4 NBA Players Ready to Break Out in 2021-22

By Michael Wynn in Sports
| September 28, 2021 9:20 am PDT

Who’s going to break out in the NBA in 2021-22?

Last year we saw a handful of NBA players raise their games to the next level. For Nikola Jokic, that meant going from a respected big man to league MVP. For Jerami Grant, that meant going from a career 9.3 ppg scorer to averaging north of 22 points per night.

Lonzo Ball has a chance to shine in Chicago, and a fresh start in Cleveland brings a clean slate to Lauri Markkanen. Nevertheless, it’s a crowded backcourt in Chi-Town and Markkanen might not even start.

Focusing on guys who have a clear path to success, here are four NBA breakout players in 2022.

Michael Porter Jr., SF, Denver Nuggets

  • Height: 6’10”
  • Weight: 218 pounds
  • DOB: 6/29/98 (23)

After not playing as a rookie due to serious concerns with his back, many wondered if the phenomenon that is Michael Porter Jr. would ever come to fruition.

Given his trajectory through his first two healthy years as a pro, his arrival at superstar status could come as early as 2022.

Michael Porter Jr. – By the Numbers
Season Minutes Points Rebounds Assists FG % 3PT %
2019-20 16.4 9.3 4.7 0.8 50.9 42.2
2020-21 31.3 19.0 7.3 1.1 54.2 44.5

Talk about a guy who has a clear path to superstardom, MPJ’s path is rolled out with red carpet. No Jamal Murray for the foreseeable future means even more of an onus will be placed on the 23-year-old hybrid forward.

Mitchell Robinson, C, New York Knicks

  • Height: 7’0”
  • Weight: 240 pounds
  • DOB: 4-1-98 (23)

Julius Randle came into his own last year under the strict guidance of Tom Thibodeau. Could Mitchell Robinson be the next Knick player to bust out under Thibs?

Randle certainly thinks so.

“Mitch looks good, man. Mitch is brolic; he’s big. You can tell that he took the weight room seriously. So Mitch looks good, and he’s one of those pieces that people don’t even really know that we had last year because he missed so much time. So he’s going to be a huge factor for us coming into this year.”

Hand and foot surgeries ended Robinson’s season prematurely, but averages of 8.3 points and 8.1 rebounds on 65.3% shooting hint at what’s in store. Mitch is also a sincere rim protector having averaged 2.1 blocks per game (in just 22.9 minutes per game) throughout his young career.

Robinson probably won’t score enough points to get noticed by casual fans, but his ascension to the upper echelon of NBA bigs could be the catalyst that gets New York over the hump.

OG Anunoby, SF, Toronto Raptors

  • Height: 6’7”
  • Weight: 232 pounds
  • DOB: 7/17/97 (24)

Dare I call OG a poor man’s version of Kawhi Leonard? Not just because he plays in Toronto where the Klaw won a title, but because there are tons of similarities.

At 6’7” and 232 pounds, Anunoby and Leonard are nearly identical in stature. OG has already evolved into one of the premier perimeter defenders in basketball and his offensive game took strides a season ago as he became much more aggressive slashing to the hoop.

OG Anunoby Points Per Game Throughout His NBA Career
Season Points
2017-18 5.9
2018-19 7.0
2019-20 10.6
2020-21 15.9

Anunoby shot over 39% from beyond the arc for the second straight year and has even developed a solid mid-range game – ala Kawhi Leonard.

Ok, I’ll stop with the comparisons. Just remember that I said that Anunoby was among the true NBA breakout candidates in 2022 before the season started.

Darius Garland, PG, Cleveland Cavaliers

  • Height: 6’1”
  • Weight: 192 pounds
  • DOB: 1/26/00 (21)

Darius Garland had a nice rookie season in Cleveland contributing 12.3 ppg and 3.9 apg. He progressed nicely as a sophomore tallying 17.4 ppg and 6.1 apg.

Now entering year three with a more well-rounded supporting cast, the 6’1” combo guard has a chance to turn in an All-Star-worthy campaign.

Sharing the backcourt spotlight with a stud like Collin Sexton has limited Garland’s exposure, but the cat’s out of the bag on how much upside Darius possesses. Garland can score at all three levels and is one of the purest passers in the game.

I anticipate him averaging at least 20 per night in the upcoming year and suspect that the Cavs are going to surprise a lot of people.

More NBA Breakout Candidates in 2021-22

  • Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis Grizzlies
  • Keldon Johnson, San Antonio Spurs
  • De’Andre Hunter, Atlanta Hawks
  • Tyrese Maxey, Philadelphia 76ers

The four guys I featured are individuals I firmly expect to make big jumps this season. As far as some other potential NBA breakout players in 2021-22, here are four more names to keep tabs on.

Of this quartet, the one with the most polarity is Tyrese Maxey.

With Simmons recently letting it be known that he’s “done” in Philly, Maxey has limitless upside with the 76ers. Whether he’ll capitalize immediately in 2021-22, of course, remains to be determined.

Love reading about the NBA? Check out these posts going into the 2021-22 season.



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