Last year it was Al Jefferson. The year before belonged to Kemba Walker. The year before.. well, we won 7 games, so no one really.
So, there has definitely been a trend of breakout players the last two seasons for the Charlotte franchise. So who are the top candidates this season?
The popular pick for a breakout season, Lance Stephenson is in a perfect situation. He comes into Charlotte as the starting shooting guard with offensive options alongside him and a team that will rely on him to provide both offense and defense. Stephenson’s modest average of 13.8 points a game last season was mostly due to him not being considered a top option on that Pacers roster.
Now, he will be a huge member of Charlotte’s big three, and he should be able to take advantage of that. His affect on the game will be even heavier this season, where the ball will be in his hands a lot as a secondary ball handler and he will be guarding a lot of elite players.
Not only will his affect on games increase, but his statistics will likely boom upwards. I would expect a PPG increase to 19.5 a game, with other stat categories like RPG and APG increasing by one or two each.
Lance Stephenson is a popular pick for a breakout, but he is, in fact, not mine. He is more of a lock to improve rather than breakout. It isn’t much of a breakout if a All Star snub improves his stats in a better fit on a better team.
This one may be more for need rather than likelihood, because the clock for MKG’s starting job is is ticking fast.
Kidd-Gilchrist has been a very talented and productive bust since entering the league in 2012. I say this because while he has been a great defensive presence and a great energy guy, the expectations were so much higher for this offensively-challenged forward.
The Kentucky product is entering his final season of a secured starting job, and this may be the year that MKG snaps into it. His rumored new shot mechanics give us something to look forward to and could maybe give his offense a huge boost.
But, one issue with Kidd-Gilchrist is, what exactly would be a breakout season for him? Well, considering his past averages of 7.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG, and .7 SPG, the numbers won’t be huge.
I would say that 14 PPG, 7.5-8 RPG, and 1.5 SPG would be a nice breakout season from the swingman who is definitely capable of these stats.
Another great candidate, but another one that is not my pick.
Finally, we reach my surprising pick of Zeller. Zeller had a very up and down rookie season, but had flashes of brilliance towards the end of the season, even receiving three all rookie first team votes. His ball handling is extremely advanced for his size and his speed and athleticism is among the best among all power forwards in the league. He is also very talented at getting himself in favorable positions on offense. Not to mention he is a dunk machine.
Zeller had some poor numbers as a rookie, averaging 6 PPG and 4.3 RPG. But those numbers are for sure to go up for one main reason – Josh McRoberts’ absence.
The departure of Josh McRoberts leaves Zeller as the likely starter in Charlotte, where he can grow even further alongside Al Jefferson. Zeller is extremely strong and big-bodied and compliments Big Al nicely. He also has a nice midrange that Kemba Walker and Lance Stephenson can find ways to get him open for.
Zeller also is a candidate for a breakout year because of his offensive maturity. Zeller was taken by the Bobcats in the 2013 draft because they felt he was the most NBA ready player that could help them turn the franchise around. While it wasn’t necessarily him that turned it all around, the Bobcats really accomplished that goal this past season.
Zeller was a stud at Indiana who got creative in the post and was always active on the boards (he is already the Hornets’ best offensive rebounder), so I would not be surprised if, in a starting role, Zeller has huge jumps offensively. 14.5 PPG, 1.5 BPG and 8 RPG sound about right for the big man, who is my pick for Hornets breakout player of the year.