Young NBA Players Destined for Breakout 2017 Seasons

These 20 young NBA players are prime breakout candidates in 2017-18.

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Every year, several young NBA stars emerge out of hiding. Many had previously flashed significant upside or carried a draft status that would suggest eventual stardom, leaving fans and franchises waiting on pins and needles for that sudden eruption. Well, as luck would have it, I’ve already put together a list of players who are destined to take that next step in their development during the 2017-18 campaign. You’re welcome for taking the guesswork out of it.

The following 20 rising stars have already given us glimpses of the greatness they’re capable of. This upcoming season, we’re going to witness just what happens when they’re given the opportunity to put their immense talents to good use. Keep in mind that I don’t consider rookies as breakout candidates, so this list will include no first-year players.

SF Brandon Ingram, Los Angeles Lakers
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For the most part, Brandon Ingram‘s rookie season with the Los Angeles Lakers was a disappointment. Although he flashed some of the potential that made him the No. 2 pick, he struggled mightily from the field and was inconsistent on the defensive end. However, we all knew was far from a finished product when he was drafted. Now with a full year of NBA action under his belt and a better supporting cast, look for Ingram to that a huge step forward in his development.

SG Buddy Hield, Sacramento Kings
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It’s amazing the differences between how Buddy Hield played during his time with the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings. Down in the Bayou, the 2017 first-round pick was solid but unspectacular. After being traded, he was the offensive sparkplug he was originally drafted to be. His field goal percentage increased by over 10 percent, his points per game nearly doubled and he pulled down more than one extra rebound per game. With the Kings in full-blown rebuild mode, Hield is being set up as a potential superstar in Sacramento this season.

C Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers
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Right now, the Indiana Pacers are reeling following the departure of Paul George this offseason. They’ve added some quality pieces this offseason, but none of them are going to make up for the loss of the dynamic two-way wing. With PG13 out of the picture, it opens the door for Myles Turner to take over as Indiana’s top option. We’ve already seen plenty of exciting play from Turner through his first two seasons. Now is his time to prove he can be the star of the show.

SG Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns
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Yes, I know about the 70-point game. It was an impressive feat, especially for a player of Devin Booker‘s age. In the grand scheme of things, he hasn’t quite reached that superstar status, though. In my opinion, the Phoenix Suns‘ star guard has only scratched the surface of his immense potential. We know he’s an elite shooter who can put huge point totals on the scoreboard in a hurry. However, he still needs work on defense and should ideally become more of a leader before we can say he’s already broken out.

SG D'Angelo Russell, Brooklyn Nets
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Last season, we were just starting to see the potential of D’Angelo Russell. The former Laker and No. 2 overall pick flashed star power at times, making some clutch shots and putting on some impressive offensive performances. Now with the Brooklyn Nets, chances are his role on the offensive end will increase. Especially working alongside Jeremy Lin, Russell figures to get plenty of opportunities to show off his wide array of talents. You know he’ll be looking to prove Magic Johnson wrong throughout the 2017-18 campaign.

C Nerlens Noel, Dallas Mavericks
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We’ve seen the potential Nerlens Noel possesses. We’ve also seen all of the injuries and setbacks he’s suffered since entering the league in 2014. Now on a new team in a contract year, the former No. 6 overall pick needs to convince the rest of the NBA he can be a star. Can he look like the elite rim protector we know he can be? Will he take his offensive game to the next level? This could be a huge year for the Dallas Mavericks‘ young big man.

PG Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets
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Jamal Murray has all the makings of a star. While he may not be the focal point of this Denver Nuggets lineup right now, he very well could be by the end of the 2017-18 season. With players like Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap pulling attention away from him, Murray will be able to put his elite scoring skills on display. Expect his numbers to skyrocket this year, especially with Jokic using those ridiculous passing abilities to set him up for one bucket after another.

C Clint Capela, Houston Rockets
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This is another one of the names on this list that may seem out of place. Clint Capela is the Houston Rockets‘ starting center, and a great one at that. However, I don’t quite feel he gets the credit he deserves from around the league. In fact, most NBA fans outside of Texas don’t know much of anything about the former first-round pick. By the time the 2017-18 campaign is over, Capela will be a household name. He’s a ridiculous rebounder, tenacious defender and should see his offensive efficiency go up with Chris Paul running the show.

SG Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics
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Realistically, Jaylen Brown has all of the physical tools to be a dominant player for the Boston Celtics. He’s a ridiculous athlete, high-flying dunker and excellent creator who can get to the rim at will. Unfortunately, it’s his turnovers and inability to create for his teammates that make him a work in progress. Lucky for him, he should have more than enough opportunities in 2017-18 to make the necessary improvements. Slated for a starting role, Brown could play a huge part in the Celtics’ championship run this season.

