As the free agency frenzy draws to a close and rosters seem to be nearly finalized, it’s time to look ahead to see what the upcoming NBA season has in store. An interesting facet to each season is how young players continue to develop from one year to the next. Last season, we saw players like Bam Adebayo and Jayson Tatum make the leap and become household names. Who will it be this season that joins them? My money is on one of these five young guns below.
White flashed some serious skill in his rookie season. He became more comfortable as the season went on and ended up winning Rookie of the Year honors in the eastern conference for the month of February. After the All-Star Game, Coby saw his shooting splits rocket up; it was a small sample size, but it was a noticeable leap. .370/.338/.747 was what White shot in his first 55 games with a True Shooting % of .477. In the final 10 games, those numbers were .468/.407/.895 with a .597 True Shooting %. Those numbers, along with a new coaching staff, makes me confident White can make those second-half numbers sustainable. Jim Boylen is out in Chicago and Billy Donovan takes over which is very encouraging. What Donovan did in OKC makes me think he can help the young Bull’s core take a step forward.
Most of my thinking here revolves around Boylen no longer being the coach. Lauri missed some time last season due to injury and never seemed to get in a real flow. The biggest issue seemed to be how poorly he was utilized in Boylen’s system. His numbers his rookie season were solid, making people think he could be a solid player as time goes on. Unfortunately, his overall production dipped in his second and third seasons and has made people sour on Markkanen’s future. Something interesting to watch is how Billy Donovan will be using Lauri this season. He’s much more than just a shooter and can actually play with the ball in his hands; his ability to score from several areas on the floor is impressive and is reminiscent of Danilo Gallinari. How does Donovan decide to use Lauri? I think pretty well.
Reddish entered last season as one of the more exciting rookies, but he ended up falling flat. His overall numbers for last season were decent at best and won’t instill much confidence in anyone. With that being said, his efficiency from the floor climbed each and every month. Reddish shot a paltry .353/.316/.788 shooting split prior to the All-Star break; those numbers jumped up to .500/.389/.852 when the season resumed. Those kinds of strides in his game makes me confident he can be an effective player this season in Atlanta. Something that causes pause is the amount of playing time Cam may get in his second season. Reddish might not find himself heavily involved in the team’s scheme due to the team’s offseason moves. The signings of Gallinari and Bogdanovic will for a minute crunch in Atlanta, effecting Cam. I think we will see his shooting numbers reflect more of what Cam did in the second half of last season, but his raw numbers won’t be all that impressive.
Fultz has been in the spotlight ever since being drafted number one overall by Philly back in 2017. Speculation ran rampant surrounding his mysterious injury history and it seemed to affect him on the court as a 76er. After being traded to Orlando, things started to calm down for the young guard as he was able find a real role for the first time in his career. Last season with the Magic was the first time in Fultz’s young tenure he had the chance to play regularly and it seemed like that consistency in playing time led to consistency on the court. Markelle became more comfortable on the court and showed just how impactful he could be when given the chance. He will see more of those chances this upcoming season as the roster around him has become a little thin. Johnathon Isaac will presumably miss the 2020-21 season due to an injury suffered in the bubble and longtime guard D.J. Augustin decided it was time for him to move on. The team did draft a guard in Cole Anthony in this year’s draft, but it is a stretch to think he could produce in year one. Fultz should see his role change into him being a focal point of the team and I think he is ready for the challenge. His numbers have climbed from one season to the next and it looks like he could be poised for a run at Most Improved Player this year.
Ayton saw his game take major strides last season when he returned to the court after fulfilling his 25-game suspension. What changed the most for the young center in his sophomore campaign was his defense. Deandre was pretty poor defensively in his rookie season but was able to adjust and become a solid rim protector in year two. He also began to shoot threes as the season went on; he wasn’t a great shooter, but it was another facet to his game that other teams had to respect. The addition of Chris Paul plays a major part in this as well, as the veteran guard will propel Ayton to be his best. Paul is no stranger to playing with great big men over the years and he may be able to help coach Deandre up some. The third season seems to be a big leap year for many young players; if that ends up being the case for Ayton, he could be an All-Star for a playoff team in 2020-21.