5 Breakout Stars You Need to Watch in 2015

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo

    It feels like the Greek Freak is literally minutes away from blowing up. A young, vibrant roster. A starting spot. All the minutes he wants with Jabari Parker out for the year with a knee injury. And a team that actually looks like they have the talent to make the playoffs in the East.

    Antetokounmpo is a 7-0 wingman who can do a little bit of everything on the floor. This season, his efficiency has skyrocketed, shooting right at 50 percent on the season. The dude has all the talent in the world. It’s only a matter of time.

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  • Odell Beckham Jr.

    Perhaps the NFL’s best young wide receiver, Beckham is DEFINITELY its most exciting. He makes the spectacular look routine. Just look at this play. It’s already considered the best catch ever made in the NFL and yet Beckham’s body of work throughout the season — over 1,300 yards and 12 touchdowns — probably outshines it. Those numbers look even better when you realize the LSU kid didn’t play in the first four games.

    Giants fans at least have this to look forward to.

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  • Aaron Donald
    Aaron Donald

    You can probably count on one hand the number of defensive tackles in the NFL who will be better than this guy in 2015. He’s that good and was a terror from the second he got into the lineup. The Rams got themselves a keeper last year when they drafted this 6-1, 285-pound cat out of Pittsburgh in the first round. As a rookie defensive tackle the big fella somehow ended up with nine sacks, disrupting play after play and passing every eye test despite teams working so hard to stop him.

    Next year, every offense that plays St. Louis needs to be aware of No. 99.

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  • Andrew Wiggins, Kobe Bryant

    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Andrew Wiggins

    Okay, so the 6-8 rookie has had a very cold start to his rookie season. Right now, both his PER and shooting percentage are well below average at 9.89 and 39.9 percent, respectively. However he is finally starting to pick it up and so far, everyone has failed to notice. Don’t be like that.

    He had 23 points and 10 boards against Portland, just a game after hitting Golden State for 21. Wiggins also had 29 against the Kings. Then during recent back-to-back games against the Cavs and Nuggets, Wiggins combined to score 49, with 27 of them against Cleveland to prove he could play with anyone. By this time next year he is going to be a beast.

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  • Amari Cooper

    Overshadowed in this upcoming NFL Draft by names like Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, Cooper has the ability to do whatever he wants as a wide receiver. The Alabama product dominated so completely this year that his performance deserves a documentary. The 6-1, 205-pounder can go over the middle — this year he has 115 catches, top in college football — ¬†and still burns outside — he’s also second in receiving yards with 1,656. He’ll be a monster in the NFL right from the start.

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  • Giannis Antetokounmpo
  • Aaron Donald
  • Andrew Wiggins, Kobe Bryant
  • Amari Cooper

There’s nothing better in sports than watching someone realize their potential. It happens every year and while some players eventually flame out or blossom too soon, many of them change the game forever.

Take Tracy McGrady. Growing up, he might’ve been my favorite player in the NBA. Long, lean. Slinky arms. Spring-loaded calves. Sleepy eyes. He was blessed with so much natural ability and talent, all in a body that still hasn’t been matched yet: 6-8 with a massive wingspan, a super quick first step, and a 40-inch-plus vertical leap. Watching him play during his final season in Toronto was unlike anything I’d ever seen. We all thought he’d be the next Scottie Pippen. He played D. He scored. He handled the rock. He blocked shots. He didn’t even turn 21 years old until the end of May that year.

But even as we predicted a potential All-Star career, no one really expected him to do what he did.

His next four years in Orlando turned him into, arguably, the game’s best offensive weapon, and his 2002-03 season still ranks as one of the greatest years ever. (It doesn’t even matter that they lost in the first round.)

When I think of T-Mac, that’s the T-Mac I remember.

We can’t really expect an ascension at that level in 2015, but we can guarantee they’ll be more than a handful of young cats rising up and showing off their skills. These are the cats that’ll bring the most excitement over the next 12 months, so stay tuned. Here are the Breakout Stars You Need to Watch in 2015.

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