SALT LAKE CITY, UT - OCTOBER 19: Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors defends against Rudy Gobert #27 of the Utah Jazz in the first half of a NBA game at Vivint Smart Home Arena on October 19, 2018 in Salt Lake City, Utah. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images)

We’ve listed all the breakout stars out West.

Dallas Mavericks – Dwight Powell

The athletic big took a step in the right direction this season, averaging more points than any previous year with 10.6 per game. Per 36 minutes, he averaged 17.7 points, and 9 rebounds. Powell improved across several areas, but showed immediate impact once Deandre Jordan was traded – which boosted his overall minutes.

However, the Mavs struggled to make a run for the playoffs and will be much helped by the inclusion of Kristaps Porzingis next season.

Grade: C

Denver Nuggets – Nikola Jokic

You could give the majority of the Nuggets squad a grade of A or higher, but one man who was a key pillar in Denver’s rise was the maturing Jokic. The Serbian-born pushed his season average for points above 20 per game, while also averaging 11 rebounds and 7.3 assists – unheard of for an non-athletic 7-foot big. Jokic posted a 40-point game, a 21-rebound game and a 16-assist game. A season highlighted by his first All-Star selection, Jokic recorded a whopping 54 double doubles to go with 12 triple doubles.

The Nuggets were a much better team when he took the court, he finished sixth in the league for total assists, among a list of some of the premier point guards in the competition.

Grade: A

 

PORTLAND, OREGON – MAY 09: Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets brings the ball up the court during the second half of Game Six of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Portland Trail Blazers at Moda Center on May 09, 2019 in Portland, Oregon. The Blazers won 119-108. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

 

Golden State Warriors – Quinn Cook

Despite playing nearly half as many minutes per game as the previous seasons, Cook provided a valuable boost off the bench when Steph Curry rested. Per 36 minutes, Cook averaged 17.3 per game, grabbed 5.3 rebounds and 3.9 assists. From three, he shot at over 40% from his 74 matches. Warriors coach Steve Kerr managed to get more out of the 25-year-old, who looks like he’ll give any side valuable minutes for years to come.

Any of Kevin Durant, Steph Curry or Klay Thompson could have gone here – but they have set the bar a such a high level it is difficult to judge improvements.

Grade: B-

Houston Rockets – James Harden

What the 2017/18 MVP did for his franchise this season should not go unnoticed. We all saw his ridiculous run of at least 30 points, or his back to back 50-point games, or the way he took a  depleted 13th seed to the third seed, but it’s even crazier when you break his season down. Harden was the scoring champ for the second year running, but averaged 36.1 (compared to 30.4 MVP year) – the largest PPG average since Michael Jordan in 86/87.

While also finishing second in steal per game (2), and seventh for assists (7.5) Harden was awarded a spot on the All-NBA team for the fifth consecutive season. Harden announced himself as one of the most dominant offensive players of the modern era.

Grade: A+

Los Angeles Clippers – Montrezl Harrell

One of the key pillars from the Chris Paul trade, Harrell has flourished in LA and had his best season as a 25-year-old. Playing a tad under-sized at the five position, Harrell’s season was highlighted by near-perfect pick-and-roll work with star veteran Lou Williams, bringing the ‘Lob City’ name back to the Staples centre. From 26 minutes per night, Harrell averaged 16.6 points per game and 6.5 rebounds coming off the bench for Doc Rivers. He was a threat on the defensive end too, recording 110 blocks which put him 12th in the league for total rejections.

Harrell’s field goal percentage of 61.5% was the fifth best league-wide. He became a glue guy who put many on notice, any fan would be lucky to have him competing for their favourite team.

Grade: A-

Los Angeles Lakers – Brandon Ingram

This season, we saw Ingram grow into the player he is capable of becoming. Continuing on his path to stardom, Ingram took his game to another level after the All-Star break, when he averaged 27.8 points 7.5 rebounds from six games before he was struck down with a season-ending injury. He shot the ball at an incredible clip during this six-game span, going at 57% from the field and 53% from the three-point line.

At 6-foot-9, Ingram was the tallest of all starting shooting guards. His numbers have increased each season, and Lakers fans were quick to remove him from any trade talks regarding Anthony Davis following some stellar performances.

Grade: B+

Memphis Grizzlies – Delon Wright

Memphis kept busy all season shuffling their roster around, and received extra efforts from guys like Jonas Valanciunas and Bruno Caboclo. The player who impacted the franchise the most from that trade, and following Mike Conley’s season-ending injury was Delon Wright.

