Sunday Topic: Who’s Poised to Break Out?
Every Sunday, HOOPSWORLD’s analysts weigh in on an NBA-related topic. Get in on the debate by leaving your thoughts in the comment section. Here’s this week’s Sunday Topic.
Nobody predicted that Jeremy Lin would go from obscure journeyman to global icon in the span of several months. Few expected Ryan Anderson to double his production and average career-highs across the board last season. Every year, there are several players who exceed expectations and break out. It’s always tough to predict which players are poised to break out because these overachievers usually come out of nowhere and surprise us all (see Pekovic, Nikola). However, HOOPSWORLD’s analysts will give it a shot.
Who is poised to break out in the 2012-13 season?
“Kenneth Faried. After starting his rookie season plugged on the bench (something that tends to happen with George-Karl-coached teams), Faried nearly averaged a double-double in the month of April last season. He’s the only legitimate power forward left on this roster, and his minutes should see a significant enough bump this season for him to truly break out as an NBA starter.
Faried’s per 36 minutes numbers last year were fantastic – 16.4 points, 12.2 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and 1.2 steals – and with his athleticism and energy there’s a real chance he approaches those as actual per game statistics this year.
There’s just a lot to like about this kid, and despite his relatively small stature, he should really blossom into something special in 2012-2013.” – Joel Brigham
“Omer Asik. After coming off the bench for the Chicago Bulls during the first two years of his career, Asik will take on a bigger role as a starter for the Houston Rockets. Asik signed a three-year, $25.1 million deal over the offseason and now all eyes will be on the 26-year-old to see what he can do with increased minutes.
Asik is one of the best defenders in the league and he’ll finally get the recognition he deserves. Not only is he a great shot blocker and rebounder, he can singlehandedly turn Houston into an elite defensive team. Last season, the Bulls gave up 7.6 points per 100 possessions less when Asik was on the floor. The numbers show that few players impact a game defensively like Asik. Of all NBA players to defend at least 250 plays last year, Asik ranked No. 1 in the league, allowing just 0.653 points per play. The Rockets, a team that loves advanced analytics, saw this and made an offer that Chicago couldn’t match.
Offensively, Asik still has some developing to do, but this season he’ll get more touches than ever before. Last season, Asik averaged just 3.1 points in 14.7 minutes, so averaging a career-high in scoring shouldn’t be difficult, especially since Jeremy Lin likes to find his big men for easy baskets. With that said, anything that Asik contributes on the offensive end is just a bonus; his true impact is seen on the defensive end and on the boards. This could be a big year for the center, who remains extremely underrated.” – Alex Kennedy
“Goran Dragic. The Phoenix Suns acquired Dragic with hopes he’d be the successor to Steve Nash. Dragic was taken 45th overall by the San Antonio Spurs in 2008 but was sent to the Suns in a draft-day trade. After two and a half seasons, Phoenix decided to go in another direction and traded Dragic for Houston Rockets point guard Aaron Brooks. The move didn’t pay off initially for the Suns (Brooks didn’t flourish, signed overseas during the lockout and Phoenix let him leave outright in July).
Dragic didn’t do much in his first partial season with the Rockets but when Kyle Lowry went down with illness, Dragic finally got his chance to start consistently. He played so well that the Suns out-spent Houston this offseason to give Dragic the same role they had in mind for him when he was acquired in 2008, replacing Nash.
Phoenix had a strong summer and while they have a lot to prove in this new era, Dragic will get every opportunity to show that he’s a starting-caliber point guard in the NBA. Now, he needs to prove that he can lead the Suns as the floor general through an 82-game schedule.
It may be a stretch to consider Phoenix a playoff team, but Dragic is in position to truly show his worth as a player and he’s certainly poised for what should be the best season of his career. Now he has to live up to that expectation, especially with a $30 million, four-year contract from the Suns.” – Eric Pincus
“Andrew Bynum. It may seem strange to say that a player entering his eighth season in the NBA needs to have a breakout year, but that’s exactly what Bynum needs to have in his first season with the Philadelphia 76ers.
He has been talking for years about how much he wants to be the focal point on his own team, and the trade that sent him to Philly from the Los Angeles Lakers did just that. There are no shadows for Bynum to fade behind now, this is his team and he has to take ownership. That means he has to be consistent, stay healthy and deliver something in the range of 25 points and 12-15 rebounds per game.
If he can do those things, he could emerge as an MVP candidate this season. If he can’t, the Sixers could fall well short of their lofty postseason goals.” – Bill Ingram
“Lou Williams. Despite coming off the bench and playing just 26 minutes a night last season in Philadelphia, Williams led the Sixers in scoring, averaging 14.9 points per game.
Over the last two seasons combined (139 games), Williams has averaged 20.8 points, 5.0 assists, 3.2 rebounds, 1.8 three-pointers and 1.0 steals per 36 minutes. Now that the Atlanta Hawks have traded away their starting two-guard and leading scorer Joe Johnson, there is very little in the way of competition for Sweet Lou.
Thus, it’s safe to assume he’ll finally see 30+ minutes a night in Atlanta.” – Tommy Beer
“DeMarcus Cousins. I really feel like this is going to be the year that Cousins breaks out from a public perspective. Statistically, he’s already one of the best big men in the league, but he is often oddly left out of that discussion. By the time this season is done, though, I see his spot in the class being undeniable.
He’s really mislabeled, but one thing that can help him shed all the misconceptions that have weighed him down in the past is great production. By putting up 20 points and 10+ rebounds along with a couple of assists and a block, he’ll change all the talk about his question marks to talk about his skills and ability, which are amongst the best in the league for centers.
Look for him to make the Sacramento Kings a very competitive team. They may not have enough to make it to the playoffs, but it won’t be because of a lack of production from Cousins.” – Yannis Koutroupis
“LaMarcus Aldridge. Already a top-10 scorer in the NBA this past season for the Portland Trail Blazers, the 27-year old Aldridge appears primed to take his game to even greater heights in 2013. In 2012, Aldridge finished seventh in the NBA in scoring at 21.7 points per game while making a career-high 51.2 percent of his attempts from the field. Over the course of his six-year career, Aldridge has continued to improve season after season and there’s no reason to believe that progress doesn’t continue.
Watching the Trail Blazers, it’s clear that Aldridge is capable of dominating opponents on the offensive end on an even more consistent basis this season. Featuring a repertoire of moves around the basket to go along with a sweet stroke from the perimeter, Aldridge has shown in spurts throughout his career that he has the ability to take over with the game on the line. Now it’s up to the big man to put it all together on a consistent basis as the leader of this young, up-and-coming Blazers squad in 2013.
With a young team likely riding on Aldridge’s back and looking to him for guidance this season, it’s difficult to see the former second overall pick not embracing and rising to the challenge.” – Derek Page
Who will break out in 2012-13? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.