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Breakout candidates for each team in the Eastern Conference

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Pascal Siakam, Aaron Gordon, Markelle Fultz (NBA Getty Images)

With the 2018-19 season fast approaching, we're looking at breakout candidates for each team in the NBA. First up are the 15 teams that make up the Eastern Conference.

Atlanta Hawks

Breakout candidate: Taurean Prince

The Hawks' offseason trade of Dennis Schröder makes Prince the scoring leader among all of the team's returning players. The 6-foot-8 forward is coming off of a 2017-18 campaign in which he appeared in all 82 games and averaged 14.1 points and 4.7 rebounds per contest.

Last season also saw Prince hit a team-high 176 3-pointers at a 38.5 percent clip with over 75 percent of his makes from deep coming in catch-and-shoot situations. The uptempo style of new head coach Lloyd Pierce, who installed a 4-point line at the Hawks practice facility, and the passing ability of rookie point guard Trae Young will allow Prince to reach new heights and turn the corner in his development in year three.

Boston Celtics

Breakout candidate: Nobody

Who can break out for the Celtics that hasn't done so already? Time after time each member of Boston's young core delivered signature performances throughout its unlikely postseason run in 2018.

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The return of Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving will make for a tough adjustment period, but will ultimately make things easier on players like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart - all of whom would be candidates to break out in a more traditional situation. If anyone is to break out, it's the team as a whole.

Brooklyn Nets

Breakout candidate: Caris LeVert

In his second season, LeVert posted averages of 12.1 points, 4.2 assists and 3.7 rebounds in 71 games and 10 starts. With D'Angelo Russell and Allen Crabbe likely to start in the Nets backcourt, LeVert will spend most of the year as Brooklyn's sixth man.

An understated playmaker, LeVert dished out five or more assists 28 times last season, a figure he could duplicate or exceed with another offseason of development under his belt. Nets GM Sean Marks has said LeVert has been working in the team's training facility more than anyone else, signifying his being on the cusp of another breakthrough.

Charlotte Hornets

Breakout candidate: Malik Monk

Monk's role fluctuated throughout his rookie year - he averaged just under 17 minutes per game in the first quarter of the season, played sparingly in the middle of the year and saw an increased time once again down the stretch. The 6-foot-3 guard showed what he was capable of in the final 19 games, averaging 11.6 points, 2.3 assists in 18.8 minutes per contest, although he shot an inefficient 39.4 percent from the field.

In year two, Monk will benefit from playing under new head coach James Borrego, who has said the guard will be a major player for the team in his second year. In his lone Summer League appearance, Monk scored an efficient 23 points on 9-for-16 shooting, a welcome sight for Hornets fans and a likely sign of things to come.

Chicago Bulls

Breakout candidate: Kris Dunn

Injuries might have held Dunn back, but a change of scenery proved to help him in year two, as he improved his scoring average by nearly 10 points over 52 games in Chicago after averaging just 3.8 points per game as a rookie in Minnesota.

While his production might not see as large of a spike in 2018-19, the game should continue to slow down for Dunn, who will share the backcourt full-time with Zach LaVine. Though he's an older third-year player at 24, Dunn will continue to prove why he was taken fifth in 2016.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Breakout candidate: Cedi Osman

Osman showed what he is capable of last season in an early February Cavaliers win over the Hawks. In 38 minutes of action, Osman scored 16 points (on 6-for-9 shooting), grabbed six rebounds, dished out five assists and came away with three steals.

While he won't quite be able to fill the Cavs' void at small forward after the departure of LeBron James, the opportunity to grow and play in an increased role will be big for the 23-year-old.

Osman averaged just 11.0 minutes over 61 games, but in the nine games in which he played over 20 minutes, he averaged 11.9 points (on 52 percent shooting), 4.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. More opportunity to play freely and showcase his high motor throughout 2018-19 should mean more impressive stat lines from Osman.

Detroit Pistons

Breakout candidate: Stanley Johnson

Johnson has not quite lived up to the billing of a top-10 pick, but he has certainly shown flashes. Games like his 26-point, 10-rebound performance over the Cavs in late January are what the Pistons hope to see more of in Johnson's fourth year.

The hiring of Dwane Casey should be beneficial for Johnson, as he properly utilized a similar player in OG Anunoby last season in Toronto. Johnson is just 22-years-old, and already has the build, athleticism and tendencies to be an elite defender. If he can improve his shooting above 40 percent from the field, he can become one of the better two-way players in the East.

Indiana Pacers

Breakout candidate: Domantas Sabonis

Last season saw Sabonis break out in a role better suited for him than the one he assumed in his rookie year with the Thunder. Over 74 games, Sabonis averaged 11.6 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists as a reserve. After shooting 159 3-pointers in his lone season in OKC, he took just 37 last year. His shooting percentages reflected the change - he increased his shooting percentage from 39.9 to 51.4.

