2014-15 Predictions: Breakout Players

Earlier this week, I joined my friend Spencer Suk in breaking down some of the players most likely to be busts in this upcoming season. Spencer is a big Clippers fan (since day one!) and one of the best basketball minds I know. He joined me to pick the breakout players for this season. Make sure you check out the rest of the great stuff on his website, The Franchise!

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Detroit Pistons

Andre Drummond

Drummond is just 21 years old and looks poised to become the best true center in the NBA. He had a fantastic sophomore campaign, finishing first in offensive rebounds per game, second in field goal percentage, second in rebounds per game, and tenth in blocks per game. Drummond cleaned up his teammates’ misses with ease, averaging 5.4 offensive rebounds per game (1.4 per game more than second place).

Stan Van Gundy has taken over the reigns in Detroit, which bodes well for Drummond, as Van Gundy helped develop a player quite similar to him: 3-time Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard. Van Gundy created a defensive system that accentuated Howard’s skills and strengths, helping him to grow into the player he is today. All signs point towards him doing the same for Drummond.

Spencer Suk

jimmy butler

Jimmy Butler

Jimmy “G” (the G stands for Get Buckets)/”Jordan” Butler has clearly garnered some major hype from fans and Stacey King alike. As long as his preseason thumb strain is not a major issue, I believe Jimmy is primed for a big season. After shooting 47% from the field and a stellar 38% from range in his first full season, Butler rocketed back toward the mean last season, putting up an ugly 40%/28% shooting line. If Jimmy can just bridge the gap between the two Butlers we’ve seen, his value increases significantly. 44% on 33-35% three point shooting would be stellar from a lock-down defender.

What Butler really does impressively, though, is get to the charity stripe with ease. Jimmy excels at drawing fouls, reaching the free throw line five times per game last season. This is doubly impressive because Butler had a below average usage rate of 17% (average would be 20%, hence each player uses one fifth of the possessions). On a team that struggled to score without Derrick Rose, Butler’s offense was much needed. The free throws helped a lot when the jumpers weren’t falling.

With Rose back, added shooting and depth, and another offseason of work, it’s fair to expect another step forward from Butler. If he can start knocking down his jumper consistently, the rest of the league better watch out.

Jake Weiner

via Fansided
via Fansided

Klay Thompson

Klay Thompson has truly earned his reputation as one half of the duo known as the Splash Brothers. While he is widely known for his three-point shooting, the development throughout the rest of his game is what can make him elite this year. The most exciting of which may be his added mid-range post game.

Standing at 6’ 7”, Thompson often created size mismatches last year, and it seemed like Mark Jackson would force it into Klay play after play. The problem with this approach was that Thompson was not consistent enough to bank on consecutive buckets (they also never really ran set plays for Klay to get him going early in the game). However, he showed consistency with his mid-range game this summer in Spain with Team USA. In a few years, once he gets going, don’t be surprised to see Thompson torching people in the mid-post a la Kobe.

But what truly makes Thompson special is the fact that he plays both sides of the ball. He has consistently gotten better at defense every year and can legitimately be one of the premier perimeter defenders in the league this year. Thompson’s experience playing with Team USA was invaluable and has helped prepare him for a breakout year.

Spencer Suk

Charlotte Hornets  vs Philadelphia 76ers

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

Oh, MKG. We all want you to be great! A humble kid who’s overcome a ton, MKG burst onto the scene as a two-way star at Kentucky. The second pick after Anthony Davis, he’s been mostly an afterthought in his time in the NBA. While MKG quickly proved he’s a legitimate perimeter defender, his insane jumper mechanics were never going to produce anything resembling an average jumper.

But wait, you ask, isn’t this a breakout players article? Yes, yes it is! And MKG has been working overtime on that jumper and now it looks…pretty?! Judge for yourself.

Day 2 at #HornetsCamp, @mkg14 putting up shots after practice

A post shared by Charlotte Hornets (@hornets) on

Yeah, that’s smooth. If this is something Kidd-Gilchrist can keep up, the only massive hole in his game has just been filled up. MKG is never gonna be a Paul George-level shooter…but if he can work his way up to just average, his other skills are deadly.

Jake Weiner

paul-george-george-hill

George Hill

Look… Someone has to do something for the Indiana Pacers. Lance Stephenson is gone, Paul George is recovering from a horrific injury, Davis West is struggling with his ankle, and Roy Hibbert is going to be a bust this year according to Mr. Weiner.

Enter George Hill. George Hill had a down year in the 2013-14 season, but I attribute that to the rise of Lance Stephenson, not the decline of Hill. Stephenson became the primary ball handler last year, which made sense considering he is a gifted passer and Hill is the better spot-up shooter between the two. As you can see, the effect of this scheme caused Hill’s usage rate to drastically fall:

George Hill Averages
Season Minutes Points Assists FG Attempts FT Attempts
2012-13 34.5 14.2 4.7 11.5 2.8
2013-14 32 10.3 3.5 8.1 2.3

Now that the Pacers are in desperate need of ball-handling and scoring, expect a lot of the workload to be dumped on Hill’s shoulders. And I expect good things from him. I mean, there’s a reason he used to be Coach Pop’s favorite player.

Spencer Suk

JonasV

Jonas Valanciunas

Jonas was the fifth overall pick in 2011 and is still just 22 years old. He had a pretty quiet rookie year, but last season he emerged as a budding center. The Lithuanian finished the season averaging 11.3 PPG and 8.8 RPG on stellar 53% FG shooting. However, he really turned it up late in the season and in the playoffs. In April, he averaged 16.8 PPG and 11.0 RPG and he put up 9.7 RPG against Brooklyn in a classic seven game defeat.

Given that he’s younger than most of the writers for this blog, Jonas is a safe bet to pick up right where he left off. He’s a prototypical center that can run the floor, grab a ton of boards, and block shots. And he’s not afraid of DeMarcus Cousins either:

I’m betting on Jonas and the Raptors to keep improving. With a young talented core that clearly doesn’t lack in confidence, the future is bright in Toronto. It never hurts to have Drizzy Drake as your brand ambassador/tamperer.

Jake Weiner

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