Breakout NBA Players of the Western Conference

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Shabazz Napier
LOS ANGELES, USA - JANUARY 10 : Shabazz Napier of Portland Trail Blazers gestures during a NBA game between Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center in Los Angeles, USA on January 10, 2017. (Photo by Mintaha Neslihan Eroglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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For the past few years, the Western Conference has been a powerhouse of talent. This season, it has only gotten stronger. Many players have emerged who may become stars going forward. This not only helps the teams out, but it also makes some lower level teams in the West more exciting than before. Games aren’t always as one-sided as they used to be. Here, we’ll take a look at some players in the West who have had breakout seasons so far.

Breakout NBA Players of the Western Conference

Shabazz Napier (Portland Trail Blazers)

Shabazz Napier has never fully played to his potential in the NBA like he did when he was at UConn. Averaging 20 minutes in his rookie season, Napier only scored 5.1 points per game. He played fewer and fewer minutes the next two seasons. This season, Napier is averaging 10 points, shooting 48 percent from the field and 43 percent from three-point range. These are all career highs. Perhaps Napier’s change in play could be attributed to more minutes. But it may also help that he’s playing behind two of the most dynamic scorers in the league in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

Kyle Kuzma (Los Angeles Lakers)

The rookie out of Utah wasn’t expected to do much. The Brooklyn Nets selected Kuzma with the 27th pick in the first round of the 2017 NBA draft and subsequently traded him to the Los Angeles Lakers. Kuzma is currently averaging 17 points and shooting 43 percent from the field. He’s scoring more on a per-game basis than he did in college and has three 30-point games, including 38 points in a December game. Brooklyn’s bad luck continues, as the Nets sent away a future star. The Lakers, on the other hand, have added another solid young player to their core.

Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz)

When Donovan Mitchell was drafted 11th overall by the Utah Jazz, there were hopes he’d become a steal. No one foresaw him becoming the potential Rookie of the Year. Mitchell is currently averaging 19 points in his early career while shooting 44 percent from the field. After the Jazz lost Gordon Hayward to the Boston Celtics in free agency, Mitchell has become the perfect player to help the team rebound. In his last five games, Mitchell is averaging 25 points. He even scored a career-high 41 points back in December.

Tyreke Evans (Memphis Grizzlies)

The former first-round draft pick has revived his career in Memphis, which is, ironically, where he went to college and began his career. This season, Tyreke Evans is nearly tying career highs in multiple stat categories. After averaging 20 points in his first season, Evans’ stats have fluctuated throughout his career. His production slowly dipped, and he never achieved the 20-point mark again. That is, until this year. This season, Evans is averaging 20 points and shooting 47 percent from the field. He’s just one point off of a career-high average. Evans has an injury history which has definitely hindered his opportunities to reach his potential. After signing a mere one-year, $3.3 million deal with the Memphis Grizzlies in the off-season, Evans will look to sign a big contract next season.

Lou Williams (Los Angeles Clippers)

Lou Williams has had an excellent career considering how late in the draft he was picked. He has seemingly improved every season. After spending most of his career with the Philadelphia 76ers, Williams has been bounced around to multiple teams. Like Tyreke Evans, Williams is having a career year at the best possible moment: his contract year. Williams is scoring career highs in multiple stat categories – points, free throws, three-point percentage, and assists. At age 31, Williams has plenty left in the tank and is setting himself up for a big contract come this summer.

 

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