As much as I hated school growing up (I used to fall asleep…every day…in three or four different classes…all the way through college…no matter if I was in the front row or back…out of pure boredom), there was something exciting about that first day back. When you were really young, back when you did things like pull on a chick’s hair or throws tiny rocks at them to tell them “Hey. I like you” the first day of school didn’t matter so much. It was a joke anyways â€“ the majority of teachers worn down and frustrated from dealing with sugar-raged kids who can’t shut up.
But as you got older, it started to matter. First day back meant you were a year older and a year closer to marking your territory across the entire playground. First day back meant checking out which females were blowing up and which females were BLOWING UP. First day back normally meant you’d have at least a little time decked out in new gear. As the year went on, it got progressively worse. The first and last. Two best school days of the year.
The NBA summer is similar, especially this year. No summer leagues means guys are going to find odd ways to kill time. It’s bound to happen. No real commitments could be either a godsend or a killer. Some will take advantage of the freedom. Others won’t.
That first day back in the NBA is always exciting, for me at least, because I’ll see who made the jump over the summer. The jump T-Mac made when he moved to Orlando. The jump Jermaine O’Neal made in 2001. It will happen with someone.
As of now, the NBA is especially ripe with interesting young players. But because of 24/7 training, exposure at a younger age, year-round AAU and coaches willing to lean on young guys, it’s harder than ever to tell when players are hitting their primes. The age used to be 26-29. Now? Some find their peak at 22 and never improve again.
Take Blake Griffin. He was an absolute beast as a rookie – seriously one of the league’s best players – but how much better can he really get (not that that is a bad thing)? The man has only been out of college two years, and his cup already seems like it’s 75% full. He can shore up that jump shot, learn to pass more effectively out of the post and start working the referees better, but he’s already an A- talent. The improvements from here on out won’t be earth-shattering.
You can tell Griffin is well beyond the normal learning curve. But what about other young players still searching to hit their lane? Here are 10 guys I think could make a big jump (for differing reasons) next season:
For some, it’ll be growth (Wall, Cousins). Others are there. They just need more PT (Harden, Teague). Undoubtedly, there will be a few from this list that’ll never reach their full potential. We know that. We also know some of these names will have blown up by this time next year.
But if you had to bet, how will next season fair for these 10?
What do you think? Who will make the biggest jump next season?
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