The All-NBA Breakout Team for the 2013-14 Season
Not all young NBA players are meant to take baby steps, especially those selected to our 2013-14 All-Breakout team.
Several talented emerging standouts are poised to flourish in expanded roles this season, as they finally hit a groove offensively and clamp down as defenders.
Defense, in particular, is the attribute that will set most of these ballers apart. They won't let their astounding physical gifts go to waste, striving to make an impact on every possession.
Who's set to catapult up the NBA food chain? Find out as we assemble a squad full of breakout performers.
Starting Point Guard: Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix Suns
2012-13 Stats: 20.4 MPG, 8.5 PPG, 3.1 APG, 1.4 SPG, 45% FG, 40% 3PT
2013-14 Projections: 32.1 MPG, 15.3 PPG, 4.7 APG, 2.0 SPG, 44% FG, 38% 3PT
Eric Bledsoe may play some shooting guard in 2013-14, but he's running the point for our All-Breakout squad. The thrilling fourth-year pro is ready to take his talents to the Valley of the Sun.
The Los Angeles Clippers traded the speedster to the Phoenix Suns in July, and he'll certainly take advantage of a more prominent role in the league. His explosiveness as a creator and perimeter defender will monumentally benefit the club in the long term.
With a much-improved outside shot and an elite athletic ability to get to the rim, Bledsoe will carve up opponents almost every night. He'll also be the primary scoring option on a mediocre team. Defensively, watch for him to use his quickness to approach 2.0 steals per game.
Phoenix might be a long way from contention, but its new addition is on the cusp of stardom.
Starting Shooting Guard: Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls
2012-13 Stats: 26.0 MPG, 8.6 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 47% FG, 38% 3PT
2013-14 Projections: 33.9 MPG, 13.5 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 46% FG, 39% 3PT, All-Defensive Second Team
Due to his two-way proficiency, Chicago Bulls guard Jimmy Butler has a chance to make a big impact in the Central Division in 2013-14.
With Derrick Rose back in the mix, Butler will find some easier scoring opportunities in the open floor and in spot-up situations. He might not post ridiculous numbers, but foes would be unwise to sleep on him as a slasher and shooter.
Tom Thibodeau relied on Butler for more than 40 minutes per game during the 2013 playoffs, as Chicago was severely shorthanded. Bulls fans hope he can translate that four-week grind into accelerated development in his third season.
As an elite swingman stopper and a rapidly-improving offensive weapon, he could be the X-factor that pushes his club back to the division crown and maybe the conference finals.
Starting Small Forward: Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
2012-13 Stats: 31.2 MPG, 11.9 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 49% FG, 37% 3PT
2013-14 Projections: 35.3 MPG, 15.8 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 49% FG, 38% 3PT, All-Defensive Second Team
If his 2013 playoff performance was a taste of what's to come, Kawhi Leonard is poised for a phenomenal season.
As the only true small forward on the San Antonio Spurs roster, he's sure to see 33-36 minutes of playing time, which is a lot for Gregg Popovich's standards. But Pop needs Leonard's versatility more than ever, and the 6'7" standout is ready to take on the challenge.
His incredible length aids him as a defender, rebounder and scorer. Equally impressive are his instincts and energy. Those are the ingredients that make him such a force on the glass and a premiere defender.
If San Antonio wants to prove it can climb the Western Conference mountain again, it needs a huge year from Leonard.
Starting Power Forward: Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
2012-13 Stats: 28.8 MPG, 13.5 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 1.8 BPG, 52% FG
2013-14 Projections: 34.1 MPG, 16.8 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 2.1 BPG, 52% FG
As a 19-year-old rookie, Anthony Davis was still figuring things out and learning as much as possible during on-the-job training.
In 2013-14, he's still going to soak up knowledge and refine his skills, but he'll be vastly more productive than he was as a newbie.
The New Orleans Pelicans feature a potent backcourt after adding Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans this offseason, and Davis now has a legitimate crew to run with. He's going to have loads of fun finishing plays in the open floor with Holiday and Eric Gordon.
Asking for an All-Star bid might be a bit greedy, but Davis will still turn heads with a double-double season and top-tier post defense.
His tools are there, and the Pelicans are an improved team. All signs point to a super sophomore campaign for Davis.
Starting Center: Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
2012-13 Stats: 20.7 MPG, 7.9 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 1.6 BPG, 61% FG
2013-14 Projections: 32.9 MPG, 13.0 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 2.3 BPG, 57% FG
If you haven't checked out Andre Drummond's rebounding aptitude, please familiarize yourself with his handiwork before he takes over the 2013-14 season.
The Detroit Pistons center snatched a bunch of boards in limited playing time as a rookie, so an increased role and upgraded skill should result in a truckload of rebounds and a bevy of putbacks. During the Orlando Summer League, he obliterated the competition with 15.5 points and 14.8 rebounds per contest.
Even if he improves his skill level in the post, don't expect him to be a versatile offensive weapon. Drummond is still extremely raw and has a long way to go in the areas of footwork, ball-handling and shooting touch.
That doesn't mean he won't be a massive success. He knows how to use his frame and explosiveness to find the rim, whether it's half-court pick-and-rolls or transition follows.
If he protects the rim and finishes enough plays, Detroit will have a much better chance of joining the playoff party.
Backup Point Guard: Reggie Jackson, Oklahoma City Thunder
2012-13 Stats: 14.2 MPG, 5.3 PPG, 1.7 APG, 46% FG
2013-14 Projections: 19.8 MPG, 9.9 PPG, 2.9 APG, 44% FG
Reggie Jackson won't rise to stardom in his third season. However, he'll own a more vital role on the Oklahoma City Thunder as they pursue a return to the NBA finals.
