The NBA is most exciting when young stars are budding across the league. The talent pool is ridiculous in the Association. Some players are just waiting to sprout into the player they have the potential to be. It is best to take this subject by division since I want to pick a breakout player for every team. The Southeast division teams are the Hornets, Wizards, Hawks, Magic, and Heat. Every team in this division should be better than the year prior. They all, through development or players added in free agency, have bolstered their respective rosters. Fans of these cities should be happy with the direction of their franchises. With some internal growth, playoff hopes should arise or even contention for a title.
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Rui Hachimura stands for more than the youth movement in Washington. He is a symbol for the country of Japan. The people of Japan show endless love and support to the young star. He plans to capitalize on his support system and become a great player in this league for years to come. His rookie season was productive and showed the potential he holds. He is a massive forward at 6'8" 230 pounds with the skills of a guard. His shot was shaky at best from three last season, but good free throw percentages encourage the Wizards to believe that the three-ball is around the corner for this kid. I agree with this belief whole-heartedly. All the talk from training camp before the Westbrook trade was just how far this kid has come in one year. This is saying a lot, considering he was selected for the All-Rookie team and averaged 14 points and 6 rebounds a game. Already great numbers for such a young player, improvement on top of that is great for him.
Westbrook will take shots away from last year, but Russell Westbrook is not a selfish player. Contrary to popular belief, he is a revered teammate in the league, no matter how the media misconstrues it. He should bring him along nicely and get him to play harder. The style Westbrook plays is infectious and is something Rui needs. His defense is the most lack-luster part of his game, and with that frame, it should be better. With mentors like Westbrook and Beal, Rui will learn how to be more tenacious. What he needs to improve offensively is his three-point shot, ability to draw fouls, and distributing. He by no means will need to average over four assists, but the 1.8 per game his rookie season is not going to cut it. Rui will be playing alongside Beal and Westbrook for 25+ minutes a night, so he should so-happen into at least three a night. If the rumors of his growth are true, I see him as a suitable third option, and the Washington Wizards will make the playoffs at around a 7th or 8th seed.
Author: Daniel O'Donovan