A year ago we said that Paul George was ready to become a fantasy superstar, and now he’s a bona fide 1st round pick.
Naturally, younger players are more likely to have big jumps in production from one year to the next. So here we focus on 30 players who are under the age of 25.
Who are the leading candidates to make George-like leaps?
These Young Breakout Stars will take on more responsibilities, have more big games, and be more reliable & productive fantasy players. If you want to win your league, be sure to draft SEVERAL of these guys.
The Young Breakout Stars breakdown is as follows:
Here are a half dozen young players who are ready to become fantasy SUPERSTARS. They have showed lots of skill & potential in the past, but in 2013-14 they’re going to be elite players all season long. Don’t let them fall very far on draft day!
Players mentioned in this group last year include: Paul George, Kyrie Irving and Nicolas Batum.
(Players are ordered by position, from PG to C).
Eric Bledsoe (23 years old, 4th season)
Okay, it’s no secret that Bledsoe is primed to be a breakout star now that he’s in Phoenix and the Suns are going to give him serious minutes. We don’t really know how well he’s going to play alongside Goran Dragic, but we know that “Mini-LeBron” is uber-explosive and is very capable of stuffing the stat sheet. I mean, in his 12 starts last season he averaged a ridiculous 2.5 steals and 1.3 blocks! Only 4 times EVER has a player averaged 2.5+ steals and 1.25+ blocks over a full season (Michael Jordan twice, Hakeem Olajuwon and Gerald Wallace once). So even if Bledsoe struggles to shoot the ball efficiently, his defensive stats will be superb. He’s already one of the fastest and most exciting players in the league, and if his scoring prowess improves, watch out!
Kawhi Leonard (22 years old, 3rd season)
Leonard missed 24 games due to knee & quad injuries last year, and he played just 29.3 mpg before the All-Star break. But after the break he was given a much larger role, playing 34.2 minutes and pumping his stats up to 14 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists. For the season he ranked 14th in steals, and his long arms and huge hands could easily rank in the Top 10 with more playing time. But what makes Leonard an all-around fantasy stud is his ability to shoot the ball efficiently, as he was 1 of just 8 players to shoot over 49% FG and 81% FT while scoring 10+ ppg last season. And with Duncan & Ginobili one year older, it’s a sure bet that Kawhi will continue to take on a larger role in San Antonio. Don’t let this guy fall very far!
Derrick Favors (22 years old, 4th season)
Okay Favors, let’s see what you can do! By letting both Al Jefferson & Paul Millsap sign elsewhere this summer, and by hiring Karl Malone to work with their talented young bigs, it shows that the Jazz have lots of confidence in Favors and are ready to give him major minutes. As a starting point, consider that Derrick put up 10.1 points, 10.0 boards, 2.3 blocks and 3.6 fouls in just 27.3 minutes during his 8 starts last season. Now consider that he’s improved his foul shooting every year (60% to 65% to 69%), and that he could get a LOT more post touches with Al-Jeff & Millsap gone. His stat ceiling is high, and Favors should be ready to start carrying fantasy teams this year.
Anthony Davis (20 years old, 2nd season)
Davis had an up & down rookie year. On one hand, he missed 18 games due to injury, got pushed around in the paint, and averaged just 12.5 points, 7.5 boards and 27.8 minutes before the All-Star break. But he was given more freedom afterwards, averaging a rock solid 15.3 points, 9.3 boards, 1.2 steals and 1.5 blocks in 30.6 mpg Post All-Star. He also shot an encouraging 51.6% FG and 75.1% FT for the season, suggesting that he has sweet 52%/80% potential if his shot becomes more consistent. Thankfully, Unibrow added some much-needed weight to his frame over the summer, suggesting that he’s ready to carry a bigger load in 2013-14. He’s still scratching the surface of his potential, but Davis is a serious stat-stuffer ready to soar to new heights this season.
Larry Sanders (24 years old, 4th season)
Sanders had a breakout 2012-13 season, finishing 3rd in the Most Improved Player voting. His 9.5 boards and 2.8 blocks per game were very juicy, but those numbers were extra impressive when you considered that Larry played just 27.3 minutes and that he came off the bench for Milwaukee’s first 16 games! In 26 games after the All-Star break, Sanders easily averaged a double-double with 12.0 points and 11.1 boards, while shooting an encouraging 67.2% from the foul line. At 24 years old he’s already established himself as one of the league’s top interior defenders, and is one of the few players with 13+ point, 11+ rebound, 3+ block potential, making him an elite fantasy stud. Here are the highlights from his triple-double last season.
