Predicting the Biggest Surprise Player For Each NBA Team in 2014-15 Season

Predicting the Biggest Surprise Player For Each NBA Team

Miles Plumlee
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This list is not for the faint of heart. You will have to reach deep down into the depths of your basketball acumen to appreciate these names, as many of them are relatively unknown. Every year, though, a player seems to come out of nowhere to surprise the basketball world with their abilities. Here is the player from each team most likely to surprise next season.

Atlanta Hawks - Dennis Schroeder

1. Dennis Schroeder
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Atlanta Hawks - Dennis Schroeder

1. Dennis Schroeder copy
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Schroeder is a bit of a wild card on this list. He has all the tools to warrant the comparisons to Rajon Rondo but is very raw and extremely turnover-prone. His rookie season was marred by frequent turnovers resulting in a relatively low number of minutes played. He is a good scorer who can get to the rim with ease and is a creative passer. I think he will improve his decision making this summer and make a huge leap heading into next season.

Boston Celtics - James Young

2. James Young
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Boston Celtics - James Young

2. James Young
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The Celtics took Young with the 17th overall pick in this year’s draft. Although they also locked up SG Avery Bradley for the next four years, Young should get plenty of opportunities to allow his offensive explosiveness to shine. Young is versatile enough to play at the two or three spot and could even supplant Jeff Green in the starting lineup before the season is over.

Brooklyn Nets - Mason Plumlee

3. Mason Plumlee
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Brooklyn Nets - Mason Plumlee

3. Mason Plumlee copy
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It's hard to believe he could be any more of a surprise than he was during his rookie season, but I think he will make another huge jump heading into next year. For a team undergoing such turmoil, he should be able to provide some semblance of continuity and consistency. Plumlee has all the makings of double-double machine.

Charlotte Hornets - Jeff Taylor

4.  Jeff Taylor
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Charlotte Hornets - Jeff Taylor

4. Jeff Taylor
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Jeff Taylor had an injury-blemished sophomore campaign but appeared to regress a bit over a promising rookie season. He really has one more season to prove he can be a rotation player for the Hornets, and I think he will do just that. He should give Michael Kidd-Gilchrist some decent competition at the SF spot and fill a big need the Hornets have for athleticism on the wing.

Chicago Bulls - Tony Snell

5. Tony Snell
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Chicago Bulls - Tony Snell

5. Tony Snell
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Snell didn’t see many minutes last season, besides the short stint where he was placed in the starting lineup. His strength was supposed to be his shooting, but shooting 38 percent from the field just doesn’t get the job done. The good news is that by all indications, he will do whatever it takes to get better. Snell will work himself into the rotation this year with an improvement going into year two similar to what we saw from Jimmy Butler.

Cleveland Cavaliers - Tyler Zeller

6. Tyler Zeller
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Cleveland Cavaliers - Tyler Zeller

6. Tyler Zeller
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Zeller was solid as a rookie and had some struggles to start his sophomore season, but he finished strong in a handful of starts. I think the second half of the season is more representative of what we should expect to see from Zeller. He may never turn into a star or even a consistent starter, but he will continue to become a very important part of the Cavs' future.

Dallas Mavericks - Raymond Felton

7. Raymond Felton
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Dallas Mavericks - Raymond Felton

7. Raymond Felton
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Yes, that’s right. Raymond Felton. The man who became more hated in New York than Tony Romo strolling through Times Square in a Red Sox hat. They couldn’t say good riddance to him fast enough. That said, I think he fits much better into the Mavs' system, and Rick Carlisle knows how to coach. Expect a resurgence from Felton, who will prove that in the right system, he still has a place in the NBA as a starting point guard.

Denver Nuggets - Quincy Miller

8. Quincy Miller
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Denver Nuggets - Quincy Miller

8. Quincy Miller
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Miller is heading into his third year with the Nuggets, and he has shown improvement with each year. He put in more than five times the number of minutes this past season than he did his rookie year, which is exactly what he needs to mature. He is still very young but has all the physical tools to become something special. Look for this to be the year that Miller truly establishes himself as a special player.

Detroit Pistons - Spencer Dinwiddie

9. Spencer Dinwiddie
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Detroit Pistons - Spencer Dinwiddie

9. Spencer Dinwiddie
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The Pistons got a steal in the draft with their selection of Spencer Dinwiddie. He was well on his way to having a lottery-worthy season when he suffered an injury to his ACL, which caused his draft stock to plummet. Assuming he is fully recovers -- and who doesn’t nowadays -- he could really be a difference maker for a Pistons team in transition.

Golden State Warriors - Festus Ezeli

10. Festus Ezili
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Golden State Warriors - Festus Ezeli

10. Festus Ezili
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Ezeli was out for the entirety of last season due to a serious knee injury, and the Warriors felt his absence, especially in the playoffs. Since being drafted in 2012, he hasn’t necessarily set the world on fire, but he is a huge presence in the middle and adds some much-needed toughness to a finesse team. Expect big things from Ezeli when he returns next year. He will be hungry and will get plenty of opportunities to prove himself.

