Special to Yahoo Sports
Whether these players underperformed with their team last season or are due for progression in a new environment this season, let's look at five players who could be in for quality campaigns in 2022-23. These are players who should be available at a discount on draft day and could be an important part of building a team with a high floor.
A flip switched for Dinwiddie once Dallas acquired him at the trade deadline. The 29-year-old is a career 32.2 percent shooter from beyond the arc, but the Mavericks’ methodical, spacing-oriented offense (Dallas ranked last in pace and sixth in 3PA) unlocked excellence from Dinwiddie.
He connected on 40.4 percent of his threes in the regular season, followed by 41.7 percent in the playoffs. Dinwiddie ranked in the 60th percentile by knocking down 33.3 percent of his guarded catch-and-shoot attempts. He ranked in the 91st percentile by knocking down 42.6 percent of his jumpers off the dribble. Dinwiddie’s shooting is legit. While he may not reside above 40.0 percent on season-long volume, a career-best shooting season could be in store.
For his career, Dinwiddie is a below-average scorer inside, but he’s certainly capable of getting to the rack, especially playing alongside Luka Doncic. Looking back at Dallas' acquisition of Dinwiddie, few fans correlated it to his eventual status as Jalen Brunson’s replacement, but it was always on the table. Now it’s come to fruition. Dinwiddie continuing to play at a high level looks pretty likely.
James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers
While Harden’s long-lingering hamstring injury was often downplayed and associated with trade rumors, the fact is Harden was not healthy for sizable stretches of last season. Visibly, he did not have proper lift in his jumper and lacked explosiveness. The 33-year-old is bound to lose speed as he ages, but the slander on Harden has been superfluous. As arguably one of the greatest scorers in NBA history, expect Harden to return to the league’s top echelon of playmakers. Harden’s familiarity with P.J. Tucker is a positive. De’Anthony Melton joining the backcourt is another weapon to divert attention from Harden.
In Philadelphia last season, Harden logged career-worst field-goal percentage and 3-point shooting, 40.2 and 32.6 percent, respectively. He had never shot below 34.7 percent from beyond the arc in any full season prior. His career 44.2 percent field-goal percentage is one of the most consistent marks in sports.
Continuity will be significant. Harden's last complete season with one franchise was 2019-20, and he led the league in scoring. A bounceback is coming.
Grant supplied 19.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.9 steals-plus-blocks across 47 contests in an injury-shortened season with Detroit last year. Jettisoned to Portland in an offseason trade, the Trail Blazers' environment will be much more conducive for Grant to contribute to winning basketball. He slots as a pivotal starter at the power forward position and stands to make a substantial two-way impact.
In 2018-19 with Oklahoma City and 2019-20 with Denver, Grant shot 48.9 percent from the field and 39.1 percent from beyond the arc in complementary roles. Additionally, his time in Detroit showcased his volume-scoring abilities. He’ll now join Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons and Jusuf Nurkic in a talented starting lineup. The upcoming season could be Grant’s best — a hybrid of bulk scoring and efficiency since defenses can’t focus on him.
Portland possesses a deep roster, but Grant holds opponents to a 44.0 FG percent over the past five seasons — top-15 among all qualified defenders. Grant has connected on 37.1 percent of his threes across the past four seasons, brings versatility in the box score and should have healthy playing time. He’s in an excellent destination for a bounce-back season.
Julius Randle, New York Knicks
Last season, Randle accounted for -0.7 Wins Above Replacement — bottom 20 in the league among qualifiers and tied with Russell Westbrook in a similarly disastrous campaign. It's a far cry from Randle's 2020-21 season when he was crowned Most Improved Player, generated 7.7 WAR — top 20 in the league –– and led the Knicks to the playoffs.
Effort and attitude are known wild cards in Randle’s performance. There were times last season when the 27-year-old was disengaged or detrimental to the Knicks. Additionally, his excellent shooting two seasons ago is an aberration. Randle is a career 33.2 percent 3-point shooter. Settling in at a 33-35 percent clip seems likely this season.
Ultimately, Randle is extremely high-usage, holding at least 27% of his team’s usage in the last four seasons. League-wide, that ranked in the 96th percentile and above each year. His floor is high. Adding Brunson should improve the entirety of New York’s offense. The Knicks’ push for contention should restore Randle's value closer to his MIP caliber.
Gordon Hayward, Charlotte Hornets
Hayward was amid another quality season, averaging 15.9 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists in 31.9 minutes per game through 49 contests, before being shut down by an ankle/foot injury.
Across six prior seasons as a full-time starter, Hayward has averaged 19.0 points per game. The absence and possible suspension of Miles Bridges would open a ton of usage in Charlotte‘s offense, and Hayward will be a main filler of the void.
Bridges led Charlotte with 35.3 minutes per game and ranked in the 89th percentile among all forwards in usage rate. Behind Hayward, Kelly Oubre Jr. and P.J. Washington are candidates to get a bump in playing time, but Hayward will certainly produce the most dividends if he can remain healthy.