Prior to joining Memphis, Wright featured in 69 matches for the Raptors, then 49 the season of the trade. He took the opportunity with Memphis and averaged 12.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.3 assists, improving in every area bar both free throw and three-point percentage. In his final four matches of the season, Wright recorded three triple-doubles notching up incredible stat lines.

Grade: B-

Minnesota Timberwolves – Derrick Rose

During his second season with the Timberwolves, the Derrick Rose story touched the hearts of many sporting fans around the world. Rose was able to play 51 games, his highest since he left Chicago.  Coming off the bench, he averaged 18 point and 4.3 assists, from 27 minutes per outing. Rose shot at 37% from beyond the arc last season, a career-high for the  Chicago native.The Wolves won some close games on the back of a clutch Rose performance.

He recorded a 50-point game against the Jazz in October, and made 7 three-pointers on a single night against the Lakers, what followed this was continuous vision of the former MVP doing what he loves – playing basketball.

Grade: A-

New Orleans Pelicans – Julius Randle

As the Anthony Davis drama played out, Randle was not fazed by the added opportunity. The aggressive scorer continued to post big stat lines, finishing inside the top 20 for points per game with 21.4. He also learnt how to shoot the three-ball, going at 34% for the season (up from 22% with the Lakers the year before). Randle missed six games in the middle of the season, and returned before the All-Star break.

Across the 25 games that followed, Randle recorded nine games of 30 or more points. Buckets.

Grade: A-

Oklahoma City Thunder – Paul George

George saw a sublime leap in all areas this season, adding to the argument that he is the best two-way player in the competition. PG-13 began the season like a man on a mission. He scored less than 20 points in 13 of his 77 games, what is even more ridiculous is the fact that he posted at least 30 points on 31 different occasions. Seven of those nights he scored more than 40, bringing a different vibe to Oklahoma City each night, a vibe that hasn’t been seen since Kevin Durant.

George led the league in steals, grabbed 8.2 rebounds per game and finished second to Harden for the scoring title.

Grade: A+

Phoenix Suns – Devin Booker

After fulfilling much of his scoring potential last season, Booker came into the 2018/19 season with the focus on playmaking while still making big shots. In another slow season for Suns fans, Booker dished 6.8 assists per game (the highest of any shooting guard excluding Harden), and still put 26.6 points per night. He posted three 40-point games as well as back-to-back 50-point games. These season high performances all came well after the All-Star break – Booker wasn’t wavered by talks of tanking.

Booker will be 23 once next season gets underway, and it’s hard not to see him elevating to another level.

Grade: A

Portland Trail Blazers – Damian Lillard

Nominated not so much for improving numbers, but for the way Lillard altered fans’ perception on his own game, as well as changing the franchise for the better. Lillard finished inside the top 10 for total points and assists, and ranked fourth in the league for win shares.

His playoffs were the telling tail, averaging 26.9 points and 6.6 assists while shooting at 37% from the perimeter – unheralding the nickname ‘Logo Lillard’ for his ability to shoot from deep.

Grade: A

Sacramento Kings – De’Aaron Fox

The lightning-quick Fox had a sophomore season to remember. The Kentucky guard went from 11 points and four assists in year one, to 17 points and seven assists this season – while also shooting at 45% from the field and 37% from beyond the arc. Helping the Kings record 12 more wins than the previous season, Fox scored a number of clutch baskets throughout the course of the season.

Unlucky to miss here is Buddy Hield, but Kings fans will be drooling over the back-court combo of these two young stars.

Grade: A

 

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 11: De’Aaron Fox #5 of the Sacramento Kings dribbles the ball against the Washington Wizards in the first half at Capital One Arena on March 11, 2019 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

San Antonio Spurs – Derrick White

Another second-year guard, White’s minutes were boosted due to the unfortunate ACL injury to Dejounte Murray. White started in 55 of his 67 games to average 10 points, four assists and four rebounds this season across 25-minutes per game.

White is a very efficient scorer, and will remain in the league for quiet a while with the coaching of Greg Popovich to help start his career.

Grade: C+

Utah Jazz – Rudy Gobert

Claiming consecutive Defensive Player of the Year awards, Gobert is no doubt Utah’s most important player. The Frenchman averaged a career-high for points, assists and rebounds – while also averaging 2.3 blocks per game. The most outstanding fact from this season, Gobert ranked first in the competition for field goal percentage, albeit most of them being rim-rattling dunks.

Gobert is now beginning to enter the prime years of his career, maybe that All-Star selection is yet to come but his defensive dominance will be on display for many years.

Grade: A