Photo: Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond. (Associated Press)
We all saw how Paul George, Larry Sanders and Greivis Vasquez took the league by surprise by showing huge strides last season. Given bigger roles and more minutes to strut their stuff, the trio showed noticeable improvements and helped their teams survive the tough NBA grind.
Who would be this season's breakout player? We look at 15 players who we think will be given the chance to deliver more for their respective teams as the stakes get higher in the world's biggest basketball league.
6. Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
2012-13 stats: 7.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, 60.8% FG shooting
Projected stats: 13.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, 58.9% FG shooting
This man-child showed glimpses of brilliance in a rookie year to remember. And with him recovering nicely from injury, there is little reason not to expect Drummond to be a consistent double-double machine in his sophomore year.
His team-up with Greg Monroe and Josh Smith up front makes Detroit an intriguing contender for a playoff spot come next season and if he and Brandon Jennings are able to develop a reliable pick-and-roll attack, then we should expect the Pistons to return to the postseason after a long lull.
Drummond will definitely be in the mix, too, for the NBA lead in blocks and the scary fact here is that the guy just turned 20 years old last August 10, and, thus, is just scratching the surface of what could be a productive career.
7. Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix Suns
2012-13 stats: 8.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.4 steals, 44.5% FG shooting
Projected stats: 14.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 1.6 steals, 43.6% FG shooting
We've seen how good Bledsoe could be in small doses, as he served as Chris Paul's primary backup in Lob City. He is a fearless slasher who possesses the upper body strength and hops to finish despite contact while also showing relative improvement with his midrange stroke last season.
His potential is so big that even Paul believes Bledsoe could start for any other team given the opportunity. In Phoenix, he gets the chance, the minutes and the shots to realize that potential as he will be playing with another exciting young guard in Goran Dragic under a coach who's one of the best guards in league history in Jeff Hornacek.
8. Derrick Favors, Utah Jazz
2012-13 stats: 9.4 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, 48.2% FG shooting
Projected stats: 16.5 points, 12.5 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, 50.5% FG shooting
More than two years after the trade that sent Deron Williams out of Salt Lake City, the production between Williams and Favors continue to be oceans apart. For Utah, however, the trade for Favors was borne of the big man's potential and 164 games after, it's time to unleash the beast.
With Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap out, Favors and Enes Kanter -- discussed in Part 1 -- will be handed the full rein on the Jazz frontcourt. And if Favors is able to limit himself from getting into foul trouble, he will be a rock-solid big man who will be expected to man the defense and contribute more on offense.
He's never been given an average of more than 24 minutes in a season but he will get it this time. Will he deliver? That we are about to find out for a Utah team that dealt a proven superstar in Williams for an unknown but exciting prospect in Favors.
9. Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
2012-13 stats: 13.9 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 41.0% FG shooting
Projected stats: 17.5 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 44.5% FG shooting
Injuries limited the 2012 third overall pick to 56 games last season and the Florida product didn't impress as much as we expected him when the Wizards tabbed him in the lottery. But expect Beal to come back with a vengeance as this Washington crew hope to finally round into full health when the season fires off in October.
Before playing in just five of the Wizards' last 24 games, Beal was averaging 20.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists while making 57.4% of his shots and 46.3% from three-point range in a stretch that saw Washington win five of nine games.
After a slow start to the season, this scorer has shown he can go with the best of the NBA. And with his team ready to fire on all cylinders, expect Beal to develop into one of the league's deadliest offensive machines.
10. Evan Fournier, Denver Nuggets
2012-13 stats: 5.3 points, 0.9 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 49.3% FG shooting
Projected stats: 12.4 points, 2.5 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 47.6% FG shooting
Fournier could get the touches by default after Andre Iguodala bolted the Mile High City for Golden State, leaving Denver's two-position a bit shallow even with the acquisition of journeyman Randy Foye.
The French has shown he can deliver buckets, as evidenced by his norms of 16.7 points on 57.6% shooting when George Karl handed him at least 20 minutes of burn last season. And with Danilo Gallinari not expected to return until December at the earliest, Fournier will figure prominently in Brian Shaw's attack.
Don't expect Fournier to sky into the superstar stratosphere, but he will be transformed from end-of-bench fodder to a dependable starter who can jumpstart the Nuggets' vaunted offense.