily become frustrated and never seem to quite live up to his potential. After seven seasons with the Lakers, Andrew Bynum finally started to see the ball on a consistent basis last year and it was evident in his numbers. Bynum averaged 18.6 points on 13.3 shots to better his previous season high in 2009-10 of 15 points on 10.6 shots. Shots per game rose from 11.7 in January to 16.2 in April and Bynum showed he could deliver 20-plus points per game, if he was featured in the offense.
With the trade to Philadelphia this summer, Bynum has become the number one offensive option on a team that has been looking for scoring. As the undisputed best offensive center in the Eastern Conference, Bynum will get all the shots he can handle next season and the breakout in his offensive production should be impressive.
These six breakout candidates are not alone. Many teams have players who could breakout, but will be competing for minutes with established players or have yet to show they can take another step. Keep a close watch on Omer Asik (Houston Rockets), Ricky Rubio (Minnesota Timberwolves), Serge Ibaka (Oklahoma City Thunder), Nicolas Batum (Portland Trail Blazers), Derrick Favors (Utah Jazz), and Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs) as well.
Is there a breakout candidate for 2012-2013 that we have overlooked? Give us your top six breakout candidates in the comments below and tell us why they are players to watch next season.