Locker Room Fantasy Sports discussed our Fantasy Basketball Sleepers, guest writer JP Balladier takes a look at a few more fantasy basketball breakout players to keep an eye on this season. Be sure to check out our Basketball Draft Guide.
With the NBA season set to tip off, many fans are doing their due diligence to research players that are going to break out this upcoming season. Whether it be for fantasy purposes, bragging rights to your friends, or just plain and simple basketball IQ improvement, here are 10 NBA Breakout Players to look out for in the fantasy basketball season.
Tobias Harris, F, Orlando Magic:
Don’t look now, there’s a new #12 in town. The former Milwaukee Buck forward was acquired in a trade by the Magic at the mid season mark last year. Since arriving in Florida the dude has been balling, putting up averages of 18 and 10 rebounds for the second half of the season. Although it shouldn’t have been as surprising to see this rise in production. Harris was once considered a top 10 draft pick in 2011, and his per 36 numbers in the NBA round out to 16.4 points and 7.9 rebounds.
Harris is very versatile being able to play with his back to the basket as well as hang out on the perimeter to drain threes. With no one really ready to pick up the scoring slack in Orlando, he’s a prime break out candidate this upcoming season.
Kemba Walker, G, Charlotte Bobcats:
Walker is entering his third season in the league, which is a synonym for a breakout season for many players. But there are other factors that come into consideration when you think of Kemba as a breakout player. The Bobcats added a legitimate #1 option (yes, you read that right) in big Al Jefferson, and teams are going to be paying a lot of attention to that more than they’re going to be worrying about Kemba on the perimeter. Cody Zeller is also in Charlotte, and while most fans will call his 4th overall selection in the past NBA draft a reach, he’s a guy that can command attention to defenders. What does that mean? Open looks for Kemba. He’s at his best shooting jump shots and driving the lane.
Expect his field goal % to increase this year (46% form the field is a fair estimate), and his assist numbers to flirt around the 7.0 mark dishing it to his bigs. I really like Kemba Walker to put up 20, 3 and 7 this year as well as seeing him make a case for his first all star game and first Bobcat to participate since Gerald Wallace in the 2009-10 season.
Eric Bledsoe, G, Phoenix Suns:
This one’s a bit obvious isn’t it? With the recent departure of Marcin Gortat on top of Luis Scola, Bledsoe now becomes the #1 option in Suns-land, and will have complete liberty on the offensive end. But his offense isn’t his best attribute; Bledsoe is a pesky defender on the perimeter and is going to be a nightmare for guys like his former teammate Chris Paul.
Coming from a backup role in LA to the starting shooting guard in Phoenix, expect him to constantly be in the most improved players discussion. It’s not outrageous to see him put up 15, 5, and 5 with 2.5 steals and over a block per game. Bledsoe is a little guy who can do it all, and the Suns are going to be at least a little excited to see him get those chase down blocks. That might distract fans from a lost season after trading a lot of their assets.
Iman Shumpert, G/F, New York Knicks:
Gone is the high top haircut and in comes more playing time for Shump. He’s now a year removed from his ACL surgery, which is usually when players get their big bounce backs (Ask Derrick Rose how he feels). Shumpert has always been a great defender, something that the Knicks really need. That means he’ll be on the court longer defending the big names in the game and tiring them down.
Shumpert is a guy that plays hard all the time, makes those intense hustle plays and never looks tired on the court. His teammates love his demeanor and are going to reward him for his hard effort finding him for easy shots. While his production decreased last year, his per 36 numbers were fairly similar. He’s worked a lot on his jump shot, and his athleticism makes it easy for him to take the ball to the rim.
He played a crucial role for the Knicks in last year’s playoff series against a veteran Celtics team. I can see him playing around 30 minutes a night, putting up 14 points, 4 rebounds 3 assists, a couple of steals, and a couple of threes. Like I said, this kid is freakishly athletic, the time for Iman Shumpert to shine is now.
Jonas Valanciunas, C, Toronto Raptors:
Valanciunas was drafted as a 6’11” 230 pound center. The knock on him coming out of the draft other than not being able to get into the NBA for a year, was the fact that he was too skinny and weak to play against the big post guys in North America.
Now, three years later and an NBA season under his belt, he’s up to being a legitimate 7 footer and added 30 pounds of muscle to a whopping 260 lbs.Valanciunas had a busy summer, demonstrating his strength in this past summer league winning MVP honors by averaging 18.8 points and 10 rebounds, and performing admirably for team Lithuania. He exceeded expectations last season putting up just under 9 points and 6 rebounds in 24 minutes.
