Contrary to common suspicion, the word 'upside,' as it relates to the game of basketball, is not just reserved for high schoolers, lottery picks and 7-footers that can put the ball on the floor. Plenty of NBA players still have a great deal of potential that they're yet to realize, potential that they could soon parlay into All-Star appearances and a great many wins for their team. The rules governing this list are simple: the player must have two years' experience while averaging less than 10 points per game for his career. Here are the ten most potential-laden players in the league:
10. C.J. Miles
The 6-6 swingman from Skyline High School has been brought along slowly, and only started making major strides in the 2008-09 season, his fourth in the league. Miles is 23 and has five seasons under his belt, and with Utah's increasing confidence in him, he's finally starting to realize his potential. Miles came into the league a shooter and now boasts a much more well-rounded offensive repertoire, able to pick-and-pop with better accuracy and finish more forcefully. A superior athlete with ideal size for the 2 or the 3, Miles made great use of his physical gifts and experience in the playoffs this year, averaging 14.4 points and 1.5 three-pointers a game in 33.7 minutes while matching up against the likes of Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony. Miles will never compare those aforementioned superstars, though his ceiling is still very high.
9. Shannon Brown
Despite potentially being relegated to a seventh or eighth man role yet again, Brown is unmistakably one of the most potential-laden players in the Association. Arguably the most athletic guard in the entire league, with his inhuman 44.5" vertical and recurring role on Sportscenter's top plays, Brown is as explosive as they come, and is slowly but surely developing a fine offensive game. Brown's shot has been steadily improving, averaging 1.3 three-pointers last year. He's a great free throw shooter, an absolute menace on the fast break, fits into any team dynamic, and already has two championship rings. Once he puts it all together there isn't a single player in the league that won't dread guarding him.
8. Bill WalkerBill WalkerBill Walker
After plummeting in the draft and struggling as a rookie, Walker was written off by nearly everyone. One of the most show-stopping talents ever to grace the AAU circuit, Walker's NBA career was resuscitated when he was traded to the Knicks, averaging 11.9 points in 27 games. At 6-6/220 Walker excels at both shooting guard and small forward and despite having undergone a number of surgeries, he is still a tremendous athlete; anyone that doubts him need only consult this brief highlight reel. He's also developed a very smooth jumper, averaging 1.9 three-pointers a game for the Knicks, which would have placed him among the league leaders had he played the whole year in New York. Where many suspected that he would become a great player in spite of his lack of range, one wonders what he might be capable of doing now that he's become a formidable threat as a shooter.
7. J.J. Hickson
The Toronto Raptors thought so highly of Hickson that they would have been willing to deal Chris Bosh to Cleveland with the 21-year power forward as the centerpiece of the package they would have received in return. Hickson was extremely impressive in his second pro season (he was the #10 recruit out of high school and averaged 14.8 points and 8.5 boards in one year at NC State), and if his performance in this year's summer league was any indication, he's ready to dominate in bigger minutes. At 6-9/242 with a great combination of strength and agility, Hickson is your prototypical power forward, and has all the tools to become a star. He's a great athlete, competes exceptionally hard on every possession, and is a natural born scorer. If the Cavs are smart, they'll recognize that Antawn Jamison is not their best power forward.
6. Amir Johnson
He's no Chris Bosh, but he's no stiff, either. Just 23 years old and entering his sixth season in the league, Johnson has played for winners and losers, occasionally earning big minutes though he's been underutilized for the most part, trying to find his way. Now he will finally get a chance to show why the Raptors believe he's worth $34 million. Johnson was 6-9 when drafted but has reportedly grown to 6-11 and boasts a frightening combination of athleticism, fluidity and strength which qualifies him as an elite physical talent. A career 59.9% shooter with great defensive instincts (he averages 2.4 blocks per 36 minutes for his career) and a knack for snagging rebounds at a high rate (9.9 per 36 minutes), Johnson is explosive but also exceptionally efficient. In a newfound starting role in Toronto, he'll show what he's able to do when given the playing time that his talent warrants.
5. Joakim Noah
He's the best player on this list right now, but these rankings are governed by how much room these players have to improve, and one wonders what Noah's ceiling might be. He will never be a great scorer and his rebounding numbers won't improve significantly now that he'll be playing alongside Carlos Boozer, but he still has the potential to become one of the best big men in the league. He averaged 11 rebounds in only 30.1 minutes last year (13.2 boards per 36 minutes, .5 less than Dwight Howard on the same scale), and blocked 1.6 shots per game as well. He drastically improved his free throw shooting last year (74.4%), and now that he's playing alongside Boozer, he'll never draw much attention on the low block. Seeing how he noticeably elevated his game in the playoffs (14.8 points and 13 rebounds), his ceiling might still be very high after all.
