We’ve officially reached the midpoint of the season. That means that the good stuff is just about to happen, as the trade deadline continues to zoom in and the teams that can’t make the playoffs will most likely try and move their stars.
Obviously, that opens up the door for their prospects to step up and prove their worth. The rookies have had half a season to get their bodies ready for what’s about to come, learn the flow of the game, and get their legs under them. Now, the time to showcase their skills has come.
Every single year, we see some players crash that ‘rookie wall’ after the All-Star Break, while other young players make the most of the final stretch of the season to prove that they’re poised for stardom. That’s why today, we’ll let you know about the top 10 players that will break out in the next couple of months.
10. Isaac Okoro
The Cleveland Cavaliers landed one of the most intriguing and promising prospects of the 2021 NBA Draft class in Isaac Okoro. He has an NBA-ready defense and his athleticism is just off the charts, but he’s yet to make the impact they expected.
That’s mostly because Okoro was sidelined with an injury for most of the first half of the season. Now, he’s fully healthy and ready to prove that he’s got to be in their starting lineup for many years to come. He’s got the potential of an All-Defensive kind of player.
9. Dejounte Murray
While Dejounte Murray is far from being a superstar, he’ll have to embrace a much bigger role with the San Antonio Spurs towards the second half of the season now that they decided to part ways with LaMarcus Aldridge and maybe DeMar DeRozan.
Murray excels as a defender, both on and off the ball, and his playmaking has improved significantly over the past couple of years. He’s never going to be much of a shooter but he’ll have to step up and become a more aggressive scorer for Gregg Popovich now.
8. Rui Hachimura
The first couple of months were a huge disaster for the Washington Wizards but it seems like they’re finally getting it together. They’re still below .500 and outside of the playoff picture but have enough talent on their ranks to make a run, and Rui Hachimura could play a huge part in that.
Hachimura has a privileged physique and is a gifted athlete. He’s improved as a more efficient scorer and he’s been more aggressive on both ends of the glass. He’s finally healthy after starting the year injured and then a bout with the health and safety protocols, so we expect his numbers to go up.
7. Saddiq Bey
Saddiq Bey didn’t enjoy much playing time early on but he’s become one of the steadiest contributors for the rebuilding Detroit Pistons. Josh Jackson has been on and off the starting lineup and Sekou Doumboya still seems years away from being an NBA player.
Thus far, Bey has been quite impressive with his defense, athleticism, and aggressiveness; so we can definitely expect those averages of 9.9 points and 3.9 rebounds per game to trend up as he gets a longer leash on a team with no playoff aspirations.
6. Tyler Herro
Following his impressive outburst in the bubble in Orlando, we can all agree that Tyler Herro has been one of the most disappointing players in the league this season. It’s not that he hasn’t been good but people thought he was ready to take a leap forward in his sophomore season.
Well, that might be the case as we approach the playoffs. The Miami Heat struggled with injuries but now that they’re at full strength, Herro is going to get easier looks at the basket and start putting up numbers again. He already proved he’s clutch.
5. Coby White
We saw the best of Coby White after last year’s All-Star break and we expect that trend to continue this season. He’s slowly establishing as a solid playmaker rather than just a score-first kind of guard and he’s getting along perfectly with Zach LaVine.
White showed an impressive ability to put the ball through the hoop during his time in college but he hasn’t been as aggressive or efficient in the pros. But with the Chicago Bulls hanging into playoff contention, we expect him to step up any day now.
4. Nic Claxton
Nic Claxton was one of the most pleasant surprises in the NBA last season and the Brooklyn Nets were desperately craving someone like him. He’s an instant source of energy off the bench and has already made an impact in limited playing time.
Claxton’s stock isn’t going to take a toll amid Blake Griffin’s signing because he’s the Nets’ only big man that can actually play some defense right now. Steve Nash looks pretty hyped about him and for very good reasons, so we expect him to have a big role for them going forward.
3. Michael Porter Jr
Michael Porter Jr put on a show in the bubble last season. He proved why he was the highest-ranked prospect in his class before injuries took a toll on his Draft stock, and his ability to knock down shots from all three levels is elite already.
Porter Jr is a liability on defense and his prolonged bout with Covid-19 prevented him from breaking out as expected early in the year. But he’s looked better as the days go by and he’s now ready to become the Denver Nuggets’ X-factor.
2. RJ Barrett
Julius Randle has been stealing all the spotlight for the New York Knicks and that’s fair. I mean, at the end of the day, he’s been putting an All-Star caliber season, but we can’t just ignore the fact that RJ Barrett has also been outstanding for them.
The Knicks are back in playoff contention for the first time in ages and RJ Barrett has made great strides as both a scorer and a facilitator. The talent and physical traits are there and so will be the playing time, so we expect him to bring his A-Game towards the second half of the season.
1. Anthony Edwards
And last but not least, we have to talk about Anthony Edwards, the first overall pick of this year’s class. Edwards has been far from spectacular and started off the season coming off the bench, but he’s shown glimpses of greatness and freakish athleticism.
Now that he’s starting, Edwards will finally have a long leash to learn through his mistakes. He’s as gifted and confident as they come and once he improves his shot selection, his numbers will definitely go up. Oh, and he’s currently leading the race for the dunk of the season with his poster on Yuta Watanabe.