5. Skylar Diggins, University of Notre Dame
While Jay-Z declared jerseys dead a few years back, someone forget to tell Lil Wayne. Because when Weezy performed in Indiana this April, he was wearing Skylar Diggins’ Fighting Irish threads on stage. And for good reason. Last season, Diggins led Notre Dame to the NCAA national championship game and their third Final Four appearance. The crafty southpaw made a nearly-seamless transition to the point guard position, averaging 15.0 points, 4.8 assists and 1.9 steals per game. This year, second place isn’t an option.
4. Mitch McGary, Brewster Academy
Every year a kid comes out of nowhere and sets the AAU scene on fire. Last year it was Anthony Davis (currently a freshman at Kentucky); this year it’s Mitch McGary. This kid wasn’t even a starter on his Brewster Academy (Wolfeboro, N.H.) team last season, and now has college basketball’s elite at his school to watch him work out. Oh yeah, and he’s an inch or two away from being a legitimate 7-footer. By the end of his senior year, McGary will become a household name.
3. James Harden, Oklahoma City Thunder
After Jeff Green was traded to Boston, James Harden’s opportunities and aggressiveness increased. So did his stats. Averaging 12.2 points and 3.1 rebounds on the season, Harden stepped up big in the playoffs, shooting 47.5 percent from the field and adding a major boost off the bench. He has too much talent to keep him out of the starting lineup for much longer. Although Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are the stars, Harden showed this summer that he has the skills and drive to take his game to the next level.
2. Jeremy Lamb, University of Connecticut
After a breakout performance in both the Big East and NCAA Tournaments, Jeremy Lamb made a name for himself as an emerging star for the Huskies. Lamb was sensational in UConn’s run to the NCAA Championship, averaging 16.2 points and 4.8 rebounds while shooting an incredible 58.1 percent from the field. Already with championship experience after just his freshman season at UConn, and as the star during the FIBA Under-19 World Championships in Latvia this summer, Lamb is ready to take over the spot Kemba Walker left for him and lead the Huskies to back-to-back national championships.
1. John Wall, Washington Wizards
Four years ago, John Wall was an unknown, unranked high school basketball player who drove 18 hours from Raleigh, N.C., to showcase his talents at the Reebok Breakout Challenge in Chicago. After one season in the League â€“ and a summer of destroying everyone that stood in his way to the rim â€“ Wall has already entered the echelon of NBA point guards that includes the likes of Derrick Rose, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo, and Russell Westbrook. Thankfully for all of us, he’s primed to breakout again.
What players and teams do you think are primed to breakout this season?
Follow Aron on Twitter at @the_real_aron.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.