For the young players on the Orlando Magic roster, this coming season represents a unique opportunity for them. The casual fan won’t know too much about them, and their expectations in the eyes of many wouldn’t even be to make the playoffs.
With these kind of conditions to work in, some young players will thrive and ultimately may have breakout campaigns that see them become more household names. If we had to pick one though, who do you think it would be?
A quick note first on the one rule. Rookies don’t count.
So Elfrid Payton, a player who only got moderate fanfare coming into the league, no matter how good he is, that is still not a breakout. That is just a stellar rookie campaign.
Veteran players, however, do count and can be considered.
A special mention before talking about the prime candidate must go to Victor Oladipo as well. This guy is going to improve on his first year in the league no question, just it won’t be a huge jump.
I see Oladipo as being a steady riser, to the point where he is still improving five years into his career. In that sense he will always be getting better, and may even flirt with All-Star consideration one day, only it won’t happen suddenly in one big leap in a year.
The two players to me that stand out as having the potential to have breakout years are Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic. Starting with Harris, it is clear in the numbers that this guy has improved every year since coming into the league.
His 11 points and 5.2 rebounds in his Milwaukee Bucks days quickly turned into 14.6 points and seven rebounds once he got settled in Orlando. His free throw percentage went up, and he averaged about seven extra minutes a night once he donned the pinstriped blue of the Magic.
Harris won’t become as good as them this season, but he has a nice blend of experience in the league plus the fact he’s still in his early 20s going for him. Look for that to be a nice combination for him to grow.
If he’s given the minutes, and you have to feel he’ll be a starter, he is capable of big things. Remember, impressive as those numbers for last season were, the guy only played 61 games through injury. He only started 36 of those games.
Given a full season, his production could jump up considerably.For Vucevic, really it is clear to those who watch him regularly that there is All-Star potential in him. They say the big man is dying out in this league, but not when they can pass and move like this guy.
Not to mention handle the ball like a guard at times as well. You add these abilities to the solid big man work he already does well, and that’s quite a player that could become huge for a team over the course of a season.
Again he has the same blend of age and experience, as he is 23 and entering his fourth year in the league. Last season he averaged 14.2 points and 11 rebounds. That’s a double-double, and he did it all in only 57 games because of injury.
Assuming he stays healthy, those numbers will absolutely rise.
A player efficiency rating of 18.8 (league average is 15) means he really makes a difference when he’s on the court. To look more at his importance to this team, he also accounts for 19.5 percent of his team’s rebounds taken down when he’s on the court, that’s just shy of one-fifth of all rebounds the team gets on both ends of the floor.
If you’re asking me, this absolutely can be the year of Vucevic. Given how the All-Star team selection format has changed to three forwards instead of a true center, he probably won’t get selected.
But really in the Eastern Conference, Joakim Noah would be the only center who could have a better season than him. More is expected of Roy Hibbert in Indiana with what has gone on with trades and injury, but that doesn’t mean he’ll deliver.
Others like Al Jefferson, Andre Drummond and Marcin Gortat will have good season’s too, but Vucevic is capable of doing the dirty work of the center and so much more as well because of his handling and shooting touch. That’s why if you’re asking me he’s the Magic player most likely to have a breakout season next year. Do you agree?