Every year, numerous NBA players take significant steps forward in their development. That progression, when it's dramatic enough and happens within a single season, is often colloquially termed "the leap."
Some are breakouts that most can see coming. It usually happens for players early in their careers after showing signs of building toward stardom. The other instances are more compelling: players who make mid-career leaps long after the case appeared settled on what they were capable of. There are a handful of players who fit the bill this season, which is particularly impressive given the abbreviated offseason.
With apologies to Nikola Vucevic (who, remarkably, appears to have taken another sizable step forward), Julius Randle (who has improved as a decision-maker but has largely benefited from a huge uptick in minutes and touches), Jaylen Brown (who's been on a steady upward trajectory since entering the league five years ago), and Christian Wood (whose real breakout came in the back half of last season), here are three late bloomers who have done the most this season to change our understanding of their capabilities. (All statistics through Tuesday's games.)
Grant entered the league seven years ago as a havoc-wreaking pogo stick, defensively active and athletically gifted but with extremely raw offensive skills. Early on, the Sixers allowed him to experiment because they had nothing to lose (except games, which was the point), but with the Thunder and then the Nuggets, he was deployed almost exclusively as a play-finisher, be it as a stationary 3-point shooter, rim-runner, or transition streaker. He was a dependent scorer whose value was mostly derived from defense and energy plays. He was closer to being a small-ball center than a playmaking wing.
He spurned the Nuggets in free agency last offseason to sign an equivalent contract with the Pistons - in part so he could step into a larger offensive role - but his decision was met with confusion and skepticism. Grant had seemingly been in the ideal situation in Denver with an important but streamlined role on a contending team. For all his positives last season, good things didn't tend to happen when he dribbled in the halfcourt, apart from attacking closeouts in a straight line. There are reasons why 84% of his field goals were assisted and why he spent just over a minute per game with the ball in his hands.