Like many terms associated with basketball analysis, “breakout” is somewhat ambiguous. To “break out” would generally imply overcoming some form of obstacle or barrier, yet many “break out” players are simply second or third year players following a natural progression. For the purpose of this post, I will focus on players that may overcome some obstacle, be it injuries, expectations or previous talent level, to achieve unexpected success.
1. Amir Johnson, Toronto Raptors
Johnson’s “breakout” may not come as a change in performance but as an increase in recognition. Though only 25, Johnson has played eight seasons in the NBA, but exposure in the Toronto market is not high. When people do hear of him, it often prompts shock towards his contract, $6.5 million in 2013-14, rather than at his production.
Yet, Johnson rates well by most advanced metrics, finishing 14th in RAPM and 51st in win shares per 48 this past season. He has a high rebounding rate, is an efficient offensive finisher and an impactful defender. Though he may not drastically improve going into his ninth season, Johnson may earn greater recognition for his high level of production because of the potential improvments of the Raptors.
2. Eric Gordon, New Orleans Pelicans
Eric Gordon has battled repeated injuries his whole career. He missed all but nine games in the 2011-12 season with a knee injury, was delayed in recovery and only appeared in 42 last season.
But, masked by his injuries, Gordon clearly has talent.
In 56 games in 2010-11, Gordon averaged 22.3 points per game on a 56.6 percent true shooting percentage, posted an assist percentage of 20.7 percent and a turnover rate of 12 percent. The following offseason, Gordon was the centerpiece of the Los Angeles Clippers’ trade for Chris Paul.
With Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans joining him in the backcourt, it seems that Gordon may be given less of an opportunity to showcase his talents. However, it is possible that the decreased responsibility will allow him to remain healthy while maintaining and improving his past performance as an efficient scorer.
3. Alec Burks, Utah Jazz
Burks, for reasons only Jazz coach Ty Corbin knows, has been buried behind generally useless veterans for most of his NBA career. In the sporadic minutes he has received, Burks has shown potential as an athletic defender and slasher.
This season, Burks may finally get the opportunity to showcase his talents and develop as a player, as the Jazz have clearly committed to a youth-centered rebuild.
4. Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors
In a poll run by ESPN prior to last season, NBA executives overwhelmingly picked Klay Thompson to be the 2012-13 breakout player of the year. While Thompson was not entirely underwhelming, he did not fulfill the lofty expectations imposed prior to the season. His inability to finish at the rim and dribbling struggles persisted, while often-poor shot selection limited his efficiency.
This offseason, Thompson has another chance to improve, adding to the unexpected defensive developments that occurred over the course of last season. By acquiring Andre Iguodala, the Warriors added another creator off whom Thompson can benefit.
5. Chase Budinger, Minnesota Timberwolves
With Andrei Kirilenko leaving for Brooklyn, Budinger, entering his fifth season in the NBA, will likely be the starting small forward for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Prior to an injury-abbreviated 2012-13 season, Budinger has shown potential as an effective “3 and D” type player. A career 35.8 percent three-point shooter, Budinger’s ability to spread the floor will play an important role in a Timberwolves’ offense that suffered struggles of historic proportions from behind the arc last season.
6. Reggie Jackson, Oklahoma City Thunder
Jackson’s playoff production brought him to the national spotlight last season. However, he has not yet been given consistent playing time throughout the season. Though not an especially efficient scorer, Jackson provides a playmaking ability often absent from the Thunder’s bench.
7. Tyreke Evans, New Orleans Pelicans
The typical narrative regarding Evans suggests that he was excellent his rookie year and has declined since. Though he has not matched the per game aggregate production of his rookie season, since being rotated thorough several roles with the Kings, Evans has developed on and off ball skills that make him an improved player. He has improved his jump shot, developed an understanding the timing of off-ball cuts, and improved as an on and off ball defender.
Last season, Evans posted a career-high true shooting percentage and a career-low turnover percentage. Moving to New Orleans, Evans is surrounded by a superior group of players and has the opportunity to couple his newly developed skills with his original on-ball dominance.
8. Jared Dudley, Los Angeles Clippers
The trade from Phoenix to the Clippers puts Dudley in position to fulfill his destiny as an impactful role player on a title contending team.
Dudley is an efficient offensive player, shooting 40.5 percent from behind the arc for his career. Though a bit slow footed and prone to ball watching, he is an effective defender that relies on an understanding of positioning, both at an individual and team level.
9. Nicolas Batum, Portland Trail Blazers
Batum has already consistently achieved high, near-all star levels of play. However, he has a tendency to fall off towards the end of the season, likely due to oppressive minutes loads previously necessitated by the lack of any decent back up.
With a much improved bench heading into next season, Batum, though still likely to have a high minutes total, has a better chance at maintaining a high level of production across an entire season.
10. Andrew Bogut, Golden State Warriors
Though this is more a desperate plea than a prediction, Andrew Bogut has a chance to enter a season near full health. The Warriors ceiling is limited only by Andrew Boguts production and, though it may not be likely, he has the opportunity to be an integral piece on a very successful team.
Topics: Alec Burks, Amir Johnson, Andrew Bogut, Chase Budinger, Eric Gordon, Golden State Warriors, Jared Dudley, Klay Thompson, Los Angeles Clippers, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Hornets, New Orleans Pelicans, Nicolas Batum, Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland Trail Blazers, Reggie Jackson, Toronto Raptors, Tyreke Evans, Utah Jazz