The NBA is a league dominated by its superstars, but for the fanbases whose teams don’t have any realistic hope competing for a championship, looking for the next great thing is a big part of the appeal.
Sure, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and Stephen Curry run the league now, but who has next? Which young players or teams will dominate the association five years from now? It’s such a fun thought exercise, we recently ran through 10 young cores that could be the next great NBA dynasty after the Golden State Warriors are finally mortal again.
However, lost in all the potential of these young players is the more depressing scenario where they never pan out. It’s easy to buy into the future and hope each new draft pick flourishes into the perfect role within a team, but the sad truth is, it doesn’t always work out that way.
The jump from promising young player to superstar — or even useful NBA role player — doesn’t happen overnight. Oftentimes, youngsters put up disappointing numbers as they struggle to adjust to the pros, leaving public perception in limbo from season to season.
Will Player X improve their 3-point shooting to become a legitimate 3-and-D player? Will Player Y become a more efficient shooter and better defender to reach his ceiling as the next big thing? Does Player Z have any hope of carving out a role for himself in a crowded rotation?
These are the questions we ask about certain players every year, and entering the 2017-18 season, several players under the age of 25 stand out in that same category. Once touted as future franchise pillars, a few prominent young players in this league suddenly find themselves in need of a long-awaited breakout campaign.
These are the players we still believe could carve out a productive NBA career, but still have major work ahead of them. These are the players we haven’t quite given up on yet, but might feel more inclined to do so if they disappoint again in 2017-18 since the trajectory of their careers could be riding on it.
Whether it’s because of their upcoming contract situation, losing minutes in a crowded rotation, pre-draft expectations or failing to live up to their potential, it’s time to take a look at 10 players who could really use a breakout year in 2017-18.