While superstars generally steal the thunder (no pun intended) and Kevin Durant stole the majority of headlines in the NBA offseason with his move to the Western Conference Champion Golden State Warriors, he is not the only player who figures to play a pivotal role for his team in the 2016-2017 season. There are players that are expected to play a larger role for a new franchise and players that are expected to play a larger role for the franchise they played for in the past year(s). There are those that are sophomores, there are those that have the privilege of having a new Head Coach, there are those that have the luxury of a better supporting cast around them.
Circumstances and situations may differ for these players. However, what they do share is that they all are in prime position to make a strong impact for their respective teams in the 2016-2017 NBA season. Without further ado, here are the Top 15 NBA Players Poised to Break Out this Season.
15 Julius Randle
Last season for the Lake Show revolved around Kobe Bryant’s swan swag more than anything as the team posted one of its worst records in franchise history. With any and every thing focusing on Bryant it is easy to forget that Randle averaged 11.3 PPG and 10.2 RPG. Like Russell, this was Randle’s rookie campaign (unless you were to count the inaugural game in which he suffered a season ending injury in 14-15). Unlike Russell, Coach Byron Scott seemed to be more comfortable with Randle. Fortunately, Randle has a “players coach” coming to Southern California now in Luke Walton. Now that Bryant has departed look for Walton to further develop Randle and Russell as his two cornerstones on the offensive side of the ball. Randle will almost surely see a minutes increase in the lower thirties.
14 Dion Waiters
He’s no Dwyane Wade (even if he did refer to himself as “Kobe Wade” in Syracuse), however what Waiters has in Miami is an opportunity to not play behind LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Waiters has never seen a shot that he disliked and his role in the Miami offense gives him a chance to hoist up more than he ever could have in Cleveland or Oklahoma City. In his first two seasons, Waiters put up 14.7 and 15.9 PPG respectively. He followed up with 11.8 and 9.8 in the two years since due to him becoming more of a sixth man than a starter. Waiters is once again a starter as he “takes his talents to South Beach”. Waiters will have the opportunity to show he’s the scorer he thinks he is ("Kobe Wade").
13 Jerryd Bayless
The Philadelphia 76ers are loaded with big men and are strapped for talent in the backcourt. Coach Brett Brown has relayed that he wants to develop number one overall pick Ben Simmons to take over Point Guard duties. The only problem is Simmons is out with a foot fracture. The 2016-2017 season will be the ninth in the league for Bayless. The 76ers are the NBA’s youngest team and while Bayless is only 28, he figures to be one of the older players on the team. Look for Brown to look to Bayless for veteran leadership as he dictates the team’s offense. Bayless has primarily served as an off the bench type of player, but he has started on numerous occasions throughout his tenure. Bayless arguably has a better than ever opportunity to start for Brown’s bunch.
12 Myles Turner
Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis may have been last season’s most prolific rookies, but Turner was no slouch in Indiana in his own right. In 22.8 MPG Turner put up 10.3 PPG, 5.5 RPG and 1.4 BPG. Turner will definitely see a spike in minutes and will also have the benefit of learning from new signee and veteran Center Al Jefferson. Turner is only 20 years young and the former Texas Longhorn looks to be a pivotal piece for the organization run by Larry Bird. Not to forget, Turner also shot a bolstering 49.8% from the field last year. Turner brings impressive tools to both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Look for Coach Nate McMillan in his first year in Indy, but not his first rodeo to exploit Turner’s skill set.
11 Clint Capela
The face of the Rockets franchise, James Harden, supposedly campaigned to higher ups for Capela to take the starting Center role from Dwight Howard last season. With Howard now a member of the Atlanta Hawks, Capela takes over as the man in the middle. In 19.1 MPG last year Capela showed promise as he posted averages of 7.0 PPG and 6.4 RPG. As if the starting role wouldn’t be helpful enough, Capela has Coach Mike D’Antoni taking over the helm in Houston. D’Antoni, renown for his “seven seconds or less” offense in Phoenix, will likely implement a system of the sort in Houston. Not to forget, Harden will be taking over Point Guard duties and he was arguably the best distributing Shooting Guard; now, imagine him as a Point Guard. Capela has too many factors working in his favor, there is no excuse for him to not take advantage of the opportunity presented to him.
