Remember when Steph Curry dropped 54 at MSG? Or when Paul George went head-to-head and shot-for-shot with LeBron? How about when James Harden finally made a name for himself as one of the premier players in the league? Those were all moments when great players made “the leap” to star players.
It can happen at any time, so we at Dime want to prep you readers on who to look out for this upcoming season. With an era of stars beginning to ride off into the sunset — Kobe, Duncan, Garnett, Kidd, Dirk — a new group of studs must fill that void. These are the players most likely to make “The Jump” next season…
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While Summer League play shouldn’t be read into too much, there’s no question that Valanciunas looks miles further in his development than last year. Taking home MVP honors, the Raptors big man nearly averaged a 20/10 line and dominated inferior competition with his newly-added bulk.
Defensively, he should be able to bang bodies with the toughest centers the East has to offer. He already showed incredible promise in his rookie season, and his increased size should only add to his interior presence.
At just 21 years old, I think we should temper expectations a little bit on Valanciunas. I do believe, however, that he’ll be a force to be reckoned with sooner rather than later.
Walker shined on one of the worst teams in the league last season, mainly because there weren’t many other options on the court at any given time. Surrounded by the likes of the inconsistent Byron Mullens, the project that is Bismack Biyombo, and a struggling Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte relied on its point guard to carry the load.
Now, he has a legit center in Al Jefferson, who he can just feed the fall to and watch him go to work in the paint. They also added Cody Zeller through the draft, who lit it up during Summer League and showed much more promise than many Bobcat fans initially thought. With the new weapons around him, Walker should find himself much more at ease than in his prior two seasons. If he can refine his decision-making, then we could see him in New Orleans on All-Star Weekend.