There is a reason why New Yearâ€™s resolutions are difficult to keep.
At the turn of the decade, many NBA players may have set goals for themselves, but there are many uncontrollable factors that can play a part. While 2019 was highlighted by Luka Doncicâ€™s breakout play, Giannis Antetokounmpoâ€™s MVP season and Kawhi Leonard leading the Toronto Raptors to a championship, there was still a share of players that were not able to reach their potential.
A new year brings a fresh slate, a sometimes-necessary change for a player to take that extra step on the court. Many pieces must fall into place to create the right atmosphere for growth, spanning from a complementary roster, overcoming injuries or strong leadership.
As 2020 kicks off, many NBA players will be given new chances to impress. Here are 10 players that, under the right circumstances, can make the leap in the new year.
Zion Williamson â€” New Orleans Pelicans
With a reported projected return to the court in January, Zion Williamson may soon make his NBA debut. The No. 1 overall pickâ€™s return has been long-awaited, but what to expect from the rookie may be up in the air after his extended absence. The Pelicans will likely ease Williamson into his return, as they have done thus far with his rehab (and since the team is not in contention). Williamson will then have time to find his footing, and once he does, his ceiling can only go up in 2020. If he can avoid further injury, Williamson is set to finally show his NBA potential.
Deandre Ayton â€” Phoenix Suns
A former first overall pick, Deandre Ayton has shown flashes of his potential, but a PED suspension and injuries have held him back from the opportunity to step up in his sophomore season. After a strong rookie year in 2018-19 from Ayton, where he averaged a double-double (16.3 points and 10.3 rebounds over 71 games) and was named to the All-Rookie team, the center was suspended for 25 games after testing positive for a diuretic. With an ankle injury becoming the latest issue, Ayton has played in just four games during the 2019-20 season but may finally be past his shortcomings and ready to get back into the regular rotation. Ayton has the frame and strength to take the next step as a player, and if he can become more of a shooting threat in 2020, he can be primed for a big jump. The sophomore just needs further focus after his 2019 ended with distractions.
Lonzo Ball â€” New Orleans Pelicans
Lonzo Ball experienced a change of scenery in the 2019 offseason in a move from L.A. to New Orleans, but it has not yet paid dividends while the Pelicans await Zion Williamsonâ€™s return. With a 11-23 record, the team is all-but-out of contention for the 2019-20 season, but Ball has a chance to become a star in the teamâ€™s system once it has a chance to develop with Williamson. He showed his ball-distributing potential in his first season but has since regressed and settled at 5.3 assists per game, down from 7.2 in 2017-18. Ballâ€™s offensive production has also tended to be stagnant throughout this career, while increasing a bit to 10.8 points per game in a season where he has played a mix of games off the bench and dealt with injuries. Alongside a full-strength roster and with health on his side, the former No. 2 overall pick can hold the pieces to a revitalized year.
Deâ€™Aaron Fox â€” Sacramento Kings
The Kingsâ€™ Deâ€™Aaron Fox took a big jump from his rookie to sophomore seasons, but the 22-year-old has also recently been held back by injuries. After being near the top of the league in assists (7.3) and steals (1.6) per game last year, Fox has missed about a month due to an ankle sprain. While he has picked up his offensive production upon his return, he has also struggled with game-to-game consistency and his turnover numbers have slightly increased. Sacramento is not expected to contend in 2019-20, but Fox has shown he has the potential to be a potent threat in the NBA.
Ja Morant â€” Memphis Grizzlies
Standing as the front-runner for Rookie of the Year, Ja Morant is already having an impressive rookie season. The No. 2 overall pick in 2019 is averaging 17.4 points, 6.5 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game on 46.6% shooting. Alongside Jaren Jackson, the Grizzlies have a strong young core that, with the right pieces, can contend in the Western Conference in the future.
Landry Shamet â€” Los Angeles Clippers
Following a trade from the 76ers in 2018-19, Landry Shamet seemed to have found a home with the Clippers, but an injury brought a setback on 22-year-old. Shamet missed a month of playtime earlier this season with a high ankle sprain. Since his return, Shamet has mainly made appearances off the bench, sporting a three-point threat with 41.8 shooting percentage from distance. Beyond that, though, Shamet has often struggled to find his role among the guards in the lineup. Shamet will have to work to round out his game to take the next step in Los Angeles.
Donte DiVincenzo â€” Milwaukee Bucks
After an injury-shortened rookie season, Donte DiVincenzo has made a difference and progressed as a regular starter for the Bucks. The sophomore has nearly has doubled his output from last season, averaging 8.2 points on 22.4 minutes per game. Where DiVincenzo has made a true difference, though, is on the defensive end. Through his 33 games this season, DiVincenzo is 13th in the league in steals per game (1.5) and third in defensive rating (99.4). While the Villanova product continues to sport his tenacity, an increase in his offensive game can continue to allow the guard to thrive with the Bucks.
Kevin Huerter â€” Atlanta Hawks
The Hawksâ€™ Kevin Huerter has struggled to take a step up this season after missing nearly a month with a rotator cuff strain. Much of the guardâ€™s production has remained constant from last season, with 9.8 points per game on a decreased shooting average. Huerter made the All-Rookie Second Team last season behind his efficiency, and he needs to improve on that in 2020 to improve his game beyond intermittent offensive bursts.
Lauri Markkanen â€” Chicago Bulls
After a sophomore season in which Lauri Markkanen nearly averaged a double-double (18.7 points and 9.0 rebounds), the forward experienced a dip in his production to start 2019-20. One of the strongest defensive rebounders in the league last season, Markannen has averaged just 6.6 rebounds per game along with 15.1 points, but those numbers are skewed by what was a slow and out-of-character start to the season. Behind a December that saw Markannen shoot 51% from the field and 42% from three (after 34.9% from the field and 28.2% from three beforehand), the Bulls went 7-7 in the month after a meager 6-14 start. Chicago may not experience the full growth it expected this year, but Markkanenâ€™s turnaround and switch to a style that works for himâ€”one with more attack and three-point shotsâ€”shows that he can continue to make a leap in 2020.
Mitchell Robinson â€” New York Knicks
Mitchell Robinson has been a boost as the Knicksâ€™ big man coming off the bench. While increasing his output to 10.0 points per game, Robinson has been atop the league in field goal percentage (68.8) and also brings down a strong 3.2 offensive rebounds per game. Robinson has also increased his defensive presence, backed up by his top-10 contribution in blocks (1.9 per game). If Robinson can continue to build on these strengths, he can continue to prove himself as a key piece of the Knicksâ€™ future.