The 2020-21 NBA season was anything but smooth, as the players had to navigate the season without contracting covid-19. Even then, the shortened break and game rush took a toll on players' bodies, resulting in injuries.
Against all odds, few players took their game to the next level, going above and beyond all expectations before the start of the 2020-21 NBA season. Although they did not achieve success in the form of postseason feature or the NBA championship, it was undoubtedly a step in the right direction that could propel their development.
Players like Shai-Gilgeous Alexander, De'Aaron Fox, Jaylen Brown and Michael Porter Jr. had their breakout seasons. While an improvement in their game was expected, they deserve mentions for taking the leap in their careers.
As we anticipate the start of the new season and hope for more player development beyond our imaginations, here are the top five players who surpassed expectations in the 2020-21 NBA season.
#5 Jordan Clarkson
As per Ben Golliver, Jordan Clarkson was ranked 98th in the top 100 players ahead of the 2020-21 NBA season. Considering the plethora of talent in the league, making the list was an indication that his talent was being recognized. He proved his worth as the season progressed, providing a boost from the bench in all 68 games he featured in.
Clarkson was a significant contributor in helping the Utah Jazz to a deep run in the 2021 NBA playoffs. In his second season with the Jazz, he averaged 18.4 points, 2.5 assists and four rebounds. The 28-year-old was voted the 2021 NBA Sixth Man of the Year.
#4 Deandre Ayton
Deandre Ayton had an exceptional 2020-21 NBA season, to the surprise of many. At the start of the season, he was not considered a top ten center in the league. However, he is arguably in the top five heading into the 2021-22 season.
Although his averages dropped compared to the 2019-20 season, there was an overall improvement in Ayton's comprehension of the game. The introduction of Chris Paul to the Phoenix Suns roster did wonders in helping him develop as an all-around player.
Ayton was nothing short of extraordinary in the playoffs, registering a double-double in his debut. Unfortunately, the Suns failed to go all the way as they fell to the Milwaukee Bucks after six games.