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Second-year fantasy basketball breakout candidates

Being a rookie in the NBA can be difficult.

While some players like LeBron James (2003-2004) and Blake Griffin (2010-2011) are able to make a quick adjustment and thrive right out of the gate, the vast majority require some time to figure things out — needing to get stronger both mentally and physically.

Here is a look at the second-year players who possess the talent to expand upon their rookie showing and break out in Year 2:

Josh Giddey, PG/SG, Oklahoma City Thunder

Did Giddey have a stellar rookie season? Yes. But there is a still a lot of room to grow. As one of the league’s most promising prospects during the 2021-22 season, he was the NBA’s second-youngest player. While his rookie campaign was partially derailed after 54 games because of a hip injury that ended his season, he was phenomenal from November through February, putting up 12.7 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 6.5 APG and 1.0 BPG. During that span, Giddey was recognized as the Western Rookie of the Month every month.

There are two key areas where he can improve, though: field goal percentage (41.6%) and turnovers (3.3 TPG). With six second-year players on its roster, the Thunder are a young team and with rookie Chet Holmgren is out for the season (Lisfranc), Giddey will be counted on to be an ever bigger part of things. He’s an excellent value in fantasy drafts.

Bones Hyland, PG, Denver Nuggets

Denver had high hopes for Hyland’s long-term potential after selecting him 26th overall in the 2021 NBA draft, but had no expectation of how much he would contribute during his rookie season. Hyland stepped up in a big way. He finished with 10.1 PPG, 2.7 RPG and 2.8 APG and posted a 55.8 True Shooting Percentage. Hyland was named to the league All-Rookie team.

With Monte Morris and Will Barton‘s departures, Hyland solidifies himself as the backup point guard. Starting point guard Jamal Murray‘s health is sketchy, too, so the Nuggets will likely take their time with him. Additionally, Hyland has what it takes to play both guard positions this season so he’ll probably share the court with Murray at times. Hyland should significantly exceed his average draft position, especially if the Nuggets have more injury woes.

Davion Mitchell, PG, Sacramento Kings

Mitchell was a very productive player last year in the Summer League and was named co-MVP with Cam Thomas. Although on the smaller side, he showed defensive prowess, high basketball IQ and offensive skills. Mitchell’s success carried over into the regular season, too. In 75 regular season games, he averaged 11.5 PPG, 2.2 RPG and 4.2 APG in 27.7 MPG.

The thing to pay attention to, though, is what Mitchell did during the final 11 games of the season when De’Aaron Fox was shut down with a hand injury. If you remember, Mitchell filled the void and had a remarkable stretch of games, averaging 18.8 PPG, 2.5 RPG and 9.3 APG. As Fox’s backup, Mitchell will be the Kings’ sixth man this season and is a solid fantasy option, but most formats will make it difficult for him to finish inside the top-100. His blocks, steals and shooting percentages were suboptimal, but the possibility of the Baylor product finishing inside the top-150 can not be ruled out.

Herbert Jones, SF/PF, New Orleans Pelicans

Jones was widely considered the best waiver wire pickup in fantasy basketball last season; his defensive skills helped him finish just outside the top-75 in category formats. Jones started 69 of 78 games, averaged 9.5 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.7 SPG and 0.8 BPG in 29.9 MPG while shooting 47.6% from the field.

With Zion Williamson returning, Jones is likely to start at small forward and should play a large role considering the Pelicans are thin on the wings. Look no further than Jones if you want a steals and blocks specialist who can also contribute in other statistical areas. He’s a great pick who is currently being drafted just outside the top 100.

Joshua Primo, SG, San Antonio Spurs

While Primo flashed potential early on, he was unable to provide reliable contributions as last season progressed. When rookies first enter the league, the Spurs tend to shield them from pressure in order to better position them for future success. This was good news for Primo, who only played 50 games and finished with 5.8 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 1.6 APG, 0.4 SPG and 0.5 BPG.

Fast-forward to present day, and Primo is in better position. He looked great in this season’s Summer League and, with Dejounte Murray now in Atlanta, the second-year player will have more opportunities out at the perimeter. Primo’s role in the Spurs’ rotation is secure. During training camp, he suffered a sprained MCL, but he’s in line to return for the start of the regular season.


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