Cleveland Cavaliers: Predicting This Season’s True Breakout Player

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Updated: November 2, 2013

When a player is taken number one overall in the NBA Draft, there are usually lofty expectations. This player is expected to contribute, contribute immediately and contribute in a big way.

That is, unless you’re Anthony Bennett, the Cavs number one and overall number one pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. The big man out of UNLV isn’t projected to be in head coach Mike Brown’s first team rotation, at least for the first part of the season. For this reason, Bennett has the potential to be a major breakout candidate for the Cavs this season.

When talking about breakout players for the Cavs in the 2013-2014 NBA season, a few names probably come to mind immediately. Third-year power forward Tristan Thompson, second-year guard Dion Waiters and possibly Andrew Bynum (due to his injury). However this writer feels that Bennett can make the biggest splash in terms of breaking out.

Why?

Well in the case of Thompson, he might have already broken out. That’s not to say he won’t get better and not to say he won’t have a good season. Thompson is actually poised to have a monster season. However, he nearly averaged a double-double last season (11.7 points 9.4 rebounds) and made his second appearance in the NBA All-Star weekend’s Rising Stars Challenge, giving him some national exposure. Cavs fans should now be at the point where they expect Thompson to play well, not look for him to breakout.

Waiters is another name that surfaces as a breakout candidate for the Cavs, and for good reason. The fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft now has a full year of NBA experience under his belt and should flourish under Brown’s guidance, especially on the defensive end. But a breakout player? Waiters averaged 14.7 points per game last season, second best among NBA rookies, and like Thompson was selected to play in the NBA’s Rising Stars Challenge during All-Star Weekend giving him some national exposure. Again, this doesn’t mean Waiters won’t continue to develop. He should become more efficient on the offensive end and should become a better defender. But like Thompson, Cavs fans should be expecting this to happen for Waiters.

A breakout player is somebody who grabs your attention when there are little to no expectations. This is what makes Bennett’s situation so unique, yet so breakout worthy. Consider this list of players drafted number one overall from the last 10 years.

Draft Year

Player Taken #1

Games Played As Rookie

Games Started As Rookie

Minutes Per Game As Rookie

2003

LeBron James

79

79

39.5

2004

Dwight Howard

82

82

32.6

2005

Andrew Bogut

82

79

28.6

2006

Andrea Bargnani

65

2

25.1

2007

Greg Oden*

61

39

21.5

2008

Derrick Rose

81

80

37

2009

Blake Griffin

82

82

38

2010

John Wall

69

64

37.8

2011

Kyrie Irving

51

51

30.5

2012

Anthony Davis

64

60

28.8

2013

Anthony Bennett

?

?

?

*Drafted in 2007 however rookie season officially 2008 due to injury

With the exception of maybe Bogut and Bargnani, every player on this list was expected to be a high impact player immediately, franchise changing even. Every player on this list has appeared in 50 or more games in their rookie year and all but two (Bargnani and Oden) started 50 games or more. The only one who didn’t average more than 24 minutes per game (half of an NBA game) was Oden.

So what does this all mean?

For Bennett, it means the bar is set fairly low in terms of expectations considering he is the number one overall pick. What’s more bizarre is that people don’t seem to mind.  Bennett is not expected to be the team’s primary impact player. This means Bennett, a talented and multidimensional scorer, has the potential to quietly work on his NBA game, get into NBA shape and by December/January (in theory) become a bigger part of Brown’s rotation.

What exactly can he do if this scenario plays out? The 6’8” scoring machine out of UNLV has the ability to give Brown a double-double coming off the bench every single night. That might sound a bit far fetched but think about it for a second. Currently Bennett is not a part of the starting rotation, and probably won’t be for the foreseeable future. However, as the above list shows in the case of Bargnani, Bennett can still average 20-25 minutes per game as a reserve. With his long arms (7’1” wingspan) and big frame he should be a force on the glass. With his ability to score in multiple ways 12 points is not unthinkable in 20-25 minutes per night.

Expectations are low for Bennett because of the young core already on this team (Irving, Thompson and Waiters). That doesn’t change the fact that Bennett is a capable scorer with the ability to come off the bench for Cleveland and be very impactful. While he might not have been the consensus number one overall pick, Bennett was still considered a top 10 talent. That talent coupled with low expectations for a number one overall pick (not starting) could equal a breakout type season.

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One Comment

  1. MJM

    November 9, 2013 at 12:57 am

    Dave, I am going waaaay out on a limb here, but I dont think Bennet will be that breakout player. Just saying. Might be wrong though. Unless of course he scores as many points this season as Olidipo did his last game. Then, we might have to rethink this.

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