Who are the breakout players in the NBA this year? Last year, I choose two players who I thought were going to make huge strides, James Harden and Danilo Gallinari. Harden did break through winning the 6th man of the year and making the Olympic Team. Gallinari didn’t quite fulfill what I believed he could do largely because he got injured and played just 43 games many at less than full health.
My methodology is largely based on the effective use of possessions. The two best three ways to score are to get to the rim, get to the line or shoot a three. Most players are unable to do all three. If they start to shoot the three they stop going to the rim and when you stop going to the rim you usually stop going to the line.
Therefore, I look for young players who continue to increase their trips to the line, the rim while still using a high percentage of their possessions on three point shots.
Last year, James Harden was the only player in the NBA who used over 30% of his possessions to shot a three who also used at least 10% of his possessions at the line (he was at an unreal 17.5% of his possessions at the line). Gallinari was 29% of his possessions as a three and 14.7 of his possessions going to the line.
This year the break out players are …..
I still believe he has another step. Some signs are discouraging, he has decreased his trips to the line and his last two year have been a 41% field goal percentage. However, the principals are still there, he increased his shots at the rim last year, his assist rate skyrocketed and he is a unique combination of outside shooting and going to the line.
Last year he averaged 15 pts on 11 shot attempts. Look for another jump for the Nugget. He averages 1.13 pts per scoring opportunity which is very good, league average is 1.05.
The Pacers will turn the point guard duties over to George Hill. Hill averaged a great 1.11 pts per scoring opportunity last year. He went to the line10.7% of his possessions while shooting 30% of his possessions from three point range.
Hill has decreased the amount he goes to the rim the last two years, but he has done so without negating his trips to the line. His final year in San Antonio he went to the line 14% of his possessions if he can get that number back up he will be really solid.
Last year, was actually a step back from his last two years in San Antonio, I anticipate he gets comfortable, gets time and has a big year.
Everything is trending for a big step for Hayward. He finished the year on a tear. His numbers are all headed in the correct direction.
I am big believer that the players that were really hurt by the lock-out were year 2 players who lost the off-season, summer league and training camp after learning what the league really was.
Hayward’ three point shooting percentage dipped in year 2 from 47% to 35%. His career average is 39% and I would suspect he is around that number this year if not a notch higher. His overall field goal percentage dipped from 48.5% TO 45.6% again I believe much of this is due to the lockout.
Most importantly, Hayward went from using 18% of his possession to shot a three to 20% while at the same time increasing the amount of possession he went to the line from 10.5% to 12.8%. If Hayward becomes a player who uses 20% of his possessions from three and 13% of his possessions from the line he would be one of only 6 NBA regulars that achieve that. Those players are Harden, Kevin Love, Danilo Gallinari, Chauncey Billups, Eric Gordon and Lou Williams.
This may be a stretch but some signs point in the correct direction. Bledsoe is one of the top defensive point guards in the NBA. He is earning time on the floor with his defense, but he might be ready for an offensive step.
He was very poor offensively last year shooting 39% from the field and 20% from three. Both of these were big drops from his rookie year. (see 2nd year player thought on Hayward)
Therefore, I would assume Bledsoe builds off his rookie numbers of 42.4% and 28% from three.
The one thing Bledsoe did better in year 2 was go to the free throw line. Though he shot those poorly. Bledsoe used 10% of his possessions going to the line up from 7.9 % as a rookie. If he continues that trend and improves his shooting he will become a productive offensive player along with an elite defensive player.