As an NBA fan, I absolutely LOVE watching young players become starters, all-stars, and eventually superstars. Last season, it was a thrill for this Cavaliers fan to see Darius Garland have such a breakout year and lead the Cavaliers to the Eastern Conference playoffs (or was it a play-in?)! During the recent playoffs, we saw exciting breakout performances from young guns like Desmond Bane, Tyrese Maxey, Jordan Poole, and even Grant Williams.
For sports card investors, it’s not just “fun” to see these things happen. When I buy cards of young players BEFORE they breakout or grow up into stars, it’s awesome to see that little financial risk result in some profit. Potentially a lot of profit, if I can find silvers, autos, or numbered cards of those guys.
Some “breakout players” for next season are already well known and well bought into by card investors. I’m not here to give you “breaking news” about how good Jalen Brunson, Tyrese Haliburton, Jordan Poole, or Scottie Barnes already are. The card prices for the obvious guys, a long list that – if you’re paying attention – should already include Simons, KPJ, and perhaps Patrick Williams – are already well advanced in the Hobby.
So here’s a list of guys that most “Card Dealers” don’t recognize or care about yet. Guys that are stepping in to larger roles on the court, who have already shown some incredible potential and skills. Guys whose cards are often found in dollar boxes or cheap auto-patch boxes. Guys whose card auctions on eBay often end at less than $10 for a nice, non-base rookie card. Guys who play in front of local fans who already love their play, know what they can do, and buy their jerseys. Guys who did NOT get traded this offseason because their teams wouldn’t even discuss the idea.
Here are six guys who could be on everyone’s “hot card list” by January…
Jaylen Nowell, Minnesota – Some guys have all the tools, all the drive, and all the confidence. They just need minutes on the court. That’s the case for Nowell. Minnesota’s big deal for Rudy removed two of the “name veterans” ahead of Jaylen – Michael Beasley and Pat Beverly – and now this Nowell gets minutes anytime D’Angelo Russell or Anthony Edwards needs a break. During the last two months of the regular season, Nowell played 15-20 minutes per game and put up impressive shooting percentages (48% FG, 40+ from 3, 88 FT). If you watch Nowell’s highlight video, you’ll see why Minnesota fans are excited to see him take the next step. PRO TIP: If D’Angelo Rusell (often-injured) or Anthony Edwards miss ANY games early in the season, Nowell could impress sports card investors sooner rather than later.
Tre Jones, San Antonio – Dejounte Murray is out. Who is in? Well, maybe Devin Vasell and Keldon Johnson get more shots, but it’s Tre Jones who will be running the offense. Jones is another player who had a nice pre-pop breakout this Spring for the Spurs, putting up 13.7 points and 7.8 assists a game in his last six starts. One of the reasons the Spurs would even consider trading Dejounte is to add talent and future picks while creating room for this kid. Tre Jones is just 22 years old and fits nicely with the Spurs young core and the kind of point guard Coach Pop loves.
Immanuel Quickley, NY Knicks – Unlike the two mentioned above him, Quickley might struggle to find playing time in New York now that Jalen Brunson is in town. I would not be surprised if the Knicks trade IQ. Most Basketball Card guys know his name, but have little awareness of his game. Simply put, Immanuel Quickley is ready to be somebody’s starting point guard. During one stretch this Spring, IQ averaged 20 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds, and great shooting percentages. He’s one of those Kentucky guys with ridiculous skills. If somehow he moves into a role in New York (or anywhere) where he’s playing 30 minutes plus a night, he could become an all-star.
Bones Hyland, Denver – This list has a common thread of guys who can score, entertain, run an offense, and play with intensity. Bones is doing all that for a playoff contender that just dumped Monte Morris and Will Barton. As Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. hopefully play their way back into regular season shape, Bones Hyland will keep adding clutch shooting, defense, and leadership on a team that seems committed to unleashing him on the NBA like they did against the Lakers. Hyland’s cards are already selling a little higher than most rookies, but I don’t think people realize, yet, that he is the next Tyrese Maxey.
Cameron Thomas, Brooklyn – When James Harden was traded and Patty Mills went cold from the field, the Nets turned to this guy. Cam turns 21 this November, and it will be next to impossible to keep him off the court, especially if Kyrie and KD are moved. Even if they stay, Cam is likely to become at least the third option on offense, showing what he could do in March by averaging 16.5 points per game with 45%+ from the field. A few weeks ago, I bought a 2020 Donruss Cam Thomas Rated Rookie Mojo Auto for $21 and sent it to PSA yesterday. Here’s why. Cam’s prices are surging and the secret is out, but it’s not too late to buy in on an unstoppable scorer/shooter who could take Brooklyn by storm this season.
Honorable Mentions: Tre Mann, OKC; Jalen Suggs, Orlando; Tyus Jones, Memphis; Alperen Sengun, Houston; Onyeka Okongwu, Atlanta; Ayo Dosunmu, Chicago; Amir Coffey, LA Clippers; Jaxson Hayes, New Orleans; Josh Hart, Portland.