3 NBA Players Ready to Break Out After Injury-Plagued Seasons
If you've been busy recently with your 10 fantasy football drafts, 100-and-some mock drafts or a combination of the two, you might have missed the first two installments of my three-part series of potential breakout candidates for the 2016 NBA season.
If you're one of those people, don't worry -- I can't blame you. It's fantasy football season. And knowing that, I'll get you up to speed.
On Tuesday, I talked about three players in prime situations for a 2016 breakout season. These three players look to benefit from their team's offseason gains and losses in one way or another. Before that, I talked about three players who should greatly benefit from expanded roles in 2016. These three players have shown what they can do in different capacities but are expected to fill bigger shoes this upcoming season.
Now we've reached the third and final installment of this breakout series, where I will be talking about three NBA players who are poised for breakout seasons in 2015-16 after suffering unfortunate injuries and missing significant amounts of time in 2014-15.
If you want to see how significant, here you go.
|Player||Games Played||Games Missed||% Missed|
These three players also combined for a total of just 2,989 minutes a year ago. James Harden racked up 2,981 minutes in the regular season himself.
Now that you see who I'm talking about and the negatives of their 14-15 seasons, let's put on our positive shades and look at how they'll look to get back on the horse this season.
He may have played in just three games due to a fractured jaw (which he had surgically repaired), but the NBA sophomore lit it up in Orlando in a short amount of time. In those three games, Gordon dropped 21.7 points per game on 50% shooting from the floor. What caught the attention of everyone around the NBA was how he did that.
Gordon shot 6 of 12 from three in those three games, and I don't have to be a mathematician to know that that means he made 50% of his attempts from deep. Gordon was criticized for his poor outside shooting a year ago, as he shot a mere 27.1% from three. And that's after shooting 35.6% in his one year at Arizona. People thought Gordon couldn't hit an NBA three, but now look at him.
An expanded range should surely help Gordon find his NBA stroke this year, but that's not the only thing Gordon improved on. According to his summer league numbers, Gordon also worked on getting the most out of his athleticism by improving his rebounding and shot-blocking skills. In three games (mind you in 32.6 minutes per game) Gordon had 11.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game.
Compare that to his 7.6 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per-36 minutes from a year ago and you can see the difference. Again, he did it over a small sample size and against weaker competition, but he's clearly still got his athleticism.
If Gordon can make it through 2016 with a good bill of health, he appears poised to turn around his negative nERD (-1.3), which indicates how many wins a player would add to his team over an 82-game season, based on his efficiency, from a year ago.
It feels like forever ago that Jrue Holiday was an NBA All-Star. Well, it might not have been forever ago, but it was 2013. That's when Holiday was in Philadelphia showcasing his young talents for Sixers fans.
That year, Holiday put up 17.7 points, 8.0 assists and 4.2 rebounds per contest in 78 games. Unfortunately, it was also the last year we'd see Holiday play at least 40 regular season games. In the past two seasons Holiday has appeared in just 74 out of 164 possible games. His availability was lacking a year ago, but his game was not.
In the 40 regular season contests he appeared in for the Pelicans, Holiday scored 14.8 points on an Effective Field Goal Percentage of 49.3%. Both of those numbers are the second-highest of his career. But if you dig further, you can see that Holiday improved on his shooting and had the best shooting season of his career.
The only season in which he had a better Effective Field Goal Percentage was in his rookie year (50.2%) -- a year in which Holiday played 24 minutes a game and shot a mere 7.1 shots per game. This past year, the UCLA product shot 13.4 shots per game, connecting on 6.0 of those while converting on a career-high 1.3 three pointers a night. And to go even further, Holiday shot a career-high 85.5% of his free throw attempts.
The improvements Holiday made to the shooting aspect of his game earned him much higher grades in terms of efficiency as well. Holiday improved upon his negative nERD (-1.9) he posted in 2013-14 by 3.0 points to a positive nERD of 1.1. Compare that to Norris Cole, backup point guard for the Pelicans, and his -4.6 nERD.
As you can see, at a young 25 years of age, Holiday has tremendous talent and is trending in the right direction in terms of efficiency. From 2014 to 2015 he upped his Win Shares per 48 minutes, from .064 to .124. If he can just stay healthy, he could be in for a big season alongside superstar Anthony Davis.
To say Terrence Jones didn't have a stable regular season a year ago would be a laughable understatement. Jones missed a total of 49 games due to a nerve issue in his leg and a collapsed lung. After reading that, you'd be surprised to know that Jones still managed to be a really productive player for the Houston Rockets.
In 33 regular season games, Jones contributed 11.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in 26.9 minutes per game. With a line like that, Jones proved to be a very valuable power forward for Kevin McHale and the Rockets. He earned a Player Efficiency Rating of 18.3 to go with 3.0 Win Shares and a nERD of 2.5.
His nERD of 2.5 is impressive for many reasons.
It's impressive because Jones is a youthful 23 years old. It's impressive because he outshined the Rockets' two inefficient power forwards, Josh Smith and Donatas Motiejunas, 2.5 to -4.6. What's most impressive though is that Jones' nERD was second on the team to only James Freakin' Harden, whose nERD of 19.1 was good enough for second in the entire Association a year ago.
The Rockets value efficiency and advanced metrics, so they were smart not to trade away Jones on draft night. And if they want to get the most out of this young talent they'd be smart to give him all the opportunity he needs to break out this season. If Jones can manage to get back to full health, and stay that way, I'd look for him to post big numbers this year in a high-powered Rockets offense.