In the NBA, summer is the time for optimism. Every bad team thinks they might have a shot at the playoffs, every good team things they might have a shot at a championship, and every coach assumes his players are hard at work in the gym getting better for next season.
We can’t confirm whether or not the following five players are working as hard as their coaches would like, but based on how they ended last season and the way their teams look on paper, these young guards look to be on-track for a breakout season:
Goran Dragic — Everybody’s favorite Slovenian (sorry Sasha) was the talk of the League for one game in the 2010 playoffs, and is now seen as the future at PG in Phoenix. With more confidence in his game and some time playing with the Slovenian national team in the World Championship, Dragic should come back ready to put up even better numbers.
D.J. Augustin — While everyone is ready for Raymond Felton to breakout in NYC, I would also keep a close eye on D.J. back in Charlotte. Augustin is poised and talented enough to start in the NBA, and he can definitely shoot, but is he ready? I
J.J. Redick — More minutes (with the departure of Matt Barnes), more money and for the Orlando Magic, more production. There were times in the playoffs when Stan Van Gundy had Redick on the court during the most important moments of big games, causing Vince Carter to sit the bench. After the Magic matched Chicago’s $19 million offer sheet for Redick in free agency, he knows the team values him.
Mario Chalmers — As soon as Miami brought D-Wade, LeBron and Bosh together, Chalmers was viewed as the new Rajon Rondo. All he has to do is NOT turn the ball over. But just like Rondo did when he first started with the Big Three in Boston, Chalmers will have growing pains. Don’t expect an All-Star type season yet, but Chalmers will get plenty of open threes and rack up a ton of assists to go with his already solid defensive skills.
Eric Gordon — Even if he ultimately doesn’t make the World Championship roster, Gordon should gain confidence from his strong showing with Team USA this summer. And with Blake Griffin healthy and ready to blow up in L.A., Gordon should put up buckets this year. Even if his scoring (16.9 ppg) goes down a little thanks to Griffin demanding more touches, Gordon’s percentages (44.9% FG, 37.1% 3PA) should go up thanks to the open shots he’ll get.
Honorable Mention — Shannon Brown, Jeff Teague, Rodrigue Beaubois