NBA Breakout Players: Bigs

In today’s NBA, the role of the great man is as fluid as ever. You have your unicorns like Nikola Jokic and Kristaps Porzingis, you have your defensive anchors like Rudy Gobert and Clint Capela, and you have your guys who just do the job like Joel Embiid and Domantas Sabonis. Either way, there is no perfect formula or roadmap that charts the path to success as a great man in the NBA.

The key is to find your niche, own it, and do it to the best of your ability, which all of the aforementioned guys certainly have. It took a few seasons for a few guys on the roster like Rudy Gobert and Domantas Sabonis to truly become the version of themselves we know and admire today. So what great men might start to take that turn this season?

Today we’ll take a look at five big guys who I think could start turning the page and why next season could be their biggest yet.

Daniel Gafford – Washington Wizards

Gafford will be entering his third year in the NBA, but his first full season in DC. Gafford spent his rookie year as well as the first half of last season in Chicago with the Bulls before being traded to Washington on the deadline to provide some depth after Thomas Bryant lost a ripped ACL after just 10 games. In 23 games with the Wizards, Gafford posted some very impressive numbers as he shared time with Robin Lopez and Alex Len at the Center.

In just 17.7 minutes per game, the former Arkansas Razorback averaged 10.1 points per game on 68.1% of shots on the ground with 5.6 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. Len and Lopez have both moved on to new teams and the Wizards replaced them with Montrezl Harrell, and will also return Thomas Bryant once he is healthy.

The reason I’m so high on Gafford is that his style of play should perfectly complement Spencer Dinwiddie and the rest of the new-look Wizards. During Dinwiddie’s introductory press conference, he explained how excited he is to team up with Gafford due to his ability to be a lob threat to the brim. Dinwiddie even compared it to his time in Brooklyn where he and DeAndre Jordan and he and Jarrett Allen were two of the league’s top three lob tandems in 2019-20, where Dinwiddie averaged a career-high 6, 8 assists per game.

Because Harrell and Bryant aren’t the athletes Gafford is, it’s something that should keep him apart and get him more minutes in some lineups. He’s also set to get well over 17.7 minutes per game this season, especially while Bryant is out, and if he does, his production is sure to increase dramatically.

Robert Williams – Boston Celtics

Now, many of you might be scratching your head at the injury issues that Williams has faced throughout his career. I’m fully aware of that, so understand that this assumption is based solely on my belief that The Timelord is finally going to take a break this season and be healthy for most of the year. Let me also remind you that last season’s MVP runner-up Joel Embiid missed his entire first two years and then only played 31 games in his third season before finally breaking through in fourth year and to play 63 games for Philadelphia.

Is this a completely independent case? Yes, but it shows that a little patience can go a long way, especially with tall men who usually take a little longer to assert themselves anyway. The Celtics appear to have the same belief as they rewarded Williams’ potential with a four-year, $ 54 million contract this offseason, with $ 48 million guaranteed for a guy who has only played 113 games in three NBA seasons. .

Now why did Williams make this list? Well, in just 18.9 minutes last season, Williams averaged career highs in points, rebounds, blocks, assists and, most importantly, games played with 55. Williams finished the season with 8.0 point gaps on 72.1% of shots with 6.9 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.8 blocks per game in just 18.9 minutes.

Similar to Gafford, when Williams was on the pitch he was productive, even within minutes. The Celtics have brought back Enes Kanter and Al Horford, both of whom have spent time with the organization before, but Williams is expected to be the starting center whenever he’s healthy. Last season the Celtics had to be extremely careful with Williams’ minutes for obvious reasons, but if he can make it to training camp healthy, he too is expected to see his workload increase in 2021-2022. .

Just to give you a taste of the kind of production Williams brings to the table while he’s even healthy, let’s go back to Game 1 of the playoffs this season against the Brooklyn Nets. In just 23 minutes, The Timelord scored 11 points on 5 of 8 shots with nine rebounds and nine blocks in 23 minutes. Yes, you read that right, he totaled nine blocks which is a playoff record for the Celtics. And Williams wasn’t even in full health, as he still suffered from a turf toe injury that persisted for much of last season and ultimately ended his run to the playoffs. The bottom line here is that if he’s healthy, big things are ahead for Williams in Boston.