He led the Orlando Summer League in scoring, and OKC coach Scott Brooks hopes he can bring those dynamic playmaking skills off the bench throughout the winter as a combo guard.
When James Harden came off the bench for Brooks, the Thunder were a headache because they could attack adversaries for 48 minutes. They had at least two of the three offense creators on the floor at all times.
Jackson has a chance to be a poor-man's point guard version of Harden, making OKC a high-octane threat throughout the game.
Backup Shooting Guard: Jeremy Lamb, Oklahoma City Thunder
2012-13 Stats: 6.4 MPG, 3.1 PPG, 35% FG, 30% 3PT
2013-14 Projections: 21.4 MPG, 12.9 PPG, 1.7 APG, 40% FG, 36% 3PT
The other ingredient to Oklahoma City's return to playoff glory is a swingman who can help Reggie Jackson fill the void left by Kevin Martin.
After a year of being cooped up on the sidelines and playing in the D-League, Jeremy Lamb is ready to contribute on a regular basis and join the club's nightly rotation.
He was drafted high because he's long, athletic and can fill up the hoop in a hurry. Lamb has learned how to translate his fluid skills to the NBA and take advantage of the slightest defensive lapses.
As long as he demonstrates a good shot selection and a willingness to work within the Thunder system, he'll see a dramatic uptick in playing time.
At that point, it's up to him to make sure we're talking about him at year's end.
Backup Forward: Tobias Harris, Orlando Magic
2012-13 Stats: 23.6 MPG, 11.0 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 46% FG, 32% 3PT
2013-14 Projections: 35.4 MPG, 17.4 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 45% FG, 34% 3PT
Once he was traded from the Milwaukee Bucks to the Orlando Magic in February, Tobias Harris demonstrated all the qualities of a breakout player.
Now that he has a full training camp and entire season ahead of him with the same club, he's likely to become a big breakout star.
Harris owns power forward rebounding and finishing skills, yet he's equipped with small-forward mobility and shooting potential. That's a tough combination to contain, especially when he's active on the glass and assertive as a scorer.
On a rebuilding club trying to groom its young talent, Harris will get ample opportunity to shine.
Backup Forward: Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers
2012-13 Stats: 31.3 MPG, 11.7 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 49% FG
2013-14 Projections: 35.5 MPG, 14.4 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 48% FG
Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Tristan Thompson is often forgotten amid the offseason talk of Kyrie Irving and newcomers Anthony Bennett and Andrew Bynum.
He won't be overlooked once the season gets rolling, though.
Thompson has become increasingly adept at creating offense for himself, and that's exciting for the Cavs because he was already feasting off rebounds and cuts in his first couple years. He utilizes exceptional quickness, superb springs and a mid-range flip shot that's hard to guard.
His switch to right-handed shooting went pretty well during Team Canada FIBA play. If Thompson continues to improve as a jump-shooter and free-throw shooter, he'll be a big reason why Cleveland challenges for a playoff spot.
Backup Center: Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto Raptors
2012-13 Stats: 23.9 MPG, 8.9 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.3 BPG, 56% FG
2013-14 Projections: 33.9 MPG, 15.8 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 1.7 BPG, 54% FG
When Jonas Valanciunas settled into his NBA role with the Toronto Raptors, the end of his rookie campaign was delightful: 14.9 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game in April.
He continued to show promise while dominating the Las Vegas Summer League in MVP form, and he's now primed to unleash his arsenal for a full season.
Valanciunas is a powerful, aggressive player on the low block, but he's also effective at the high post or in pick-and-rolls. When he smells the rim, defenses can't keep him away from it.
As the primary big man in Toronto, he's going to get lots of touches in the regular season.
Will he see action in May and beyond? That's wishful thinking, but he'll have a breakout year no matter where the Raptors finish.
Reserve: Harrison Barnes, Golden State Warriors
2012-13 Stats: 25.4 MPG, 9.2 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 44% FG, 36% 3PT
2013-14 Projections: 31.0 MPG, 14.9 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 46% FG, 38% 3PT
The first few weeks of the 2013 playoffs were a mini-breakout party for Golden State Warriors small forward Harrison Barnes. But can he actually enjoy sustained prosperity throughout his sophomore campaign?
The answer is yes, even though his monster potential will be tempered by Andre Iguodala's arrival.
Barnes should still get plenty of swingman minutes alongside Iguodala and Klay Thompson, and he'll thrive as a weak-side slasher when defenses overcommit to the Splash Brothers. With heightened awareness of where to move without the ball, he's going to burn opponents if they're out of position when he catches it.
Last spring, he showed us that he can be a special player and deliver on the big stage. This year, he's out to prove he wasn't an early round novelty who got hot at the right time. Barnes' frame and game are built for a star-caliber career, and that will be proven in 2013-14.
Reserve: Enes Kanter, Utah Jazz
2012-13 Stats: 15.4 MPG, 7.2 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 54% FG
2013-14 Projections: 33.5 MPG, 15.8 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 51% FG
Enes Kanter slotted in the reserve spot as our third-string big man, but don't worry, Utah Jazz fans. His breakout year might be better than Andre Drummond's or Jonas Valanciunas'.
He waited his turn behind Al Jefferson for a couple years, so naturally he's eager to do the heavy lifting night in and night out.
Kanter possesses an exciting mix of size, power and skill. When he gets position deep in the paint, he's a handful because of his rock-solid build and soft touch.
Tyrone Corbin will double his playing time in 2013-14 and give him a more featured role in the offense. It's then Kanter's task to relish the opportunity and take care of business on the boards and pick-and-roll.