After a season like no other before, we are delving into an even odder one in less than a week. The bubble in Orlando gave us a chance to see basketball without the exhaustion of travel, and some NBA players really stepped up their game. Now we have a chance to continue to see talented young players develop into stars, especially after an offseason of extensions. Here are 5 players who can take the next leap in their level of basketball, for the 2020-2021 NBA season.
(Photo via Andrew Yang)
1. Jamal Murray
(Photo via Wikimedia Commons)
Jamal Murray led the Denver Nuggets to the Western Conference Finals last season, a team that many had predicted losing in the first or second round. Many people, including myself, had been looking forward to the “battle of LA,” but the Denver crew had other plans. They became the first team to come back from a 3-1 deficit TWICE, and even though they ran out of gas with the Lakers, Murray showed amazing flashes of his potential. He averaged a 44.7 FG% against the Clippers and 52. FG% against the Lakers. Murray’s 3 point shooting was impressive as well against the Utah Jazz and the LA Clippers. Murray and Jokic proved to be a power team in the playoffs.
So what’s next for Jamal Murray? In 2019, the Nuggets signed Jamal Murray to a 5-year contract extension, which kicks in this year. At approximately $158M, the Nuggets have faith that Murray can be their next superstar. The Canadian averaged 18.5 points in the regular season last year, and 26.5 points in the playoffs. He can step up when he needs to, and he has a chance to prove that again this season with the Nuggets. Jamal Murray is here and ready to go, and he is not a star to sleep on.
2. Donte DiVincenzo
(Photo via Prime Magazine)
Although Donte DiVincenzo got wrapped up in a pretty weird situation in the Bucks’ offseason, he is a player I chose to include on this list. (also I know my editor will love this) Last season, DiVincenzo averaged 9.2 points last season, and even though he struggled in the playoffs, he has the potential to reach the ceiling of his basketball career.
The Bucks’ mistakes in the offseason ultimately gave DiVincenzo the chance to become a starter, and that is a good source of fuel for him to prove his worth. He has a chance to improve his 3 point shooting, as well as his field goal percentage. In a preseason loss against the Mavericks last night, DiVincenzo had 7 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists. DiVincenzo has been working out this offseason, keeping his focus on playing the game. Mental toughness as well as physical preparation should help him better develop into Milwaukee’s starting cast. DiVincenzo is a player that may be under the radar right now, but he is a player to keep an eye on.
3. Fred VanVleet
(Photo via Wikimedia Commons)
He went from undrafted to a G League champion to an NBA champion in the span of 4-5 years, and now, Freddy got paid. Fred VanVleet has been following in the steps of Kyle Lowry, arguably the greatest Raptor of all time. VanVleet proved to be a valuable asset against the Golden State Warriors in the 2019 NBA Finals, and he finally got the money he deserved. Now, how will he continue to grow his game?
Last season, VanVleet averaged 17.6 points and during the playoffs in the bubble, he averaged 19.6 points. His three-point shooting is an essential part of this game, but getting inside the paint and driving to the basket is a place where he can utilize and improve. We’ve seen flashes of this brilliance- and now that he can step up as more than a bench player, we can expect Freddy to take that next leap this season. Rookies like Malachi Flynn are now using VanVleet as inspiration, as he did with Lowry. Fred VanVleet is the future of the Raptors, and his 4 year, $85 million extension sets the precedent for that. Expect to see Freddy become more comfortable in his role, his ceiling is very high.
4. Luka Doncic
(Photo via CBC Sports)
Many have argued that Luka Doncic might be the next face of the NBA- and whether or not you agree with this, Doncic is a talented young player that is poised to become a star. He has proven that he can be that number one guy, often leading the box score for his team. Porzingis was brought in to be that second guy with him, but being injury-prone has stopped the Mavericks from passing the barriers to win something big. Being the best player on the team has definitely improved Doncic’s argument that he can be a star, but it won’t be enough for the team to succeed. We saw this with Kawhi Leonard as well as Giannis Antetokounmpo. Both guys need help from the rest of the team in order to push to be a contender. If Luka Doncic and his team acquire someone to help him, he doesn’t have to carry all the pressure or load and can feel free to have fun with his game while becoming a superstar.
Last season, Doncic averaged 28.8 points, and in the playoffs, he stepped up his game and averaged 31.0. His game is outstanding, and I think he is ready to take the next leap into stardom.
5. Donovan Mitchell
(Photo via Wikimedia Commons)
Last but certainly not least, Donovan Mitchell. Mitchell, just like some of the others on this list, signed a pretty big extension this summer. 5 years, up to $195M. The Utah Jazz understands his value and potential, and we do too. Mitchell upped his game in the postseason, averaging 36.3 points and putting on a show. During game 7 against the Nuggets, it was Mitchell vs Murray. As I stated earlier, Murray was on this list too, and so Mitchell deserves a spot on here too. Like many of the players on this list, Donovan Mitchell showed up in the playoffs. When the stakes were high, he performed. Mitchell can take this and apply it to his regular game, and then you end up with a young star. His scoring abilities can greatly improve, and he just might be able to do something special with this Utah Jazz team.
In the regular season, Mitchell averaged 44.9 FG% and 36.6 3P%, which are pretty solid numbers. As Donovan Mitchell continues to grow, you can expect these numbers to go even higher.
All in all, this is a list of extremely talented guys. Each and every one of them has the potential to take the next leap into stardom. As we approach the start of the season, who do you think will become a star? Any players that are not on this list? Let us know on social media.
This NBA season will be like no other, but the truth is, there are a plethora of talented young players to watch out for. So go and enjoy the preseason, because December 22nd is coming soon.