4. Nicolas Batum
Why, you wonder, did the Blazers turn down a trade from Minnesota that would have given them the fourth pick in the draft in exchange for just Nicolas Batum? Because Batum is going to be very, very special. The Frenchman was on every scout's radar after torching the US in international play as a teenager, and it is not hard to see why the Blazers hold him as a franchise cornerstone: he's a silky smooth 6-8 swingman who can shoot the lights out (1.5 three-pointers per game on 40.9% shooting), score in a variety of ways inside the arc and defend three positions. Batum has the type of length, quickness and versatility that causes GM's to salivate, and he's already proven his worth as a starter for a team that, when healthy, is a contender. And he's only 21.
3. JaVale McGeeJaVale McGeeJaVale McGee
The 22-year center out of Nevada nearly made the Team USA roster despite averaging just 6.5 points and 4.1 rebounds last. His being selected to tryout came as something of a shock to many, but it shouldn't be, as he could very well become one of the top five centers in the league relatively soon. Last year, McGee finished 11th in the league in blocks…despite playing just 16.1 minutes per game, averaging a league-leading 5 blocks per 48 minutes (Chris Anderson, the runner-up, averaged 4.1 per 48 minutes). Players with his combination of size (7-0/252 with a 7-6 wingspan) and athleticism are extremely rare, and he's the rare 7-footer who's willing to exercise his physical gifts to the max. McGee was known for occasionally drifting in and out during games, but that was when Gilbert Arenas, a trigger-happy, shoot-first point guard, was running the show. Rookie John Wall will certainly keep the 7-footer on his toes, as evidenced by the chemistry that they developed at the summer league, where McGee averaged 19.5 points and 9.3 rebounds while shooting a ridiculous 68.8% form the field. Considering the lack of quality centers in the league, McGee's time might come as early as this November.
2. Greg Oden
Everyone wants to know just what exactly the deal is with Greg Oden. At this point, it is an unanswerable question. Last year Oden appeared to finally be putting it all together, achieving an outstanding PER of 23.01, placing him eighth in the league, ahead of Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony and Steve Nash, before he went down with yet another injury. So what are we to make of him now? The question now is less "Will he ever be the same" than "Will he ever be the same as he was in 2009-10." The good news for Blazers fans, and those who believe in him and want him to succeed, is that if his stats wind up to be just half of what scouts expected of him out of high school, they should still be good enough to make him an All-Star. A very legit 7-feet with a muscular 285-pound frame and a great skill set, Oden will at the very least be a dominant defensive presence in the league, and could still be a Hall of Fame talent, as he is in a great position to anchor an excellent Blazers squad and realize his tremendous potential on the offensive end. But will he every be healthy? Will he ever regain his confidence and claim his throne? These are the unanswerable questions surrounding Oden, questions that prevent us from figuring out just what exactly the deal is with the most heralded college recruit since Lew Alcindor.
1. Anthony Randolph
It's hard to recall the moment that I realized Anthony Randolph was going to one day be an All-Star, maybe something more. Was it when I first saw him play? No. Was it when he averaged 15.1 points, 10.6 rebounds in April of his rookie year when he was the youngest player in league? No. Was it when he broke the summer league scoring record with a 42-point outburst against the Bulls? I don't think so. Come to think of it, it wasn't a moment, rather, but a slow-building appreciation for his defense. Most players with Randolph's physical gifts don't care at all to put forth their best effort on both sides of the ball, but Randolph is different. Randolph averaged 2.3 blocks as a freshman at LSU, averaged 1.2 blocks in just 17.9 minutes as a rookie (2.4 per 36 minutes), and 1.5 blocks in 22.7 minutes in his second year in the league (2.5 per 36 minutes). Had Randolph played 36 minutes per game and retained his pace, he would have finished third in the league in blocks, and in an era where great shot-blockers are all but extinct, that is quite an accomplishment, especially for a lanky 21-year old who rarely guards centers. An athletic, long 6-10/205, Randolph is quite simply the ideal prospect, the versatile big man who can play any one of three positions, score in bunches and intimidate his opponent on defense. Because of his tenacity on both ends of the floor, he has become what Darius Miles, DeMarr Johnson, Nikoloz Tskitishvili, Darko Milicic and Yi Jialian could have been if they only cared. He's the epitome of potential, and thus has a great chance of becoming one of the elite versatile big men of his time.
I like the list my friend. Good job.
It's not his list lol
LOL good looking out. I didn't see the link. ha
Noah is already on people's radar..
