Picking breakout candidates for the following season is never easy, as free agency, the trade market, and the draft will impact the look of team rotations when October rolls around. That said, the Rotoworld staff has picked three players they believe are breakout candidates for the 2023-24 season. Included are two centers whose values for this season were boosted by trades and a few young forwards who have been waiting for their opportunity to shine.
Noah Rubin's Breakout Candidates
After spending most of his rookie season in the G-League and his second season on the bench, Johnson has been a favorite of Quin Snyder. Over his final four games of the regular season, Johnson averaged 13.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.8 steals, and 1.5 triples while shooting 59% from the floor. In the play-in matchup with Miami, he had 10 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and three steals in just 14 minutes. John Collins has been on the trade block for years, but it feels like he may finally get traded this summer since Snyder doesn't seem to utilize him much at all. If that happens, Johnson will be in for a larger role and be ready to boom, even if he still comes off the bench.
As we all saw in Game 1 on Sunday, Reaves is an incredible talent. He was a 12th-round producer in 9-cat leagues this season, as he only started 22 games. However, he has solidified his role as a starter with his performance to end the regular season and start the postseason. What remains to be seen is where Reaves will be playing next season, as he'll be a restricted free agent. Should he return to the Lakers, we know that LeBron James and Anthony Davis will miss their fair share of games. And that should make Austin Reaves a top-100 player next season.
The last few years of his career have been derailed by various injuries, but Collins finally got a chance to establish himself as a starting center in San Antonio. Gregg Popovich said that Collins will start at center for the Spurs next season, and while many things could change between now and opening night, he should play a large enough role to provide top-50 value, like he did over the final two months of last season.
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Zak Hanshew's Breakout Candidates
Eason finished his rookie year with averages of 9.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.6 blocks, and 0.7 triples in just 21.6 minutes per contest. Eason's shooting splits weren't great (44.8% from the field, 75.2% from the charity stripe), but they weren't horrendous for a first-year man. In five starts, Eason averaged 13.6 points, 9.8 boards, and 1.8 steals while shooting 50.9% from the field. With Eric Gordon gone and the Rockets hopefully more willing to give him consistent minutes in Year 2, there's clear breakout potential for a guy who didn't see the playing time he deserved as a rookie.
We saw some great games from Z-Co to close the season, but a full-blown breakout? Not quite yet. He's yet to put it together for an entire season, but 2023-24 could be the year. Across 26 starts in 2022-23, Collins averaged 14.8 points, 7.9 boards, 3.8 dimes, 0.9 steals, 0.8 blocks, and 1.3 triples with respectable shooting percentages. A full season without Jakob Poeltl and another season removed from major injury means Collins could be a top-75 guy or better next season.
Big Cam J finished 94th in per-game value in 2021-22 and 49th in 2022-23. You could say he already broke out, right? He logged only 42 games, and much like Collins, the full-blown breakout hasn't yet occurred. Johnson's counting stats and efficiency have improved in each of the last three seasons, and if he can stay healthy next season, he could push even higher than 49. Johnson's work as a sharpshooter with respectable peripheral stats, high efficiency, and low turnovers gives him a sturdy floor. Provided the Nets re-sign him, Johnson and Mikal Bridges will be focal points on offense with Brooklyn, much more so than they were with Phoenix.
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Raphielle Johnson's Breakout Candidates
Williams was an easy choice for me, given his production after the Hornets traded Mason Plumlee at the deadline. From February 10 onward, Williams started 17 of the 18 games he appeared in and averaged 11.7 points, 9.7 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.6 steals, and 1.1 blocks in 26.6 minutes, shooting 62.9% from the field and 64.6% from the foul line. And only seven of those games were played alongside LaMelo Ball, who suffered a season-ending ankle injury in late February. During that small sample size, Williams accounted for 12.1 points, 9.9 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.6 steals, and 1.7 blocks in 26.7 minutes per game, shooting 64.9% from the field and 68.8% from the foul line. I think more time on the floor with Ball will only help Williams in his development.
Smith's rookie season got off to a brutal start, as he shot 35.3% from the field in his first 20 games. But he stuck with it, and the efficiency improved as the regular season reached its conclusion. After the All-Star break, Smith averaged 14.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.9 blocks, and 1.3 3-pointers in 33.5 minutes per game (24 appearances), shooting 44.6% from the field and 77.1% from the foul line. There is some uncertainty due to the Rockets' current search for a new head coach, but this could benefit Smith regarding his development as a pro.
Admittedly, this pick is a serious roll of the dice. While Kuminga's had his moments in his first two seasons, the consistency hasn't been there. But the long-term effects of a franchise contending for (and winning) championships may set him up for a potential breakout campaign in 2023-24. Between the salary cap and luxury tax, the costs of maintaining that kind of roster increase by the year, and change could be on the horizon.
Draymond Green has a player option worth nearly $27.6 million for next season. What happens with that will clearly impact Kuminga's situation, but we're approaching the point where the Warriors need to see what they have in the athletic forward. In the 38 games this season in which he played at least 20 minutes, Kuminga averaged 13.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.6 blocks, and 1.2 3-pointers, shooting 56.8% from the field and 66.0% from the foul line. The situation may not look great right now, but that could change this summer.