With training camps still in the distance, let’s take a moment to discuss seven young NBA players who are poised to break out as stars in the 2019-20 season.
Fox made a substantial jump in his sophomore season, but he still has another notch to go. He finished second in Most Improved Player of the Year voting, and rightfully so.
Fox finished the season averaging 17.3 points, 7.3 assists, and 3.8 rebounds per game. He grew exponentially as a shooter, he helped make the Kings a competitive bunch, and he did this after many claimed he was a bust after just one season in the league.
But, Fox can do more.
He is on the verge of becoming a superstar; the next great point guard in the league. He has to take a jump defensively, especially considering how athletically gifted he is. He showed it in spurts last season, but the Kentucky product needs to be a menace on that end of the floor more often and he needs to be a more versatile scorer.
These are realistic goals, and it’s a smart bet that he achieves them considering he is just 21 years old.
Kennard started his ascension late last year, and the Pistons need him to continue to progress fast in his development. Detroit needs him to breakout considering their trend toward mediocrity, but Kennard has the potential to swing their outlook to a brighter direction.
An immense amount of his potential comes as a scorer. Through two seasons, the former Duke Blue Devil has averaged 8.6 points per game on 40.3 percent shooting from the 3-point line. Post All-Star break, he averaged 11.7 points on 42.7 percent shooting from deep while adding three rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. He was a plus-5.4 on the court and had a 60.2% true shooting percentage.
Kennard just turned 23 years old and fits well on the wing on a team with a star-studded frontcourt in Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond. If he develops right, Kennard will be one of the smoothest and efficient shooting guards in the league.
Luke Kennard is on fire! 🔥
— NBA (@NBA) March 3, 2019
The Heat are practically banking on Bam Adebayo to take a big leap next year, and their faith seems to be well put. Centers still matter in the NBA, and Adebayo is one that certainly will considering the talent he has put on display throughout his first two seasons with Miami, and the center spot is officially his with Hassan Whiteside dealt to Portland.
Adebayo is part of the new breed of big men. He can handle and pass the ball proficiently, he’s quick and explosive, and while he doesn’t shoot from distance yet, it’s an aspect of his game that he will likely soon develop.
With their trade for Jimmy Butler, the Heat are low on depth. They need some of their younger pieces like Adebayo to be sufficient enough of tools for Butler to work with if they intend on competing for a playoff spot.
Adebayo is going to be put in a position to succeed as a heavily featured man on Miami’s roster next season.
The Thunder are “retooling” and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is the young centerpiece that Sam Presti and the rest of the front office in OKC will begin their new era with. While I’m sure the Thunder weren’t hoping to be in the position that they are in, the netted a potential star in an offseason that cost them both Paul George and Russell Westbrook.
Gilgeous-Alexander stood out on a Los Angeles Clippers team that shocked many last season. At 6-foot-6, he is a lengthy point guard with high potential on both sides of the floor and positional versatility.
In his rookie season, Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 10.8 points, 3.3 assists, and 2.8 rebounds per game while shooting 36.7 percent from deep. In the playoffs, he shined against the Golden State Warriors, averaging 13 points on 50 percent shooting from three to go alongside 3.2 assists per game.
With Chris Paul mentoring and playing alongside him, the wildest expectations may become a reality for Gilgeous-Alexander.
Russell again comes into the season with a lot to prove. He was good enough to earn an All-Star roster spot in a weak East last season, but he struggled mightily in the playoffs.
With inconsistent scoring and poor defensive effort/talent, many are skeptical Russell deserved to be paid the $117 million he was. He has to prove that, and show the Warriors he’s too talented to just be a trade chip for them while they bide time until Klay Thompson returns from injury.
Russell was third in MIP voting after leading the Brooklyn Nets to a shocking postseason appearance. He averaged career-highs in points, rebounds, and 3-point percentage last year, but he was a liability in the playoffs.
Can Russell maximize himself offensively in Golden State while committing to defending at a higher level? Does he even have another level to reach? Some think he does, some think he doesn’t. It’s up to Russell to prove who’s right and who’s wrong.
Just a little preview of D’Angelo Russell giving the Lakers buckets. 😈 pic.twitter.com/vI8ctUyEmP
— Chris Montano (@gswchris) July 21, 2019
But, Bridges breeds hope. The reins are up for grabs in Charlotte, and he needs to be the one to take them.
When it comes to potential, Bridges seems to be forgotten about. He was supposed to be a lottery pick after one year at Michigan State, but he returned for another season. Seemingly, some of his allure disappeared with that decision.
Bridges was a 5-star prospect going into college and came into the league with elite athleticism and a scoring knack. The Hornets need scoring, and he needs to be one of the players to step up and fill that gap.
But, his potential lies deeper than scoring the basketball. Bridges needs more time and opportunity to develop, which he should get with Charlotte. And with that, he should grow immensely next season.
After five seasons in the league, I’m still not sure that people know how good Gary Harris truly is. He’s been battling injuries throughout his career, but when healthy, he is truly a special player.
Offensively he is a marksman that can also finish at the rim with poise. Defensively he is agile and strong while being versatile enough to guard three positions.
Unfortunately, Harris has not been able to be fully unleashed because of his injuries. Assuming he can stay healthy as Denver remains a top team in the West, people will see how good Harris is. Going into year six, he has one more opportunity to break through while he’s still young.