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Dallas Mavericks: Jalen Brunson, PG, 23
Brunson may not have star potential, but his skill set seems to make him destined for a lengthy NBA career.
The 18-8 Mavs need the second-year guard more than ever now that Luka Doncic is nursing an ankle injury, as Brunson has taken over the MVP candidate’s spot in the starting lineup.
In 42 career starts, Brunson is averaging 12.8 points, 3.1 rebounds and 4.4 assists in 29.0 minutes per game while shooting 48.5 percent from the floor. For the Mavs to stay afloat without their best player, Brunson will have to play a big role.
Houston Rockets: Ben McLemore, SG, 26
Somewhere, the Sacramento Kings are still waiting for McLemore to break out.
The No. 7 overall pick of the 2013 NBA draft, McLemore has actually played a big role in the Rockets’ rotation after averaging a career-low 3.9 points per game in his second stint as a King last season.
With few young talents on the roster, McLemore represents the Rockets’ best chance for a breakout performer, and his 10.6 points per game and 37.7 catch-and-shoot percentage on threes make for a good start.
Memphis Grizzlies: Grayson Allen, SG, 24
Without a single 30-year-old in their rotation, the Grizzlies have plenty of players they’d love to see break out.
Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. will be stars. Jonas Valanciunas, Dillon Brooks and Brandon Clarke look like solid long-term pieces, as well.
Memphis has to fill in the rest of its future with wings, and Allen has the shooting chops to be a rotation member with a sophomore jump. He’s averaged 8.2 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.5 assists while nailing 34.9 percent of his threes in 13 games, which is decent production the Grizzlies would no doubt like to see improve.
New Orleans Pelicans: Lonzo Ball, PG, 22
While Brandon Ingram has made his big post-Lakers leap, the same can’t be said for Ball.
Despite coming into the season with an improved shooting motion, Ball has actually seen his field-goal percentage drop to 37.4 percent. While his passing ability and defense remain strengths, we haven’t witnessed any real shooting improvements since his time in L.A.
With Ball eligible to sign a contract extension next summer and Jrue Holiday’s future in New Orleans suddenly in doubt, the Pelicans need to see exactly what Ball’s peak could be.
San Antonio Spurs: Dejounte Murray, PG, 23
While the Spurs could also use breakout performances from Derrick White and Lonnie Walker IV, they’ve invested the most money into Murray’s future with the team.
A four-year, $64 million contract extension looked like a bargain at the beginning of the season when Murray put up 14.0 points, 8.6 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.2 steals per outing in his first five games following a torn ACL. In the 18 games since, however, his numbers have dropped to 9.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.6 steals per contest.
Even at 10-15, the Spurs are just 1.5 games out of the Western Conference playoffs. A return to his strong form would help San Antonio reach that goal and continue its postseason streak.