The NBA, for better or worse, is such a superstar driven league that often fans take for granted the ascension, or come up, of players transitioning from role players to impact players to legit stars. It’s a process.
There are seven players on the verge of a breakthrough season and reaching that next level of NBA’s stardom. All have varying degrees of experience, accolades, and career statistics. None are All-Stars. Some have higher ceilings than others. But the potential is clearly there for them to blow up. Here are the players, from West to East, primed for big things in the 2020-21 NBA season.
2019-20 Stats: 18.6 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 58.0 EFG%
The 2020 Sixth Man of The Year posted career-highs in points (18.6), rebounds (7.1), and double-doubles off the bench last season with the Clippers. Now a member of the Lakers, Harrell is primed to make an even bigger jump with the purple and gold. Once considered an expendable casualty of the CP3 to Houston deal, Harrell flourished as a rim running, high energy option to make the Clippers’ bench one of most formidable second unit sin the league last season. As a solid scorer in the low post, a lob threat, and a relentless rebounder, Harrell provides the Lakers with a high-level scoring option off the bench. Pick-and-roll opportunities with Sixth Man of the Year runner-up Dennis Schröder should be plentiful.
While his offensive skills and energy off the bench should translate with his new squad, can Harrell make strides defensively? His struggles guarding bigger centers. However, that doesn’t mean that Harrell can’t be impactful. A defensive minded coach in Frank Vogel can try to address Harrell’s weaknesses defensively. With Marc Gasol, Anthony Davis, and now Harrell, the Lakers have a formidable front court.
Kelly Oubre Jr.
2019-20 Stats: 18.7 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 35.2 FG3%
When Klay Thompson went down with a devastating Achilles injury just before the NBA Draft in November, the Warriors wasted no time using a trade exception on Oubre, a versatile wing. After stops in Washington and Phoenix, Obure showed promise with his athleticism on offense and length on defense. In the Warriors system, Oubre could feast even more in transition and benefit from playing alongside a generational talent in Steph Curry.
This year, the Warriors are looking to play uptempo meaning Oubre should l have a plethora of fast break opportunities. With the attention defenses will give Curry, look for Oubre to also diversify his offense a bit with more 3-point attempts than he’s had at other stops as well. Last season with Phoenix, Oubre connected on 108 three’s on 5.5 attempts per game.
Defensively, Oubre will be asked to guard opposing point guards and twos at times. While he struggles with the occasional blow by, Oubre shines when he’s involved in the press. With his 7’3” wingspan, he’s effective in trapping schemes and coming up with the occasional steal.
Gary Trent Jr.
2019-20 Stats: 8.9 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 41.8 FG3%
The Trail Blazers were ravaged with injuries for most of last season, and it forced head coach Terry Stotts to throw their young players into the fire. The experience benefited the third-year guard the most. Before the bubble, Trent struggling to find a way to contribute to the Blazers in the midst of injuries to Rodney Hood and Trevor Ariza It helped him develop into a solid backup wing. Trent is primed to be one of the Blazers most consistent scorers off the behind Carmelo Anthony off the bench. We saw the potential down in the bubble where Trent was one of the best shooters from beyond the arc. Defensively, Trent was the Blazers’ x-factor, and is capable defender on the other side of the floor. When the Blazers played Memphis with a playoff berth on the line, Trent recorded five steals and two blocks in 35 minutes.