It is tough to predict when a player will break out. The NBA is tough and its a hard adjustment for most players. Talent, work ethic, character, fit, and patience all factor in on whether or not a player will be successful or not. Sometimes a player is in the wrong offense, or sometimes teams give up on them too early.
Other times it’s just a matter of a player getting stronger and learning where he can make the most impact. Then sometimes it’s only a matter of time, you never know when the lightbulb will go off. This year, seven players will have that lightbulb go off, and will be selected to their first All-Star Game. Here is how they transformed their games and became all-star caliber players:
Oladipo might me be the most surprising player on the list. No one saw Oladipo breaking out like this. It’s not because he doesn’t have talent, he was the second overall pick for a reason. For Oladipo it’s about patience and fit. His first three years he was on terrible teams in Orlando, and last year in OKC he was a seldom-used sidekick to the Russel Westbrook show. Now in Indiana, he has the keys to the castle, and he’s producing. It’s not just fit, Oladipo is a tireless worker, who got himself in incredible shape and its showing.
A more in shape in Oladipo has led to him to running the floor like a madman, which has led to him being 5th in the league in transition points per game. This year he has been more aggressive, and that has led to a career-best 5.7 free throws a game, and he’s shooting a career-best 86% at the line. Overall, his shooting is night and day from previous years. Oladipo is shooting 44% from three, which is 8% higher than his previous best campaign, and he is shooting 48% from the field overall, which is 4% better than his previous best.
Add that all up and you get 23.2 points per game with excellent efficiency. Now he can be categorized as a complete offensive player, not just a good athlete. According to Synergy Sports, he ranks above average in every category except coming off screens. There is always an area to improve! I like him best in transition, where he has a nice 57% score frequency. His style fits the Pacers, who are 10th in pace. Oladipo has led the Pacers to a respectable 5-5 start, better than most people thought. He is an all-star this year. Watch this play!
Oladipo does a good job playing the passing lanes here and intercepts a Jeremy Lin pass. Once he gets the pass, he puts on the burners and races to the hoop as few can. He hits D’Angelo Russell with a crossover and finishes with a layup in between three Nets defenders. He has always been explosive; now he has skill as well.
This guy should have been all-star last year, but things happen. He is again deserving of the accolade, and he should make it this year (hopefully) and Beal is certainly deserving. All Beal is doing is averaging a career-best 25.7 points per game, on a career-best 50% shooting from the field. He has done it by getting to the line more, where he is averaging 6.8 free throws per game, also a career best. The scary part is Beal is only shooting 36% from three rather than his usual 39%, if his three ball comes back, watch out! He has made up for it by rounding out his game and becoming a great pick-and-roll player.
Beal is the ball handler in a pick and roll 26% of the time, and he ranks in the 99th percentile. He has a ridiculous score frequency of 60%. This is a new part of his game and now makes him a complete offensive player. Beal has always been considered John Wall’s sidekick, but now we have to consider them 1A and 1B. That was evident in the Wizards win at Toronto without John Wall. Beal dropped 38 points on 61% shooting from the field. When he gets cooking it’s scary.
Beal brings the ball up the court and gets a brush screen from Markieef Morris. He doesn’t like that action so gets another high screen from Martin Gortat. Beal uses that screen perfectly and gets a switch. Once he gets the switch, Beal drives and then hits a nice midrange step-back. This takes awareness, patience, and skill. Beal right now is in complete control and seeing the game at another level.
Holy Unicorn! Porzingis has arrived everyone. We all thought this was coming, but we didn’t see it coming this fast. In his third year, Porzingis is dominating and has cemented himself among the leagues best. He is averaging 30.2 points on 50% shooting from the field. Porzingis is second in the league in scoring, in only his third season. That is terrifying. His excellent play has made the Knicks better than people thought, right now they are 5-4.
This offseason Porzingis hit the weight room, and his new stronger frame has led him to unleash all of his skills. He is averaging 7.7 free throws per game more than double what he averaged last year. Where his strength pays off is in the post. This is the deadliest part of his game. Porzinigs is averaging 1.033 points per possession in the post and an impressive 49.2% score frequency. Plus he ranks in the 76% percentile in coming off screens. Very few players are equally good in the post as they are coming off screens, they are two very different things. This speaks to his incredible offensive versatility.
With so many ways to score, he has become incredibly hard to guard. Mind you he is doing this with very little firepower around him. He is the first option and defenses know it, but it doesn’t matter. On defense, there is some work to do, but he already is an elite shot blocker. He is averaging 2.2 blocks per game. This guy is a complete player, and the best is yet to come. A no-brainer first-time all-star this year.
Porzingis gets the ball outside the right block, guarded by Paul Millsap. First, Porzingis hits Millsap with a jab step to create space, and then takes two hard dribbles to get into the paint. Then he half spins, only to come back the other way and hit the turnaround jumper over Millsap and Wilson Chandler, who comes over to help. Welcome to the impossible to guard club Porzingis.
The Joker burst onto the scene last year and most thought he would be even better this year. He had a slow start adjusting to Paul Millsap, but he has picked it up of late. Yes, his shooting is down from 57% to 51% from the field and is scoring is a little down from 16 points to 15 points per game, but Jokic is making an impact and will only get better.
