At long last the third part of what I hope will be a yearly tradition. First, we looked at the five most overrated players, then the underrated, and this time we’ll look at 5 players who should break out next season.

As with the other lists, who I didn’t put on the list might be as interesting as who I did. For various reason, these are the players who didn’t make it.

Harrison Barnes was taken one spot ahead of Terrence Ross in the draft, and while he didn’t exactly light up the NBA, he started on a playoff team and looked very good in the playoffs. Now, even before Andre Iguodala became a Warrior, I wasn’t adding Barnes to my top breakout list because I think what we saw in the playoffs was a bit of an aberration. That’s not to say I don’t think he’s a good player. I think he is. But I think his future is as a role player.

I always saw a lot of Sean Elliott in Barnes. A talented player, but one who lacked the aggressiveness or an elite skill to become a star. I think he’s a great complimentary player on a team where he fills that roll perfectly.

There are several of Houston’s rookie big men, last season, that I was tempted to put on the list, but neither Donatas Motiejunas or Terrence Jones played enough last season to think that may change this year, and Thomas Robinson will now be playing behind LaMarcus Aldridge in Portland, so unless something happens (like a trade), I’m not sure how much we’ll see of any of them, despite the obvious talents all of them have.


I actually had Tristan Thompson on the list, but with Cleveland drafting Anthony Bennett and then signing Andrew Bynum, his role on the team is suddenly in question. It’s possible he doesn’t even start, next year, and if Bynum and Anderson Varejao are reasonably healthy, he might struggle to get minutes (maybe Ujiri can work something out for him).

Jeremy Lamb is certainly lighting up the summer league so far, but so did Adam Morrison and Quincy Douby, so it’s really hard to use that as much of a measuring stick. With Kevin Martin gone, he’ll definitely get a better chance to play next season, but he’s got to show a lot more than last year.

Like Lamb, Andre Drummond is currently dominating the summer league, and I have no doubt he’ll continue to improve and develop. In fact, he was probably the guy that was the most difficult decision to leave off the list. Detroit should actually be competitive this season, but Drummond isn’t even 20 year old, yet, so I think the Pistons are still going to take it slow with Drummond, with him possibly coming off the bench a lot this coming season. With Josh Smith onboard, I think Monroe will continue to either start, or play a lot of minutes at center, limiting Drummond’s playing time.


Jonas Valanciunas


Even if one of my criteria wasn’t including a Raptor, Valanciunas would be on here. I think he showed a lot the last couple of months of the season, and think we’ll see a big step forward for him. He’s still got work to do, but with his motor, even if he’s not playing well, he’ll continue to work hard and do what he needs to do.

One of the things that held Valanciunas back last year was coach Dwane Casey’s lack of trust in the big man, often sitting Valanciunas down in the fourth quarter, and even the whole second half, despite him playing well until then. Casey showed signs of trusting him more as the season wore on and Valanciunas rewarded him with productive and clutch play in close games. It’s likely that Valanciunas Casey will give Valanciunas a lot more leash this year, and if he does, there’s no reason to think Valanciunas won’t take advantage of it.

Enes Kanter/Derrick Favors

Minnesota Timberwolves v Utah Jazz

Both big men have been stuck behind veterans in Utah, which have limited their playing time the last couple of season. The thing is, though, both players were extremely productive when they did play, with Favors having a PER of 17.5 and Kanter a PER of 17.6. Obviously that doesn’t tell the whole story, but Utah was much better defensively when Favors was on the floor, and in the two games Kanter started, he averaged 20.5 points and 15 rebounds, while shooting .607 from the field.

There may be some who might not know the circumstances in Utah that might have thought that both players have been disappointments, but that’s not the case at all. The Jazz organization have been, rightfully, very optimistic about both players, but wanted to develop them slowly. And the fact that the Jazz didn’t attempt to re-sign Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap isn’t a coincidence. Favors and Kanter were always Utah’s future front court. And now they will get their chance to show why.

Evan Fournier


Fournier barely played last season, but actually produced when he got on the court. In fact, he was one of the most efficient scorers on Denver, last season, albeit in limited minutes (Interesting note, Julyan Stone, in even fewer minutes, was far and away the most efficient scorer for the Nuggets last season). He’s got talent, which is why Ujiri liked him so much, and with Andre Iguodala and Corey Brewer gone, I can see him getting a lot more minutes and responsibility.

