It’s not uncommon to see high-profile rookies struggle in the NBA. After all, a lot of those rookies are barely in their 20s going up against seasoned veterans at the highest level. It takes some time to get acclimated to the league. A lot of those same rookies who struggled initially go on to have significantly better sophomore seasons, which means these players could be in for some massive campaigns in 2023-24. Here’s a look at some second-year breakout players to monitor.
Paolo Banchero, SF, Orlando Magic
Banchero was one of the exceptions, as the young forward took the league by storm right away. He didn’t quite lift the Magic out of mediocrity, but a 12-win improvement doesn’t happen by accident. Banchero easily won Rookie of the Year, and could become a first-time All-Star this season. Look for him to get even more usage this year and improve in all his statistical categories.
Shaedon Sharpe, G/F, Portland Trail Blazers
Sharpe closed the season strong, largely due to his increased role with the Trail Blazers shutting down Damian Lillard. There was a lot of uncertainty surrounding Sharpe coming into his rookie season, but that final stretch may have eased some concerns for Portland. The Trail Blazers have a nice young core as they start their rebuild, and someone has to emerge as the second perimeter player alongside Anfernee Simons. Sharpe seems like a better candidate for this season than Scoot Henderson.
Jalen Duren, C, Detroit Pistons
It’s clear Duren is the best big man in this rotation. It’s also clear James Wiseman and Marvin Bagley aren’t going to significantly cut into his minutes. Duren is a force in the making on both sides of the floor, and the Pistons are going to get Cade Cunningham back to push defenses toward the perimeter. There’s a possibility Duren takes a big leap with favorable matchups and better supporting players in a more efficient offense.
Jabari Smith, F, Houston Rockets
Smith had a rough rookie season, but there’s a clear shift happening in Houston. There’s some veteran players in the mix now, and a coach who will demand excellence. This is a chance for Smith to establish himself and after the Summer League he had, I expect a big season from the combo forward. His offensive ability is up there with the best and he should now be more adept at taking advantage of matchups where he has a clear edge.
David Roddy, SF, Memphis Grizzlies
Roddy is an absolute force on the wing, although he didn’t do with his ability outside of chase opposing players around and occasionally make some 50/50 plays. This season, he’ll be thrown into a bigger role with Dillon Brooks now gone. Opponents are going to key in on Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr. early in the season with Ja Morant suspended, which means a chance for Roddy to take charge.