Scout's list of five guys due for a breakout season

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A handful of things we know about this NBA season. The Lakers will be good. The Celtics will lose three straight and some columnist in Boston will write them off seemingly forgetting last season. Cleveland will struggle.

Thumbnail image for love.jpgBut it is the surprises that make the season fun. The unexpected. Like the guys who surprise the public and have a breakout year.

Sporting News’ Sean Deveny talked to an NBA scout about who was poised for a breakout season and got five names:

Jrue Holiday of the Sixers, Darren Collison of the Pacers, Kevin Love of the Timberwolves, DJ Augustin of the Bobcats, and JJ Hickson of the Cavaliers.

Some of those seem a great fit. We here at PBT are fully on board with the Love train — run the dang triangle this season like you said you would Rambis. Then get Love the ball in the high post and watch the offense sing. Let the man play.

Collison we think is a great fit in Indiana, he is perfect for an up-tempo offense. The scout has concerns because the Indiana offense is a bit unorthodox, but we see a very good fit for a young player. Jrue Holiday gets Evan Turner as his backcourt mate and should take the next steps. JJ Hickson deserved a lot more touches last season, this season he’ll get them and look good doing it.

DJ Augustin? That is a little tougher to see. He has ball-handling skills and can knock down the long ball, for sure. But Larry Brown can be hard on point guards and especially ones that break out of the offense to over-penetrate. He drives but lacks the patience of a Steve Nash to see what is developing, he’ll even leave his feet having not committed to the shot or the pass. The offense lacked flow with him, and Brown let him hear it, not helping Augustin’s confidence.

Maybe I’m wrong, because Augustin can score and he could start really using that skill. But he’s not a PG we see with a breakout season — his numbers will go up because his minutes go up, but is he the guy who can really lead the Bobcats back to the playoffs? Not sold on that here.

Aaron Gordon both legs over the mascot, ball-under-the-legs dunk (VIDEO)

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TORONTO — Zach LaVine won the NBA All-Star Saturday Dunk Contest, but in an epic night for my money this was the single best dunk.

Orlando’s Aaron Gordon broke ground with this one — guys have jumped over mascots and other players before (and a Kia hood), but by splitting their legs apart. Gordon just put both legs over Stuff (that’s the mascot’s name, Stuff the Magic Dragon, I don’t make this up) — and took the ball off the mascot’s head, went under his legs, and threw it down.

Insane.

Gordon deserved a trophy for his performance in this dunk contest.

Zach LaVine edges Aaron Gordon in epic, insane Dunk Contest

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TORONTO — That. Was. Amazing.

In a dunk contest that will go down with the all-time greats — Jordan vs. Dominique, Dr. J from the free throw line — Minnesota’s Zach LaVine defended his dunk contest title. Barely. Because Orlando’s Aaron Gordon was doing dunks nobody had ever seen before.

And LaVine was bringing it just as hard.

The two men advanced to the finals — dismissing Will Barton and Andre Drummond, each of whom had good dunks — and that was when it got wild.

There were four second-round dunks, and four perfect scores of 50. (That was in spite of Shaq, who wanted to give nines for second attempts.)

“I was prepared for four (second round dunks),” LaVine said. “To tell the truth, he came with something that no one else has done. He did two dunks that were just crazy with the mascots, jumping over them. We just kept pushing each other until the last dunk. I’ve got to give it up to my boy Will “The Thrill” Barton. It’s because of him I think I won. Because he said try to go from the free-throw line. I’d never done that before, and I just tried it. So I guess it was a great dunk. I think it was the best one ever.”

The Air Canada Centre crowd was exploding with every dunk. The two men went to a dunk-off — and got two more 50s.

“If I knew it was going to be like that, I would have prepared better and we would have been here dunking all night, going back 50 after 50 after 50 after 50,” Gordon said. “We would have been here all night. I didn’t know it was going to be like that. I was just hoping Zach was going to miss, and it wasn’t going to happen. You could see as my facial expressions when Zach dunks it, it’s like okay, that’s a 50. Like I know we’re going to have to dunk again.”

So they went to a second-round of overtime, where LaVine put up another 50 and won the contest.

Gordon was close to perfect.

Zach LaVine can flat-out fly.

Magic’s Aaron Gordon with the over-the-mascot mad dunk

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TORONTO — Aaron Gordon was giving Zach LaVine all he could handle in the Dunk Contest.

He blew the lid off the Air Canada Centre with this dunk in the first round — and it wasn’t even his best dunk of the night. Never seen this before.

This dunk contest was awesome, so much more video to come.

Zach LaVine opens Slam Dunk Contest title defense with spectacular behind-the-back slam (VIDEO)

during the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge 2016 at Air Canada Centre on February 12, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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TORONTO — Zach LaVine clearly heard all the talk that Aaron Gordon or Will Barton had a chance to upset him in the Slam Dunk Contest. He came out ready to prove his superiority right off the bat. This behind-the-back slam was his first attempt of the night:

Even better was the reaction, both from Andre Drummond and from LaVine’s Minnesota teammates: