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Second-Year NBA Players Who Won't Breakout

An NBA player's second season can be a big time when it comes to breaking out. Year One is about learning the game, and that second time around is when we often start to see a player show what they can become.

It can also be a time when players who struggled as rookies continue to struggle. It's hard to become an NBA rotation player. Sometimes it'll take more than a year for a player to be ready to break out.

Let's look at five second-year NBA players who aren't primed for a second-year explosion.

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Mohamed Bamba (C, Orlando Magic)

Mo Bamba's contributions at this point: that song "Mo Bamba" and one game against the Kings where he had five blocks and the Magic lost to the Kings.

The Magic were surprisingly good last year, making the postseason behind an All-Star campaign from Nikola Vucevic that led the Magic to re-sign Vucevic and put a pause in the idea of Bamba being the team's future center. Things could go south for Orlando and they could deal Vucevic -- whose contract decreases each year -- but for this season at least, expect Bamba to be limited to a bench role.

His rookie season saw Bamba play 47 games, averaging 6.2 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per contest. He shot 48.1 percent from the floor and 30 percent from three on 1.5 attempts per game.

Maybe he stretches his game out more and the Magic can play him some at the four, but this is an extremely long team, so they have guys who better fit that spot. My guess is that Bamba won't reach 20 minutes per game as an average this year and will see just modest improvement in his numbers.


Collin Sexton (G, Cleveland Cavaliers)

One sign that your team might not have much faith in you is when they draft a player the next year who plays your position. Collin Sexton played point guard for 100 percent of his minutes last year per Basketball Reference, but the Cavaliers drafted another point guard, Darius Garland.

It appears the plan is to start Sexton at the two and see how it goes, and maybe it'll go well. He was a 40.2 percent shooter from three last year, which is good. He was a 44 percent shooter from two, which is not very good. Maybe he should just become a catch-and-shoot option full-time, as 63.9 percent of his threes were assisted.

But is that all Sexton can be? He averaged 2.3 turnovers and 3.0 assists per game last night, which inspires zero confidence in me when it comes to projecting him as a lead ball-handler.

But can Sexton guard twos? Can he adapt to a new role? I don't know these answers, and I think the 2019-2020 season will be another year of adjustment for the second-year guard.


Kevin Knox (F, New York Knicks)

Player Impact Plus-Minus is a metric that takes luck-adjusted plus-minus data and some other factors and tries to boil things down to a single number that's able to tell us something about a player and be predictive of their future success, or lack of success.

Last year, Kevin Knox had the NBA's fourth-lowest PIPM, ahead of just Quinn Cook Abdel Nader, and Grayson Allen, who'll also be featured on this list. That's bad.

And Knox didn't just build up a bad number by being bad at one part of his game. He was a -2.7 on offense and a -2.3 on defense. He struggled in every phase of the game as a rookie. From a less analytical point of view, a number that matters is that he shot 37 percent from the field and turned the ball over at 10.1 percent rate.

New York added a ton of forwards this offseason. Knox is still the starter at the three, but it feels like a really tenuous starting role. Marcus Morris. Damyean Dotson. Reggie Bullock. This team has a lot of options for guys who can take Knox's minutes and give the Knicks more in those minutes. Maybe Knox takes enough shots to help fantasy owners out in the scoring department, but there's not much else I'm expecting from him.


Jerome Robinson (G, Los Angeles Clippers)

I forgot about Jerome Robinson.

After averaging over 20 points per game and shooting 40 percent from deep in his last year at Boston College, I was high on Robinson heading into his rookie year and then I just forgot all about him.

In 33 games, Robinson averaged 3.4 points on 40 percent shooting. He shot 31.6 percent from three. He scored in double figures once, a 10-point outing against the Warriors. He played at least 20 minutes just twice.

And then the Clippers added Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. There's not room to develop Jerome Robinson on a team that's gunning for a title. Based on my read of this team's backcourt, Robinson is maybe the fourth guard, though Maurice Harkless can slide to the two to take backup minutes, Paul George will spend at least a little time there, and Lou Williams is going to play so much that the Clippers will rarely need to insert Robinson into a game. I'd also guess that Rodney McGruder winds up earning Doc Rivers' trust more than Robinson does. All that spells another G-League heavy year for Robinson


Grayson Allen (G, Memphis Grizzlies)

It's not usually a good sign when your team trades you after one year in the NBA, though in Allen's case it makes sense since trading him as part of a package to the Grizzlies resulted in Utah getting Mike Conley.

Since becoming a member of the Grizzlies, the most notable thing that Allen's done has been earning a Summer League ejection. Couple that with a rookie year in which he shot 37.6 percent from the field, struggled as a three-point shooter, and only appeared in 38 games and you get the feeling that Grayson Allen's going down the "former Duke player who busts" route.

There was one encouraging sign, as Allen scored 40 points in Utah's last regular season game last season. He had seven rebounds and four assists in that one as well. He also took 30 shots and played 40 minutes, though, and that's not something that Allen can be counted on to do on a consistent basis.

Maybe a rebuilding Memphis team has a spot in the rotation for Allen, which would end up with him posting some statistical improvement. But he's likely nothing more than a fourth guard on an NBA team.

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