Houston Rockets - Robert Covington

11. Robert Covington
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Houston Rockets - Robert Covington

11. Robert Covington
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Covington played in only seven games his rookie season for the Rockets. He spent most of his time making other players look foolish in the D-League for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, for which he earned the honor of D-League rookie of the year. He isn’t going to bust into the starting lineup anytime soon, but he has a great chance at surprising some people this year and becoming a rotation player, especially with the departure of Omer Asik.

Indiana Pacers - Solomon Hill

12. Solomon Hill
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Indiana Pacers - Solomon Hill

12. Solomon Hill
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Hill played sparingly for the Pacers last season, and that’s probably putting it kindly. He registered only a tick over 200 minutes the entire season, but he just looks like he is going to turn into a player -- maybe not a star player, but a player nonetheless. He carries himself with poise,and appears to be someone who can step into a leadership role down the line. He should be able to establish himself as a rotation player this year.

Los Angeles Clippers - Reggie Bullock

13. Reggie Bullock
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Los Angeles Clippers - Reggie Bullock

13. Reggie Bullock
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Bullock didn’t get many minutes during his rookie season on a Clippers team with two veterans ahead of him on the depth chart. But with the Clippers continuing to build around their athletic core, they are going to need to give Bullock more of an opportunity next season and I think he can deliver. He had an average shooting season but is a much better shooter than he showed, and he can run the floor with the best of the Lob City crew.

Los Angeles Lakers - Jordan Clarkson

14. Jordan Clarkson
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Los Angeles Lakers - Jordan Clarkson

14. Jordan Clarkson
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Clarkson, a second-round pick of the Wizards who was shipped to Los Angeles on draft night, will end up being one of the steals of the draft. He has NBA size, the ability to create his own shot and is great in transition. If he can improve the consistency of his outside shooting, he will do big things for the Lakers as soon as this season.

Memphis Grizzlies - Jarnell Stokes

15. Jarnell Stokes
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Memphis Grizzlies - Jarnell Stokes

15. Jarnell Stokes
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Stokes was a second-round pick for the Memphis Grizzlies, but he has all the qualities to step into the rotation right away and become a productive player. A big and powerful forward, he should be able to offer some quality, bruising minutes in relief of Zach Randolph. He won’t be dynamic, but he’s way more solid than people think.

Miami Heat - Shabazz Napier

16. Shabazz Napier
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Miami Heat - Shabazz Napier

16. Shabazz Napier
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This was an easy one since there are like three people currently on the Heat roster. Napier was widely considered to be a draft-night steal and figures into the Heat’s game plan immediately. With Mario Chalmers coming off one of the biggest disappearing acts of all time, his path to securing the starting spot appears to be wide open.

Milwaukee Bucks - Giannis Antetokounmpo

17. Giannis Antetokoumnpo
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Milwaukee Bucks - Giannis Antetokounmpo

17. Giannis Antetokoumnpo
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The “Greek Freak” was probably the sole bright spot during an abysmal Bucks season, so it has hard to believe that he can surprise more than he already has. But that's just what he will do. He should continue to refine his skills over the summer, and with Jabari Parker now in the fold, he may have a bit more incentive to claim his spot in the starting lineup.

Minnesota Timberwolves - Gorgui Dieng

18. Gargui Dieng
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Minnesota Timberwolves - Gorgui Dieng

18. Gargui Dieng
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Dieng established himself as one of the top rookies towards the very end of last season after he was given the chance to start. He is big, strong and a very good defender. His offensive skills still require some polish, but he shows potential on that end as well. Dieng will continue to improve and surprise people this year. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him average close to a double-double and make a case for his place in the starting lineup.

New Orleans Pelicans - Austin Rivers

19. Austin Rivers
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New Orleans Pelicans - Austin Rivers

19. Austin Rivers
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Rivers played exponentially better in his second season than he did as a rookie. He improved in literally every facet of basketball one can conjure. Expect him to have an equal jump heading into year three. I’m not saying he will give Jrue Holiday a run at the starting spot, but he will continue to improve, especially with some of the guard depth potentially moving to other teams.

New York Knicks - Shane Larkin

20. Shane Larkin
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New York Knicks - Shane Larkin

20. Shane Larkin
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One of the more unknown names that came over to New York from Dallas in the deal that also brought Jose Calderon, Wayne Ellington and Samuel Dalembert, Larkin could end up being the icing on the cake. In the limited minutes he was given by the Mavericks last season, he showed flashes of incredible explosiveness. If he can regain the consistency he had in his perimeter shooting in college, Larkin could be a fixture in New York for years to come.

Oklahoma City Thunder - Perry Jones

21. Perry Jones
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Oklahoma City Thunder - Perry Jones

21. Perry Jones
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Jones is the most athletic player on his team, and that’s saying a lot when you are teammates with Russell Westbrook. He saw his minutes nearly double over his rookie year, and I expect that trend to continue. He gives the Thunder an additional athlete and scoring presence that they sorely need. They just need to feel like they can trust him consistently. He will have a breakout year.

