Last year, NBA fans and fantasy basketball GMs watched as young players performed well but finished just on the cusp of greatness. Which of these strong performers is ready to take the next step this season? Let’s dive into this year’s breakout candidates!
Michael Porter Jr. (SF, PF – DEN)
MPJ took a huge step forward in Year 2, seeing his minutes nearly double and his production follow suit. He averaged 19.0 points, 7.3 boards, 2.8 triples, and 1.1 dimes across 31.3 minutes while shooting 54/44/79 splits. MPJ’s playing time wasn’t always consistent, nor was his production on a nightly basis. Heading into his third season, however, he could rise into the top 15 if he continues to ascend and sees more consistent court time.
Jaren Jackson Jr. (PF, C – MEM)
JJJ appeared in just 11 games and logged 23.5 minutes per game last season, but he was highly productive in his limited time. In that brief stint, Jackson averaged 22.0 points, 8.7 boards, 2.5 blocks, and 2.4 triples per-36 minutes. His role is expected to increase this season assuming he’s fully healthy, and with Steven Adams replacing Jonas Valanciunas in the starting five, JJJ will likely be relied on more to play outside as a stretch-5. After an injury riddled start to his career, could this be the season he stays on the court and lives up to his massive potential?
OG Anunoby (SF, PF – TOR)
I had a tough time pegging Anunoby as a breakout here given his strong 2020-21 production, but I really believe he can provide more this season. Last season, Anunoby averaged 15.9 points, 5.5 boards, 2.4 triples, 2.2 assists, and 1.5 steals while shooting 48/39/78 splits. He’s got an all-around game that lends itself well to fantasy hoops, and with Pascal Siakam out for the first 2-3 weeks of the season and another year of growth, Anunoby is poised for top-40 production.
Dejounte Murray/Derrick White (PG, SG – SAS)
Both San Antonio guards are poised to post huge numbers this season. The question is: Which one will be best for my team? Murray is long and can provide an enormous boost in rebounds – typically a non-guard category. White on the other hand, can provide useful blocks – also a typically non-guard category. Both are solid options in 2021-22, ranked within just a few spots of one another.
Robert Williams III (C – BOS)
Didn’t we just witness Time Lord’s breakout? Not quite. In 2020-21, Williams averaged just 18.9 minutes per game while posting some strong numbers. The scary part? He’s got a lot more room to grow. Williams wasn’t played consistently, but when given the minutes, he showed out. In 11 games with at least 25 minutes, Williams averaged 11.5 points, 9.3 boards, 3.6 dimes, 2.5 blocks, and 1.0 steals across 26.7 minutes per contest. It’s a small sample size, but Williams has been a productive per-minute player throughout his career. With a new contract and additional opportunities for minutes, the sky’s the limit for the 23-year-old big assuming he can stay healthy.
Isaiah Stewart (PF, C – DET)
Stewart had a huge rookie season, averaging 7.9 points, 6.7 boards, and 1.3 swats while shooting 55.3% from the floor across just 21.4 minutes. In 14 games as a starter, those averages rose significantly to 12.7 points, 9.4 boards, and 2.1 blocks while shooting 56.8% from the field across 29.2 minutes per contest. Mason Plumlee is out the door, and despite the addition of Kelly Olynyk, Stewart should be Detroit’s starter in ’21-22. A sophomore breakout is imminent.
Jakob Poeltl (C – SAS)
Poeltl isn’t going to make any team he’s drafted to seem glamorous, but he’s a blue-collar grinder who gets the job done where you need it. Across 52 starts last season, he posted 15 double-doubles and averaged 9.8 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks while shooting 62.6% from the floor. With Rudy Gay, DeMar DeRozan, and Patty Mills gone, Poeltl should have a clear path to 25-30 minutes, making him a huge fantasy value and breakout.
Kevin Porter Jr. (SG, SF – HOU)
After being called up from the G League, KPJ averaged 17.9 points, 6.5 dimes, 4.0 boards, and 2.1 triples over 23 regular-season games for the Rockets. Though he’s got some work to do on his shooting efficiency and turnovers, he’s a gifted offensive playmaker who could ascend even further in Year 3 with a full season to work with in Houston. He showcased his massive upside with some huge games, including a signature double-OT win over the Bucks where he went for 50/11 while nailing nine triples. John Wall is on his way out, and Porter should assume the starting PG role for the Rockets full time.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker (SG, SF – NOP)
It’s time for a NAW breakout in the Bayou! Across 13 starts last season, the second-year guard averaged 19.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 3.1 triples. It’s a small sample size, but in those 13 contests, he had two huge games in which he posted 30 and 37 points.
With Lonzo Ball and Eric Bledsoe gone, Alexander-Walker can show what he’s capable of with a full workload. In two seasons, he’s averaged 17.3 points, 5.1 boards, 4.5 dimes, 2.8 triples, and 1.4 steals per-36 minutes, and he’s dripping with upside in his third NBA season.
Tyrese Maxey (PG, SG – PHI)
If Maxey remains with Philly and sees additional run, he’s got breakout potential in spades. Last season’s stats in eight starts: 18.6 points, 4.3 boards, 3.9 dimes, 1.3 triples, and 50/33/85 shooting splits across 31.6 minutes. Maxey could step in admirably as Philly’s next starting PG and provide fantasy managers with some valuable production. The best part? He’ll likely come cheap in fantasy drafts.