• Alex Bisaillon

Leap Year: 5 Players Who Will Shine in Their Second Season

New York Post

The 2017-2018 rookie class featured several players who were immediate contributors, including rookies who helped lead playoff squads like Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum, and Ben Simmons. However, there were other players who showed flashes, but weren’t able to put it all together in their first campaign. Most of these players should make strides in their sophomore seasons, but here are five I think will have breakout seasons. As a rule, this list does not include any members of the All-Rookie First Team. Instead, I’m going to focus on guys who will really come out of their shell this season and substantially increase their production.

Lonzo Ball (PG, Los Angeles Lakers) - Even after his well-publicized shooting slump to start his rookie campaign, Lonzo Ball still finished the season shooting 30% from three. That number should bump up to league average as he continues to adjust to NBA defenses, the longer three-point arc, and possibly the NBA balls themselves. The improved Lakers roster should also help Ball’s offensive efficiency and boost his assist numbers closer to double digits after posting over seven per game in 2017-18. I just think Lonzo is the type of player who will always look and play better with more talented players around him, and this is the year he can prove that.

Malik Monk (SG, Charlotte Hornets) - The Hornets are planning to move Nicolas Batum back to small forward to make a spot for Monk, and they ended up keeping Kemba Walker to be his backcourt mate. Both of these moves make Malik Monk worthy of inclusion on this list. Monk showed signs of being a microwave scorer at the very least by posting over 17 points per 36 minutes. Charlotte should be giving the second-year guard every chance to prove he’s an integral part of their future. He’s looking at a substantial increase in minutes from last season, and he could certainly match his per-36 numbers from last year in those extended minutes.

Josh Hart (SG, Los Angeles Lakers) - The MVP of the Summer League, Hart is the best defender of the young Lakers right now. Also, his shooting and secondary playmaking should mesh better next to LeBron James than players like Rajon Rondo and Lance Stephenson, regardless of what the Lakers brass is currently claiming. After shooting just under 40% from deep last year and showing an even better stroke in Summer League, Hart should find himself playing big minutes for the Lakers and will likely entrench himself as the starting shooting guard.

John Collins (PF, Atlanta Hawks) - Collins was solid as a rookie, earning 2nd team honors, but I’m looking for him to make a major jump for the Hawks and possibly even become “The Man” in Atlanta, for this year at least. Trae Young should be able to provide Collins a few easy buckets every game that Dennis Schroder couldn’t get him last year. And, if his improved summer shooting stroke is for real, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Collins average close to 20 points a game this year for a moribund Hawks team. If he can get his defense to come close to matching his offensive production in 2018/2019, Collins could be a surprise All-Star in the East.

Harry Giles (PF/C, Sacramento Kings) - Ben Simmons stans will get mad at me for including Giles, who didn’t suit up at all for the Kings last year due to injuries, but I had to include him simply because I can’t wait to see him play this season. The alluring talent of the top high school recruit of 2016 shone brightly during Summer League as Giles showed some of the explosiveness and offensive prowess that made him so highly regarded in the first place. As long as the Kings prioritize giving Giles and Marvin Bagley III playing time in a crowded frontcourt next season, Sacramento should have a promising future big man duo.

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