Apr 28, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs forwardKawhi Leonard
(2) is defended by Los Angeles Clippers forwardMatt Barnes
(22) in game five of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Staples Center. The Spurs defeated the Clippers 111-107 to take a 3-2 lead. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Every year it happens. A few players take that next step, some go from being good to great and some players go from being role players to go-to guys. This season there are a few players that will take the next step. Kawhi Leonard leads this talented group, as he will look to make his first All-Star game.
Unfortunately not everyone can make this list. Otto Porter, CJ McCollum, and Reggie Jackson are honorable mentions.
Next: Kawhi Leonard
Mar 24, 2015; Dallas, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) brings the ball up court during the game against the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center. The Mavericks defeated the Spurs 101-94. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Kawhi Leonard won the 2014 NBA Finals MVP after averaging 17.8 points and playing terrific defense against the Miami Heat. Right after the series many believed that Leonard would become an all-star the following season. That didn’t happen. Leonard did improve last season, as he averaged 16.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 2.3 steals. He also won the Defensive Player of the Year award.
Leonard will be an all-star this season and he should average around 20 points making him one of the elite players in the league.
Next: Tony Wroten
Jan 3, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Tony Wroten (8) reacts after a foul is called during the second quarter against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
There are two primary reasons to Tony Wroten making this list. First, he will have an incredibly high usage rate on a Philadelphia 76ers team that has poor guard play. Which means, he will have inflated numbers. The addition of Jahlil Okafor and improvement of Nerlens Noel will help the 22-year old guard.
The second reason is that he is actually a “good player” on a bad team. Wroten can do a lot of things, with decision making and shooting behind his only true concerns. Last season Wroten averaged 16.9 points and 5.2 assists. The numbers won’t jump too much but he will look much better in the way he puts them up.
Next: Zach LaVine
Apr 3, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine (8) dribbles past Orlando Magic guardElfrid Payton
(4) during the third quarter at Target Center. The Magic defeated Timberwolves 97-84. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Zach LaVine has rare gifts. He is the bounciest guard in the league and he is a 6″5 combo guard. He can create his own shot with ease or he can drive down the lane and put you on a poster. As a rookie LaVine did better than many believed, particularly those that said he won’t be ready just yet. LaVine averaged 10.1 points and 3.6 assists.
After the all-star break he averaged 14.2 points and 4.2 assists. The only question is whether the Timberwolves will use him as a point guard or a shooting guard. If he is unleashed like he was to end the season, expect big things from the 20-year old.
Next: Rudy Gobert
Apr 8, 2015; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) holds the ball away from Sacramento Kings forwardCarl Landry
(24) during the first quarter at EnergySolutions Arena. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports
Rudy Gobert was dominant on the defensive end in the second half of the season. Gobert is the main reason the Jazz decided to deal Enes Kanter to the Oklahoma City Thunder. On the season he averaged 8.4 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks. After the all-star break his averages jumped to 11.1 points, 13.4 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks.
The Jazz have a chance to capture the final playoff spot in the West. Jazz fans are praying that he developed a post move or two. If he does he can be an elite center. Expect Gobert to average around 13 points and 13 rebounds.
Next: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Apr 30, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) during the game against the Chicago Bulls in game six of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Chicago won 120-66. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Other than having the most difficult name to spell in the world, Giannis Antetokounmpo has the tools to be a great player. He is only 20-years old and at 6″11 he can defend any position. I know it sounds made up something like a myth. The “Greek Freak” averaged 12.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 2.6 assists.
The Bucks will be one of the better teams in the East and the addition of Greg Monroe will only help Antetokounmpo. Antetokounmpo will be an All-Star and he should average around 18 points and 7 rebounds.
Next: Jordan Clarkson
Mar 24, 2015; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Lakers assistant coachPaul Pressey
speaks to Los Angeles Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson (6) during a break in action against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Jordan Clarkson was on the same boat as Zach LaVine. They were quiet early in the season and they both took off after the all-star break. Despite being the 46th pick in the NBA Draft, Clarkson averaged 11.9 points and 3.5 assists. He also made the All-Rookie First Team.
After the all-star break he averaged 16.7 points, 5.4 assists, and 4.6 rebounds. The Lakers have a new kid on the block in D’Angelo Russell, which means that Clarkson has a new running mate. With Kobe Bryant also expected to be healthy, things will come easier for Clarkson. Clarkson should average around 18 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists.