OPINION: A Who’s Who of potential sophomore success stories

The NBA season is just a few games in, and for second year players, it’s the beginning of their chance to show who they really are. A full off-season of training and time with the team is huge for a young player and can either help lead to a great season or a sophomore slump. These are our picks for which members of the 2018 class will take the next step, and who will fail in year two. 

Deandre Ayton

As a standout big in college, Deandre Ayton averaged 20.1 points a game with 11.6 boards as a freshman while on his way to becoming the number one pick in the 2018 NBA draft. Ayton was named the PAC-12 player of the year as a freshman and was seen as a can’t miss prospect. Ayton put up 16.3 points and 10.3 rebounds as a rookie on a struggling Suns team. For his efforts, Ayton was selected to the NBA All-Rookie first team and looks poised to improve for his second season. Ayton is serving a 25 game suspension for violating the NBA drug policy to begin the 2019-2020 season but should bounce back and be one of the Suns’ key players.

Career projection: Future star
5th year projection: 19.5 ppg 4.4 apg 11.2 rpg

Marvin Bagley

Bagley was the number one recruit in his class coming out of Sierra Canyon high school and committed to Duke. Bagley was a terrific player at Duke averaging 21 points a game on 61.4% shooting from the field and 40% from behind the arc along with 11.1 boards. Bagley was a consensus All-American and was named the ACC player of the year. Most analysts projected Bagley’s skill set would translate well into the NBA. As a rookie, Bagley put up 14.9 points a game on 50% shooting from the field and 31.3% from the three to match with 7.6 rebounds. With these numbers, Bagley earned All-Rookie first team. Bagley hasn’t looked comfortable to start the season under new head coach Luke Walton. Bagley has had flashes of star potential but needs to be better from behind the perimeter to continue to be a threat.

Career projection: Future All-Star
5th year projection: 18.7 ppg 6.1 apg 7.3 rpg

Luka Doncic

After playing for Real Madrid from age 16 to 19, Doncic was somewhat of a wildcard going into the 2018 draft. After winning MVP and averaging 16 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 4.3 assists in his final season overseas, there still were questions about how his game would translate to the NBA. Still, the Dallas Mavericks saw enough to trade for him in the draft, giving up their fifth overall pick and more. Doncic rewarded them with a rookie stat line of 21.2 points per game, 7.8 rebounds and six assists. He capped off his rookie year by winning NBA rookie of the year and showing why he is one of the best young talents in the league. After pairing with a now healthy Kristaps Porzingis, Dallas looks to be a future threat in the western conference. Doncic will soon be one of the top players in the entire league and should be considered as a perennial MVP candidate.

Career projection: Future Hall of Famer
5th year projection: 28.2 ppg 10.5 apg 7.2 rpg

Doncic will soon be one of the top players in the entire league and should be considered as a perennial MVP candidate.

— Sports Columnist Ben Schmidt

Jaren Jackson, Jr.

As a freshman, Jackson was one of the starters of the Michigan State front court averaging 10.9 points on 51.3% from the field and 39.4% from the three along with 5.8 rebounds. Jackson was seen as a bit of a project but has so far flourished in Memphis. As a rookie, Jackson averaged 13.8 points with 4.7 rebounds. Jackson showed incredible efficiency as he shot the ball at a 55.3% rate along with 36% from three. Jackson looks to be in an excellent spot as him and Ja Morant will likely build some chemistry and with their complementing play styles could look to be a deadly duo for many years to come.

Career projection: Future star
5th year projection: 17.2 ppg 4.2 apg 9.7 rpg

Trae Young

Playing just one season at Oklahoma, Young shined and led the nation in many statistics like points, assists, points per game, and others. He finished with a line of 27.4 points per game, 8.7 assists per game, and was awarded the freshman of the year award. This lead Atlanta to trade for him early in the draft, and he turned in a stellar first campaign. In a season where he just missed winning rookie of the year to Luka Doncic, Trae turned in over 19 points per game, 8.1 assists, and 3.7 rebounds per game. He was especially strong during the second half, where he had games scoring 36 and 49 points. Already off to a good start again this year, Young will likely carry this momentum and develop into one of the best guards in the league.

Career projection: Future superstar
5th year projection: 27.3 ppg 11.4 apg 5.2 rpg

Mo Bamba

The center from Texas had a great freshman season averaging a double double with 12.9 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. This led him to forgo his final three years of college and enter the draft with a ton of hype. He was drafted sixth to the Orlando Magic and only started one game in his rookie season. He played in 47 games and in total averaged 6.2 points and five rebounds per game. His inability to break into the starting lineup and have more than 16 minutes per game as a rookie is slightly concerning. For now, there needs to be more production from him to declare him a future star.

