Predicting the 2014-15 All-NBA Breakout Team
Every season in the NBA, we see players break out and elevate their status around the league. Whether it be former high draft picks who are on the verge or players with lower profiles ready to take advantage of an increased opportunity, there are breakout candidates at each position for the 2014-15 season.
There are a few important qualifications to establish when selecting the candidates, however. For the sake of this exercise, we’ll only select players who have never been selected to an All-Star Game.
For example, even though New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis may have another level to hit, he’s already considered one of the league’s best players. John Wall may be poised to have the best year of his career and establish himself as one of the top three point guards in the league, but again, his breakout campaign was probably last year.
For this list, we’ll focus on players who should make the leap and be seen in a whole new light once the 2014-15 season is over. We’ll also pick a player at each position, a new Sixth Man of the Year candidate, and a coach who should raise his stock as well.
Any stats are from Basketball-Reference.com and are accurate as of Aug. 4.
PG: Patrick Beverley
Big increases in production are usually the product of talent plus opportunity. With that in mind, Houston Rockets point guard Patrick Beverley should be in prime position to have a breakout campaign.
Even though Beverley projects to be a role player for the foreseeable future, he may take on a lot more responsibility this season. With Jeremy Lin traded to the Los Angeles Lakers and Chandler Parsons with the Dallas Mavericks, Houston will have plenty of offensive possessions available to be used, even with James Harden and Dwight Howard carrying the load.
More scoring chances should help Beverley put up more impressive numbers than his 10.2 points per game last season, and the increase in minutes from 31 a night should help. With the ball in his hands a bit more, you’d expect his assist total (2.7 a game) to increase as well.
Beverley’s biggest strengths are his three-point shooting and defense on the ball, and both should be spotlighted more frequently this year. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Beverley was considered the best defensive point guard in the league at the end of the year. He’s the real deal on that end.
If he can improve moderately in other areas, Beverley could have a breakout campaign where his reputation as a legitimate starting point guard is solidified.
SG: Victor Oladipo
More than maybe ever before, the league is strapped for quality shooting guards, both in terms of depth and star power.
Orlando Magic guard and second-year player Victor Oladipo could certainly help fill the void. Oladipo had a very strong rookie year, but he doesn’t seem to be recognized universally as a future star in the league. That could very well change after this season.
With rookie point guard Elfrid Payton, Oladipo should be able to focus more on scoring. Oladipo scored 16 points per 36 minutes last season on decent percentages, and his ability to get to the rim and draw fouls is a really good sign.
The team around Oladipo is better as well. Channing Frye will help with floor spacing, and young players Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic should improve quite a bit.
It wouldn’t be a surprise if Orlando hangs around the playoff picture and takes a big step this year behind Oladipo’s strong play on both ends. Based on his per-36 numbers and his athletic ability and potential, Oladipo is a candidate to average at least 15 points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals per game next year. Only 22 different players have done that in NBA history, so expect Oladipo’s reputation to skyrocket.
SF: Gordon Hayward
After signing a four-year deal worth $63 million, you might think Gordon Hayward is feeling pressure to step his game up. That might not be the case, though, as here's what Hayward told Kurt Kragthorpe of the Salt Lake Tribune:
For me, I don’t think I have to live up to anything now. They paid me what they wanted to pay me, and let’s go from there.
Oh, man. No pressure now. The pressure is trying to win. That’s the pressure.
Hayward isn't the type to really dominate or take over a game, but if his shooting percentage from deep (30.4 percent last year) rebounds back to what he's capable of (41.5 percent in 2012-13), his numbers should improve.
Hayward could also benefit by using more possessions and slashing to the hole more, as he's really good at drawing contact and finishing. He looks to have added some muscle to his frame based on the recent Team USA scrimmage, so he could become the total package as a wing scorer.
Utah is still young and has virtually no chance to compete yet in a packed Western Conference, but Hayward's numbers and overall play should improve thanks to some regression to the mean and a little natural progression in terms of skill set.
PF: Markieff Morris
One of the more underrated pieces in a surprise season for the Phoenix Suns last year was forward Markieff Morris.
Maybe it’s because he’s often confused with his twin brother Marcus, but Markieff didn’t get the credit he deserved. As a small 4, Morris gave the Suns a desperately needed post scorer off the bench.
With Channing Frye going to the Orlando Magic via free agency, even more frontcourt time should open for Morris. In his third year, Morris averaged 18.6 points and 8.1 rebounds per 36 minutes, so he’s shown he's capable of putting up big numbers with enough playing time.
Defensively, Morris is really solid as well. He’s strong and mobile, so bigger power forwards can’t take advantage of him on the block, and he’s quick enough to rotate out on shooters and stay with perimeter players.
The talent is definitely there. If Morris can improve his range and get more consistent minutes, he could separate himself as one of the better young power forwards in the league.
C: Andre Drummond
We've talked about talent and playing time, but coaching can also make a big impact as well. Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond may be in line to benefit more than anyone on that front with the arrival of Stan Van Gundy.
Here's Keith Langlois at NBA.com:
The comparisons of Andre Drummond to Dwight Howard began before Drummond stepped on UConn’s campus three years ago. They intensified when Drummond hit the NBA with impact not seen in a young center since Howard arrived eight years ahead of him.
They ratcheted up another notch when Stan Van Gundy, Howard’s coach for five seasons in Orlando, signed on to coach the Pistons. And the recent wave of 3-point shooters brought to Detroit by Van Gundy, emulating the blueprint used in Orlando to space the court around Howard, adds another layer to the comparisons.
Drummond is the type of athletic monster who can seemingly only get better as time goes on. With virtually no post game or shooting ability, Drummond averaged 15.1 points and 14.7 rebounds per 36 minutes last year.
In just his third year and only 20 years old, Drummond should improve plenty next season. With more shooters around him and one of the league's best coaches, Drummond should put up massive numbers and establish himself as a legitimate force in the Eastern Conference.
Sixth Man: C.J. McCollum
If he can manage to stay healthy this year, C.J. McCollum has a chance to contend for the Sixth Man of the Year award. There's a deep class of candidates this season, but there's a lot to like with McCollum.
Playing time should be plentiful for McCollum, as last year’s backup point guard, Mo Williams, is now with the Minnesota Timberwolves. With that opportunity created and the Blazers in desperate need of some bench scoring, McCollum should get tons of chances.
For two straight years at summer league, we’ve seen flashes of McCollum’s offensive abilities. He’s a deadly shooter, but he can also create for himself off the dribble. He can slide in next to Damian Lillard in stretches or carry the offense without him.
McCollum is flying under the radar since he missed most of his rookie year, but this could be a breakout season for him in Portland. He’s a natural scorer.
Coach: Mike Budenholzer
If you’re looking for a surprise team that could shoot up the standings, the Atlanta Hawks are a strong choice. Atlanta made the playoffs last season even without star big man Al Horford, and it pushed the Indiana Pacers to seven games in the first round.
With LeBron James in Cleveland and Paul George likely out for the season, the Hawks could sneak their way into winning home-court advantage in the first round. Getting Horford back is huge, but another year in Mike Budenholzer’s system should help the development of Jeff Teague and others as well.
Budenholzer has the Spurs pedigree, and he’s already shown that he encourages his teams to take a lot of threes and move the ball. This is a very Spurs-style offense.
It’s hard to be recognized as a great coach without serious success, but Budenholzer could join the list of the elite if he gets the Hawks to a strong playoff position and continues to have them play pretty basketball.