Every NBA season, there is always at least one player that makes “The Leap”. We all saw Paskal Siakam take the jump from “he’s pretty good with potential” to “this guy is an All-Star”. Two years ago, Siakam was a role player for the Raps, averaging 7.3 points per game playing 20.7 minutes. Siakam was considered a player with potential, but people were more excited about OG Anunoby. This past year, Siakam took “the leap”. His scoring improved, his field goal percentage improved … especially his three-point shooting, and perhaps the most pivotal stat of all … he played more minutes. Siakam’s continued to improve in the post-season, which is even more impressive. So the question needs to be asked – who is the next Siakam?
Here are 6 players that I believe could make the leap in 2019/20. This is not an ordered list … these are just six players that I think are legit.
The former number 2 pick has a new team, but I expect Ingram to pick up right where he left off before his blood clot scare. Living in Los Angeles, I was able to watch Ingram a lot on TV (though the games were tough to watch) and I truly feel Ingram is special. Ingram has improved his scoring every year in the NBA – 9.4 in ‘16/17, 16.1 in ‘17/18, and 18.3 ppg last season. After the All-Star break last year, Ingram averaged 27.8 ppg in six games, while shooting 57% and grabbing 7.5 rebounds. Ingram is a great isolation player that excels at beating his man to the rim, especially from the top of the key. He is a mid-range monster, can shoot the three at times (career 33%), and can also run the point guard, if needed. Even though Ingram has been limited to around 50 games the last two seasons; I believe his injury history is behind him and he will become an All-Star in 2020.
Let’s keep the theme going with former Lakers that will become great players! Julius Randle is now a member of the New York Knicks and it looks like the ball will be in his hands … a lot, which will be a good thing for Knicks fans. I know it’s not Zion, but Randle is a beast in his own right. Last season, Randle averaged a career high 21.4 points on a weird Pelicans team, but I believe this season Randle will surpass that and get into the mid-20’s. Randle is a bully and can get to the rim whenever he wants. His range is getting better every year (34% three-pointers last season) and now he gets to shine under the bright lights at the Mecca. Sure, the Knicks might not make the postseason, but I can see Randle representing the Knicks in the 2020 All-Star game.
Murray missed the entire ‘18/19 season due to an ACL surgery before the season, but he is good to go now. Murray is ready to reclaim his role as Spurs starting point guard. In ‘17/18, Murray averaged 21.5 minutes per game, and had 33 games of scoring 10+ or more, never taking more than 15 shots. Now that he’s fully healthy, I expect Murray to be used very similarly to how Tony Parker was used in his prime. TP lived at the rim, and I expect Murray to live at the rim. He has the explosiveness that the Spurs lack and defensively, Murray is a disrupter. I know Per36 numbers should be taken with a grain of salt, but in ‘17/18, Murray’s Per36 numbers are 13.5 pts, 9.5 reb, 4.5 ast, 2.0 stl, 12.6 shots attempted. Once Murray gets comfortable, I expect the shot attempts to go up, and because of that, so will his numbers. The Spurs have shown us in the past they can work with players shooting and can get them to the next level, so Murray is just the next man up.
Young had a great rookie season last year, averaging over 19 points a game and easily turning into a legitimate NBA starter. It was nice to see, especially after the ridiculous overreaction to his summer league performance … It’s summer league! Now that Young has a taste of NBA life, he can take the time to improve the things he struggled with last season … mainly shooting 41% from the field. I expect that Young comes out and takes smarter shots than he did in his rookie season, and to become more efficient from the field. Young is a dazzling player that can shoot from almost anywhere on the court. He can pass the ball and he’s not a terrible rebounder for his size (6’2”, 180 lbs.). Young’s numbers should be good enough to get him on the All-Star team in the East next season. He has some competition in the East, but I believe that Trae will get it done.
Fox has really been a joy to watch in his first two seasons in the NBA, despite how he feels about In-n-Out burger. Fox came into the league with some of question marks and was compared to guys like Dennis Schroeder before Fox was drafted. Last year, Fox’s scoring jumped up to 17.3 from 11.6, and his assists jumped up to 7.3 from 4.4. Fox also played in 81 games, showing consistency and stability in a league that is going the other direction. Fox is a beast in the open court and he pushes the tempo better than most NBA players his age. Fox is entering year 3, and this is about to be his best year yet. The West is deep, but I expect Fox to be one of the guards that puts out around 20 points and 9 assists in 2020. Is that enough to make the AS team? I want to say yes, but the West has stiff competition (Curry, Harden, Dame, Westbrook, PG13, CP3, Doncic, just to name a few).
The lore of Jayson Tatum came to life in the 2018 playoffs. The Celtics rookie showcased his many skills in the playoffs, highlighted by a huge slam on LeBron James. In ’17/18, we saw Tatum’s ppg jump from 13.9 in the regular season to 18.5 in the postseason, and everyone assumed he was ready. Last season, Tatum didn’t have the season everyone expected, but he still had solid numbers for the year, and his ’18/19 Per36 are very similar to his 2018 playoff numbers … where he played 35.9 minutes per game. So let’s bump the brakes on “is Tatum even a star?”, because the answer is yes. Tatum did struggle a bit last season, but the chemistry of the Celtics was off .. anyone in Boston could tell you that. There are some openings in the East when it comes to front-court All-Stars, and Tatum can easily fill that void. Now that Kyrie is out of the picture, I expect Tatum to continue his growth in his 3rd season and become an All-Star, 20+ ppg player in 2020.