A second year in the reserve unit alongside Pacers free agent acquisitions Tyreke Evans and Doug McDermott should breed more of the same for Sabonis. Evans' playmaking will lead to more high-percentage buckets and McDermott's shooting will mean Sabonis can get more assists with passes from the block. Don't be surprised when Sabonis is a big reason that the Pacers threaten to make a serious run in the 2019 playoffs.

Miami Heat

Breakout candidate: Justise Winslow

After an injury shut him down in the 2016-17 season, Winslow returned last year to average 7.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. In the 2018 postseason, Winslow increased his production to 9.8 points and 6.6 rebounds over five games. The most encouraging development in Winslow's game has been his 3-point shooting; though it was at a low volume, he shot at a 38.0 percent clip after shooting 25.6 percent in his first two seasons.

If the 22-year-old can maintain his shooting efficiency at a higher volume this season, he will be a major asset for the Heat. Winslow, who already has the potential to be a very good defender, will eliminate any questions surrounding Miami's wing depth with a breakout season.

Milwaukee Bucks

Breakout candidate: Thon Maker

Heads turned when the Bucks elected to take Maker with the 10th pick in 2016, and this season is the one in which the 21-year-old proves he was worthy of the selection. Milwaukee has added two bigs in Ersan Ilyasova and Brook Lopez, but Maker will still have plenty of opportunity in the upcoming season.

Maker's game-altering performances in Games 3 and 4 of Milwaukee's first round matchup with Boston in 2018 illustrate the value of his rim protection and versatility; he averaged 11.0 points over the two games while connecting on five of his nine 3-point attempts and blocking a total of 10 shots. With head coach Mike Budenholzer now at the helm, Maker will be utilized in a way that plays more to his strengths and places his imprint on more games.

New York Knicks

Breakout candidate: Frank Ntilikina

Ntilikina is in a great spot - the French guard has the opportunity to learn and grow in his second year under a new head coach in David Fizdale, who has already instilled confidence in last year's eighth overall pick with ringing endorsements. At 6-foot-5, Ntilikina has the length to be a pesky defender and reports have indicated he is adding muscle to his frame this offseason. At just 20, Ntilikina's growth and development will continue at a rapid rate; becoming a more reliable shooter will open up his offense for more scoring and playmaking.

Next year will mark a transition in Knicks basketball with Ntilikina, rookie Kevin Knox and All-Star Kristaps Porzingis leading the way once he returns from injury. Ntilikina has the unique opportunity to grow and improve as a player while the franchise does the same.

Orlando Magic

Breakout candidate: Aaron Gordon

Gordon, who the Magic re-signed to a lucrative contract this offseason, is due for a breakout season in a big way. In 2017-18, the 6-foot-9 forward averaged career-highs in points (17.6), rebounds (7.9) and assists (2.3). The biggest development Gordon showed in year four was his 3-point shooting - he sank a career-best 115 3s while shooting a respectable 33.6 percent.

The 2018-19 season is the one in which Gordon's name should be brought up in All-Star conversations. A continuously developing jump shot and evolving offensive game should mean Gordon can eclipse the 20 point per game mark for the first time in his career. A new head coach in Steve Clifford signals a change in the culture in Orlando, and more production from Gordon in his fifth year.

Philadelphia 76ers

Breakout candidate: Markelle Fultz

Last year's No. 1 overall pick dealt with a great deal of adversity in the form of injury, but Fultz managed to return and display why he was taken first with performances like his triple double in the team's season finale.

In an interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia, Fultz's trainer Drew Hanlen expressed that he thinks "Philly fans will be very excited" to see the results of the 20-year-old's offseason work. During his lone season at Washington, Fultz displayed an elite offensive arsenal in averaging 23.2 points per game.

Given his potential and positive returns from his offseason work, Fultz will be a major component of the Sixers' ability to contend this season.

Toronto Raptors

Breakout candidate: Pascal Siakam

Toronto has shaken things up this summer - with Jakob Poeltl being included in the DeMar DeRozan trade, more minutes have been freed up for Toronto's reserve bigs. Along with newly-acquired centre Greg Monroe, Siakam will anchor the second unit down low.

In 81 games last season, Siakam averaged 7.3 points (on 50.8 percent shooting), 4.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists in just under 21 minutes per contest. An increased role and a focus on the development of a 3-point shot makes Siakam a likely candidate to improve his scoring average to double figures next season.

Washington Wizards

Breakout candidate: Kelly Oubre Jr.

Entering the final year of his rookie deal, Oubre is in a prime position to take his game to the next level. The 6-foot-7 lefty has shown great offensive improvement from year to year as his role with the Wizards has continued to grow.

The most notable development in Oubre's game has been his 3-point shooting; in his first two seasons, he knocked down a total of 79 3s at a 29.6 percent clip. Last season, Oubre was a 34.1 percent 3-point shooter, hitting the team's third-highest total of 126.

With all but 16 of his treys coming in catch-and-shoot situations, Oubre should benefit from the penetration and kicking of Wizards offseason acquisition Austin Rivers. The duo should bring a much-needed punch to the Wizards' second unit, which has struggled in years past.

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