The 2021-22 NBA season begins October 19, with the league expecting to play a full 82-game schedule after two abbreviated seasons. The Milwaukee Bucks are the reigning champions and are positioned well to defend their title amid a host of challengers, including the Brooklyn Nets and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Here, we’ll take a look at second-year players primed to break out during the upcoming season. Some of these players will be contenders for the Most Improved Player award, while others will simply take a big leap after an underwhelming rookie season. All odds are courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.
Tyrese Haliburton, Sacramento Kings (+2500 to win MIP, +1500 to win 6MOY)
Haliburton appeared to be a steal for the Sacramento Kings with the No. 13 pick. The Iowa State product put up 13.3 points, 5.3 assists and 3.0 rebounds per game while shooting 40.9 percent from deep in his rookie season. He’s a contender for multiple awards and will be on a team competing for a playoff spot. The Kings are heavy in the backcourt after adding Davion Mitchell in the draft, but Haliburton should star in his bench role while also getting more minutes in crunch time.
Tyrese Maxey, Philadelphia 76ers (+10000 to win MIP)
Maxey is obviously limited by the players ahead of him, but the 76ers could move on from Ben Simmons sooner rather than later. If that happens, Maxey immediately steps into a bigger role. He had 8.0 points per game in a bench role last season, but his playoff performances showcased his potential. In three games where he played more than 20 minutes, Maxey averaged 14.6 points per game while shooting 44.7 percent from the floor.
Kira Lewis Jr., New Orleans Pelicans
With Lonzo Ball gone, someone has to step in take over as the starting point guard. Lewis Jr. didn’t do much as a rookie, but he’s perfectly suited to produce in what should be a high-speed offense. Lewis Jr. averaged 15.9 points and 4.0 assists per game in college and should get a lot of high-quality looks as defenses contend with Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram.
Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves (+3000 to win MIP)
The Wolves had a change in ownership over the offseason, but the product on the court needs to improve this season. Edwards, the No. 1 overall pick, had a good rookie season with 19.3 points per game. However, he’ll have to improve his efficiency and defense to truly live up to his draft position. Minnesota feels it has two stars in D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns. This could be the year Edwards makes his case to be the third piece of the puzzle.