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2023-24 Second-Year Breakouts for Fantasy Basketball

Keegan Murray - NBA DFS Picks, Daily Fantasy Basketball Rankings, Injury News - rotoballer icon

The 2023-24 season is almost upon us, and fans are waiting patiently to see the progress that some of their teams' young players have made.

Many talented rookies entered the league last season and some of them impressed early on while others struggled. Most rookies are given a pass and are usually judged by their sophomore seasons, as guys like Michael Carter-Williams burned out quickly after solid rookie campaigns. In contrast, others like Dirk Nowitzki dominated as sophomores after disappointing rookie seasons.

With that in mind, this article will look at five sophomores who look poised for a breakout season in 2023-24. This list is in no particular order.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received five total writing awards and 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, tops in the industry! Congrats to all the award winners and nominees including NBA Writer of the Year, Best NFL Series, MLB Series, PGA Writer and Player Notes writer of the year. Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!


#5. Jaden Ivey, PG/SG - Detroit Pistons

Jaden Ivey had a solid rookie season, but the main concern about him is his efficiency and his advanced stats. Ivey had a True Shooting percentage (TS%) of 52.8%, which was way below the league average for shooting guards last season (57.1%). But we have to consider that he didn't have Cade Cunningham to take the pressure off of him for most of the season.

Ivey and Cunningham played just 11 games together and some of his most efficient outings in those games. With Cade coming back this season, he and Bojan Bogdanovic can take attention off of opposing defenders, making it easier for Ivey to score more efficiently.

Also, we can't forget how Ivey ended the 2022-23 season, as he averaged 22.9 points and 7.7 assists while shooting 44.7% from the field, 39.7% from three, and 90.2% from the free throw line in his last nine games. That gives him a TS% of 57.5%, which is higher than the aforementioned league average for SGs.

Also, considering that the Pistons have no legitimate sixth man, they could start NBA veteran Alec Burks over him to make Ivey the clear-cut leader of the second unit, which might actually help his stats more than if he was starting. Either way, Ivey certainly has the talent to put it all together and have a big sophomore season, and be an integral part of the Pistons' young core moving forward.


#4. Keegan Murray, SF/PF - Sacramento Kings

One of the most under-the-radar issues that rookies face when they first enter the league is the constant traveling and the difficulties that come with it. Keegan Murray had his "Welcome to the NBA" moment during a brutal four-game road trip after impressive performances in his first four games.

Before that road trip, he was looked at as an early favorite for the Rookie of the Year award, but after averaging just seven points on 31.4% shooting during that road trip, his confidence began to dwindle. It got even worse just a few weeks later, as he went 2-21 from the field in a three-game road trip. By November 25, his home/road splits showed the whole picture.

When playing at the Golden 1 Center, Murray averaged 15.9 points a night while shooting 51.9% from the floor and 42.2% from deep. But when he went on the road, he put up just 6.1 points on 27% shooting from the field and 21.7% from three. But after going through these brutal trials and tribulations, Murray finally learned how to play on the road.

Since December, Murray has been equally as good on the road as he is at home, as seven of his 13 most high-scoring games took place away from home, including his career-high 30-point performance at Houston. He also dropped 23 points on the Warriors at Chase Center in game four of their playoff series. It seems like his road struggles are a thing of the past, and now he can focus on other facets of the game.


#3. Shaedon Sharpe, SG - Portland Trail Blazers

It's January 3, 2022. Damian Lillard is injured and is out for the rest of the season. The Blazers need someone to step up and make the team watchable. Enter Anfernee Simons, who becomes the starter after Lillard goes down and he puts up monster numbers. In 27 games, he averaged 23.4 points and 5.8 assists per game while shooting 45.6% from the field and 42.3% from three.

A new star in Portland was born. He then signed a big contract in the offseason and followed that up with an impressive 2022-23 campaign. Now let's compare that to what Shaedon Sharpe did as a rookie. It's March 24, 2023, Damian Lillard is shut down for the rest of the season, and so is Anfernee Simons. Once again, the Blazers need someone to step up and make the team watchable.

Enter Shaedon Sharpe, who becomes the starter after Lillard and Simons go down and he puts up monster numbers. In ten games, he averaged 23.7 points per game while shooting 46% from the field and 37.8% from three. Just like last year, a new star in Portland was born. So, by now you've figured out that Sharpe had a very similar breakout scenario to Simons, but the similarities between the pair don't end there.

Simons decided to bypass college and waited a year before declaring for the 2018 NBA draft. Sharpe committed to Kentucky, but redshirted and never played a game before declaring for the 2022 NBA draft. These two young Blazers guards have an eerily similar story and could be the future faces of the franchise if Damian Lillard gets traded in the coming weeks.


#2. Jabari Smith Jr., PF - Houston Rockets

Many many years ago, my father was on the sidelines as a board member of an Iranian sports club and watched Jabari Smith Sr. play against his team. Fast forward to 2022-23, and we both watched his son play in the NBA as a highly-touted prospect. Smith Jr. has everything to succeed. NBA genes, size, dedication, you name it.

But he struggled early on, as you would expect a 19-year-old on a terrible team to struggle. He shot just 31.3% from the field and 29.9% from three, but he didn't give up and kept grinding. There were games where his minutes would drastically go down, but Smith kept his head down. It was until March that we truly saw what Smith was capable of.

In his last 20 games of the 2022-23 season, Smith Jr. averaged 15.8 points and 7.7 rebounds with 47.2/36.5 shooting splits and led the Rockets to a 10-10 record. Yes, you heard that right, the Rockets had a .500 record in their last ten games. A few years from now, when Smith inevitably becomes an NBA star, people will look back on the March 13 game against Boston as the moment when everything started to click for him.

That night, he scored 24 points on 9-11 shooting and led Houston to a massive upset over Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. He believes that with Houston's new additions, he could improve even further, as he said on The Bradeaux & Will Show: "I want to strive to win the Most Improved Player award."


#1. Dyson Daniels (New Orleans Pelicans)

Yes, this is a pretty big sleeper pick, but hear me out on this one. Dyson Daniels is a 6'7.5" point guard who isn't a PG as a gimmick who brings the ball up the court from time to time. No, he actually is a point guard who is around four and a half inches taller than the average PG. That gives him a big advantage on the defensive side of the ball as he can easily guard four positions and cause mismatches against the shorter point guards.

He also can get steals, as he averaged 1.1 steals per game as a starter last season. His advanced defensive stats back this up, as he had the same defensive rating (112) as his teammate and lockdown defender Herbert Jones and almost had the same defensive box plus/minus (1.6 compared to Jones' 1.7).

Daniels can defend, but he is still very raw on the offensive side of the ball. His main problem is taking care of the ball, as he had a turnover percentage of 20.2%. He also struggled mightily on midrange shots and didn't make a single deep midrange shot (16+ feet away) the whole year. He took 41.3% of his shots from beyond the arc, but only made 31.4% of his threes last season.

But it's not like the Pelicans haven't substantially improved a player's offensive output recently. Look at Trey Murphy III, for example. He went from one of the worst finishers on the team as a rookie (58.2% at the rim) to one of the best as a sophomore (75.9% at the rim). Daniels doesn't have the natural offensive tools of Murphy, so it'll take time. But if he can develop, then you better watch out.


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