Every year there are players that come out of nowhere and exceed expectations. This could be a rookie that was not a top draft pick, a veteran that had a down year, or a player coming off of an injury. There are always NBA sleepers heading into the next season. Often times they are young players who have been flying under the radar that are looking to break out.
NBA Sleepers for Next Season
Saying Gordon Hayward is one of the five sleepers for the 2019 NBA season sounds crazy, but it’s true. After playing five minutes in his inaugural season with the Boston Celtics, Hayward returned last season but didn’t look right. He posted averages of 11.5 points per game, 4.5 rebounds per game, and 3.4 assists per game. The most noticeable drop off for Hayward was his scoring when he averaged over 19 points per game in his last three years as a member of the Utah Jazz. With a season under his belt since his injury, Hayward certainly has bounce back appeal. He should be able to increase his scoring next season and get back to his all-star form.
Normally choosing a top ten pick as a sleeper is considered odd, but Rui Hachimura has been flying under the radar this offseason. With top draft picks such as Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, and RJ Barrett garnering all of the attention, Hachimura has not been talked about by the mainstream media. Coming into the draft a lot of analysts did not have him as top ten pick and were surprised when the Washington Wizards selected him at number nine. He has impressed in the summer league with averages of 19.3 points per game, 7 rebounds per game, and 1.7 blocks per game on 50 percent shooting. With the Wizards going into full rebuild mode, Hachimura should get plenty of playing time this season, especially down the stretch when the Wizards are out of the playoff race. He has the upside to be a first team All-Rookie Selection.
Michael Porter Jr.
The NBA’s mystery man, Michael Porter Jr. has kept fans waiting to see him since being drafted. After being a standout basketball player in Seattle, Porter Jr. went to college at the University of Missouri. Porter Jr. played three games for the Tigers before undergoing season-ending back surgery. He was then drafted by the Denver Nuggets and wound up sitting out his entire rookie season. A knee sprain in practice caused him not to participate in this year’s summer league. The 6’10” forward has one of the highest ceilings of any player in the NBA, but his injury history is concerning. Porter Jr. is an afterthought in fans’ minds but he is expected to be fully healthy by the start of this season. Remember, this is a player that barring injury would have been a top-three pick in the 2017 draft.
Dejounte Murray is a player that many in the basketball community have forgotten about entering this season. He missed all of last season after tearing his ACL in a preseason game last October. This combined with Derrick White’s breakout season has left Murray off of NBA fan’s radars. Murray is an elite rebounding guard, averaging 5.7 rebounds per game during the 2017-2018 season. He also has a great defensive upside given his long arms and his 6’5” frame at the point guard position. Turning just 23 in September and entering his third season in the league, Murray has breakout written all over him. The San Antonio Spurs have a bright future at the guard position.
Dario Saric is a player that disappointed last season but has bounce back appeal. After being traded from the Philadelphia 76ers to the Minnesota Timberwolves, Saric saw his playing time drop dramatically. He is one year removed from his breakout season with the 76ers where he averaged 14.6 points per game, 6.7 rebounds per game, and 2.6 assists per game. Saric was traded on draft day to the Phoenix Suns in a pick swap with the Timberwolves. Now that he is the full time starting power forward in Phoenix, he should return to his 2017-2018 form. He should get plenty of good looks playing next to stud center Deandre Ayton. Saric is a guy that should benefit from the trade and is a solid addition for the rebuilding Suns.
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