|KAWHI LEONARD: San Antonio Spurs|
Written by: Prospect-Central
There are a many different ways to describe a "Breakout Player." It could be a player who's been ineffective or marginal in the past and suddenly becomes a stud or it could be a player who's already been dominate, but has yet to start playing in their new league; NBA, NCAA, High School, etc,etc. It could also be a good player on the cusp of greatness or an already great player that's never even been heard about before. Whatever it may be, these 25 players should have nice 2012-13 seasons in their respective leagues and more than likely remain relevant in the game of basketball for a while. * Below are Prospect-Central's #15-11 Breakout Players for the 2012-13 basketball season. Order of the rankings has to do with how well players will perform in their respective leagues as opposed to being individually ranked against each other. Click for the rest of the players at the end of the article.
(15) ADONIS THOMAS sg/sf / 6'6'' 225 / Memphis
If you have the first name "Adonis" you better be either really pretty or a really good basketball player. Thankfully Adonis Thomas is a really good basketball player. While he was a top 10 recruit coming out of high school, he didn't quite live up to expectations his freshman year. He averaged 9 points and 3 rebounds in 24 minutes of action, but was hampered by an ankle injury in January and missed nearly half the season. He's a big-time athlete with a huge wingspan and a nose for the ball, but needs to tighten up his perimeter skills if he wants to take his game to the next level. Adonis actually toyed with the idea of jumping to the NBA after his freshman year, but probably realized developing his game in college was a much wiser decision. While Memphis lost an elite talent in Will Barton to the NBA (future STUD), they still have some decent returning players in Joe Jackson and Tarik Black as well as incoming freshman Shaq Goodwin, who should make an immediate impact in my opinion. If Memphis wants to be a serious force this season, Adonis Thomas will need to have a breakout year and show why he's being projected as a 2013 NBA lottery pick.
(14) DONATAS MOTIEJUNAS pf/c 7'0'' 225 / Houston Rockets
It may be somewhat questionable thinking Donatas Motiejunas will have a breakout rookie season in the NBA, but he makes the cut none the less. Originally drafted by the Timberwolves with the 20th pick in 2011, Motieujunas was traded to Houston on draft night and may end up being a steal for the Rockets down the line. He played with Prokom Gdynia in the Polish leagues last year and was actually quite impressive. He led Gdynia to their ninth consecutive PLK tittle and had 23 points and 11 rebounds in the final game. Motiejunas also had a nice showing in the 2012 NBA Summer League, averaging 16 points, 8 rebounds and was named to the All-Star team. He's long and athletic with a nice outside touch, and if he can find a spot in Kevin McHale's rotation, he might provide some much needed offense. I actually really like what the Rockets did in the draft this year. Terrence Jones and Royce White are solid players and Jeremy Lamb has a chance to be an absolute star in my opinion. Motiejunas should have an opportunity to crack the Rockets lineup, considering their starting center is Omer Asik and their depth at the power forward position is pretty weak with Patrik Patterson, Marcus Morris and JaJuan Johnson. In his first game as a member of the Rockets this summer, Motiejunas had 25 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 1 block. After the game he quoted a famous Lithuanian idiom in describing his debut, "Jeigu bijai vilko - neik į mišką" (English: If your scared of wolves, don't go in the woods). It's apparent he's got the swagger to play at the highest level, now let's see if he's got the game to back it up.
(13) SEMI OJELEYE sf / 6'6'' 220 / Class of 2013
Even though he's a top 40 recruit and already an established name in high school basketball, Semi Ojeleye's still underrated in my opinion. Hailing from Ottawa, Kansas, the rising senior's a big bodied wing with terrific athleticism and the ability to hit an open jump shot. At times Ojeleye may seem like he's coasting through the game, but it's hard denying his upside. He averaged 32 points and 8 rebounds as a junior and should put up similar numbers this upcoming season. Over the summer Ojeleye showed he's one of the best players in the country with a very nice performance at the Nike EYBL Peach Jam. The Peach Jam is the premier AAU event in the nation and the melting pot for elite high school talent. Ojeleye led MoKan Elite to the semifinals and finished in the top 10 of scoring with 17.6 ppg. He was so impressive at the Peach Jam he made Prospect-Central's All-Tournament 2nd Team. He recently narrowed his college choices down to Duke, Indiana, Oregon and Stanford and whatever school he attends, Semi Ojeleye should be vying for playing time from day one.
(12) OTTO PORTER sf / 6'8'' 205 / Georgetown
I have to admit, I didn't know very much about Otto Porter coming out of high school. Despite the fact he was a top 40 recruit and a big-time athlete, he never really caught my eye. All that quickly changed once I saw him play a couple games last year as a freshman. While he didn't have the most overwhelming statistics for the Hoyas, averaging 9.5 ppg and 6.7 rpg, he was clearly one of the best players on the squad and showed a tremendous amount of upside. Porter wasn't the focal point of the game plan for John Thompson III, but still managed to be very productive every time he stepped on the floor. He has excellent length (7'1'' wingspan), terrific speed in the open court and a non-stop motor. Even though he only shot 23% from behind the arc as a freshman, his jumper is far from broken and seems to have improved considerably going into his sophomore year. He recently attended the 2012 LeBron James Skills Academy and showed he definitely has a future in the NBA. The Hoyas lost some key players in Hollis Thompson and Henry Sims and will need every bit of Otto Porter's production if they want to have a respectable 2012-13 season.
(11) KAWHI LEONARD sf / 6'7'' 225 / San Antonio Spurs
After being drafted 15th overall by the Indiana Pacers in the 2011 NBA draft, Kawhi Leonard was traded to San Antonio for point guard George Hill. I'm not saying George Hill isn't a nice player, but the Spurs may have gotten away with highway robbery. Once Richard Jefferson was traded to Golden State, Leonard's game began to flourish. He started 39 games for the Spurs, which is the most by a rookie under Greg Popovich since Tony Parker's 72 starts during the 2001-02 season. Despite obvious growing pains, Leonard still managed to put up some decent numbers. He averaged 7.9 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 24 minutes of action. He was also named to the NBA's 2011-12 All-Rookie First Team and finished 4th in Rookie of the Year voting. It's easy to see why Kawhi Leonard's a potential Breakout Player this upcoming season. He has a rapidly developing skill-set and a work ethic that's second-to-none. With Stephen Jackson and Derrick Byars the only small forwards on the Spurs roster, Look for Kawhi Leonard to play significant minutes in his second year as a pro.