SG Rodney Hood, Utah Jazz
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If you’re looking for a knockdown shooter to put some stock in, look no further than Rodney Hood. The Utah Jazz‘ young sharpshooter is destined for a huge upgrade in usage this season with Gordon Hayward now out of the picture. That should mean more minutes, more shots and many more points for the 2014 No. 23 overall selection. All of the pieces have fallen into place for him to be a star for the Jazz this year. Can he deliver upon all of the promise we know Hood possesses?

SF Justise Winslow, Miami Heat
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Honestly, this could be a make-or-break year for Justise Winslow. The former top pick of the Miami Heat has been a disappointment through two seasons, largely struggling with his shooting and battling a shoulder injury from a season ago. However, I’m guessing he’ll get his act together in Year 3 and show the Heat why he was such a celebrated talent coming out of Duke. He’s invested heavily in getting better this offseason, and figures to enjoy a breakout year once he secures the starting small forward gig.

PF Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic
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Last season, Aaron Gordon was miscast as a small forward for the Orlando Magic. Now headed into a 2017-18 season that should see him back at his natural power forward spot, I see him taking a huge step forward. Why? Well he can combine his elite athleticism, cutting abilities and what he learned from the 3 spot to turn into the high-impact player the Magic figured they were getting in the first place. The fact that he’s in a contract year should also provide extra motivation to unlock his full potential.

C Jusuf Nurkic, Portland Trail Blazers
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When the Portland Trail Blazers acquired Jusuf Nurkic back in February, they knew they were getting something special. He rewarded them with outstanding production in his 20 appearances before a fibular fracture hobbled him for the final part of the season. Now healthy and locked in as the starting center, Nurkic seems destined for big things in 2017-18. He’s a dominant presence in the paint who can clean the glass and protect the rim with the best of them. Look for him to finally flourish as a key piece of this Trail Blazers lineup.

SF Taurean Prince, Atlanta Hawks
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This Atlanta Hawks lineup is in shambles right now. Millsap and Tim Hardaway Jr. both bailed this offseason, leaving the roster looking rather thin. That, however, should provide younger players with the opportunities to shine with more minutes and chances coming their way. One player I believe will benefit from this restructure is Taurean Prince. Penciled in as the starting small forward right now, the former second-round pick appears primed to emerge as an exciting 3-and-D talent for the Hawks.

SG Norman Powell, Toronto Raptors
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As a 2015 second-round pick, not a ton was expected of Norman Powell. However, when given the opportunity, the Toronto Raptors‘ shooting guard has risen to the occasion. He shined in 18 starts last season, and was wildly effective during the team’s postseason run. With DeMarre Carroll now gone, the door has opened for Powell to steal the starting job and run with it. Assuming he does that, it should be a breakout season for the highly efficient scorer on the wing.

C Cristiano Felicio, Chicago Bulls
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I mean, someone has to be the star of the show in the Windy City, right? The Chicago Bulls underwent a major rebuild this offseason, parting ways with their top player and adding a number of building blocks. There are a number of options to fill the “breakout” role for the Bulls, but I think Cristiano Felicio is the guy at this point. The team paid big bucks this offseason to stay put, proving that they believe it’s time for the rebounding machine to take his game to the next level.

PF Julius Randle, Los Angeles Lakers
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Last year, it looked like Julius Randle was ready to take the next step in his development. Some even went as far as naming him the new face of the franchise, ahead of then-assumed top option Russell. Unfortunately, in the end, his deficiencies kept him from truly emerging as a star. That could change in 2017-18, though. Set to be a restricted free agent next offseason, Randle needs to live up to his draft status if he’s going to cash in. Having spent all offseason getting ripped, I’m guessing his dedication will pay dividends for the Lakers and himself.

C Cheick Diallo, New Orleans Pelicans
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I know — it’s going to be easy for a backup big man to stand out for the New Orleans Pelicans. With the starting lineup consisting of Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, finding minutes off the bench is going to be a tedious task for Cheick Diallo. While that may be the case, the former second-round pick appears ready to take off as an NBA prospect. He flashed serious potential during the Summer League, and should shine as one of the Pelicans’ best second-unit assets.

SF Kelly Oubre Jr., Washington Wizards
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It’s not easy standing out on a Washington Wizards offense that includes John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr. However, in the case of Kelly Oubre, I believe we could see him carve out a role for himself in 2017-18 as one of the team’s key contributors off the bench. Now that may not seem like the definition of a breakout season, but it will be considering the circumstances. Oubre has already been called an “X-factor” by Wizards owner Ted Leonsis. If all goes as planned this upcoming season, he’ll convince the rest of the NBA to agree with that statement.

C Willie Cauley-Stein, Sacramento Kings
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As mentioned previously, the Kings will be looking for many of their young studs to step up in a big way in 2017-18. It’s not going to be easy to make an impact in this loaded frontcourt, but I believe Willie Cauley-Stein will be the guy to earn some significant minutes and enjoy a breakout season. He’s already flashed some serious scoring potential through two seasons, but needs to develop more range and versatility when it comes to putting the ball in the basket. With the work he’s done this offseason, it seems likely that’ll happen and Cauley-Stein will secure his spot among Sacramento’s top talents.