Jonas Valanciunas (21 years old, 2nd season)
Despite scoring just 7.3 ppg before the All-Star break and missing 20 games due to injuries, Valanciunas had a very encouraging rookie season. He showed off his sweet shooting touch by draining 55.7% of his field goals and 78.9% of his free throws, and he only got better as the season went along. After the break he posted a solid line of 11.1 points, 6.9 boards and 1.4 blocks in just 27 mpg, while making nearly 59% of his shots! And Jonas continued that success over the summer, dominating the Las Vegas Summer League and playing very well for Lithuania in the Eurobasket tournament. He’s quickly added a lot of muscle to his frame, and his rise to fantasy stardom may come just as quickly. If you haven’t seen his new & improved physique, check this out.
The players in this group all had value at some point last season, but you couldn’t fully trust them to remain in your starting lineup. That should change this year, as all of these guys are ready to become reliable fantasy starters.
Players mentioned in this group last year include: Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, Kemba Walker, Thaddeus Young, and Kenneth Faried.
(Players are ordered by position, from PG to C).
Brandon Knight (21 years old, 3rd season)
Knight only showed a little bit of improvement from his rookie year to his 2nd season, so the pressure is on to take a leap forward in year three. Thankfully he gets a new start in Milwaukee, where the Bucks lost a combined 36.7 points and 12.5 assists from Jennings & Ellis. So Knight will get plenty of chances to score & assist, and he has a young big man (Sanders) alongside him to help finish plays and protect the rim. He won’t suddenly become a pass-first PG dropping dimes left and right, but if Knight can dish out 5.5+ assists (as opposed to 4.0 apg last year), then he’ll finally become a reliable fantasy starter. Here are some of his best moments from last season.
Victor Oladipo (21 years old, 1st season)
Normally we don’t profile rookies in this article, but Oladipo is NBA-ready and I expect him to be a reliable fantasy starter from day one. Even if he comes off the bench to start the season, I expect Victor to be playing around 28 mpg, with that number rising above 30+ minutes as the season goes on. Oladipo is an athletic freak and a defensive stopper, so you can expect lots of steals and some blocks. He also has a nice outside touch and will get to be a key playmaker for Orlando, so he’ll post decent threes and assists as well. This kid is gonna be fun to watch!
Bradley Beal (20 years old, 2nd season)
Beal struggled to start off last year, as he was asked to carry a heavy load while John Wall was injured, and growing pains were to be expected for the 19 year old rookie. But he improved as the year went on, and really thrived once Wall returned to the court. In 12 games after the All-Star break he posted a sweet line of 16.5 points, 5.7 boards, 2.3 assists, .9 steals, .6 blocks and 2.1 threes on 47% FG and 45.5% 3P shooting, showing off his true potential. With a year of experience under his belt, a healthy Wall & Nene to start the season, and another talented youngster alongside him in Otto Porter, Beal is poised for a strong season.
Dion Waiters (21 years old, 2nd season)
Waiters is another guy who really struggled at the beginning of his rookie year, shooting just 36% FG and 26% 3P over his first 24 games. But after the All-Star break he shot a respectable 46% FG and 32% 3P, and showed off his aggressiveness by scoring 16.1 points and getting to the line 4.4 times per game. Since defenses will be focused on stopping rising star Kyrie Irving, Waiters could really flourish alongside him, especially if Andrew Bynum can stay healthy and draw double teams. He won’t be as reliable as Beal, but Waiters should make solid improvements in year two and can be had later in drafts.
Jimmy Butler (24 years old, 3rd season)
JB21 went from playing 22.1 mpg before the All-Star break, to 32.9 mpg afterwards, to a whopping 40.8 mpg in the playoffs! And when the bright lights shined on him going toe-to-toe with LeBron James in the 2nd round, Butler didn’t back down, playing admirable D and holding his own with 15.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.6 threes while shooting 20-21 from the foul line over 5 games. Of course he won’t average 40+ minutes in the regular season, but he’s clearly earned major minutes from Tom Thibodeau, plus Rip Hamilton and Marco Belinelli are out of the picture now (replaced by a capable Mike Dunleavy Jr. but also raw rookie Tony Snell). The return of Derrick Rose will help Jimmy get easier buckets on offense, and his active defense will lead to solid steals & blocks. Watch his stellar defense on Kobe!
Moe Harkless (20 years old, 2nd season)
It’s not often that 19 year old rookies get a chance to start and play major minutes, but that’s what Harkless got last year. Moe started 59 games as a rook, and played a whopping 35.7 mpg after the All-Star break. He showed off some serious athleticism, superb quickness and great potential on the defensive end, and the addition of Oladipo should lead to more transition opportunities, which is where Harkless excels. Look how quickly he gets off the floor and jams in #8 and #5!
Tobias Harris (21 years old, 3rd season)
The Magic have loaded up on athletic wing players, and are even experimenting with playing Oladipo at PG and Harkless at SG in order to play Harris at his more natural small forward position. But even with Glen Davis returning from injury at power forward, I expect Tobias to get plenty of minutes in year two. Harris is a big part of Orlando’s future, and they’ll continue to develop him and give him opportunities. Can you believe Milwaukee just gave up on this guy?