Orlando Magic - Evan Fournier

22. Evan Fournier
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Orlando Magic - Evan Fournier

22. Evan Fournier copy
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Fournier recently came over to the Magic in a deal with the Nuggets. He showed flashes of the player the Nuggets thought they were getting when they drafted him in 2012. I think a change of scenery and offensive schemes might be exactly what Fournier needed. Paired with Victor Oladipo in the backcourt, I think you will see Fournier really come into his own and become a mid-teens type of scorer.

Philadelphia 76ers - Arnett Moultrie

23. Arnett Moultrie
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Philadelphia 76ers - Arnett Moultrie

23. Arnett Moultrie
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The 76ers have more untapped talent on their roster than perhaps any team in the history of the NBA. Moultrie was a first-round pick in 2012, and to put it simply, the kid has crazy talent. But his lack of discipline on and off the court has prevented him from realizing his potential. Most recently, he was busted for violating the substance abuse policy. I think this may actually be his wake-up call.

Phoenix Suns - Archie Goodwin

24. Archie Goodwin
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Phoenix Suns - Archie Goodwin

24. Archie Goodwin
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Goodwin didn’t have much of a role as a young rookie on a playoff contending team this year, but he absolutely dominated the D-League in his short stints. He also dropped 29 points in the regular season finale against the Sacramento Kings, showing Phoenix fans what they are going to be in store for. Goodwin needs to improve his shooting consistency and cut down on his propensity to turn the ball over, but he could be a star in the making.

Portland Trail Blazers - Thomas Robinson

25. Thomas Robinson
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Portland Trail Blazers - Thomas Robinson

25. Thomas Robinson
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Robinson is already on his third team since being selected fifth overall in the 2012 draft, but he appears to finally have found his home. He quietly registered a solid season and made some quality appearances when LaMarcus Aldridge was injured. He isn’t going to be mistaken for L.A. anytime soon, but he does offer the Blazers some hope for the future. Expect him to have a surprisingly good year.

Sacramento Kings - Ben McLemore

26. Ben McLemore
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Sacramento Kings - Ben McLemore

26. Ben McLemore
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Coming out of Kansas, McLemore was considered one of the best shooters in the draft. Unfortunately, his marksmanship didn’t translate to the NBA during a rookie season in which he was essentially thrust into the starting lineup. That will change as he becomes more comfortable in the system and in the NBA. He will show vast improvement next season and become a 15-plus points per night type of player.

San Antonio Spurs - Jeff Ayres

27. Jeff Ayres
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San Antonio Spurs - Jeff Ayres

27. Jeff Ayres
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It’s tough to identify a surprise player for the Spurs, because their championship roster is returning intact and ready to defend their title. Jeff Ayres became a rotation player this season after bouncing around the league for his first three years. He is big and athletic but has some work to do to improve his coordination and mid-range jump shot. He will figure out a way to become a more dependable presence to relieve Tim Duncan.

Toronto Raptors - Terrence Ross

28. Terrence Ross
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Toronto Raptors - Terrence Ross

28. Terrence Ross
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Ross is maddeningly inconsistent. He can make the toughest shot one moment and miss a “gimme” basket the next. That said, he did a commendable job stepping into Rudy Gay’s spot in the starting lineup, but he needs to pull it all together and become a more well-rounded player. Look for him to improve his field goal percentage and pull his scoring average up into the mid-teens.

Utah Jazz - Rudy Gobert

29. Rudy Gobert
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Utah Jazz - Rudy Gobert

29. Rudy Gobert
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Gobert will be the starting center for the Jazz before the end of next season. Enes Kanter has not lived up to the team’s expectations, and although Gobert is extremely raw, he is a disruptor on defense. If he can put on some more muscle and polish up his offensive skills to a respectable level, he might end up being something special. Until then, a rebuilding Jazz team can’t afford not to get him the minutes he needs to grow.

Washington Wizards - Otto Porter Jr.

30. Otto Porter Jr.
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Washington Wizards - Otto Porter Jr.

30. Otto Porter Jr.
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It is hard to say the third overall pick in the 2013 draft will be a surprise, but he was plagued by injuries and a logjam at the small forward position which relegated him to the bench for much of his rookie season. The Wizards have a lot invested in Porter Jr, and you will certainly see him become more involved in the rotation next season. I think you will see a drastic improvement heading into his sophomore season.

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  • Daddy1979

    You are spot on with most all of these. Especially Raymond Felton in Big D and Dinwiddie in Detroit. I think Fournier comes to play in Orlando and I’ll add that whatever team gives a roster spot to Scottie Wilbekan out of Florida will be pleasantly surprised. He was the most NBA ready point guard in the tourney this year but went overlooked for no good reason!

  • Court Zierk

    Thanks for the read. I like Wilbekan too. Watched him a bunch at Florida. He plays smart ball and runs a controlled offense. He may actually get a spot on the Grizzlies roster with the way he is playing in Summer League play so far.