Every year, there are breakout stars in the NBA that few people saw coming.
Previous winners of the Most Improved Player award include Tracy McGrady, Jimmy Butler, and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Sometimes there are subtle signs during a strong close to the previous season.
Other times it is a player maturing enough to realize his potential.
Regardless of how it comes about, the player takes a big step towards stardom.
This year will assuredly be no different.
There is no shortage of talent in the NBA.
And a large portion of it is younger than ever.
These three players have a chance to truly step into the NBA spotlight this season.
3. Tyrese Maxey
In an article by Sam Quinn on CBS Sports that details the best preseason bets for the NBA MIP Award, he noted six of the past 12 winners have been third-year players.
Quinn also noted nine of the 11 active players to have won the breakout award did so in their first All-Star season.
With those parameters in mind, it makes sense to look at third-year players poised to potentially make an All-Star team.
The first player that comes to mind is Tyrese Maxey.
Maxey finished sixth in MIP voting last season after jumping from 8.0 to 17.5 points per game.
Ja Morant is the first player to win the Kia NBA Most Improved Player Award with the Memphis Grizzlies.
More ➡️ https://t.co/DGowSmohq5
Voting Results ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/xRFlJ9dtEW
— NBA Communications (@NBAPR) April 25, 2022
And this year could see another jump from the young star.
Maxey is potentially the second scoring option on a team with NBA Title hopes in the Philadelphia 76ers.
Playing alongside Joel Embiid and James Harden, Maxey should have plenty of opportunities to attack opposing defenses one-on-one and knock down wide-open looks.
If Harden continues to gravitate towards a more pass-first role, it will open more room for Maxey to score.
Maxey has an outside shot at cracking the 20-point per game mark if he proves his perimeter shooting from last year was no fluke.
The number two option on a top team in the league is massive for a 21-year-old.
2. Tyrese Haliburton
Next, we have a player on a rebuilding club, Tyrese Haliburton.
While the wins may not be there like they will for Maxey, Haliburton will have a sizeable role on the Indiana Pacers.
Malcolm Brogdon and Caris LeVert are gone from last year’s team and Buddy Hield and Myles Turner could be next to go.
That leaves Haliburton as the unquestioned “star” of the Pacers with plenty of opportunity.
And there is evidence that Haliburton can contribute even as his role grows.
Across 51 games with the Sacramento Kings last season, Haliburton had a Usage Rate of 18.3%.
He averaged 14.3 points and 7.4 assists per game while shooting 45.7% from the field and 41.3% from three on 11.5 and 4.9 attempts per game, respectively.
Tyrese Haliburton has put up career highs in PPG, RPG, APG, SPG, FG% and 3P% as a Pacer:
— StatMuse (@statmuse) June 27, 2022
In 26 games with the Pacers after the trade, his Usage Rate went up to 20.3%.
And his stats didn’t suffer – they improved.
Haliburton averaged 17.5 points and 9.6 assists per game on 50.2% from the field and 41.6% from three on 12.4 and 5.3 attempts per game, respectively.
He scored 20+ points 11 times, dished out 10+ assists 12 times, and posted 11 double-doubles.
With Haliburton now in a starring role for an entire season, he could potentially average 20 and 10 for the year.
Indiana would have a star on its hands.
1. Anthony Edwards
Finally, we have Anthony Edwards, who may combine winning with a starring role.
The Minnesota Timberwolves swung for the fences this offseason in acquiring Rudy Gobert.
Minnesota is hoping their new “Big Three” of Gobert, Edwards, and Karl-Anthony Towns can vault them to contender status.
Much of that hope rests on the shoulders of their third-year star.
Edwards had a terrific playoff debut against the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round.
Ant Edwards goes OFF in his playoff debut 🔥
12-23 FG pic.twitter.com/BLolN0YzJh
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 16, 2022
After averaging 21.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game in the regular season on .441/.357/.786 shooting splits, he took it up a notch when it mattered most.
Edwards went for 25.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game while slashing .455/.404/.824.
Borderline elite numbers from a second-year player.
He was never scared of the moment, taking, and making, big-time shots when his team needed him.
In the elimination game, Edwards did everything he could to keep the T-Wolves alive, going for 30 points while grabbing 5 rebounds, dishing out 5 assists, and adding 2 steals and 2 blocks.
And just before the draft, The Ringer’s Kevin O’Conner reported the Timberwolves were actively shopping starting point guard D’Angelo Russell.
If Russell were to be traded, Edwards would become the lead guard on a potential 50-win team.
Gobert and Towns may be the headliners to start the season, but Edwards may steal the show.
Building off his strong playoff run and leading the Wolves to the playoffs would firmly vault Edwards into star territory.