Remember, he’s still just 21 years old and centers in the NBA don’t start hitting their stride until they’re at least 25, so that’s already a big thing for a guy that’s going to take on all the low post assignments in Toronto. With Derozan and Gay on his team, look for Jonas Valanciunas to average 14 points, 9 rebounds as well as adding 1.5 blocks per game.
Andre Drummond, C, Detroit Pistons:
Another big man that made some noise in the summer, Andre Drummond had monster performances in the Orlando summer league dominating in the post. Coming out of the draft many scouts compared him to the second coming of Amaré Stoudemire, and while he doesn’t quite have the same game when it comes to shooting the ball, Drummond is as effective around the basket.
6’10” with a 270 pound frame that no one is going to push around, he’s already developing into a scary low post defender. His large frame is deceiving, as he’s way more athletic than you’d think, but make no mistake, the guy can play.
Yes that Pistons team brought in a lot of firepower meaning less touches, but it’s not like Drummond was getting many touches on the offensive side last year. He’s going to be grabbing those missed shots and I can almost guarantee that he’ll be on weekly highlight plays with his insane put-backs. A double double season isn’t out of the question for Drummond, 10, 10, with a pair of blocks per game is what I have him averaging next year.
The young trio are ready to take over as the future of the Utah Jazz. Gordon Hayward, the 9th overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft, is going to be the most successful of the three. We already know he’s a very versatile defender, being able to guard the 2,3 and 4 spots. But his offense is going to keep improving this year. Last year, Hayward averaged just under 3 more points with less playing time.
Now with the departures of Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, and Mo Williams, there’s a lot of touches to go around in Salt Lake City. Hayward is going to see at least 14 shots per game this year. His per 36 minutes have also improved each and every year. He’s a guy that doesn’t mess up any opportunity, and that isn’t going to change this year seeing as the Jazz are still going to have two dominant big men on the court in Kanter and Favors to replace the two that they lost in Jefferson and Millsap.
At this point in time, Hayward and the Jazz are discussing a contract extension that some are saying is more lucrative than Favors’ 4 year $49 million contract. You’re not going to pay a player that type of money without making him one of your centerpieces. Hayward can average 18 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists to go along with 1.5 steals and a block per game.
On the other hand, Derrick Favors is the man in the paint. A big man with an old-school back-to-the-basket game, Favors has been learning the post game from one of the best in Jefferson for the past two and a half years. He’s got his footwork down which is the main aspect of a successful post player (see: Tim Duncan) and knows how to get his guy off the floor with his pump fakes.
Favors is going to see a huge rise in productivity (as confirmed by his brand new contract), and 16 points with 8.5 rebounds is a very realistic prediction for him. The former 3rd overall pick is finally going to showcase his game in Utah.
That leaves Kanter, another former 3rd overall pick. Kanter’s game is very different than Favors. A better jump shooter than people may think, he hasn’t really gotten a chance to use it to this point. While the Turkish center is going to be in the post a lot, Utah is going to be using him on the pick and pop more, he’s got enough athleticism to take it to the rack from there or spot up for the 15 foot jumper.
He’s still a very good finisher around the rim (54.6% last year) and his points to rebound ratio is very similar. 14 points and 11 rebounds sounds about right for him, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he finished in the top 10 in the league in rebounds.
MarShon Brooks, SG, Boston Celtics:
There was once a time when Marshon Scitif Brooks (Scitif is his middle name) was considered a steal in the 2011 NBA draft after his rookie year. Brooks played just under 30 minutes per game and put up a respectable 12.6 ppg shooting just under 43% from the floor. Now with no one in Boston providing the scoring punch, Brooks has a chance to shine. Yes he’s fighting for playing time with Jordan Crawford and Avery Bradley when Rondo returns, but Crawford makes some awful decisions on the court, and new head coach Brad Stevens is a statistics mogul.
Brooks is much more productive when he’s on the court and less of a defensive liability compared to Crawford. Keith Bogans and Courtney Lee will also see time at the 2 guard spot, but they are going to be sharing the small forward duties in Boston for most of the time. A resurgence from Scitif Brooks is very much in the future of this Celtics season, I can see him getting back to his rookie form scoring 12 maybe 13 points per game. Who knows, it may be even higher when Rondo gets back on the court.
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