I think he’s probably another season or two from really becoming a household name, if he ever does, but he’s got loads of talent and he’ll get more of a chance to show it next season.

Ricky Rubio

Minnesota Timberwolves v Los Angeles Lakers

I’ve been an admirer of Rubio since before he was drafted and, truth be told, I was pushing for the Raptors to trade Bargnani for him when there were still questions about when he’d come over from Spain (most Raptor fans felt it was way too much of a risk and too much to give up).

Rubio’s injury has not really allowed NBA fans to see what he can do, and despite playing 57 games last season, he was obviously still recovering even after he returned. This year I believe we’ll see the real Rubio. He still needs to desperately work on his shooting, but he’s such a dynamic passer that he immediately raises the offensive game of everyone around him. If he doesn’t eventually lead the league in assists, I’ll be surprised.

With more talent in Minnesota, and Luke Ridnour gone to Milwaukee, Rubio will have more scorers to pass to and be the only starting point guard on the T-Wolves.

Jimmy Butler

Once in a while, a player seems to come out of nowhere and performs so well you wonder how everybody missed him. Last year, it was Jimmy Butler. Butler was the 30th pick in the 2011 draft and showed very little in his rookie season. He shot horribly from the three point line and was such a liability in offense, he couldn’t stay on the floor long enough to show off his defense.

At the beginning of last season, he still struggled from long range, but then something happened. In fact, since the All Star break, Butler shot .475 from behind the 3 point line and scored double digits as his playing time increased.

Of course, Butler probably never would have gotten the chance he did if it weren’t for his defense, which was always on display. Butler is an example of what the new NBA looks for in a wing player. He plays excellent defense and can hit it from long range.

With Richard Hamilton bought out, and Marco Belinelli now a Spur, the starting shooting guard position is now Butler’s, and for the first time he actually will have expectations.

  • mountio

    A good list. I pretty much agree with all of these guys. Some other guys for consideration.

    Kahwi Leonard I expect to be the 2nd best player on the Spurs next year and a borderline all star. Maybe this is obvious based on his playoff / finals performance .. but this guy seems destined to break out.

    I also think there is a good chance that Drummond has a better season than all of Kanter/Favors and JV. I think those guys will all have a good season, with Kanter being the worst .. but AD would have made the cut in my list.

    Id love to put TR on the list .. but I think that only happens if RG or DD gets traded. Im hoping that happens .. but certainly not banking on it.

    I would also throw out John Wall as a potential for this list. Arugably hes been very good in stretches, but he has had no consistency .. so I expect him to break out in that capacity.

    Finally I would add Bledsoe to the list .. i expect him to have one of the biggest jumps in aggregate stats as his role will dramatically expand. Not sure this is a true breakout or just going from a good to bad team, but he will stand out a lot more this year.

    • johng_3

      I wouldn’t put John Wall on that list. The guy was putting up good numbers already. We are just waiting for him to live up to the billing of a number 1 pick

    • Tim W.

      Quite honestly, I forgot to include Leonard and Bledsoe, and I really have no idea how I did that. Leonard I originally was going to talk about on my underrated list, but then was going to move him to the breakout list. Then obviously forgot.

      I had originally compiled the list a month or so ago, so didn’t have Bledsoe, and then never added him after he was traded.

      My excuse is that I wrote the whole thing quickly late last night. Not sure what to say.

      • Roarque

        I think what you said was that you’re human – just like the rest of us. Good for you.

  • Me

    “(Interesting note, Julyan Stone, in even fewer minutes, was far and away the most efficient scorer for the Nuggets last season)”

    Because he made his only two FG attempts, and was 3/4 on free throws. Was that really worth ink, albeit in brackets?

  • theswirsky

    I’m pretty confident saying Rubio and Butler already ‘broke out’.

    • Statement


      To mountio’s point above, I feel that Kawhi Leonard broke out even during his rookie year, where he should have been top 3 in rookie of the year voting (with Irving and Faried) at least, and possibly even won it.

      • mountio

        Broke out in terms of being a solid NBA player .. absolutely.
        Broke out in terms of a potential all-star .. not even close. Irving was (and is) a vastly superior player to Kawhi (as is Faried). If Leonard passes them this year .. that will truely be a break out season by him.

        • ghostdini

          The gist of the article is breakout players not potential all-stars.

