Brooklyn Broadcast Breakdown: Potential NBA Breakouts

Can Cousins, Kirilenko, and Davis truly take it to the next level?
11/01/2013 9:49 AM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Can 2012 top draft pick Anthony Davis make the same sophomore leap that 2011 top pick Kyrie Irving did?(AP)
If you made a list of NBA-related questions that have no real right answers, then “what makes a breakout player?” might be near the top.

For some, a breakout player is a relative youngster who bursts onto the scene and takes his first steps towards superstardom; for others, a “breakout” comes from a “young veteran” who takes a step from rotation player to bona fide starter, or bona fide starter to All-Star; and yet, for some others, it can be an established veteran who may have been either under or completely off the radar but ended up bringing his name back into the public conversation.

Last season, three members of the Nets on YES broadcast team all fell into a different one of those camps, and all three delivered; Kyrie Irving (Mike Fratello’s pick) somehow improved on a Rookie of the Year season and became an All-Star, Paul George (Ian Eagle’s pick) went from low-end starter to All-Star and actually won the NBA’s Most Improved Player of the Year Award, and both Rudy Gay and LaMarcus Aldridge (Jim Spanarkel’s picks) had arguably their best seasons ever, with Gay in particular flourishing after a mid-season trade to Toronto.

This year, the trio is once again each firmly entrenched in a different camp, and Jim Spanarkel is back on the veteran train with one of the newest members of the Brooklyn Nets.

“Andrei Kirilenko has been a good player throughout the course of his career, but I would go with him just because of the dynamics of the Nets. We talk about the blend and how a lot of guys can play multiple positions, and I think Kirilenko fits right in between,” Spanarkel said. “From the way he plays and his all-around game, I think he can benefit in so many different ways, even ones that may not fit in the box score. His game understanding can help that team a lot, and I think because he has so many different tools, he’s going to get plenty of opportunities. He’s been a starter his whole career, so when they need a guy to open up the court and run the floor, he can do that, or if they need somebody to play defense and get a hand on the ball, he can do that. I think he’ll have enough situational opportunities that he’ll get the minutes, and with the talent around him, it’s going to be a nice fit.”

AK-47’s addition was named as the most underrated acquisition of the offseason in the annual NBA GM survey, so Spanarkel’s opinion seems to be consensus with at least a few general managers. Eagle falls in that same category, as the “Birdman’s” pick is not only one of the nine guys that the trio spotlighted last year, but also one of the guys who received at least one vote from the NBA execs as a potential breakout in 2013-14 too.

“He’s still young, but I think Anthony Davis of New Orleans is ready to take the next step. He had a solid rookie season and is highly skilled across the board, but he’s the prime example of someone who needed to develop physically and get over the mental hurdles of playing in the paint (last year),” Eagle said. “He was a young guy last year; you could look at him and he looked like a young guy out there, and in the NBA, you get knocked around playing the 4 or 5 by men. It took a year to figure out the physical aspect of the league, but I think his career is on the rise, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he averages 18 points, eight rebounds, and three blocks per game this season.”

As for Mike Fratello, the former Coach of the Year is sticking with the youth movement he established with two of his picks last year (Davis and Irving), spotlighting a fourth-year man who took a bit of a step back numerically last year, but with a new coach and a new core, could take a bigger step forward in 2013-14.

“With the coaching change in Sacramento, some roster turnover, and maybe a little more maturity because he’s a year older, I think DeMarcus Cousins could have a breakout year,” Fratello said simply. “Sacramento fans would love that, don’t you think?”

Sacramento has a very young backcourt to help out, and with a new mentor in assistant coach Corliss “The Big Nasty” Williamson, this could be the time for Cousins to shine – and in about eight months, we’ll know whether or not the rest of the trio the Nets on YES broadcast team tabbed here has done just that as well.

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