Which NBA Teams and Players are Ready to Step Up and Breakout?
Look at any season across any sports and you will find either breakout players or breakout teams.
Whether these players or teams surprise the majority of the league or were expected to take a big step forward, every season has its breakout candidates. This year is no different as there are a number of organizations and players looking to surprise the basketball world and put together incredible seasons.
Let’s take a look at some of our breakout candidates for the 2019-20 campaign!
It appears as though too many people are considering the Eastern Conference to be a four team race between the Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors, and Boston Celtics.
While I agree that the East will not boast a ton of strength past the first four teams, let’s not forget about the Indiana Pacers who have a legitimate shot at surprising a number of teams. The Malcolm Brogdon signing may be one of the more underrated deals of the offseason and the Pacers are hopeful of having All-Star Victor Oladipo back in the fold at some point during the Winter. Head Coach Nate McMillan has done an exceptional job with this group over the past couple of years and no one should be surprised of the Pacers big man duo of Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner takes another big step forward in their development.
With the additions of T.J. Warren and Jeremy Lamb on the wings and another year of growth from point guard Aaron Holiday, the Pacers will be a team to watch out for, especially once ‘Dipo returns.
Anfernee Simmons, Portland Trailblazers
Up until July’s Summer League not many people outside of Portland may have heard of Anfernee Simmons.
Drafted out of the IMG Academy, Simmons never had an opportunity to make a splash on the collegiate level, but boy did he ever make defenders look foolish during the Summer League. Splashing three pointers off the dribble, he showed the ability to create his own shot, attack defenses, and flat out score.
With not much guard depth behind Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, expect Simmons to take over the reserve role and have a breakout, Most Improved Player of the Year calibre season. The 20-year old babyfaced guard capped off last season with a 37-point and nine assist performance against the Sacramento Kings and will look to prove that that performance wasn’t just a flash in the pan.
“It showed me that I really did get better since the beginning of the year, and that I could do it at a high level,” Simons said following last year’s regular season finale. “My coaches said I have a real opportunity to play this year, and I’m ready to take full advantage of it.”
When Simmons balls out, don’t be surprised.
Golden State Warriors
Is it possible to expect the dynastic Golden State Warriors to be a surprise team this upcoming year?
Let me explain.
The Warriors lost Kevin Durant in free agency and are expected to be without Klay Thompson for a large chunk of the season. Crazy it seems, far too many people think the Warriors may not even crack the NBA postseason this year.
That’s just blasphemous!
This will be a very interesting test for the Warriors as for the first time in over half a decade, their backs are against the wall and not many believers are left in their corner. It’s time to prove the doubters wrong and they will. Head coach Steve Kerr does an excellent job at putting his players in the best position to succeed more often than not and all they really have to do is tread above water and remain in striking distance up until Thompson returns.
I may be crazy, but I believe that this is a team capable of returning to the NBA Finals once Thompson is back so if you’re smart, whatever you do, do not count out the Golden State Warriors. Durant may be gone, but the championship DNA of this team remains the same.
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Terry Rozier, Charlotte Hornets
Is there any player this season who will experience a greater increase in responsibility than Terry Rozier?
The former Boston Celtics point guard has spent the past few seasons backing up Isaiah Thomas and then Kyrie Irving. Now, he has earned the shot to be front and center as the starting point guard of a rebuilding Charlotte Hornets team. The usage rate will skyrocket and with a new contract in-hand, the Hornets will expect Rozier to take his game up a few notches.
Scary Terry has shown in his time in Boston that he is capable of acquiring a larger role and now he’s got the opportunity any NBA player craves. Rozier will be asked to fill the shoes of Kemba Walker, meaning anything less than a career season for the 25-year old guard will be deemed a disappointment.
Markelle Fultz, Orlando Magic and Lonzo Ball, New Orleans Pelicans
The no. 1 and 2 overall picks in the 2017 Draft have failed to live up to their hype to this point.
In fact, LaVar Ball has even gone as far as to call his son Lonzo “damaged goods”.
Both players are still incredibly young and now they have new opportunities on new teams to show why they were worth the top two picks in the Draft. Out of the spotlight of Los Angeles and Philadelphia, Ball and Markell Fultz will need to put together strong seasons not just to ensure the success of their respectful teams, but to prove to themselves that they are able to star in the NBA.
A fresh start may be exactly what both players need and only time will tell if they can finally put things together and leave their injury-riddled history behind them.