Career projection: Role player
5th year projection: 10.3 ppg 3.5 apg 11.1 rpg

Wendell Carter, Jr.

Carter was a five star recruit out of high school and committed to Duke where he would play just one season. His near 13 points and nine rebounds per game led him to become a top ten pick, where the Bulls would grab him seventh overall. As a rookie he averaged 10.3 points and seven rebounds per game, along with a nice 1.3 blocks per game. His season was cut short with a thumb injury, so health may be something to keep an eye on going forward. If the injury bug was just a one-time thing, Carter seems on pace for a successful NBA career.

Career projection: Future All-Star
5th year projection: 15.3 ppg 4.2 apg 8.3 rpg

Collin Sexton

Sexton was drafted to the Cavs after a great season at Alabama where he even had a game scoring 40 points when Alabama only had three players on the court. He was put in a tough spot right away as a rookie, being tasked to clean up the mess when LeBron, Kyrie, and others left town. Despite a solid rookie year, the Cavs took another player at the same position in this year’s draft. This could signal questions about Sexton, or just be a part of the team’s future plans to have a great backcourt. Sexton will need to grab control of the point guard position to show how good he can really be.

Career projection: Role player
5th year projection: 16.3 ppg 6.7 apg 5.4 rpg

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

A second team all SEC player in his final year at Kentucky, Shai was drafted 11th overall but then traded to the Clippers on draft day. In his rookie season, he showed lots of promise as he started 73 games and averaged just under 11 points per game. As the Clippers wanted to bring in stars last off-season, they moved the guard to Oklahoma City for Paul George. With only really a declining Chris Paul to deal with now, Gilgeous-Alexander should get a chance to shine and be the future face of their franchise. He has already shown how talented he is in Los Angeles, and if he continues to progress he’s one of the brightest young players in the NBA.

Career projection: Future superstar
5th year projection: 20.5 ppg 7.3 apg 6.2 rpg

Michael Porter, Jr.

A top recruit out of high school, Porter Jr was the likely number one pick before an injury during his first game with Missouri caused him to miss almost the entire season. His lack of college games and some health concerns caused him to fall all the way to 14th to the Nuggets. Porter did not play during his rookie season, so a super star projection may be a bit of a stretch, but there’s so much talent there that it’s hard to ignore. Health will be a key for him moving forward if he wants to have a successful career.

Career projection: Future Superstar, if healthy
5th year projection: 22.6 ppg 4.2 apg 7.9 rpg

Donte Divincenzo

After winning the NCAA title with Villanova, Divincenzo didn’t have a whole lot of first round hype coming into the league. He was surprisingly drafted in the first round though by the Milwaukee Bucks and in his first year he didn’t start any games. Look for him to possibly take a leap this year with more playing time, showing off the skills he displayed in the 2018 NCAA tournament.

Career projection: Sleeper
5th year projection: 10.3 ppg 4.1 apg 5.2 rpg

Landry Shamet

Shamet was virtually unknown coming into the draft but was selected with Philadelphia’s 26th despite Shamet only averaging 14.9 points as a junior at Wichita State. Immediately, Shamet looked great. Philadelphia’s lack of shooting allowed for the rookie Shamet to make and impact as one of Philadelphia’s premier shooters off the bench. When Shamet was traded, he did more of the same on the Clippers. The Clippers look to be one of the major contenders in the West with the addition of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Look for Shamet to be a contributing factor in the Clippers championship run.

Career projection: Sleeper
5th year projection: 13.5 ppg 4.1 apg 4.5 rpg

Jalen Brunson

After three seasons and two national championships at Villanova, Brunson declared for the NBA draft and was taken with the 33rd pick by the Mavericks. As a rookie, Brunson averaged just over nine points per game while only starting 38 games. Brunson has a lot of potential to break out in year two with more opportunities, and this was shown last year where he had games of 24 points, 34 points, and others. Look for him to take the next step in a young core alongside Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis.

Career projection: Sleeper
5th year projection: 13.3 ppg 5.2 apg 4.7 rpg

Mitchell Robinson

A five star recruit out of high school, Robinson wound up not playing a single college game due to violating rules at Western Kentucky. His talent was strong enough though for the Knicks to draft him 36th overall. After a rookie season where he averaged over seven points and six rebounds in just 20 minutes per game, he has plenty of talent to improve and become a great player.

Career projection: Sleeper
5th year projection: 15.2 ppg 4.2 apg 13.1 rpg

Ben Schmidt & Sahishnu Boyapally are sports columnists for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl

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