Ed. note: Excellent analysis from DBB'er The Boourns -- keep 'em coming! -- MW
Inspired by Bandwagon's FanShot of the 5 on 5 article from ESPN, where a few bloggers predicted Monroe as the breakout sophomore of the year, I decided to take my tome of a comment that I was about to post in said thread and just make an additional fanpost. That said, I think we all agree that there are 6 or so potential sophomores who have the potential to break out next year and as such I've focused primarily on 3 of those 6 (Cousins, Wall, Monroe -- Fields, Neal, and Davis being the other 3 who get honorable mentions).
Obviously with a term as subjective as "breakout season" some reasoning needs to be applied prior to the analysis. To me, a breakout year is one where we mainly see a significant increase in stats or efficiency. I do not consider the mass media's adornment of the title as part of this highly objective analysis. To that end, Blake Griffin is not included for obvious reasons. With stats as gaudy as his were his "rookie" year, no one should expect him to drastically improve upon them.
In order for Cousins to break out, he'll need to improve in two key areas. First, FG%/FT% where he shot 43% and 69% respectively. Second, he'll need to get his rebounding numbers above 10 per game (he grabbed 8.6 per game last season).
Increasing his rebounding numbers will be far easier for Cousins than increasing his FG% simply because the Kings will most likely lose Dalembert who netted a solid % of rebounds for Sacramento.
His FG% however, may not come so easily. His usage was already at 27% for Sacramento and he shot over 12 shots per game. With Jimmer Fredette, JJ Hickson, and a potentially healthier Tyreke Evans, Cousins may not get any more opportunities to score than he had in his rookie year so ultimately he has to increase his FG% to break out. While I think that he will increase his FG% next season, I don't think it will be enough to improve his points per game by much more than 2-4 points unless Sacramento ciphons usage to Cousins from Hickson, Fredette, and Evans....something I don't really expect to happen.
The increase in FG% while maintaining an equal usage rate would drastically improve his abysmal 94 O-Rating and an improvement in rebound %/increase in rebounds per game would probably improve his 105 D-Rating slightly.
Lastly, Cousins will need to work on his turnovers having turned the ball over 3.2 times per game his rookie year. While turnovers largely go unnoticed when it comes to "breakout players", a decrease here is one of his best chances to increase his FGA.
With all of that said, assuming Cousins improves did everything I mention above, I can't see him averaging more than 17 points and 11 boards per game, with just over a block and a couple assists...which compared to his rookie year, can't be considered "breakout".
Just like Cousins, Wall didn't shoot particularly well from the field having shot only 41%/77% from the line. While his FT% is admirable, and he'll likely improve his FTA from the 5.7 attempts per game he had last season, he shouldn't expect to improve it much more than a single FTA per game. At best this increases his PPG from his rookie year only slightly (16.5). His better shot at achieving a significant increase in PPG is again improving his FG% from the mediocre 41% he shot this year in addition to the 30% he shot from beyond the arch.
Aside from increasing his FG%, he'll also need to improve his assists per game. This will likely prove harder to do in addition to increasing his points per game. Simply put, if he's shooting more, he's passing less. However, shooting more efficiently while passing at a consistent rate with additional weapons to choose from (Jan Vesely anyone...haha), he could improve both.
All that said, I simply don't see the Wizards as they're currently built, providing Wall with the necessary players to drastically improve his assists per game so his only hope for a break out year would be just like Cousins - significantly improving his FG%. Similar to Cousins, Wall shot far better from the field in college than he did his rookie season, but that could be just as much a factor of well playing together and having future all-star caliber teammates in D1 college basketball.
With a D-Rating of 110, Wall's 1.8 steals per game seems somewhat of an outlier, although Washington certainly isn't known for their defense. Wall also shouldn't expect to improve his rebounds per game as he already posted a very respectable 4.6 per game. As for his offensive rating, well that came in at a mediocre 100...of course improving his offensive efficiency would help this greatly.
Lastly, just like Cousins, Wall turns the ball over a lot. 4.2 turnovers his rookie year, this will again offer him a great chance at either increasing passing opportunities to net out additional assists or increase FGA to improve his scoring numbers - either way, he'll need to cut down on turnovers if he's going to have a breakout year.
