The 2021-2022 NBA season is only a few weeks away and we are already predicting the next batch of players who will take their games to another level. There is plenty of talent in the NBA right now, and the future of the league is bright even when players such as LeBron James are getting older and close to retirement.
After all, the NBA is a young man’s league and there are some young stars destined for growth. Here are the 10 players who are most likely primed for breakout seasons, based on their flashes of brilliance last year. With more experience in the league and another stretch of maturity in training camp, expect some young players to blossom into All-Stars by All-Star Weekend next year.
10. Terance Mann
The second-year forward had a decent regular season last year, putting up 7.0 PPG and 3.6 RPG in 18.9 MPG. But Mann blossomed in the playoffs, acting as Paul George’s sidekick when Kawhi Leonard went down with an injury. Mann’s Game 6 performance to help send the Los Angeles Clippers to the Western Conference Finals last year was iconic.
The 24-year old dropped 39 points on 15-21 from the field and 7-10 from the three-point line in a pivotal Game 6 that helped the Clippers each their first-ever Conference Finals. Based on his confidence as a scorer and his streak of toughness, Mann should be a key part of the Clippers team in 2022 which will up his numbers across the board.
9. De'Andre Hunter
It is amazing how the Atlanta Hawks reached the Eastern Conference Finals without their should-be starting small forward, De’Andre Hunter. The athletic scorer only played 23 games in the regular season, but still put up 15.0 PPG in a very limited time. Next season, Hunter will improve an already contending team in Atlanta.
The Hawks are growing together with their superstar Trae Young leading the way, and Hunter will most likely be a valuable piece for the team. The former No. 4 overall pick can shoot well (35.5% from three in his rookie season) and has the size to be a very strong two-way player. If healthy, Hunter will make the Hawks even better.
8. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
It will be hard for Gilgeous-Alexander to play better than he has been playing because the 23-year old was considered an All-Star snub last year. But in 2022, the guard should make the All-Star Team. He averaged 23.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG, and 5.9 APG in his only third season, so expect more from the former No. 11 pick.
Gilgeous-Alexander is the franchise star for the Oklahoma City Thunder, and he signed a max rookie extension to remain with the team long-term. In terms of athleticism and two-way play in the modern game, Gilgeous-Alexander is the perfect star player for the Thunder. In 2022, expect the 4th year man to show even more new areas of his offensive game.
7. Kevin Porter Jr.
Kevin Porter Jr’s conduct has been in question for a while, but he was on his best behavior with the Houston Rockets last year. Porter Jr was traded from the Cleveland Cavaliers for nothing but blossomed as a starter for Houston by posting averages of 16.6 PPG, 3.8 RPG, and 6.3 APG in 26 games played.
Porter Jr might be the starting point guard for the Rockets, who will likely shut down John Wall until he is traded. The 21-year old is blessed with handles, passing ability, and a natural knack for creating his own shot so he should be an All-Star talent down the line. If Porter Jr can remain focused on his game, the Rockets might have found a gem.
6. Caris LeVert
Caris LeVert was traded to the Indiana Pacers in the James Harden blockbuster trade, although he only appeared in 35 games last season. In that span, LeVert showed flashes of becoming a future All-Star by averaging 20.7 PPG, 4.6 RPG, and 4.9 APG. Expected to become the long-term starter for the Pacers (if he is not traded for Ben Simmons), LeVert is a great shooting guard.
He is athletic at 6’6”, has a knack for scoring inside and outside, and is in his prime at 27 years old. LeVert needs to get healthy enough to appear in at least 75 games so he can prove what he can do as a full-time starter. LeVert will surprisingly enter his 6th season so his time is now to become the scorer many expect him to become.
5. Darius Garland
Darius Garland is a special point guard because he has a pure offensive game at such a young age. The 21-year old averaged 17.4 PPG and 6.1 APG last season while draining 39.5% of his three-pointers. The Cavaliers believe so much in him, that they are willing to move on from Collin Sexton (24.3 PPG) in favor of the younger guard.
Garland will likely not become an All-Star next season, but the improvements will be clear to see. An improvement in his playmaking will be his biggest step, along with greater confidence as a go-to scorer. The Cavaliers will also surround Garland with an exceptional big man in Evan Mobley, so expect good things on the court from their 6’1” point guard.
4. Michael Porter Jr.
The Denver Nuggets made a genius move drafting Porter Jr at the No. 14 pick. That was an easy choice because the swingman showed flashes of stardom before the draft before injuries dropped his stock in the draft. But Porter Jr has been able to keep relatively healthy enough to earn a max contract extension this offseason.
Porter Jr averaged 19.0 PPG and 7.3 RPG on 44.5% shooting from three last year, so it is obvious he will become the #2 or #3 option for the Nuggets next year. The 23-year old has a ton of talent and if he becomes an All-Star, the Nuggets are a big threat in the West.
3. LaMelo Ball
LaMelo Ball was the most spectacular rookie last season, even if Anthony Edwards made a late push for the Rookie of the Year. Ball averaged 15.7 PPG, 5.9 RPG, and 6.1 APG and showcased many aspects of his all-around game from the very start of the regular season.
Ball already oozes confidence on the court so he will be more relaxed and comfortable in the 2022 season. Ball will gain some All-Star votes, although he might not have enough to make the team. Still, LaMelo Ball is coming and 2022 will see his rise into superstardom.
2. Anthony Edwards
Anthony Edwards took a massive leap in his play as last season progressed, and he even had a shot at Rookie of the Year. LaMelo was better earlier on, so he ended up with the award in the end. But Edwards is a special talent, capable of becoming the best scorer on a Minnesota Timberwolves squad that already has a superstar in Karl-Anthony Towns.
Edwards is 6'4" and has an array of skills from shooting the ball and finishing at the basket. After averaging 19.3 PPG last year, Edwards should make the jump as a star player and average over 20 PPG. He is athletic enough to be a dominant player so a rise from the 20-year-old is expected.
1. Ja Morant
Ja Morant played like a superstar at times last year, and he will be making an All-Star Team this upcoming season. The explosive point guard already has flashes of a young Russell Westbrook except that he is more controlled and possesses a better jumper.
Watch out for Morant because he has already led the Memphis Grizzlies to the playoffs as a 22-year old. Morant averaged 19.1 PPG and 7.4 APG last year, so expect a rise in his scoring numbers as he stakes his claim as one of the best point guards in the NBA.
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