5 breakout candidates for the NBA 2023-24 season

5 breakout candidates for the NBA 2023-24 season

There should be a myriad of opportunities for those waiting in the wings following yet another offseason filled with player movement.

Here are five names poised for a breakout 2023-24 campaign thanks to a change of circumstances this summer.

Payton Pritchard, Boston Celtics

Brian Babineau / National Basketball Association / Getty

2022-23 stats

GP
MP
PTS
AST
REB
FG%-3P%-FT%
USG%

48
13.4
5.6
1.3
1.8
41.2-36.4-75
19.3

The Celtics sacrificed a couple of their talented guards this offseason to improve their squad elsewhere. Marcus Smart was shipped to the Memphis Grizzlies in a June three-teamer that brought Kristaps Porzingis to Beantown before Malcolm Brogdon was sent to the Portland Trail Blazers just this month with Robert Williams III for star Jrue Holiday. Among the Celtics’ incumbent reserves, Payton Pritchard could benefit the most from those moves.

If head coach Joe Mazzulla doesn’t want to pair Al Horford with Porzingis and asks the 37-year-old to come off the bench, Derrick White would almost certainly start alongside Porzingis, Holiday, and stars Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. That would make Pritchard Boston’s lead guard off the bench, giving him the most integral role of his career.

Pritchard averaged a career-low 13.4 minutes per contest last season, which ranked 12th among Celtics players, but the 25-year-old battled a heel issue while he was buried on the depth chart. It seems Boston has high hopes that Pritchard can flourish under a brighter spotlight after the team delivered him a fully guaranteed four-year, $30-million extension.

Shaedon Sharpe, Portland Trail Blazers

Bart Young / National Basketball Association / Getty

2022-23 stats

GP
MP
PTS
AST
REB
FG%-3P%-FT%
USG%

80
22.2
9.9
1.2
3.0
47.2-36.0-71.4
18.6

The Damian Lillard era in Portland is no more. The Trail Blazers are now devoting their focus to their contingent of young guards. No. 3 pick Scoot Henderson will be the poster child for that new core, but last year’s eighth overall selection Shaedon Sharpe should also benefit.

Last year’s eighth overall selection has a similar case for a breakout season as teammate Anfernee Simons had in 2021-22. Simons hasn’t relinquished his full-time starting role since replacing an injured Lillard in January 2022 and dropping 43 points in his first game. Sharpe won’t directly replace Lillard, but he’ll assuredly take on some touches with Henderson still settling in as a 19-year-old rookie.

Although Sharpe was considered a slight wild card as a rookie after never appearing in a game for Kentucky, the Canadian high-flyer proved he was worth the risk. Sharpe played some of his basketball after replacing an injured Simons in March, recording 23.7 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game over his last 10 contests and shooting 46%, including 37.8% from three. (Nine of those 10 games also came without Lillard, who was shut down by the team.) Portland went 2-8 during Sharpe’s starting stint, but it showed he can handle a bigger role.

Josh Green, Dallas Mavericks

Andrew D. Bernstein / National Basketball Association / Getty

2022-23 stats

GP
MP
PTS
AST
REB
FG%-3P%-FT%
USG%

60
25.7
9.1
1.7
3.0
53.7-40.2-72.3
14.0

The Mavericks are still aiming high after pairing Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic at the trade deadline in February, even after their first half-season together ended disastrously. But although Dallas has retooled its roster by bringing in vets like Seth Curry, Richaun Holmes, and Grant Williams, it’s fourth-year wing Josh Green who could have the most responsibility behind Irving and Doncic.

Holding onto Green has ostensibly been a priority for the organization. He’s drawn positive attention for his combination of impressive defense and exciting upside as a scorer. Along with his relentless guarding of opposing ball-handlers, Green has emerged as a solid threat from deep. He ratcheted up his 3-point percentage to 40.2% on 2.8 attempts per game in his third season.

It’s probably safe to assume Green won’t feature in the Mavs’ starting lineup, at least to start the campaign. He only started 21 of his 60 appearances in 2022-23, and he ended the regular season on the bench. However, Green’s 3-and-D potential could make him a must alongside Irving and Doncic.

Devin Vassell, San Antonio Spurs

Ned Dishman / National Basketball Association / Getty

2022-23 stats

GP
MP
PTS
AST
REB
FG%-3P%-FT%
USG%

38
31.0
18.5
3.6
3.9
43.9-38.7-78.0
24

The Spurs have historically been pretty good at recognizing young talent and developing them into stars. Everyone will be watching how French phenom Victor Wembanyama turns out under coach Gregg Popovich’s esteemed tutelage, but San Antonio also seemingly has high internal hopes for former Florida State wing Devin Vassell.

Just as the Spurs penned Dejounte Murray to a four-year, $64-million extension in 2019 after he missed the previous season with a torn ACL, San Antonio didn’t hesitate to lock up Vassell long term despite his injury troubles last campaign with a significant $146-million commitment over five years.

Vassell was somewhat overlooked league-wide thanks to his limited appearances for a Spurs side seemingly resigned to bottoming out. However, he was just one of 15 players last season to average 18 points, three rebounds, and three assists while shooting at least 38% from deep. Vassell was one of two players aged 23 and under – alongside talented Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton – to make the star-studded list, which features several All-NBA names.

With Wembanyama drawing considerable attention – both on and off the court – in San Antonio, Vassell should be able to cement himself as a core piece for one of the NBA’s most-watched teams next season.

Trey Murphy III, New Orleans Pelicans

Layne Murdoch Jr. / National Basketball Association / Getty

2022-23 stats

GP
MP
PTS
AST
REB
FG%-3P%-FT%
USG%

79
31
14.5
1.4
3.6
48.4-40.6-90.5
15.9

It’s felt like Trey Murphy III has been on the cusp of blossoming into something special for the Pelicans since late in his rookie year, but this could be the season he finally breaks through. When the 6-foot-9 sharpshooting forward is recovered from meniscus surgery (he should return by late November), the Pelicans will likely rely on him to curb star Zion Williamson‘s minutes in the hopes of avoiding another injury-plagued campaign for the Duke product.

Murphy’s best fit with a fully healthy New Orleans squad will arguably be off the bench, where he can offer the second unit instant scoring and dependable defense. That should mean he’s more involved than last season when he recorded a 15.9% usage rate, which ranked ninth on the team, while starting 65 games beside Williamson, Brandon Ingram, and CJ McCollum.

Murphy has shown that getting the ball in his hands more often could be a worthwhile investment. He came excruciatingly close to a 50-40-90 season as a sophomore – he would’ve joined the elusive club if just 13 of his missed field goals had been makes – and was especially effective down the final stretch, scoring 20.4 points per game through the last 19 contests on blistering shooting splits of 51-44.8-90.

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