For Wall, I think that assuming he achieves what I outline above, he'll end up averaging around 18 points, 10 assists, 4 boards, 2 steals per game. He'd only be improving his scoring by 12%, his assists by less than 20%, while maintaining his rebounds and steals per game. I don't really see this as "breakout" material.
Greg's most glaring weakness at this point is actually something which should come up naturally - his FT%. In college he shot better in both seasons than he did in his rookie year (shooting 68% for his college career vs. 62% his rookie year). Additionally, an increase in usage is sure to net more FTA from the line. That alone should help Greg improve his PPG somewhat. Sticking to the usage rate, Greg shot 55% on the season but only saw 15% of his team's possessions. While one would expect FG% to decrease somewhat as usage goes up, Greg's seasonal FG% was also brought down by the slow start to the season. I think its completely realistic to expect Greg to shoot 55% from the field next season while his usage rating should increase to somewhere around 20% (assuming our coach is using him properly). While its not exact math, a 25% increase in usage applied to a consistent FG% should net a 25% increase in PPG. A simple increase in usage would increase Greg's 9.4 PPG to just over 12 PPG. Combine that with an increase in FTA and we get ourselves to that 13 PPG that Moose was hitting over the last 1/3 of the season.
Where the Monroad Warrior has greater opportunity to improve however is in rebounding. With a team filled with inefficient combo guards, and no one else on the roster aside from Ben and Jerebko to grab boards, Greg will have ample opportunity to average 10+ boards per game. Assuming some combination of Stuckey, Gordon, Rip, Bynum, and Knight are on the team next year, I think its completely realistic for Moose to average 12+ boards per game, assuming of course that JoD doesn't somehow pull off a miracle and net a defensive-minded, explosive big.
The one aspect of Greg's game that we all expected to be enamoured by and yet didn't see much of was his passing game. This is where I think placing him next to Jerebko in the frontcourt will pay significant dividends. JJ enjoys the hard cut as much as the spot up 3. If JJ can maintain or improve upon the energy level we saw from him in year 1, then I can see Greg increasing his assists per game to somewhere north of 2.
As for his 1.2 steals per game, with more time on the floor, comes more opportunities for steals. Additionally, a new head coach, ideally one that can actually get players to buy into the concept of team defense would also help Greg with improving his steals per game.
Lastly, with 1 turnover per game, Greg needs to continue to be as secure with the ball as he was at the end of last season. Additional scoring options like Knight from beyond the arch and JJ on the cut should help with additional options in the double team that will likely come as teams begin to gameplan agains him.
So assuming Greg gets the support from coaching and his teammates that I mention above, we should expect Greg to average around 14 points, 11 boards, 2 assists, 2 steals, and less than 2 turnovers per game. If this ends up being Greg's stat line, that would constitute an almost 50% increase in points per game, a 50% increase in rebounds per game, a 100% increase in assists and steals, and only a marginal increase in turnovers. To me, that sounds like a breakout season.
Unlike Cousins and Wall, Greg's biggest barrier to being a breakout player next year is firmly in the hands of someone else. It will be up to the new head coach to get the ball in Greg's hands and allow him to develop an interior game that is a cornerstone of our offense. It will also require a guard who is willing to work with Greg on both the pick and roll and be willing to give up the ball instead of going isolation himself. Personally, I see the potential of a coach developing offensive sets as a greater likelihood than Cousins or Wall drastically improving their offensive efficiencies in their current situations. Additionally, I think Greg's opportunity to increase his rebounding numbers is as good, if not better than Cousins in Sacramento if for no other reason than the fact that Cousins will have Hickson, and Greg has...well...Greg has...Jonas and a 38 year old Ben Wallace.
Gary Neal -- With Hill traded to Indiana, this opens up minutes for Neal in San Antonio's backcourt. He shot over 40% from beyond the arch, greater than 45% from the field, and 81% from the line. That said, Neal had a 20% usage rating so we shouldn't expect him to drastically increase his opportunities to score. Additionally, half of all his shots came from beyond the arch so we shouldn't expect him to gain much in the way of efficiency. I think Neal will put together another solid season, but his stats won't improve much from what we saw his rookie year.
Ed Davis -- Davis actually had an even lower usage % than Monroe. He also shot just as well from the field, and his FT% was also below his college career. That said, I can't see Davis getting that many more touches next season with Bargnani, Jonas V, and Amir up front. Of the honorable mentions though, I think Davis has the best shot at having a break out year.