Most NBA rookies are given some slack during their first year in the league as they adjust to the speed and skill level of pro players. But after their rookie year, teams expect them to progress and perform at a higher level.
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If the young players show little or no improvement from last year, they will be considered to have fallen into the dreaded sophomore slump. To avoid this fate, rookies need to work hard during the off-season. STACK found five second-year players who have been in the gym all summer, grinding hard to improve their game.
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker had a solid rookie season. Playing 27 minutes a game, he averaged 13.8 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists—and he finished the season with All-Rookie First Team honors. That’s impressive, but the work he has been putting in this off-season to avoid the sophomore slump is even more impressive.
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Booker has been working hard to perfect his dribbling skills and his shot this off-season. As you can see in the videos below, he is looking very good.
Booker has also been lifting weights to add muscle to his frame. You can see him below performing Alternating Dumbbell Press, Single-Arm, Single-Leg Row and Push-Up to T.
All of Booker’s off-season work paid off in the NBA Summer League, where the 19-year-old dominated. He cut his Summer League performance short, but if he continues to work hard, it won’t only be the only league he dominates.
Los Angeles Lakers point guard D’Angelo Russell also had a good rookie season. Russell played 28 minutes per game and averaged 13.2 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.3 assists. His performance earned him All-Rookie Second Team honors. Many Lakers fans view Russell as the future of the team, and judging by the way he has worked this off-season, he is moving in that direction.
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The 20-year-old has been a gym rat, working hard to improve his skills. You can see him in videos below working on his dribbling, his shot and his defense.
Russell’s hard work paid off in the NBA Summer League. He averaged 21.3 point, 6.3 rebounds and 4 assists per game and was named to the All-NBA Summer League Second Team. Hopefully, his hard work will also transfer to the 2016 season for the Lakers.
Willie Cauley Stein
Sacramento Kings center Willie Cauley Stein showed flashes of his potential during his rookie season. Playing 66 games and starting 39 of them, the 7-foot big man averaged 7 points, 5.6 rebounds and one block per game. He will be looking for a bigger role in the Kings’ system after working hard all off-season.
Stein has been working on his ball handling and mid-range jumper this summer. Check out videos of his workouts below, and notice the improvement in his jump shot.
Kelly Oubre Jr.
Washington Wizards forward Kelly Oubre Jr. had a rough rookie season. The 6-foot-7 20-year-old played only 10.7 minutes a game, in which he averaged 3.7 points and 2.1 rebounds. But Wave Papi has been working hard this off-season, hoping to get more court time in the Wizards’ offense.
In the videos below, you will see Oubre working on his ball handling skills, post work and jump shot.
Oubre Jr.’s hard work has already improved his performance on the court. During the Summer League, he led the Wizards in scoring (19.2), rebounding (5.6) and steals (1.8). His stellar play led to him be named to the All-NBA Summer League Second Team.
Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Tyus Jones only played 15.5 minutes per game last season, in which he averaged 4.2 points, 2.9 assists and 1.3 rebounds. But the 20-year-old out of Duke has been working very hard this off-season. In the video below, you will see part of his ball handling and shooting exercises.
Jones has also been working hard in the gym. Here you can see him performing Barbell Rows with Chains to improve his upper-body and back strength.
Jones’s hard work had an immediate payoff. During the 2016 Summer League, he excelled, averaging 19.4 points, 6.3 assists, 4 rebounds and 1.3 steals and leading the Wolves to the Summer League championships. Because of his outstanding play, he was awarded the Summer League MVP.