They got next.
Each NBA season spawns a new batch of breakout ballers, and the 2022-23 campaign will be no different. If anything, it might be more active than most seasons in terms of sending up-and-comers into orbit.
The list of potential breakout candidate is extensive, but we've whittled it down to a top 10 with the players subjectively ranked by the likelihood of a breakout combined with the size, scope and significance of that ascension.
10. Aleksej Pokusevski, Oklahoma City Thunder
This is either audacious or absurd, as Aleksej Pokusevski has both a mountain of upside and a glaring lack of polish. That combination has so far manifested in a 37.6 career field-goal percentage for the 7-footer.
Clearly, that potential is prioritized here, thanks in no small part to some brief flashes of improvement last season. While the sample size is admittedly minuscule, it's hard not to get giddy about the way he handled his eight outings of 30-plus minutes, during which he averaged 13.4 points, 8.3 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.0 blocks.
"If you looked at certain points of Poku's season last year, you would have been like, geez, this is rough," Thunder general manager Sam Presti told reporters. "And then there would be other nights where he'd be—by the end of the year, he's really improved."
If Pokusevski ever puts it all together, he could be special. There aren't a lot of 7-footers who are as comfortable on the perimeter as he is.
Predicting a breakout requires a certain level of boldness, since his game and frame could both use more work, but his talent and opportunity—with Chet Holmgren (foot) sidelined for the season and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (MCL sprain) already on the shelf—just might make it happen.
9. James Wiseman, Golden State Warriors
James Wiseman, the No. 2 pick in 2020, has just 39 big-league outings under his belt so far. His rocky rookie year was prematurely ended by a meniscus tear that wound up wiping out his entire sophomore season, too.
While nothing has gone to plan so far, that could all change in a hurry. It sounds like he's finally healthy, and the time off also gave him a chance to improve his instincts and awareness, which might have been his biggest weaknesses as a freshman.
"I'm really thrilled with James' progress physically—he looks great, he feels great, the knee is fine—and then also mentally," Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters. "He's picking up concepts much quicker. It's the first time that he's had a real training camp. From Day 1 to Day 3, you can see that he's picking everything up and he's making the necessary adjustments."
Elite physical tools and raw skills had taken Wiseman this far, but if he makes the mental side a strength, then he could skyrocket toward stardom. He is a 7'0", 240-pounder who can play above the rim at both ends and potentially stretch out opposing defenses with a burgeoning jumper. If he has truly elevated during his absence, he could push for a starting spot and make the defending champs that much harder to handle.