Even though we joke a lot about Lonzo Ball here at the Sports Card Investor office, we don’t take for granted that he’s legitimately a good basketball player. Over the past two season with New Orleans, Ball averaged 13.2 points and 6.3 rebounds. With an offseason move to the new-look Chicago Bulls (Hi, DeMar DeRozan!), we’re expecting those personal numbers and the team’s W-L mark to improve. And when it all happens, his card prices should see a bump, too.
But a change of scenery isn’t the only catalyst for a breakout season in the hobby. A player could be in line for more minutes because of roster adjusting. He might be coming back from injury. His team could be shaking off a subpar season in the standings. Whatever the reason, all of the following players align with at least one of those prompts, making them primed for some positive movement in the card market.
Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota
A year ago, Towns’ PSA 10 2015 Prizm base sold for $306. But a rough season in the standings (23-49 record) and in the trainer’s room (he missed 30+ games due to COVID and various injuries) cooled the Towns card significantly (around $220 at press time). The Timberwolves, however, are dark-horse playoff contenders this year. And guess who’ll again have to play at an all-star level to ensure that happens—a chip-shouldering K.A.T.
Robert Williams, Boston
We’ve seen the potential —even in limited minutes, Williams had solid outings in his two ’21 playoff performances— in the Celtics’ big man. Though the path to more playing time still involves roadblocks named Al Horford and Enes Kanter, Williams III is the superior physical talent with the potential to be one of the East’s best bigs. Why else do you think Boston signed him to a four-year, $54-million extension in August?
Kevin Porter Jr., Houston
The Rockets are probably a year or three from serious playoff contention. But even in the inevitable 25-point thrashings ahead, somebody will have to pace Houston in scoring. With John Wall likely on his way out of town, smart money says it’ll be Porter Jr. leading the offensive charge. Though he has to clean up his shooting, the crafty guard can explode at any time. Case in point, his 50-point outburst on April 29, 2021.
Onyeka Okongwu, Atlanta
The Hawks have one of the best young cores in the league. A big reason that you can say that with such conviction is Okongwu, a ridiculously athletic center who hasn’t broken through just yet because he hasn’t been able to stay healthy. After the second-year big returns from shoulder issues in December, give’em a few months to get his feet under him and then watch his rookie cards start bouncing.
De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento
If Fox’s 25 points and 7 assists happened on a winning team, his card prices would be soaring. But because he pushes fast breaks for last year’s Pacific Division cellar dwellers, here we are. With a maturing Marvin Bagley III and Tyrese Haliburton on the roster, though, the Kings should be a pinch better, giving Fox his best chance to make the playoffs since he entered the NBA in 2017.
Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis
At no fault of his own, Jackson just happened to be drafted alongside generational talents like Luka Doncic and Trae Young. In just about any other class, we’d be fawning all over the budding Grizz’s offensive arsenal, otherworldly athleticism and his PSA 10 Prizm Silver that can be attained for under $400 right now. If Jackson Jr. can stay healthy this year, Ja Morant has the partner he needs to make another playoff push.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker, New Orleans
Alexander-Walker’s breakout campaign was supposed to happen a season ago. But hey, even the best-laid plans can go awry—or, in this New Orleans guard’s case, they can get really crowded. But with Eric Bledsoe and the aforementioned Lonzo Ball out of the picture, Alexander-Walker can finally take that next step to being the great player many envision. And when that occurs, you can just imagine what will happen to PSA 10s of his currently moving for under $50.
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