Markieff Morris (24 years old, 3rd season)
Morris has flashed nice potential over his first 2 seasons, but he’s yet to prove that he can be a reliable option, either for the Suns or for fantasy owners. But he did a nice job of finishing last season strong (11.8 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.4 steals, 1.5 blocks and 1.6 threes in just 28.4 minutes over 8 April games), and he followed that up by putting up rock solid numbers in summer league play. He’s Phoenix’s likely starter at power forward, and if he can play like this more often he’ll be a reliable fantasy starter this season.
Andre Drummond (20 years old, 2nd season)
Given his massive size & strength, it’s hard to imagine that Drummond just turned 20 last August. Even as an NBA rookie ‘Dre looked like a man amongst boys at times, which explains why the NBA world is so high on his potential. He has big, soft hands and finishes with authority around the rim (his 61% FG mark last season would have ranked 2nd if he qualified), he inhales rebounds (he ranked 5th in total rebound %), and he moves his feet well to rack up steals and blocks (4.5 combined steals + blocks per 36 minutes last year). Even with Greg Monroe and Josh Smith in the mix, the Pistons are expected to start Drummond at center and give him big minutes. He’s going to kill your team’s FT%, but he’ll help anchor your boards/blocks/steals/FG%. He’s definitely a special talent!
Enes Kanter (21 years old, 3rd season)
Kanter is a bruising big man with a soft shooting touch, and those type of players are hard to come by. Last year he wasn’t a reliable fantasy starter because he averaged just 15.4 mpg, but those minutes could DOUBLE this season now that Al Jefferson and Millsap are gone. In his 2 starts last season, Enes managed to rack up a whopping 41 points, 30 rebounds and 2 blocks in 79 minutes, but of course our expectations should be lowered. Somewhere around 13-14 points, 8-9 rebounds and 1 block per game is a solid projection, but where he’ll really help out is in the shooting % cats. Last year, Kanter was 1 of just 3 players to shoot over 54% FG and 79% FT in 600+ total minutes, and if he can come anywhere close to that while matching the above projections, he’ll be a rock solid fantasy option.
The youngsters in this group have never averaged 24+ minutes in an NBA season before. However, a bigger opportunity awaits them this season. With a year or two under their belts, they’ll be more comfortable and better adjusted on the court, resulting in finer fantasy production.
Players mentioned in this group last year include: Eric Bledsoe, Tobias Harris, Jimmy Butler and Tristan Thompson.
(Players are ordered by position, from PG to C).
Reggie Jackson (23 years old, 3rd season)
Everyone in the NBA can play, they just need an opportunity to show what they can do. This is what happened to Jackson last season, as he went from averaging a mere 5.3 points in 14.2 minutes in the regular season, to putting up sweet stats in the playoffs in place of the injured Westbrook: 13.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.2 threes, .5 steals and .5 blocks in 33.5 mpg over 11 playoff games. And with Kevin Martin leaving for Minnesota, Reggie will now be the Thunder’s first guard off the bench. He’s definitely worth a late round pick in deeper leagues, and would thrive if Westy gets injured again.
Patrick Beverley (25 years old, 2nd season)
At 25 years old Beverley is slightly over the age cut-off for this article, but since he’s only in his 2nd season I’ve decided to let that slide. PB2 was forced into bigger minutes in last year’s playoffs after Jeremy Lin got hurt, and he responded well, averaging a respectable 34.4 minutes, 12 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1 steal, .8 blocks and 1.2 threes in 5 playoff starts against OKC. He also shot a reliable 37.5% 3P last season, while also playing excellent defense. Even off the bench he’s going to get consistent minutes, and should be a nice low-end source of threes, steals and assists. After watching him absolutely hound Jrue Holiday in Houston’s 1st preseason game, it’s pretty clear that Beverley is ready for a bigger role.
Austin Rivers (21 years old, 2nd season)
Rivers really struggled as a rookie. Not only was he overwhelmed by the size, speed and strength of most NBA players, but he lacked confidence and also had to deal with injuries. He missed the final 21 games due to a broken hand, ending a miserable year where he posted a terrible 43.1% TRUE shooting percentage. The only player who attempted 300+ shots and had a WORSE TS% last season was Lamar Odom, which is not the company you want to be in right now. But Rivers had an encouraging summer league and should play with a lot more confidence in year 2, making him a player to watch closely.
John Jenkins (22 years old, 2nd season)
Jenkins averaged just 14.8 mpg as a rookie, but he proved that he can be an accurate shooter, shooting 38.4% from behind the arc and 84.3% from the foul line. And with Devin Harris now in Dallas and Lou Williams recovering from ACL surgery, Jenkins has a major opportunity in front of him. He may not do much besides score and hit threes, but if he can do so efficiently that would be a major step in the right direction.