10 T.J. Warren
The majority of folks believe the breakout player for the Phoenix Suns this season will be Devin Booker. Booker will almost undoubtedly improve, but he is still a part of a crowded backcourt along with Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight, even if he will be a full-time starter this season. Warren on the other hand sits comfortably at the swingman position with P.J. Tucker backing him. In his second season, Warren posted a double digit output with 11.0 PPG which was up from his 6.1 PPG in his rookie campaign. Warren’s a scorer and scoring is what Coach Earl Watson will look to Warren for. He only played 22.8 MPG last year so his PPG are pretty impressive. While it is known that Warren can get buckets, it will be interesting to see how else he improves his game as he is a lackluster rebounder and passer.
9 JaMychal Green
New Grizzlies head coach Dave Fizdale certainly made some eyes pop when he selected Green to be the starting Power Forward for the “Grind City” franchise. Green would be filling the shoes of Zach Randolph, the same Zach Randolph who was a double-double threat every time he stepped foot on the court, the same Zach Randolph who was 1/2 of one of the NBA’s most intimidating front courts along with Marc Gasol and the same Zach Randolph who had done nothing to lose his starting job. Green averaged 7.4 PPG and 4.8 RPG last season in 18.5 MPG off the bench. Fizdale may have seen something in camp that outsiders haven’t. Fizzle has given Green the green light; it is now Green’s job to take advantage of the opportunity in front of him.
8 Rodney Hood
In training camp, the former Duke Blue Devil, Hood, was able to beat out Alec Burks for the starting two guard position. Burks is also out indefinitely due to a nagging ankle injury. In Hood’s second season he took a major stride as his PPG jumped from 8.7 a contest to 14.5. In addition, Hood was good for two long balls per game and upped his rebounds, assists and FG%. Hood has now been rewarded with a starting slot for the team out of Salt Lake City. With Burks' injury and the Jazz depleted at SG, look for Coach Quin Snyder to look to Hood (as well as Gordon Hayward) to be his primary weapons on the offensive side of the wall. Hood has shown improvement in the two seasons prior; there is no reason to think he will not continue to improve in a larger role.
7 Will Barton
A spark plug off the bench for the Denver Nuggets last season, Barton really shined in his fifth season in the NBA. Posting career high averages of 14.4 PPG, 5.8 RPG and 2.5 APG, Barton provided Mike Malone’s bunch with instant office off the bench. Barton’s contributions on the second unit have paved way for Malone to enter him into this year’s starting five. Barton averaged 28.7 MPG last season, minutes that are on the higher side for a bench player. There’s no reason to think Malone doesn’t increase Barton’s minutes more this season as he looks for Barton to increase his scoring output and perennially become the go to scorer for the Mile High City’s ball club. Barton looks to not only have found his place in the NBA after five seasons, but he also looks like he can be a nightmare for defenses night in and night out.
6 Gorgui Dieng
When the Minnesota Timberwolves selected Karl-Anthony Towns with the number one pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, it was common knowledge that Dieng’s minutes would dip. He would lose the bulk of his minutes to the forenamed Towns as well as Nikola Pekovic. However, Pekovic will be out for the 2016-2017 season due to recurring right ankle discomfort. Dieng put up averages of 10.1 PPG, 7.1 RPG and 1.2 BPG in the 2015-2016 season under Head Coach Sam Mitchell. Unfortunately for Dieng, Mitchell is no longer in charge in the "Land of 10,000 Lakes”. Fortunately for Dieng, former Chicago Bulls head man Tom Thibodeau is. Thibodeau is known for catering to defensive minded players. Enter Gorgiu Dieng. In Thibodeau’s system Dieng has the capability of becoming a double-double threat for the Timberwolves.