Shannon is very overrated...he was giving a chance to start in Cleveland but has too many holes in his game to be more then a 15 minute player...Shannon was out of the league playing in the D-League until he found his niche playing limited minutes in the Lakers triangle offense..Thats where he should go back..
Batum is so young..But 1 of the 5 best defenders in the League.
Walker has the talent to be a star..But has he matured?
Hickson might average like 12 & 6 rebounds..He's a great athlete but has a very low basketball I.Q Lebron creativity made him look good.....But the Cavs dont have any players that can create plays for teammates..Last season Lebron & Delonte West were the only 2..
Now that I look at it, I don't see Amir Johnson, Billie Walker, or Shannon Brown really breaking out next year.
Johnson can't score much, and is a very average rebounder too. He's an average energy player getting paid like a proven and solid starter.
Brown is pretty much what Rudeboy said.
I love Bill Walker obviously, but I don't think he'll get more than 9 or 10 ppg next year. He still needs to polish his game in the half-court to truly break out. He has improved his shot though, so he may be on to something.
Noah broke out last year, he averaged 12,5 / 12,5 and 2,5 before he got injured and his minutes got limited. Hard to improve that, maybe some more points.
I really don't understand how the Raptors could give Johnson that contract. They already have Bargnani, who is not a great PF but he is a solid starter.
They draft a PF and give another PF that contract. Doesn't make sense to me. They have no 5. And if they let Bargnani be their 5 again, they probably have the worst defensive center in the league.
What about Blatche? When they ran 70-80% of their offense through him he was like a 17-8 guy, with a low contract. Since he only played so well for like one third of the season, he might be one of the most improved players as well.
I think another Raptor has a better chance of breaking out this year, and that guy is Sonny Weems, he is very athletic and has a real good midrange game, and if he gets the pt, i think he could shine.
IMO guys like Batum, McGee, Randolph and Hickson have a lot to prove this season. It seems like everyone regards these guys as future all stars.
I still can't believe the TWolves offered the #4 pick for Batum. I don't think that rumor is true and it's even more hilarious that Portland apparently declined.
i hope oj mayo breacks out next season
You have to look at it from perspective.
They have future starters at the 4 & 5, they need a point guard but Walls not available there.
Would you risk trading Batum whos proven hes a good player already, for somene two years older who hasnt proven anything yet?
I actually was thinking about that, it wouldn't be as good because they have Aldridge and Oden. However, I feel DeMarcus Cousins is going to be better than Batum and maybe they could've worked out a trade sending Aldridge or Oden over for the rights to Ricky Rubio and Corey Brewer or something....
I'm working on my NBA Top 50 rankings 30-21 be on the lookout!!!
Michael Beasley gonna have a huge year this year
Every1 seems to forget about michael beasley, the guy is going to have much more playing time and could maybe be their number 1 or 2 option offensively ?
ok reality time.... Mcgee should have abetter year but hes a 5th option on the wiz
wall,agent zero,andrey,al thortan,Mcgee
Beasley should be at the one spot ahead of :"mr dont work hard or try to ge better Randolph")
As much as i like brown he has a couple of flaws, but without even getting into that he wont get the major minutes to really have a breakout year with the lakers or the knicks( wilson chandler is still there and pretty good)
i wanna agree with you on c.j miles but hes been showing flashes every year he's gotten minutes but hasnt seemed to be consistant and the fans out here( as well as the organization) is starting to lose patience with him. hes gonna share alot of mintues with raja bell this year so i dont see him doing much better. last season he lost his spot to a undrafted rookie
just about everything else i agree although im not a big amir fan. i think hickson will have the 2nd biggest breakout season
ummm.. Demar Derozan anyone??
ummm.. Demar Derozan anyone??
LOL, Anyone? Anyone?
I think that's a negative buddy.
There's no one on the T-Wolves named Randolph.
Derozan could be in line for a minor breakout. I expect 13 ppg and 5 rpg, which is a 4 or 5 point & 2 or 3 rebound increase. He's not a star IMO, but he should make an emergence next year.
don't sleep on Donte Greene everyone
lmao at the "hard worker" Beasely being number one. The guy is a headcase and sucked on competitive team, I can't wait till he starts complaining and stops trying in boring and uncompetitive Minny.He has a better chance of going back to rehab than" breaking out".
I don't think you can reasonably put multiple Raps on a list of 10 so out of Johnson, Weems and Derozan, it is obvious the Johnson has the best oppurtunity to have a b reakout year. I dont know why Bill Walker is on this list as appose to Micheal Beasley.
I was also thinking Donte Greene. If he wins the starting position, or even coming off the bench i think he is ready to have a breakout year
I expect about 14 and 6 next season from Greene. I think Sacremento would be wise to play him over Casspi, I believe Greene has some Rashard Lewis in him.
