With the NBA season just getting started, we could see the first surprises: Golden State's or Charlotte's strong starts, or the emergence of players like Ja Morant.
Who will be the NBA breakout season players for the 2021-22 season: LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards, OG Anunoby, and many more? Continue reading to learn about our picks, and let us know who you'd bet on in the comments.
Jaren Jackson Jr.
Let's begin with Jaren Jackson Jr., who was only on the court for 11 games last season. The reasons can be traced back to a left meniscus injury that compelled him to miss the final games of the 2019-20 season and nearly the entire 2020-21 regular season in 2020.
This year marks the start of the healthy season, and he has a lot on his plate. First and foremost, allow him to reclaim his pre-injury form: in only his second year as a professional, he averaged 17.4 points per game while shooting 39.4 percent from beyond the arc.
His offensive numbers are slightly lower in these first games, but his three-point shooting is back to where it was: starting with a 42.1 percent achievement is a decent business card.
OG Anunoby's growth has been slow, but visible to all. The shot's accuracy needs to be tweaked, but once that's done, the winger can join Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet as Toronto's third attacking terminal.
The 24-year-old, who is already regarded as one of Toronto's top defensive players, is now in his fifth season in the NBA, having averaged 15.9 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 2.3 assists last season. He also set a seasonal career-high in terms of three-point achievement rate, with an outstanding 39.8 percent, more than doubling his previous attempts.
Kyle Lowry is expected to have a bigger role in the attack now that he's leaving for Miami, which could give rise to a breakout season for him. Nevertheless, with more obligation came less accuracy: in the first games of 2021-22, he shot a revisable 36.4 percent from the field, with an average of 16 attempts. Concerning the result, perhaps too many.
Given the excitement at the start of the season (he shot 17.6% on opening night), we still expect OG Anunoby to perform at his usual level in the second half of the season: he has already shot better in the last two games.
Anthony Edwards had a strong rookie season in the NBA, averaging 19.3 points per night and being named to the All-Rookie First Team. With these conditions in place, the Timberwolves player appears to be on the verge of breaking out this season.
Indeed, he showed strong signs of progress in the first matches of the 2021-22 season. His offensive output has risen to 25 points per game, making him the second-best option in the Minnesota matchup behind only Karl-Anthony Towns.
Edwards made his NBA debut with a 29-point performance and a 50% three-point shooting percentage, and his long-range accuracy appears to be the most improved aspect of his game at the moment. In fact, he shot a respectable 32 percent last year, whereas in these first games he achieved 42 percent of the time, out of 31 total attempts.
Following the Minnesota Timberwolves' first loss of the season, the second-year player attempted to motivate his teammates to give it their all, demonstrating exemplary leadership abilities. If things keep going this way, his blossoming season will be 2021-22.
Robert Williams III
In his rookie 2018-19 season, Robert Williams only played 32 games, while the following year he played 29. With 52 appearances last season, he found more consistency, but he still played less than 20 minutes per game on average.
In these minutes, however, he managed to put up respectable numbers, averaging 8 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per game, which translated to a double-double of 15.2 points and 13.1 rebounds over 36 minutes.
With a new contract and more stability in employment in the Boston Celtics, Williams is still finding his stride as a starting center, at least in terms of offense, in these early games. The new Boston system is demonstrating that it wants to revolve around Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. In the defensive phase, he takes a new vibe: always present and alert, he made his debut against New York with 5 blocks and 3 steals.
Following the Rookie of the Year award, LaMelo Ball's true consecration is predicted in the 2021-22 season, and based on what we've seen in these first games, we can say that the youngest of the Ball brothers is on the right track.
He made his debut against Indiana, scoring 31 points, grabbing 9 rebounds, and dishing out 7 assists, and he continued to put up impressive stats in the following games. He's proving to be an all-around offensive player, and he's going to attack the iron.
Furthermore, the shot from outside, where he has scored 4 out of 8 attempts so far, is showing promise: if he can maintain these rates, he will be able to improve on the 35.2 percent he had last season.
He and his passing abilities helped the Charlotte Hornets get off to a great start as well. We predicted that the team would be entertaining to watch in our preseason preview, and LaMelo Ball has delivered on that promise, averaging 6.8 assists per game and making great plays.
Tyrese Maxey is the first name on his Philadelphia Sixers' substitutes list.
Maxey will undoubtedly have more minutes on the NBA court until Ben Simmons is available, which will inevitably translate into more offensive production. In the eight games he has played in since the start of the season, he has averaged 18.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 3.9 assists in 31.6 minutes per night.
He made his first season debut with a game of 20 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists while shooting 2 of 3 from three points. He maintained his intensity in the next two games, but in the final match against New York, he dropped to only 7 points and a 3 out of 9 field review.
Miles Bridges has had an All-Star start to the season. He's putting on a good show with LaMelo Ball, and Charlotte finds itself in the presence of two potentially catastrophic players for the rest of the NBA season.
In these first games, he has more than doubled his attacking contribution compared to last season: 25 points on average versus 12.7 last year is a significant improvement, particularly given the minutes have remained relatively unchanged.
Charlotte's winger undoubtedly benefited immensely from the arrival of the youngest of the Ball brothers to the point where he was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week after leading Charlotte to an astounding 3-1 victory.
Will he have an All-Star season or is it just the thrill of the start of the season? We'll have to wait until the end of the season to find out. His performances have certainly been noticed, and we are willing to bet on him.