The start of training camps across the NBA is just a few days away, and it is that time of year when just about all teams and players are feeling optimistic about all the possibilities that are ahead of them right now.
The start of a season is a time when hope springs eternal and everyone has an opportunity to break free of bad narratives and reputations while taking control of their personal stories and writing their own script.
One of the most intriguing and inspiring aspects of the start of a new season is the players who end up surpassing expectations, especially those who break out in a big way and become new stars.
Here are three players in particular who we feel are poised to surprise fans and observers in the months to come.
In his first three seasons in the NBA, Barrett has shown flashes of being a future star, but he still has a ways to go before he puts it all together.
Last season, the Duke University product averaged 20.0 points a game, but he shot just 40.8 percent from the field, which was down 44.1 percent the season before.
New York Knicks fans feel Barrett has immense potential, not only as a legitimate scoring threat but also as a defender.
RJ Barrett Defense Thread
Was impressed with how RJ’s defense against Beal got better as the game went on. Here he fights back in front of Beal after the screen and gets a great contest with his back turned to him while avoiding a foul. Just a good job of staying in the play. pic.twitter.com/JDCeyxFbln
— Ariel (@APachecoNBA) October 11, 2021
🎥 First game of the season, double overtime, everyone was tired.
But RJ Barrett kept his legs and played his best defense down the stretch, stopping Jayson Tatum in OT & 2OT to secure the Knicks win pic.twitter.com/24kNhjIr4U
— JB (@JeffreyBellone) October 21, 2021
He had a few huge games in the 2021-22 season, such as his 36-point performance against the Los Angeles Lakers on national TV in February.
For no reason, here is RJ Barrett cookin’ the Lakers pic.twitter.com/2kdND1jWyY
— Alex B. (@KnicksCentral) July 11, 2022
Then, a few weeks later, he had a season-high of 46 points, including 30 in the first half, against the Miami Heat, one of the NBA’s best defensive teams.
RJ Barrett’s 30 point first half vs the Heat on 2/25/22 pic.twitter.com/aizLqRrGS4
— Teg🚨 (@IQfor3) June 14, 2022
Armed with a new four-year contract extension that could be worth up to $120 million, perhaps Barrett will play like an emboldened man this coming season and give embattled Knicks fans something to feel good about.
A couple of years ago, Bryant was a rising young center who had averaged 13.2 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 24.9 minutes per game for the Washington Wizards.
Even better, he shot a stellar 40.7 percent from 3-point range on a solid 2.0 attempts a contest.
But he injured his ACL early the next season, and although he played decent ball last year, he still hadn’t regained his full form yet.
The Lakers signed him this summer for the veteran’s minimum, hoping he will strengthen what was a weak center rotation in the 2021-22 campaign.
Bryant can still rebound and block shots, and he still seems to have the ability to be a strong finisher around the basket who can run the floor.
He is also an energetic player who can get the home crowd going with his histrionics.
— NBA (@NBA) December 23, 2018
Lakers fans seem to be treating him as someone who will make a minimal impact, but he has a good chance of pleasantly surprising them, especially if he regains his outside shooting touch.
No one truly knows where Simmons’ mental health is right now, but according to Stephen A Smith, the 6-foot-11 man is “ready to go” this season.
With no Joel Embiid parked in the lane, as was the case with Simmons’ last team, the Philadelphia 76ers, he could have more freedom to play his game as a member of the Brooklyn Nets.
If Simmons decides to be fully committed to basketball all season long, and if he is super motivated, we could see the best version of him yet.