          • mountio

            How many of the names listed would you not include as potential all stars? I would say all of them are, with the exception of Fournier and maybe Butler. Am I wrong?

            • ItsAboutFun

              Repeat as often as possible, but it’s still not the point of the article

              • mountio

                According to who? According to me, and in cross referencing the names in the article, its absolutely the point of the article.

                If the article focused on d-leaguers and guys who have barely got NBA minutes who are expected to make the jump to solid contributors .. then you might have a point. But, it simply does not.

                • ItsAboutFun

                  Well, I don’t see the term “potential all-star” once in the entire article, and I’ve never before seen anybody suggest that “breakout year” means that, but pardon me if I missed the absolute point of the article. If that’s the case, I would question such a projection of 4/6: Fournier, Favours, Kanter, Butler. All these guys look like they could be very solid NBAers, but I don’t see how they’ve shown near enough to be speaking of all-star potential.

                • ghostdini

                  Don’t you hate when someone just can’t let it go. They have to be right, come hell or high water. Dude misses the entire point of the article and just can’t admit it.

                • Guy

                  You are more correct than you can even imagine.

        • Statement

          I disagree with you regarding Faried versus Leonard.
          How do you feel about Irving’s defensive game? I haven’t really paid attention to it. It’s a serious question. I ask because Leonard is a good (great?) two-way player. We know Irving can rack up the points, but does he give some of it back on defense? All in, does Irving provide more value? I think so, but I don’t know.

  • ghostdini

    Are you seriously trying to say that these 5 players are better then Barnes? And that Barnes is going to be a ROLE player!? WOW…I’m speechless. I would take Barnes before any of these guys. Not that they’re bad players, but Barnes’ game is further along than anyone you listed and has the higher ceiling. Unless you expect him to stop trying at 21 years of age, I don’t know what you’re talking about.

    • Tim W.

      No, I’m not. This isn’t a list of who will become the better players, but who will breakout more during the season. I’m not sure Barnes is going to make as big improvement as the five players on the list. That’s it.

      • ghostdini

        But you did say that Barnes “future is as a role player.” Really!? His playoff numbers in his first season: 16 pts, 6.4rbs, 1.3 assts, 44% FG, 37% 3P% in 38 min.

        His numbers combined with the composure he showed as well as playing solid D and you think its an aberration…because???

        • Tim W.

          Yes, but my point was that I didn’t see Barnes making any huge improvement, or “breaking out” next year. His rookie season was solid, and because I don’t think he’s going to become a star, as well as the addition of Iguodala, I don’t see his second season being a whole lot different from his first.

          As for his playoff numbers, Jason Kapono, during his playoff stint with the Raptors, averaged 15.6 ppg on .585 shooting, including .542 from three point range. Over the years I’ve learned not to put too much weight on a playoff performance over a single season. Keep in mind, I did compare Barnes to Sean Elliott, so it’s not as if I’m saying he’s crap.

  • Mark

    I’m so glad we drafted Terrence Ross over Drummond. Anytime you have a chance to take a guy who can win the dunk contest you have to do it. Who cares about once a generation big men who dominate the paint before they turn 20. Thanks Bryan.

    • arsenalist

      That is one pick where I honestly said WTF when it happened. I know we had Jonas, but you have to take the best player available and Drummond was that at the time. How awesome would it be to have competition among young guys at the center spot, instead of just handing it over to Jonas.

      Honestly man, it’s one thing to win meaningless games to cost us Lillard or Barnes, it’s another to pass-up on Drummonds. I’ll bite my tongue again, and hope that Ross pans out to something more than Chris Jefferies.

      • sleepz

        Like BC explained, they had T.Ross higher on his board than Drummond. How, many are not sure, but he had Terrence as the better prospect.

