A lot of rookies showed out last season, especially LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards, Saddiq Bey and others. Some others weren’t given the same opportunities, though. This year is going to be a lot more different in terms of who will get said opportunity. Here are some players that are expected to make that leap this year.
Note: this list will not include Cade Cunningham or Jalen Green (for obvious reasons).
Jones was relegated to the G-League for a lot of last season since he had multiple players ahead of him in the pecking order. This year is going to be a lot more different for him, however. Patty Mills and DeMar DeRozan are gone and Derrick White and even Dejounte (?) could possibly be moved. This Summer league, he put up averages of 22.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.2 blocks a game. He also put up some very efficient shooting percentages (51% from the field, 36% from three and 90% from the line). He averaged a nice 18.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 9.7 assists and 1.4 steals a game in the G-League while shooting 45% from the field and 83% from the line. Since he’s clearly too good to be in the G-League, he could make a difference with the big club.
Barnes has been drawing rave reviews this offseason. His work ethic, all-around skillset and energy were on display all summer long. He averaged some nice numbers in the Summer League putting up 15.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.0 steals and 2.0 blocks (including a five-block game) a game. Something to keep in mind as well, his offense looked polished compared to how it was in college. He didn’t have the best efficiency (41% FG, 27% from three and 74% from the line) but he was looking for his shot, being aggressive and creating havoc on defense. The Raptors have been rumored to possibly move Siakam this offseason but Ujiri turned down those rumors. Still, no one knows for sure what their plans are but either way, Barnes is expected to have a major role off the bench this year.
Giddey is expected to have a major role this season. OKC is not looking to win and this gives Giddey the opportunity to showcase his talents. His skillset is very interesting, especially since he’s a prototypical Point Guard. He’s 6-foot-8 and possesses great ball-handling skills along with nice rebounding skills. His offense and defense need lots of work but this club will allow him to grow and work on those skills. He’s expected to start at the one this year and could be OKC’s main playmaker this year (besides Alexander). Expect some fun stat lines from OKC’s cornerstone guard.
McDaniels had a solid and quiet rookie season, putting up averages of 6.8 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.6 steals and 1.0 blocks a game. He had to fight with the likes of Karl Anthony-Towns, Edwards, Malik Beasley and D’Angelo Russell for offensive touches but he still did a good job. His versatility on offense is very helpful for this team and gives them the ability to stretch the floor. The rim protection is also uncanny, averaging a respectable 1.4 blocks per game. He doesn’t have a whole lot of competition for minutes either so he could make another leap this year. Expect him to put up some better numbers in what should be a good sophomore year.