The 2017-2018 NBA Season is rapidly approaching. It seems that with each passing season new stars are born. The journey to solidifying yourself as an NBA star all begins with a breakout season. While there are many popular lists as well as, discussion on who these future stars are, these four players have gone kind of under the radar. Their names may not be in the popular vote for a breakout year but, do not count these players out when it comes to becoming household names during the 2017-2018 NBA Season.
Alex Abrines: Oklahoma City Thunder
In his rookie season just one year ago Alex Abrines had a somewhat limited role. Although he did receive the opportunity to start in 6 games for the Thunder, Abrines was mostly used off the bench. Being a rookie on the Oklahoma City Thunder is not easy. The franchise has had their core group of players together for a while, minus the departure of Kevin Durant. Abrines was likely never going to surpass Victor Oladipo or Andre Roberson on the Thunder depth chart but, this did not stop him from making the most of his opportunity.
One thing that became evident right away is that Alex Abrines can really shoot the ball. In 68 games played, Abrines scored 10 or more points 18 times but, seems to be the most comfortable shooting from beyond the arc. The 24-year-old may have only shot 29.4% from beyond the arc, however, expect that number to increase significantly this year. Oklahoma does not have an abundance of shooters.
This season, Abrines will likely find himself in the sixth man role for the Thunder. With this new role will come more minutes and ball touches as well. Plus, with Andre Roberson’s shot often being inconsistent, Abrines may find himself as the number one target in a drive and dish scenario. Lucky for him, Russell Westbrook is not too bad himself. An increased role in the Thunder offense is the biggest key for Abrines. Oklahoma City may have one of the newest premier shooters on their hands.
Sam Dekker: Los Angeles Clippers
Since being drafted by the Houston Rockets in the first round of the 2015 NBA Draft, Sam Dekker has struggled to become the star many hoped he could. In his first year the Rockets the former Wisconsin Badger barely even saw the court at all. During this past season, although Dekker’s minutes increased significantly, he still seemed to struggle on the offensive end of the court. There were, however, flashes of great potential from the former first rounder and now he will work towards consistently producing at a solid rate. A change of scenery may be just what Dekker needed to jumpstart his NBA career.
As previously noted, Dekker showed many flashes of star potential just one year ago. Allow us to break that down further. In 77 games played Dekker may have only averaged 6.6 points, 1.0 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game but, he did manage to score 16 or more points four times. The 23-year old’s career-best performance came back in January when he scored 30 points in a win against the Memphis Grizzlies.
With a new opportunity in Los Angeles Dekker will have the opportunity to be so much more than just another name in the blockbuster Chris Paul trade. Although he may not be the best at creating his own offense, luckily for Sam Dekker one of the world’s premier passers is now a member of the Clippers, Milos Teodosic. Projected Clippers starting Small Forward, Danilo Gallinari has also struggled to stay healthy over the past number of seasons. Not only will Dekker likely receive a significant role off the bench but, if history repeats itself the former member of the Houston Rockets will have a great shot a getting a spot in the starting five.
An increased role is just one piece of the puzzle that may lead to Sam Dekker’s breakout season. As evident by his time in college as well as, his short time in the NBA, the 23-year-old is at his best when he is confident. Once Sam Dekker get’s his confidence in his play up, there is no telling just how good he can be, just look at his 30 point outburst from a year ago.
Lastly, consistency will be key for Dekker to truly thrive under Doc Rivers. If everything can fall into place, not only will Dekker’s numbers go up across the board but, he will become a key member of the Clippers future success. This was a major struggle for Dekker during his time in Houston however, his best is definitely yet to come.
Justise Winslow: Miami Heat
After injuries derailed his 2016-2017 season, Justise Winslow is looking to make his return in the biggest way possible. In just a mere 18 games last season, Winslow showed flashes of his star potential and he’ll be looking to pick up from his small sample size showing from one year ago. Entering his third season, you can count on it being Winslow’s most important. With the Miami Heat hungrier than ever for a Playoff spot, Winslow will be an important member of the Heat’s 2017-2018 Playoff push. There is a lot to like about Justise Winslow.
He has great size for a small forward, and could possibly even play power forward in a small ball lineup. He is a tenacious defender, he can rebound the ball and he can finish in transition. The only thing that is holding Winslow back is the rest of his offensive arsenal. Yes, Winslow can slash to the basket and score, however, when it comes to making free throws or hitting open jump shots he can at times be a liability.
If he can improve his inconsistent three-point shooting, Winslow could become a premier three-and-d player in the NBA. Improving his mid-range jumper will also allow Winslow to keep defenses guessing. Expect the 21 to stuff the stat sheet in all categories this upcoming season. Averages of points in double figures, 7-8 rebounds as well as, 3-5 assists are all attainable for the budding star. In today’s NBA versatility is key which, makes a player like Winslow so special.
Simply put, he can almost, do it all. If everything can finally click for Winslow not only will he be in for a breakout year but, he will also be well on his way to making the jump to the next level in his NBA career.
Norman Powell: Toronto Raptors
Norman Powell is well on his way to becoming one of the biggest NBA Draft steals in recent years. Originally drafted 46th overall in 2015, Powell has let nothing stop him from working his way up the Toronto Raptors depth chart. Entering his third NBA season, Powell has continued to improve year after year. If you watch him on the court he looks more like a poised, seasoned veteran than a now third-year pro. Although at times last year Powell may have got lost in the shuffle of Toronto’s crowded bench this year will be much different for the former UCLA standout.
If you did not catch any of Powell’s Playoff performances last year, you seriously missed out. After not playing in game two against Milwaukee, Powell would finally get much deserved playing time in games three and four. After back-to-back 12 point outings, Powell exploded for 25 points in game five and although he only scored 8 points in game six, the 24-year-old finished off the series with a perfect 9-9 from beyond the arc. Powell’s Playoff heroics were one of many big-time performances last season. Powell is not only a smooth shooter from the outside but, he is also a strong defender and makes some great plays too. They do not call him “Mr. Serious” for nothing.
The Toronto Raptors will feature some new faces this upcoming season while others have since moved on. Patrick Patterson signed with the Thunder and Cory Joseph as well as, DeMarre Carroll were both traded during the summer. Both trades have opened the door for Norman Powell to step into a bigger role with the team, especially the Cory Joseph trade. While Joseph may one of the best backup point guards in the NBA, Norman Powell is on the verge of becoming a star.
It was only a matter of time before his hard work would be noticed by Raptors management. Jumping into a high impact role on a top contender in the Eastern Conference might be a challenge not many are up to but, for Norman Powell, this is just one of the many challenges he has had to accept in his unpredictable rise to NBA stardom. Averages of double-digit points and near double-digit rebounds seems very likely for the rising star.
2017-2018 may very well be the year Norman Powell will let everyone know who he truly is.