NBA Sophomores on the Rise

The 2020 NBA Draft class showed out nicely. As expected, LaMelo Ball and Anthony Edwards were the cream of the crop. James Wiseman looked good when healthy. Other lottery picks such as Onyeka Okongwu and Tyrese Haliburton had their time to shine as well. It didn’t stop there, as other later first-round picks such as Desmond BaneSaddiq Bey, and Immanuel Quickley had great roles too. For those that didn’t earn a ton of playing time, it’s clearly not too late as they were rookies. Take a look at a few NBA sophomores who are primed for a strong season of production and growth.

NBA Sophomores on the Rise

Backcourt NBA Sophomores

The selections here include Kira Lewis Jr. of the New Orleans Pelicans, Tyrese Maxey of the Philadelphia 76ers, and Payton Pritchard of the Boston Celtics.

Lewis Jr. averaged roughly six points and two assists per game last season, but he rarely played. This, of course, was due to the Pelicans having both Lonzo Ball and Eric Bledsoe. This year he’ll primarily compete for time with Devonte’ Graham and Tomas Satoransky. Both are talented but don’t offer as much as the previous due. The creative and agile Lewis Jr. will be used as a sparkplug off the New Orleans bench and should fill in this role quite nicely.

Maxey had some flashes of strong play towards the end of the season and in the playoffs. Expect an early boost in minutes for him with the uncertain future of Ben Simmons. If Philadelphia fails to trade Simmons, and he refuses to play, then Maxey will be both a smart and strong option. He’s high-energy and can score in a variety of ways. His eight points per game last season was already solid, but he should average double-digits throughout the season.

Boston trading Kemba Walker was huge for Pritchard. Sure, Dennis Schroder is around, but he’s been a career sixth-man as opposed to a starter. Schroder will start this time, but Pritchard will likely see upwards of 20 minutes per game. His hustle, toughness, and defensive tenacity make him the ultimate “glue-guy,” but Pritchard can also shoot the lights out. He’s in for a much larger role and a great season as a result.

Frontcourt Rising Stars

Deni Avdija and Isaiah Stewart are the picks in the frontcourt.

Avdija was selected in the top 10 by the Washington Wizards, but injuries cut his season short. He’ll look to improve upon the six points and five rebounds he averaged last season. The Wizards are a new-look team without Russell Westbrook, which means the ball will be shared a lot more. Avdija can slash at the basket and is a growing shooter, but he’s also a strong facilitator. He was not able to showcase this skill last year, but he’ll get the opportunity now alongside one of the league’s top offensive weapons in Bradley Beal.

Stewart quietly had a great rookie campaign. He averaged roughly eight points, seven rebounds, and a block per game. In addition, Stewart showed his ability to shoot from deep. If he continues to improve on this, he’ll be a two-way weapon for years to come.

Mason Plumlee is gone in Detroit, which means the starting five position belongs solely to Stewart. The Pistons did bring Kelly Olynyk in, but he’ll spend time backing up both the four and the five. Stewart will continue to dominate the boards and the paint, but his offensive game should flourish alongside rookie and first overall pick Cade Cunningham.

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