7 Young Stars Who Will Rewrite the NBA Record Books
Is it even possible to catch John Stockton's all-time leading marks in the assists and steals departments? Is it crazy to think that Kevin Love could make a run at Wilt Chamberlain's and Bill Russell's lofty career rebounding numbers?
Perhaps some records will never be broken. Perhaps the game has changed so much that feats of individual greatness are now fewer and farther between.
But, if anyone has a shot at reaching these kind of numbers, there are some exciting young players for whom you could make a pretty good argument.
And fortunately, some records are a bit easier to reach than others.
Here's a look at seven 24-and-under stars who have the best chances of adding their names to the ranks of career greats.
Ricky Rubio—PG, Minnesota Timberwolves (Age 21)
After averaging 8.2 assists as a rookie, the sky is the limit for Ricky Rubio's career numbers.
Jason Kidd is second to John Stockton on the all-time list with 11,842 dimes so far. Stockton's 15,806 may be too many even for Rubio to match. We may never see anyone match that number.
On the other hand, Stockton didn't average 8.2 assists until his third season, seemingly putting Rubio on pace for an even more productive career. Stockton averaged more than 13 assists per game in five seasons, twice averaging more than 14 a contest.
Can Rubio put seasons like that together?
Maybe, but it's hardly a given. Even the best passers rarely top 12 assists per game anymore, so the game may have changed so much that Stockton can't be touched.
If he can, look for Rubio to be the guy to do it.
Serge Ibaka—PF, Oklahoma City Thunder (Age 22)
Serge Ibaka already has 536 career blocks, just a few short of Hakeem Olajuwon's all-time leading 3,830.
The good news is that Ibaka should have a long career ahead of him, and he's blocking shots at an incredible rate (3.7 per game last season). There is, however, at least one factor that could work against Ibaka's ability to rocket all the way to the top.
Ibaka relies heavily on his athleticism and jumping ability to get his swats. It goes without saying he'll become less effective on the defensive end as he ages. Most of the all-time blocks leaders are legitimate 7-footers who could rely on size alone as their careers slowed down.
If Ibaka can remain explosive for another 10 or 12 years, though, he could catch up. It wouldn't be hard to imagine him tallying 3,000 blocks over the next 10 years.
Ryan Anderson—PF, New Orleans Hornets (Age 24)
After Ray Allen and Reggie Miller, there's a steep drop-off to the third spot on the all-time list of made three-pointers.
Could Ryan Anderson of all people sneak into that group?
Anderson has made 300 three-pointers in the last two seasons alone (one of which was abbreviated), and he already has 447 in his young career. At the top of the pack, Allen has 2,718—and he's not done playing yet.
Nevertheless, Anderson has a couple of things working for him (besides the fact he's still just 24).
First, he's a spread-4 standing at 6'10", meaning he won't need to maintain a great deal of quickness and athleticism to get his shot off. His length alone should make him a dangerous perimeter shooter well into his 30s, just as the long ball helped prolong the careers of big men like Rasheed Wallace and Robert Horry.
Anderson will also benefit from playing alongside Anthony Davis, just as Dwight Howard's presence inside helped him with the Orlando Magic. With a legitimate post presence, Anderson will have a much easier time drifting behind the arc and making the defense pay.
Kevin Love—PF, Minnesota Timberwolves (Age 23)
In just four seasons, Kevin Love has already tallied 3,238 rebounds, which isn't terribly surprising given that he averaged 15.2 per game in 2010-11.
He'll need well over 20,000 more of them to catch up to Wilt Chamberlain's nearly 24,000.
It's really not even fair for Chamberlain and the second-place Bill Russell to be included on the list. Both boast career rebounding average of nearly 23 boards a game, and they got those rebounds against a league that was smaller and less physical than the kind of guys with whom Love has to contend.
In fact the only player who spent a significant part of his career in the 1990s to crack the top 10 of all time is Karl Malone. Hakeem Olajuwon comes in 11th.
So, if Love manages to surpass Malone, he'll already have made quite the statement.
DeMarcus Cousins—F/C, Sacramento Kings (Age 22)
Kevin Love might have some competition in those rebounding ranks from the bigger and younger DeMarcus Cousins.
Cousins has yet to put together a monster season on par with Love, but he's a double-double machine who's already racked up 1,402 rebounds in his first two seasons. Last season, he was on pace to pull down about 900 rebounds had it been a full 82-game campaign.
If he keeps that pace up for at least 10 more years, he could probably crack the top 25 without too much trouble. If he improves upon that rate (and he very well could), then he could certainly give Love a run for his money.
The Kings love to push the tempo, so there should continue to be plenty of rebounding opportunities for Cousins.
Additionally, Cousins played just over 30 minutes per game last season, so a few extra minutes could translate into even more gaudy rebounding numbers.
Mike Conley—PG, Memphis Grizzlies (Age 24)
Mike Conley may be the last name you associate with rewriting any record books, but don't forget about this guy's defense.
He averaged 2.2 steals per game last season and 1.8 the year before that. As the Memphis Grizzlies have come to rely on him more, he's responded with steady improvement into one of the league's more underrated floor generals.
After five seasons, he has 523 career steals. His chances of catching John Stockton's first-place 3,265 steals are obviously all-but nonexistent, but with 2,000 steals, Conley would move ahead of Allen Iverson into 12th place.
It's not hard to believe that Conley could crack the top 10 if he plays a long, Andre Miller-kind of career.
Kevin Durant—SF, Oklahoma City Thunder (Age 23)
At his current rate, Kevin Durant will go down in history as one of the NBA's most prolific scorers. The only uncertainty is whether he'll pass up Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the league's all-time scoring leader, a mark not even Michael Jordan was able to reach.
Durant has nearly 10,000 points through his first five seasons, and there's no question he'd have more if the 2011-12 campaign had not been shortened by lockout.
But, he'll need to score 38,387 points to reach Jabbar, so his work is cut out for him. The 34-year-old Kobe Bryant is about 9,000 points off, so he could certainly get there first if he remains relatively spry for the next five or six years.
But, KD has already led the league in scoring three times, something Bryant managed to do just twice. If he can stay healthy, he could come claim the top spot.