The NBA season is creeping closer, and fans are already starting to get optimistic about their favourite players and teams taking that next step forward. Offseason workout videos are being shared on social media, and fans are hammering the odds on their favourites to win MVP, Rookie of the Year, or Most Improved.
While we can’t guarantee any major awards for anyone, there are certain players who seem primed to take a jump next season. These players could take their games to the next level, becoming NBA stars and major building blocks for their franchises. Let’s look at who they are.
Cade Cunningham has not had the start to his career many expected. He has played only 76 games across two seasons, although he looked strong in both. But now, he’s heading into his third year healthy, and he is one of the favourites on sportsbooks like BetVictor for Most Improved Player. Cunningham’s passing, change of pace, and adaptability are all elite. This year will be an excellent opportunity for him to show the league that he is ready for the spotlight, and he could earn an All-Star nod in a relatively weak Eastern Conference.
Devin Vassell hasn’t received much attention from NBA fans because he has been playing for a relatively obscure Spurs roster. That will change with the arrival of Victor Wembanyama. Now, fans will get to see Vassell on a regular basis and can take note of the improvements he’s already made. Vassell is already a strong defender and shooter and averaged 18.5 points per game in his third year. Wembanyama will take some of the defensive attention off him and open room for Vassell to expand his game. He is an underrated wager for Most Improved Player, and he’ll certainly have more of the spotlight on him this year.
Alperen Sengun has already broken out to some extent. He became the clear center of the future for the Houston Rockets last season and showcased a dynamic post game and elite passing ability for a big man. While Houston has many mouths to feed, expect Sengun to continue to grow his game. He just turned 21 years old and has a skillset that makes him one of the game’s unique players. The Rockets could be more competitive this season, and Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks could eat into Sengun’s possessions. But expect him to maximize every time he touches the ball.
The Charlotte Hornets badly needed a center to step up for them last season, and they’re lucky they had someone waiting to do so on the roster. Williams was taken 15th by the Hornets in the 2022 Draft and showed that his 7-foot frame and incredible 7’6 wingspan could make him a terror in the paint. In just 19 minutes a night, he averaged nine points and more than seven rebounds. Now that he is the clear starter, his minutes will take off. Expect Williams to average a double-double and put up excellent shot-blocking stats for a young Hornets squad.
Keegan Murray had an excellent rookie season for a Sacramento Kings roster that returned to relevance, and he is already being hailed as one of the league’s best shooters by some top NBA players. Murray was an efficient rookie who took his opportunities well, and he broke the rookie record for three-pointers in a season. He will enter the year as an unquestioned starter, and his role could expand. Murray didn’t do a ton off the bounce last year, but that is in his game. If he develops his handle and calls his number more often, his scoring numbers could skyrocket.