5 Justise Winslow
When Winslow fell to tenth in the 2015 NBA Draft, many had declared Miami as getting the steal of the draft in Winslow. Despite being a top ten pick, Winslow was not a starter for Pat Riley and company. Instead, Winslow was the team’s backup Small Forward behind Luol Deng last season; this year he becomes the team’s starting swingman with Deng’s departure to the Los Angeles Lakers. Winslow accumulated 28.6 MPG last season which is more than some starters on his way to posting 6.4 PPG and 5.2 RPG. Coach Erik Spoelstra will likely look to Winslow more on the offensive side of the ball due to the departure of Dwyane Wade and the medical woes of Chris Bosh. Winslow shouldn’t have much difficulty putting baskets in the hoop as evidenced by his 27.5 PPG average as a high school senior at Houston’s St. John’s School and his 12.6 PPG average in his freshman campaign at Duke.
4 Mason Plumlee
On the brink of hitting a double-double average for points and rebounds, as he averaged 9.1 PPG and 7.7 RPG last season in just 25.4 MPG, Plumlee enters his second season in the PDX. Last season, Coach Terry Stotts juggled Plumlee and backup Center Meyers Leonard in terms of allocated minutes at the Center position. While Plumlee started all 82 games, Leonard averaged 21.9 MPG, just 3.5 minutes less than him. As evidenced by starting each and every game of the regular season, it is safe to say that Stotts is more comfortable with Plumlee in the starting five than he is Leonard. Look for Stotts to instill more trust in Plumlee this season and look for him to reap the benefits and expand his skill set. Not to mention, it doesn’t hurt to have Damian Lillard at the helm of your offense.
3 Jeremy Lin
Backing up Kemba Walker for the Charlotte Hornets in the 2015-2016 NBA season, Lin proved to be a great spark plug in his sixth-man role off the bench for Steve Clifford’s group. Unfortunately for the Michael Jordan owned team, they were unable to retain Lin as he accepted a 3-year $36 million offer from the Brooklyn Nets. In the 2016-2017 season Lin will return to starting Point Guard duties for the Nets. The Nets can lay acclaim to being one of the NBA’s lesser talented teams. Lin looks to be the beneficiary of a slew of minutes coming his way during the Nets rebuild. In his last stint in New York, Lin posted career averages of 14.6 PPG and 6.2 APG. This time around Lin gets a chance to showcase his skills for the other New York team as he takes his talents to the Barclays Center.
2 D’Angelo Russell
While Russell’s rookie season is likely remembered by most for his rocky relationship with Head Coach Byron Scott and/or the Snapchat saga involving teammate Nick Young and his fiancee at the time being, Iggy Azaela, it is easy to forget that Russell had a promising rookie season. Russell averaged 13.2 PPG, 3.4 RPG, and 3.3 APG in a role which featured him as the team’s starting Point Guard as well as coming off the bench depending on how Scott wished to use him. Russell described his rookie campaign as, “Looney Toons. Wasn’t real. I didn’t get nothing out of it.” In contrast, Russell referred to this offseason as, “the coaching staff, the whole atmosphere that this coaching staff brings is different. […] The atmosphere they bring everyday is a winning mentality.” Russell now feels he’s a part of a winning culture. With Luke Walton now leading the purple and gold look for Russell to have a better defined role than he did under Scott and for him to shine in it.
1 Dennis Schroder
With the Atlanta Hawks trading Jeff Teague away to the Indiana Pacers in the offseason, the need for a new starting Point Guard became a necessity for Mike Budenholder’s bunch. Fortunately he would not have to look far as his roster featured a promising, speedy Point Guard in Dennis Schroder. A former first-round pick, Schroder has been on the Hawks roster since the 2013 season and has gradually improved in each of the following seasons. Last season Schroder touted averages of 11.0 PPG, 4.4 APG, and 2.6 RPG in 20.3 MPG. Schroder’s minutes should increase at a minimum of ten minutes per contest which will lead to higher outputs statistically. Schroder also has experience playing with the majority of the team’s core (Kent Bazemore, Kyle Korver and Paul Millsap). Schroder has the ideal opportunity to show the Peach State’s fan base that the Hawks organization made the right choice in choosing him over Teague.
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