NBA Sophomores: Leap Year

NBA Sophomores: Leap Year

by October 25, 2021 0 comments

We are finally in the midst of the first week of the NBA season. Teams are eager to meet up, shake off the rust, and go through the grind of an 82-game schedule. This year, there will be a special group of players who are extra excited: the sophomores. The current class of second-year players never had a conventional rookie season.

The pandemic messed up the schedule of the basketball world. Last year’s rookies were drafted and had shortened training sessions, but everything they went through was out of the ordinary. No summer league to participate in. The respective teams could not give them proper strength and conditioning sessions. They had little time to get acclimated to their new coaching staff and new surroundings. These are the things one needs to remember, if the rookies you were rooting for did not show up last season.

Every rookie wants to improve their play in their second year. Let’s take a look at five teams who need their sophomore player to step up and make that leap forward.

Detroit Pistons

Killian Hayes had a rough start as a rookie last year. Not only were his numbers miserable, but his progress was derailed due to injury. The only bright spot was that he played well enough to show potential in the last several games of the season. The question now is whether he can play alongside new recruit Cade Cunningham. Fans are hoping that drafting Cunningham won’t slow down the development process of Hayes. These two players are both the type that need the ball in order to shine.

Sacramento Kings

The rise of Tyrese Haliburton was a surprise last season. He was the third-best rookie, and the team will now need him to maintain (or improve) his level of play even if opponents start defending him better this season. He knows the Kings need everyone’s collective effort to make sure the team will not miss the playoffs again. The last Kings playoff game took place during May of 2006, and missing the postseason one more time will be a new NBA record.

Golden State Warriors

James Wiseman had an up-and-down rookie season on- and off-the-court. He will forever be known as the rookie who was benched because of a missed COVID-19 test. Wiseman had highlight plays for sure, but availability was the issue. He only played in 39 games due to injuries, and had games where minutes were limited because of foul trouble. They say you have to be extra patient when it comes to rookie centers and this looks to be the case for Wiseman. Fans can’t wait though. They want to see him improve right away, especially with Klay Thompson missing the early parts of the season.

Boston Celtics

Payton Pritchard is in a prime spot to take the next step. Everyone remembers his strong performance during NBA Summer League a few months ago, and how he grabbed the headlines by scoring 92 points in a Portland Pro-Am League game. Bench production will now be expected from Pritchard next season and his coaches know that he is capable of providing that. New coach Ime Udoka and Pritchard are both from Portland; the Oregon connection might lead to more playing time for Boston’s sophomore.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Last year, Isaac Okoro started slow and then got comfortable as the season progressed, eventually earning a spot on the NBA All-Rookie Second Team. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff already said that he should have the ball in his hands more often this season. The green light by the coach means that the next step in his career is just around the corner. With an improved Okoro, mixed with their new recruits, Cleveland should be fighting for the playoffs.

Sophomore Slump

With a season under their belts, a full training camp, and an offseason that included Summer League runs, no one is expecting second-year players this year to suffer a “sophomore slump”. This will be one of the stories to follow in the NBA world. Watching these players will be a sight to see and their refusal to take a step back will put them over the top in the 2021-22 season.

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Main Image Credit: via Sky Sports

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