The short turnaround between the 2019-20 and 2020-21 NBA seasons doesn’t mean the hierarchy will stay in place.
Some players will continue to grow in stature as they improve over time. Among them are four youngsters — Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Tyler Herro, Jamal Murray and Zion Williamson — who we believe are poised to enjoy breakout seasons in the coming months. Each of them has proven themselves capable of starring in at least spurts.
Perhaps their time to join the ranks of NBA stars is now.
The Oklahoma City Thunder guard improved his points-per-game output from 10.8 to 19 and his per-game rebounding average from 2.8 to 5.9 between his first and second NBA seasons. Now entering his third pro campaign, expect the 22-year-old’s numbers to continue rising, as Chris Paul’s departure likely means Gilgeous-Alexander’s role in the Thunder offense will grow.
The guard has averaged roughly 18 points, four rebounds and five assists per game over the last two seasons, proving himself a dependable starter on a very good Denver Nuggets team. However, his performances in the last two postseasons have shown he’s a star in his own right, with his points-, rebounds- and assists-per-game averages rising to 26.5, 4.8 and 6.6, respectively in the 2020 NBA playoffs. Expect Murray, 23, to cement himself as a volume scorer going forward.
Look away, Boston Celtics fans. Herro averaged a modest 13.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 4.1 assists during his rookie season. However, he blossomed under the lights of the NBA playoffs, particularly in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals, when he set the Miami Heat’s franchise record for rookie scoring in the playoffs with 37 points off the bench. Torching the Celtics was Herro’s coming-out party, and the 20-year-old’s follow-up act also should be impressive.
Injuries and the pandemic curtailed Williamson’s rookie season at both ends. However, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft played well enough over 24 games to demonstrate his superstar potential. Williamson insists he’s ready to play without minutes restrictions in Year 2. Watch out, NBA.