First, Jokic has become a monster on the glass. Last year he was solid, this year he is dominant. He is averaging 11.6 rebound per game. Plus he has improved his outside shooting drastically, he is shooting 43% from deep and 91% from the line. His assists are slightly down from 4.9 to 4.5 per game, but his unique passing still is a deadly weapon that teams fear. The numbers are a little down as he adjusts to a new offense, but Jokic has improved from last year. He has added some stuff to his game. Primarily as a spot up player, where he ranks in the 88th percentile and has an impressive 48% score frequency.
Jokic has both improved as a both catch-and-shoot player and putting the ball on the floor. Expect his passing numbers and overall numbers to go up as the season goes on. After ten games he wouldn’t be an all-star, but expect him there come February. He’s not a lock like Porzingis, but I wouldn’t bet against him. Watch this play.
This play shows Jokic’s new confidence in his long ball. Jamal Murray brings it up and passes to Gary Harris who whips it to Jokic, who is at the top of the key. Jokic doesn’t even blink, and he fires up a three and its nothing but net. This is going to open up everything for his game. Watch out!
Otto Porter Jr.
Yeah, I said it Otto Porter Jr is playing at an all-star level this season.Porter is essential to the Wizards like few players are to their teams. When Porter is gone the Wizards struggle, it’s that simple. He is part of all their best lineups. Porter got paid a lot of money this offseason; he is playing like he is worth it right now. This year porter has improved leaps and bounds offensively. He is averaging a career-high 18.3 points per game on 56% shooting from the field, including 52% from three.
This is not that small of a sample size either. Porter has attempted 40 three’s this season, at five per game. Porter spots up 27% of the time and ranks in the 96th percentile in spot-up situations. He scores a ridiculous 54% of the time, with an incredible 74% adjusted field goal percentage. 3-and-D guys are all the rage in today’s NBA, and Porter is one of the best. His skills perfectly compliment John Wall. Porter knows teams will hug him at the three-point line, so he has also become a dangerous cutter.
Plus Washington is eighth in the league in pace, and Porter is an excellent transition player. He is not just a shooter, he does everything required of him to perfection in the Wizard’s offense. Porter doesn’t have star power, plus it will be tough to get three Wizards to the all-star game, but Porter has a real case. Due to value to his team alone, he would get my vote. A sign of an all-star player is confidence, watch this play!
Porter has the ball at the top left of the key, and John Wall is at the top asking for the ball. Instead, he gets a ball screen from Martin Gortat and pulls up and drills a three in the face of David West. This takes confidence. You gotta love it!
Another guy we all expected to take a leap this year. He showed immense potential in his first two seasons and was ready to break out in his third season. There has been an adjustment due to new teammates, but Towns is back and ready to explode. His scoring is a little down, but that was expected as he plays next to Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague. He no longer needs to score all the time. Like Jokic his numbers are down, but that doesn’t mean he is not better.
Towns is shooting a career-best 55% from the field and 89% from the line. His true shooting percentage is also a career-best 64.5%. Like Porzingis, Towns is a threat from everywhere on the floor, but he does his best work in the post. Towns points per possession in the post are an impressive 1.07, and his score frequency is an impressive 53%. He’s got all the moves down there. Right hook, drop step, turnaround jumper, he can do it all. His offensive game is way ahead of his age at just 21 years old. As he gets used to playing with his new teammates, watch his numbers increases even more. Defensively he is still working on the nuances of the game, but also like Porzingis he has become a legitimate shot blocker.
He is averaging two rejections per game. Towns just needs to be better at choosing which blocks he goes for. The good news is he is playing his best defense of his career by far this season. Overall he ranks above average in the 53rd percentile. When you combine his increase in efficiency, with his team’s success and improved defense, Towns should make his first all-star appearance. Not a lot of players in this league are averaging 21.8 points and 10.9 rebounds per game, like Towns. Watch this play!
Towns gets the ball on the left block. Except he is too close to the baseline. No problem, Towns takes his time, pivots and takes one hard dribble into the paint. Then he hits his defender with a hard shot fake, steps through and lays in. Towns is already has all-star talent, and will find a spot in the All-Star Game this year.
Utah is the tenth ranked defense in the league, and that can be directly correlated to Rudy Gobert’s defensive presence. No one anchors defense like Gobert can. Gobert leads the league in blocks at 2.5 per game. While there are other parts of his defensive game he can work on, he is the best rim protector in the game by far, and is in the running for Defensive Player of the Year.
To be an all-star he must show some offense, and Gobert is better than you think on that end. His shooting percentage are all slightly down from last year, but he has taken a big step in one area; free throw shooting. Gobert is averaging a career-best 72% from the line, up from 65%. This year Gobert’s usage is higher as he is getting more touches without Gordon Hayward. Expect his numbers to go up as he adjusts to his new role. One area where he has improved is in the pick and roll. Gobert ranks in the 90th percentile as the roll man. He is legit above the rim threat, and he has excellent hands. His adjusted field goal percentage in pick and rolls is a ridiculous 75%, and his score frequency is 72%. He and Rubio are one of the best pick-and-roll tandems in the game.
Utah is only 5-5 and Gobert doesn’t put up huge numbers, both of those can hurt his all-star chances. However, when it comes to impact on the game, Gobert certainly has a case. It’s by no means a lock but don’t surprised if the big fella from France makes it this year. I wouldn’t argue with it.
The first defensive highlight of the article. Devin Harris drives and gets Gobert to leave his feet and he dishes the ball to Nerlens Noel. Gobert recovers and blocks Noel’s shot. Noel then gets the ball back and tries to put up another shot, but Gobert blocks him again. Gobert’s presence is already felt throughout the entire game, and if he can show that in his stat line as well, he will be an all-star candidate.