    • ItsAboutFun

      “once a generation big men who dominate the paint”

      lol, he “dominates” second stringers and Summer League! Wow! What skill does he have beyond dunking? He can rebound, but only seems inspired to on the offensive end. He’s a poor defender. And note that his FT shooting is even worse than Shaq’s or Dwight’s ever was. Everyone’s going to forget about Hack-a-Shaq, when the new Dumb-a-Drummond refrain takes hold

    • HOFer

      Don’t make me laugh. Drummond has no skill what so ever. He relies solely on athleticism and that’s only going to take him so far. He can’t shoot FT’s (Worse than shaq and D12), he has stone hands around the basket, and he a horrible defender (defense isn’t only about blocking shots). In other words, he’s a classic example of a big man who’s overrated because of his athleticism. He doesn’t have the kind of drive a guy like joakim Noah or Jonas Valanciunas does. He was a high risk high reward pick and he would have rotted on the bench behind JV. JV probably would have ate him up during practice because Drummond just doesn’t give 100% like ever. I’ll take a skilled bigman with average to slightly above average athleticism over a freakishly athletic no skill big man anyday of the week. Compare Drummond skill wise to JV… there’s no comparison, JV blows him out of the water. On top of that Drummond doesn’t have any post game what so ever.

      • Big V

        It would be a different story if Drummond had a high motor but he doesn’t. JV has an elite motor on top of being skilled, that is something you cannot teach.

      • Right Clique

        He’s relying on athleticism RIGHT NOW, which is what every big man his type does at this point in his career. That’s not a knock against him, it’s the pattern which Shaq, Howard, Malone, even Barkley showed. The modern guy that didn’t rely on athleticism early was Tim Duncan.

        I’m not saying Drummond will reach the guys I mentioned, but to hold his reliance on athleticism against him (and missing FTs, which people get better at), is not fair.

        We’re comparing Ross to Drummond, not JV, so no idea why he’s in the discussion.

        • ItsAboutFun

          JV’s in the discussion because the post being responded to referred to Drummond as a “once a generation big men who dominate the paint”, thus the comparison of big men.

          As far as comparing Drummond and Ross as picks, anybody that has watched the NBA for any length of time knows that more often than not, one can’t make a judgement on players projections based on only their rookie year. Ross could still turn out to be a much better piece than Drummond, but we’ll need another 2-3 years to know.

          • Right Clique

            Really, do you really need 2-3 years to know what Ross is going to become?

            Let’s look at some of the Raptors draft picks: Stoudamire, Camby, T-Mac, Carter, Bradley, Jefferies, Hoffa, Bosh, Bargnani – did you really need more than a year to figure out where these guys would end up? Other than T-Mac, who was starved of PT, the projection for any of those guys could be made after their rookie year.

            • ItsAboutFun

              So I take it you now understand why JV was brought into the discussion.

              As far as determining how a rookie’s career will play out, then what evidence tells you that Drummond’s will be more than what you admit is “relying on athleticism RIGHT NOW”?

            • Copywryter

              I don’t think I would have projected Camby to win a DPY, but on the whole, yeah.

            • Guy

              What exactly do draft picks from 10 years ago have to do with Terrence Ross? And how do they reinforce your claim that Drummond will be a stud?

        • ghostdini

          Mark and Mark. Is this just one guy arguing against himself? That would be funny.

        • Guy

          If you’re going to argue that Drummond is relying on his athleticism right now, but will get better, then you have to allow the exact same argument for Ross.

          That aside, the original comment suggested Drummond is much better than Ross because he’s a once in a generation big man that dominates the paint before he’s 20. Perhaps Drummond does develop into a dominant player, but at this point, after only one season, I don’t think there’s really any evidence to support this claim.

      • Copywryter

        We saw JV go up against Drummond last year and JV did not ‘blow him out of the water’. If anything each showed what the other lacked. I can’t say I know how each pans out, but I’ll take the freak 20-year-old athlete over the skilled big almost every time.

        JV is also a horrible defender right now. Sorry, I know everybody wants him to be the great conquering hero for this ballclub, but he often looked lost on help D and was a foul machine. This is true for most rookies, of course, but then it’s also true for Drummond.

    • raptorspoo

      made a comment then realized you were being sarcastic… duh!

  • Amigo

    Where is Ed Davis , double/double machine ?
    Underrated/Overrated ?
    Summer League?

    Arsenalist ? Good morning

    • eli

      He’s stuck behind Randolph and Gasol.

      • one relaxed guy

        Memphis made the trade with Denver to move Arthur for Koufos. It is said that by this move Memphis want to give Ed more playing time in PF position as a second option guy (and off course Koufos is a nice addition as a second C). Which is good enough when you’re playing behind Marc and Zach. This also means that Memphis see some serous quality in Ed. Although I don’t see Ed becoming a star in this league, I do think that he’s a talented guy who will turn out to be a solid PF. Good for him if he will get that extra playing time, I sure hope so.