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.
Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports
Christian Wood is one of many players projected to have a breakout season that switched teams this year. Wood has played for six teams over his five-year career. How teams keep letting this talented player slip away baffles me. Even the Rockets were able to get him for a cheap price in free agency. Wood is a long and athletic big man that can stretch the floor out to the three-point line. He is drawing unfair comparisons to Anthony Davis and has become somewhat of a meme as AD 2.0. While obviously, those expectations are silly, the comparison holds more validity than people think. He has an incredible reach to block shots, and his timing is just as great. He also is a premier lob threat with great hands. He looks like a receiver getting up to catch these passes. In his first game for the Rockets, he put up insane numbers that no one expects him to follow up on. However, I feel like 31 points and 13 rebounds are not as far off from what he could be getting. He played an increased role due to the Rockets missing some key players. As the game got to clutch time, Harden and Wood showed inspiring chemistry in the pick-and-roll.
While I would not get too excited, this performance could have started to change James Harden's mind. They had an obvious connection on the court that I have not seen Harden have with any other player. He trusted him to make big plays. With Cousins returning to the lineup, Wood will take a step back in the team's offense, but I believe that Christian did enough with that opportunity to guarantee him multiple touches every game and to become a definite starter in Houston. He has come off the bench much of his career, even during his great season last year. Wood only started 12 of the 62 games last year and still managed 13 points and six rebounds on 21 minutes. I fully expect head-coach Stephen Silas to play Wood for 30 minutes or more per game and use him as he did Porzingis last year with the Mavericks. Christian has bounced around a lot in his career, but he is finally getting a chance to be a part of his team's gameplan. He will capitalize and be a borderline All-Star this year.
Author: Daniel O'Donovan