Iggy, I like the Lewis comparison, I've always loved Greene's game. I really see some Eddie Griffin (RIP) in him too...long, lanky, athletic, and can shoot the three...
Bill Walker has a ton of talent, now if he can get to the next level...
And I just don't see the huge upside in Randolph that everyone else does, he can prove me wrong, but I don't see it.
@subzero...did you read what i wrote or skim?..i said beasley should be at the number one spot. A.randolph is at the number one spot
micheal beasley sucked?..lol..riiiiiight youve alreayd proven youre basketball knowledge int he past so im not even gonna fully respond
i do like greene(another maryland native) but when garcia is healthy i read he easily beat green out of the rotation and im guessing he does it again. theres a lot of comp for that sf spot
Garcia needs to be on the trading block IMO...I like his game and he's a scrappy player with decent scoring ability, but he has a relatively bad contract. I think Garcia is more of a SG anyway.
bad contract?..are we talking about the same player?..he makes between 4-6mil if im not mistaken( used to follow his career because i loved his hustle and game)
Wow.... a Knicks fan expecting their guy to be #1 on the list. I never would have expected.
I definitely think Garcia is more of a SG than a SF, he doesn't have the bulk to be a SF. The Kings have a lot of talent, just young talent...Greene has more to offer in terms of the full package, I see Garcia more as a scorer and little more...
With Lebron leaving.. there HAS TO BE a wing player primed for a breakout season by default! Danny Green maybe, Eyenga?
Also, Bibbys on the decline, I expect Jeff Teague to get some solid minutes, maybe not a breakout year but with Bibby aging so fast, who knows?
And yes Mr Knick. Demar Derozan ANYONE?.. he killed it in the summer league and has top notch athletcism, trust me, if he was on the Knicks he'd be on your top 10 (no, top 5) players most likely to have a breakout season. AND bosh is gone, Derozan is a possible number 2 option now behind Bargnani. Barbosa might get the nod but I expect him 2 remain a 6th man type guy
saying it now..
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER 2010-2011
Can't forget about Hakim Warrick!
Dudes gonna start on a team with a fast paced offense, that alone should get his stats up
did i mention he's playing with steve nash?
and Reggie Williams is gonna drop 15 ppg or more next season, starting or off the bench, dude is dirtyy
Wow.... a Knicks fan expecting their guy to be #1 on the list. I never would have expected.
I know right...I didn't even write it and a Knicks player is number one. Why not click the link next time and NOT look stupid?
i think derozen will do well but what have we learned form past summer leauge stars( donte greene,deandre jordan,anthony randolph,randy foyle) so lets not get overhyped about it just yet. dont forget some of the third year players, this is usually the year they step it up to a whole new level
Im keeping an eye on DJ Augustin, now that Raymond Felton is gone, he is now the Starting PG, and I can see him going for atleast 15PPG 6 APG this season.
I wouldn't give Augustin the benefit of the dount just yet. The Bobcats signed Shawn Livingston for a reason. And if he can return to 80% of his former self I'd consider him a break out player for next season
Idk about Randolph being number one on this list. I think it is a big mistake putting him #1. He obviously either has character, and work ethic issues or the 2nd most winning coach in the history of the league doesnt know what he is talking about even though he has 1309 wins under his belt. He is a great talent but I see him fallling face first into that horrible NY hype that is unfortanutely bestowed on himself and many other NY players.
Marvin Williams could have been on this list had the Hawks not signed Joe Johnson to that ridiculous contract...
im not sold on mr williams . he just hasnt gotten much better like you would expect
I love how he has Randolph at the one spot because "Had Randolph played 36 minutes per game and retained his pace, he would have finished third in the league in blocks", same can be said about the amount of rebounds that Jon Brockman had last year in his rookie season but you do not see everyone jumping up and down about him. Also, there is no way in hell Randolph can be a legit center in the NBA, you can play as many positions as you can guard and I do not think Randolph could guard and one of the top twenty centers in the NBA for more than a few lucky possessions. Sure Randolph has the potential to be a great PF, if he puts on a little more mass, who can also play some SF, but I get seriously tired of guys who, even playing in GS's stat crazy system, could not really get it together. I guess he could come out this year and prove me wrong playing for Mike in NY, but if he does not put out this year I hope people finally stop going crazy over him.
Also, this is going to be a great year for either Casspi, Donte Greene, or Francisco Garcia. Look for one of them to really show that they can be a good player in the NBA. I personally think last year was going to be Garcia's year to shine, but with that freak accident he pretty much had to start his conditioning from scratch and it was really obvious at the end of the year when he came back.