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NBA Daily: A Big Junior Year In The Making?

They say the third year is when an NBA player really cements themselves into what they will ultimately be, there are a few notable rising junior-level players that could be poised for a breakout performance.

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A Big Junior Year In The Making?

They say an NBA Player is typically going to be what he’s going to be around year three of his NBA career. That’s not to say guys don’t break out earlier or later, but the bench mark NBA teams aim for is the third year of a players’ career, even in sports gambling.

With NBA teams set to start seeing players in their facilities just after the Labor Day weekend, there are a few third-year guys that may have a breakout season in front of them. Here are a few:

Joel Embiid – Philadelphia 76ers

Believe it or not, this is technically Embiid’s third season playing after missing two years to injuries. Last season Embiid earned All-Star honors and was one of the better players in the league. The question for Embiid is, is there another gear? Based on how hard Embiid has been training and the role he will play for the 76ers next year it’s hard to imagine that he’s not going to blow his 22.9 points and 11 rebounds per game average out of the water. To make a comparable – New Orleans star Anthony Davis averaged 28.1 points and 11 rebounds last season, that’s a bar Embiid seems likely to reach given what we’ve seen so far.

Its seems a little to talk about an All-Star breaking out, but if you have paid attention to what Embiid has been doing since the season ends, he might have another level that could put him among the super-elite in the NBA.

Jamal Murray – Denver Nuggets

The Denver Nuggets have pretty quietly become incredibly stacked. That may dilute the individual performances of some of the Nuggets better players, but as Jamal Murray enters his third season, he looks to be in a situation to really flourish. The Nuggets started the season last year with something of a logjam at the point guard spot, but as the season progressed not only did Murray see his averages get up to 16.7 points and 3.4 assists per game (second best among sophomore players last year), he started to really blossom into his own.

Murray might not jump into the All-Star discussion, but if he can pick up where he left off, he may have another level to his game that could make things interesting in the West.

Brandon Ingram – LA Lakers

While everyone seemed to be looking for a star from the outside to save the franchise last year, the Lakers’ own roster actually might have already produced their second-best player. Brandon Ingram has steadily improved every year he has been in the NBA logging a respectable 16.1 points, 5.3 rebounds. 3.9 assists per game average on 47% shooting from the field last season, which was third best in the sophomore class. With LeBron James coming in and likely playing next to Ingram, it’s not hard to imagine his numbers exploding with the attention James will draw and having another elite level playmaker feeding him the ball.

Like most high-level draft picks, there has been this artificial expectation of greatness attached to Ingram, but with his third season on the horizon, it’s not hard to imagine that he could be the third-year player that jumps up the most.

Jaylen Brown – Boston Celtics

It wasn’t that long ago that Boston fans were down on the selection of Jaylen Brown, however after last season how can you not see Brown as a key cog in a Celtics team that could run the table on the Eastern Conference.

Brown’s regular season numbers don’t blow you away – 14.5 points per game on 46.5% from the field. It was how he performed in the post-season that should make you take pause, especially in big game situations. Brown averaged an impressive 17.9 points 4.7 rebounds and 46.7% from the field in seven games against the Bucks, then turned in a 15.3 point per game average on 53.5% from the field in four games versus the 76ers. The capped that with his best showing of the post-season averaging 19.7 points and 4.9 rebounds against the Cavaliers.

Brown’s individual numbers might not jump up dramatically with the return of both Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward to the roster in Brown’s third season, but when you think about third-year guys that could be in for a bigger opportunity, Brown seems logical in the discussion.

The Honorable Mentions

There are a few notables worth pointing out in this discussion mainly because of how they flourished a year ago, with includes Atlanta’s Taurean Prince. Situationally he seems poised to have a bigger role. Chicago Kris Dunn countered a ho-hum rookie year with a pretty stellar sophomore season. He too looks to have a situation set up for him to thrive. Sacramento’s Skal Labissiere has been all over social media with a redefined body that seems more suited to pair with incoming rookie Marvin Bagley III. Golden State’s Quinn Cook could also be a guy to watch, mainly because of how well he played in spot minutes for the Dubs last season and likely will see a bigger reserve role this season.

They say the third year is when an NBA player really establishes their next contract value – save Embiid who already has his max deal. There are a few guys worth watching, especially because situationally they are set u to blossom, maybe more than they did in their second year.

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Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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