Chris Boucher – Toronto Raptors

Some might call last season a landmark year for Boucher, as he burst onto the scene and doubled his scores in his 2019-20 campaign while improving in all other statistical categories. And those people wouldn’t be wrong, but I think this season could be even bigger for Boucher than the last. In 2020-2021, Boucher averaged 13.6 points on 51.4% shots from the ground (38.3% from three points) with 6.7 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.5 triples and 1 , 9 blocks per game, a mark that was good for fifth in the entire NBA.

The path Chris Boucher follows reminds me too much of the one Pascal Siakam was on before he became an All-NBA player and a household name in the NBA. The two have had extremely calm career starts, including stints in the G-League and a lot of growing pains. In their two third seasons in Toronto, they made huge strides and more than doubled their scores. Toronto is known for having an incredible culture of player development, with players like Siakam as well as Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell being the poster children, and Chris Boucher apparently the next example.

Boucher and Siakam have similar body types and skills, and the early years of their careers are eerily similar. With Toronto arguably losing its best player in franchise history to Kyle Lowry this offseason, and with Siakam business rumors swirling, a new era of Toronto basketball is upon us, and their young hopefuls are sure to be upon us. at the center of the next few years. Boucher is the type of player who could help lead a rebuild while also helping bring the younger players to the roster. All in all, everything is stacking up for Boucher to extend the year he had in 2020-21, and he might even find himself in the discussion of the most improved players if things really fall in his favor.

Precious Achiuwa – Toronto Raptors

Achiuwa didn’t see much time in his rookie season in Miami playing behind Bam Adebayo, but a change of scenery should give him a fresh start and the opportunity in Toronto to gain some much-needed playing experience. The Raptors currently have Khem Birch and Chris Boucher at center, but Toronto is known for playing big rosters and Boucher will certainly get four minutes given his versatility and ability to stretch the floor. Boucher and Birch also played a lot together last season, so there will be room for Achiuwa.

In the last game of the regular season and one of only two games of the season where he played at least 30 minutes, Achiuwa gave us a glimpse of his potential. The former Memphis star had 23 points on 10 of 16 shots with 10 rebounds, two steals and a block in 42 minutes. In a Jan. 12 loss to the Sixers, the only other game of the season Achiuwa has played at least 30 minutes, he scored 17 points on 7 out of 10 shots with 13 rebounds, three assists and one block.

The ability is there for Achiuwa, the opportunity was not in Miami as they were in winning mode now and already had an All-Star caliber player in their position. In Toronto, which will not be the case, so with more opportunity and a greater margin of error, given their place in the Eastern Conference pecking order, Achiuwa could be someone to watch this coming season.

Isaiah Stewart – Detroit Pistons

Stewart had a surprisingly strong rookie season and was able to secure a spot on the All-Rookie squad in 2020-21. Stewart averaged 7.9 points on 55.3% of floor (33.3% of three) with 6.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game in 21.4 minutes. Stewart led all rookies last season in total blocks and total rebounds, and was able to get decent playing time for a Detroit team that finished with the second-worst NBA record last season.

The Pistons parted ways with Mason Plumlee and acquired Kelly Olynyk during the offseason as well as the draft from Luka Garza, who was Iowa’s Consensus National Player of the Year last season. Garza is a two-way street though, and the Pistons, who won’t be in the playoff pic this season, will likely use this year to develop their young players like Stewart as well as All-Rookie selection Saddiq Bey, and pick no. ° 1 of this year to Cade Cunningham.

To get a feel for the kind of production we might see this year, let’s take a look at Stewart’s numbers last year in the games he started. Stewart got the go-ahead in 14 games last year and in those games he averaged 12.7 points on 56.8% shots from the ground with 9.4 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 2 , 1 blocks in 29.2 minutes per game. For many of these young players, it’s just about getting an opportunity, and next season in Detroit, Stewart should have just that, and that could pay big dividends for managers who decide to go for him in the evening. of the draft.

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