SEC Burning Questions: Five Breakout Candidates

Posted by Greg Mitchell on November 11th, 2015

Before we dive into some candidates, let’s define what we mean by “breakout.” Preseason All-American Ben Simmons is a pretty safe bet to have a great season. The same goes for potential first overall pick in next year’s draft, Skal Labissiere. Predicting that the freshmen we’ve been hearing about for years will step in and excel doesn’t make for interesting reading. Instead, here are several returning SEC players who saw little action last year that could become major parts of their respective teams this season.

Devon Baulkman's shooting touch could make him a key part of Rick Barnes' first team at Tennessee (

Devon Baulkman’s shooting touch could make him a key part of Rick Barnes’ first team at Tennessee (

  • Devon Baulkman, Tennessee. The JuCo transfer only averaged 14.7 minutes per game last year under Donnie Tyndall, but could be poised to become a key cog in Rick Barnes‘ offense. Barnes has talked about playing up-tempo and letting his players shoot the three at will. This was borne out in the Vols exhibition win over Alabama-Huntsville where they launched 38 three pointers. Baulkman took eight of those shots, and showed promise from deep last season by making 38.2 percent of his 68 three-point attempts. While Robert HubbsKevin Punter and Armani Moore will be the focal points of the Tennessee offense this year, Baulkman could carve himself a valuable niche on the perimeter.
  • Moses KingsleyArkansas. Kingsley has been an advanced stat nerd’s dream, posting an elite block percentage (11.7%) and solid total rebounding percentage (13.9%) in limited minutes over his two years in Fayetteville. Mike Anderson‘s system by its nature precludes players, especially big men, from playing 25 plus minutes per game. But Anderson is playing with a light deck after an offseason of roster turnover and Kingsley is all of sudden one of his few frontcourt options. He should get plenty of minutes, and has demonstrated enough rim-protecting potential to predict that he’ll have a very productive year.

  • Kasey HillFlorida. Maybe predicting that a former five-star recruit will break out in his third year on campus is being lazy. But despite Hill’s undeniable quickness and playmaking ability, he’s struggled to maintain consistency during his time at Florida. The junior has especially struggled at the free throw line, where he shot just 52.6 percent last year. Nonetheless, his career assist percentage (29.2%) shows that he can set up his teammates, and he’ll have a variety of offensive threats around him in Dorian Finney-Smith, KeVaughn Allen, and Devin Robinson, all of whom can shoot from distance. The Gators also have a better low post scoring threat than they did last year in John Egbunu. When you put it all together, you have the pieces in place for an effective offense if Hill (and to be fair, Chris Chiozza) can hold it together. I’m betting that he will.
  • Retin ObasohanAlabama. The Belgian senior has had an up-and-down career in Tuscaloosa. He had a solid season as Trevor Releford’s running mate in 2013-14, averaging 9.2 points in 28.7 minutes per game. But his production dropped across the board as he fell in Anthony Grant’s rotation last season. Early indications are that Avery Johnson will run a much faster offense than Grant ever did, and we know that his options in the back court are limited. This should mean that Obasohan not only sees more minutes than he did last season, but also has the opportunity to take plenty of shots. He’s a great slasher and two years ago generated an incredible 7.2 free throw attempts per game. Like everything else, that number fell in 2014-15, but Johnson’s up-tempo style should be a good fit for his aggressiveness.
  • Elbert RobinsonLSU. You might have to squint extra hard to believe this final prediction. Robinson wasn’t a part of LSU’s front court rotation last year in a season in which Johnny Jones was desperately trying to develop depth behind Jordan Mickey and Jarell Martin. But the sophomore is a physical wonder (7’1”, 300 lbs) that has now had a full year in a Division I weight room. And if you believe in metrics, he posted a 16.4 defensive rebounding percentage in very limited time last year. I’m aware that expecting a guy who played just seven total minutes in SEC play last year to break out is asking a lot. But Jones couldn’t find consistency out of Aaron EppsBrian Bridgewater or Darcy Malone last season, and needs someone to anchor the paint around Simmons & Co. Robinson may be the most physically gifted of the bunch, and will have no pressure to do anything but protect the rim and grab rebounds. My bet is that he emerges as an important part of what should be a very good LSU team.
Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) (231 Posts)

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