Alec Burks (22 years old, 3rd season)
Burks averaged just 7 points in 17.8 minutes last season, but there are lots of reasons to like him for the season ahead. For starters, he showed that he could put up solid stats over an entire month last February, when he posted 9.9 points, 4 rebounds, 2.8 assists, .9 steals and .9 threes in 27 mpg, while shooting 45.5% from the field. More importantly, Utah lost Mo Williams, Randy Foye, Jamaal Tinsley and Earl Watson over the summer, and the only key guards that they added to replace them are Trey Burke (a rookie), John Lucas (strictly a backup) and Brandon Rush (coming off knee surgery). So Burks should play a much larger role in year 3, and could even turn into a reliable fantasy option.
Evan Fournier (21 years old, 2nd season)
There were major changes in Denver over the summer, as they lost their GM, head coach, and best all-around player. With Iguodala gone, they’re losing nearly 35 minutes, 13 points and 5.4 assists from the shooting guard spot. Factor in Gallinari’s injury, and there are major swingmen minutes available. Randy Foye has the experience advantage, but Fournier seems to have the most potential at 2-guard. He shot an impressive 49% FG and 41% 3P as a rookie, so look for the French swingman to play a bigger role in 2013-14.
Jeremy Lamb (21 years old, 2nd season)
Lamb played just 147 total minutes last year, so he hasn’t gained much NBA game experience yet. But he may be thrown into the fire this season, because the Thunder need scoring help off the bench to replace what Kevin Martin gave them last year. He’ll likely have an up & down season, but Lamb is a talented offensive player who could surprise some people.
Terrence Ross (22 years old, 2nd season)
Ross played just 17 mpg as a rookie, scoring just 6.4 points on under 41% FG shooting. But Toronto lost Alan Anderson over the summer, a guy who averaged 23 minutes, 10.7 points and 1.5 threes for them off the bench last year. They’re hoping that Ross can help replace most of those numbers, so he should get a lot more minutes and shot attempts. If he plays with confidence, the game might come easier to him in year 2.
Jeff Taylor (24 years old, 2nd season)
Taylor played 19.6 mpg and was given 29 spot starts as a rookie, and he was more NBA ready than other rookies after playing 4 seasons at Vanderbilt. Jeff had a strong summer league showing where he scored 20.3 points and 1.8 threes on 47.5% shooting, and the Bobcats will be looking for extra scoring punch off the bench from him
Terrence Jones (22 years old, 2nd season)
The Rockets need someone to start at power forward, and I don’t think playing Dwight Howard & Omer Asik together is the answer. Likewise, Greg Smith is too much of a traditional big man to play him alongside Dwight, and Motiejunas seems too raw and inexperienced. That’s why I think Jones has the best chance at starting. He’s not a reliable outside shooter yet, but he does have some 3-point range, and he’s versatile enough to put the ball on the floor and drive. If he works hard on defense, T-Jones may earn a rotation spot this season.
Thomas Robinson (22 years old, 2nd season)
The 5th overall pick in 2012 had a disappointing rookie year, with him averaging a mere 4.8 points on 43% FG shooting and the Kings giving up on him right away. The Rockets didn’t value him too highly either, sending him to Portland to clear up cap space for Dwight Howard. But the Blazers can actually use a rebounding big man off their bench, and they may give T-Rob a legit chance to prove himself this season.
John Henson (22 years old, 2nd season)
Henson was briefly moved into the Bucks’ starting lineup last year, but it didn’t last long. In those 9 starts he averaged a mere 22.8 minutes, but still managed to post 9.6 points, 7.2 boards and 1 block in those games. After dominating the Las Vegas summer league, Milwaukee fans are excited to see what Henson can do in a bigger role in 2013-14. He should get a lot more minutes in year 2.
Jared Sullinger (21 years old, 2nd season)
Sullinger recently made the headlines, but for a very bad reason. He was arrested for domestic violence in early September, and now has a hole to climb himself out of. He’s also been rehabbing from back surgery, so he may not be in great shape to start the season. But with the Celtics in full rebuilding mode, they would love to give him a bigger role to see what he can do. Sullinger has the skills to be a solid NBA player, but he needs to get his weight in check and show some maturity off the court.
Kevin Seraphin (23 years old, 4th season)
Seraphin is entering his 4th season, but he doesn’t turn 24 until December. He actually started 21 games in 2011-12, but has never averaged more than 22 minutes or 10+ points. Last year he shot just 46% from the field and his rebound and block rates slipped considerably, but he’s skilled offensively and should see a boost in minutes this season. With Emeka Okafor currently out indefinitely due to a herniated disk in his neck, the opportunity is there for Seraphin to seize.