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 Southwest Division includes the Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies, Houston Rockets, New Orleans Pelicans, and San Antonio Spurs. Currently these teams each hold some of the most impressive young players in the NBA. Stars like Ja Morant, Zion Williamson, and Luka Doncic headline the leagues youth movement all being 21 and under. To boot, the divisions holds some veteran stars from the past decade like John Wall, James Harden, and DeMar DeRozen. It is exciting for fans of all ages. All of these teams are borderline playoff or contending teams and are looking to improve. Some of that growth will come from their breakout players this year.
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Dorian Finney-Smith has loads of potential to see an uptick in production this season. Dorian proved himself as the third most valuable player on the Mavericks last year. He may have been sixth in scoring for the team, only averaging nine points per game. But his value goes so much deeper than scoring. He played incredible defense against players of all shapes and sizes. He started nearly every game he played because of his knack for getting big stops, hustle plays, and being in the right place at the right time. Each team has one of these players hustle players, and every teammate of theirs will tell you that they are one of the most valuable members on the roster. On top of this, he shot great percentages from the field. It shows that beneath all the hustle, there is a skilled basketball player. His usage increased as the season went on, but the Mavericks saw his value most in the playoffs. He averaged career highs in points, assists, rebounds, and steals during that short playoff run.
The production he gave the team did not go unnoticed as they plan to use him more this season. Dorian should see an increase in minutes per game as he has every year of his career. Now entering his fifth season, I project him to get around 32 minutes per game or more. He is so essential to what the team wants to do on both sides of the ball. He can operate with any combination of players due to being a position-less defender, and Smith never needs offense drawn up for him but will squeeze out double-digit points. The path to a breakout season will be dependent on his role offensively. Smith has shown on the grandest stage that he can score effectively from all levels with efficiency. I fully expect coach Rick Carlisle to follow through on increasing his usage and increasing his minutes. This will brew a great season for Finney-Smith, who deserves all the praise that will come from it.
Author: Daniel O'Donovan