There has been no shortage of young talent on display in the NBA playoffs so far.
Ben Simmons, Jaylen Brown, Joel Embiid, and the list goes on. But what’s even more impressive is the fact that not all of these promising young players were high draft picks like Simmons, Brown and Embiid. Quite a few of them flew under the radar during the draft process, and now they’re on their way to becoming breakout stars.
Here are 10 young breakout stars that have already been shining in the NBA playoffs.
The Philadelphia 76ers had to wait two long years for Saric to come to the NBA after acquiring his rights on draft night in 2014, but the former 12th overall pick has proven to be worth the wait. His style of play has fit in perfectly with the Sixers, and the modern NBA, for that matter.
As a big man that can shoot, pass and play with pace, Saric has been able to take advantage of slower opponents, and that couldn’t have been more evident than in the Sixers’ first-round playoff series against the Miami Heat. He managed 23 points, eight rebounds and three assists in Game 2, and was a matchup nightmare throughout the contest.
Mitchell was selected 13th overall in last summer’s draft, but he probably should have gone first based on how well he’s played thus far. With an offensive skill set that compares similarly to James Harden, Mitchell has had no trouble scoring. He led the Utah Jazz in that department during the regular season with 20.5 points per game, and he has only gotten better in the playoffs.
Through five games in the Jazz’s first-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Mitchell is averaging 26.6 points per game, which included a 33-point outing in Game 4 that put him in the same company as Michael Jordan.
With Kyrie Irving sidelined for the postseason following knee surgery, the Boston Celtics were forced to turn to their third-year guard in Rozier, whose only playoff experience up until Game 1 against the Milwaukee Bucks came as a bench player behind Isaiah Thomas in 2016 and 2017.
So how did Rozier fare in his first career playoff start?
He dropped 23 points on the Bucks in Game 1 and matched his scoring efforts in Game 2 with another 23 points, both games won by the Celtics. Rozier’s exceptional play hasn’t made Boston fans forget about Irving’s greatness on the court, but he’s done a very good job of stepping up in place of the injured All-Star.
Turner went 11th overall in the 2015 draft, which featured two future All-Star big men in Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis. And while he hasn’t gotten the same recognition as his peers from that draft class, Turner’s name is still worth mentioning among the league’s most talented young big men.
He can shoot from almost anywhere on the floor, and he has been highly efficient on offense during the Pacers’ first-round playoff series against the Cleveland Cavaliers. In five games so far, Turner is averaging 13.4 points per game while shooting 60 percent from the field. Foul trouble has been an issue for him in the series, but when he’s on the floor there’s no denying his impact.
Wright helped the Toronto Raptors in a big way in Game 5 against the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night, scoring 11 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter of a 108-98 victory. The third-year guard has now averaged 12 points across five games in the playoffs, garnering the attention of the opposition.
“Delon Wright came in and made some big shots and big plays for them,” Washington’s John Wall told reporters after the game. “Whenever he gets over 10 or 15, nine times out of 10 they win the game. He’s a big key to their team when they go small.”
Around this time last year, Wright hardly got any playing time with the Raptors, but his improved play has earned him close to 25 minutes per game in this series so far. For a player taken with the 20th pick overall in the 2015 draft, that’s not bad.
Sabonis was part of the trade that landed Oklahoma City Paul George in the offseason, but the Thunder are probably hoping they kept the talented 21-year-old in the long run. Sabonis, the 11th pick in the 2016 draft, averaged career-highs during the regular season in scoring and rebounding, not to mention he’s been a pivotal player off the bench for the Pacers in the playoffs.
Despite losing 98-95 to the Cavaliers in Game 5 on Wednesday night, Sabonis contributed 22 points and five rebounds in what was almost a comeback win for Indiana.
Kelly Oubre Jr.
In his third NBA season, Oubre has established himself as the Wizards’ top bench player, providing his team with high-energy play and defensive stops when they need it most. In all but one game against the Raptors during the playoffs, he has managed to post double figures in scoring while limiting the scoring output of the opposition. Just take a look at these defensive stats from Games 3 and 4.
Still just 22 years old, Oubre has a lot of room to grow as a player, but the athleticism and defensive skills are great starting points to build off of.
Like Oubre, Winslow is another player out of that 2015 draft that came into the league as a good defender, and has improved considerably on the offensive end of the floor. As a rookie, he averaged 6.9 points in the postseason while shooting a horrendous 27.8 percent from 3-point range. But this postseason, the 22-year-old averaged close to 10 points per game, and shot 36.8 percent from long distance in the Heat’s first-round playoff series against the Sixers.
His best performance of the series came in Game 3 when he scored 19 points while knocking down four 3-pointers. The Heat have to be happy with his development so far, and he will only get better from here on out.
Had it not been for a shoulder injury he suffered in Game 4 against the Sixers, Richardson might have been able to help the Heat extend their first-round playoff series. Instead, the 24-year-old swingman was limited to just seven minutes of playing time in Game 5, and the Sixers were able to close out the series on Tuesday night with a 104-91 victory.
Still, Richardson had his best season in the NBA, and showed a lot of promise during the playoffs with his efforts at both ends of the floor, including a franchise-record seven steals in Game 4. It’s no wonder Miami locked him up for the foreseeable future with a contract extension last offseason.
With Jusuf Nurkic set to become a restricted free agent this summer, the Portland Trail Blazers have a decision to make at the center position. They could try to keep Nurkic or possibly move Collins into a bigger role next season. Why not? The 20-year-old had a decent showing in the playoffs, including a 12-point, five-rebound performance in extended playing time in Game 2 of Portland’s first-round series against the New Orleans Pelicans.
The rookie displayed a lot of the same skills that the modern big man possesses nowadays, including the ability to shoot from beyond the arc. He will have to add weight to his frame for sure, but he has all the makings of a potential star for the Trail Blazers.