The NBA season will finally kick off in just about a month, and just as always, the new season will bring with it an exciting new batch of rookies and other young breakout stars ready to dominate the league.
Every season, countless new talents enter the NBA, and over the next few years we'll watch the growth and development of many players across the league who are all trying to be the face of the next generation of basketball.
Just a note before we get started: "Most Promising" is different than "Greatest". This article does not analyze the best young player on each team, but rather the player with the highest ceiling. Also, note that only players 23 years of age or younger are eligible, which means that even young stars such as Kevin Love, Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook will not be on the list.
Now that all that is settled, here is the most promising young talent on every NBA team.
The Hawks only have a couple players on the roster who are 23 or under, and so James Anderson is the best candidate for the list. Drafted as the 20th overall pick in 2010, Anderson now has two years of NBA experience under his belt playing for the Spurs. In those two seasons, he's posted averages of 3.7 points and 1.3 rebounds in 11.5 minutes a game.
Despite shooting just 38 percent from the field for his career, Anderson has range, and he still has the potential to be a highly efficient scoring swingman. With Joe Johnson gone, he'll have plenty of opportunities to climb up the ranks and earn minutes for himself at the SG spot. It may be very unlikely for him to ever become a superstar, but he isn't doomed to spend his entire career coming off the bench.
Incoming rookies Fab Melo and Jared Sullinger were definitely options here, but Avery Bradley seems like a better choice. After getting just five minutes of play a game in his rookie year, Bradley had a breakout season in 2012, starting 28 games and averaging 7.6 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.4 assists a game.
Those stats may not be eye popping, but keep in mind the fact that Bradley spent most the season coming off the bench. Those stats also completely disregard his biggest strength, which is his defensive ability. He is extremely quick and that quickness allows him to be one the best backcourt defenders in the game, which when paired with Rajon Rondo makes for a pretty great defensive duo.
Also don't underestimate his shooting ability, as he put up very nice numbers last year. Bradley was efficient, shooting 50 percent from the field and 41 percent from three point range.
Ray Allen is gone, and KG and Pierce are only getting older. The Celtics have already started the rebuilding process, and Bradley may be a great candidate to be the team's starting SG for years to come.
Brooks was one of the biggest surprises of last season's rookie class, putting up great numbers despite being drafted 25th overall.
Brooks was given the green light to shoot in his rookie year, and that he did. He took 14 shots a game and put up averages of 12.6 points and 3.6 rebounds each night. Though he wasn't the most efficient scorer, he still demonstrated the ability to be a lights out shooter and show star power from time to time.
With the arrival of Joe Johnson, Brooks will obviously play off the bench in his sophomore season. He'll have the role of leading a second unit that is almost completely different this season. He may not be starting, but he'll definitely be an asset to the team.
Brooks will play in a sixth man role for now, but if he gets the opportunity to start again either on the Nets or on another team, he has the potential to be a star player and one of the best shooting guards in the league.
A case can be made for the second overall pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, but sophomore guard Kemba Walker may be the one with the higher ceiling.
Walker averaged 12.1 points and 4.4 assists a game last season on a terrible 37 percent from the field, but he only started 25 games the whole year. When inserted into the starting lineup, Walker averaged 14 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists a game, all while shooting 34 percent from downtown.
This year, Walker will likely be the main scoring option for the Bobcats. Kidd-Gilchrist could have a very good season as well, but expect Kemba to continue to be the focus of the team and for him to be seen as the face of the future. It's a long road ahead for the Bobcats, but maybe Walker will eventually be the guy who can lead them to the playoffs, or maybe even a championship.
The Bulls don't really have anyone under the age of 23. Marquis Teague is one of only two players who are eligible, so he didn't have much competition.
At first, drafting a point guard maybe didn't seem like such a great idea for the Bulls, but now that Derrick Rose will be out for a while, the Bulls need all the depth they can get. It seems very unlikely that Teague can ever reach superstar status, but with Rose gone he'll at least get some extra playing time to prove that he belongs in the NBA. If he can do that much, maybe he does have a future as a starting point guard in the NBA after all.
In his rookie season, Kyrie Irving was an absolute monster and established himself as a top-ten point guard in the NBA. Now, it's time for him to take the next step.
Irving averaged 18.5 points and 5.4 assists a game last season en route to winning the Rookie of the Year award. He was capable of taking over the game and was a threat to score 25 points or more on any given night. He was called out by Byron Scott for his supposed lack of defense, but he wasn't really a liability there either, holding his opponents to shooting just 38 percent from the field.
Irving is a pretty well-rounded player. He won the ROY award, but now he can go further and go from being just a rookie to being one of the most feared, elite guards in the game. Watch out, because Irving could very well be a future face of the NBA.
Who? The truth is, if you aren't a Mavs fan, you probably have never heard of this guy. Crowder was taken as the 34th pick of the draft, and he's already looking like one of the biggest steals of his rookie class.
Crowder played five games for the Mavs in the summer league, and he looked great. He put up 16.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2 steals a game, and although he was playing against lesser competition, he looked better than a lot of the rookies drafted before him.
Crowder likely won't ever be a prolific scorer, but he can still manage to score by getting the ball in the paint and getting putback layups and dunks. You can compare him to Kenneth Faried, and that isn't just because of the awesome dreads. Crowder has an aggressive style of play that should allow him to be a surprise this year, just as Faried was a surprise last season.
Speaking of Kenneth Faried, here he is. Faried started 39 of the 46 games he played last season, averaging 10.2 points and 7.7 rebounds in 23 minutes a game.
Faried wasn't even necessarily expected to get any playing time last season, but he proved everyone wrong and was so much more than just an undersized, raw rookie. He may appear undersized at 6'8", but his incredible wingspan, reach and ridiculous strength earned him the nickname "The Manimal".
Faried should continue to develop this season. He is a great defensive player, he's extremely athletic and he'll always be the type who can manage at least 15 points a game solely off of second chance points and putback dunks. Faried will be a force in this league, and along with other developing players in Javale McGee, Danilo Gallinari and Ty Lawson, the Nuggets should be a contending team pretty soon.
All right, so maybe Monroe hasn't exactly helped the Pistons win more games in the past couple seasons, but he at least deserves more respect than he gets.
Offensively, Monroe is one of the better centers in the game. Last season he put up averages of 15.4 points and 9.7 rebounds a game while shooting 52 percent from the field. He can crash the offensive glass, get open for layups when his teammates find him or even hit a mid-range jumper.
Defense is a different story.
Monroe isn't a good defensive player, and maybe that is another reason he isn't taken seriously. Monroe spent last season being abused by other centers across the league, and although his offense is great, he won't be a star until his defense improves.
It should be easier for him now though. With the addition of Andre Drummond, Monroe will shift over to power forward and won't need to focus on defense as much. Still, it's an issue he can't ignore.
Klay Thompson was an option for this spot as well, but Barnes fulfills the Warriors' need for an elite wing player.
Although offense is covered with Curry and Thompson, having another scoring option doesn't hurt. Barnes is a good shooter from mid-range and from behind the arc, and although he struggles to create his own shot, he is able to stretch the floor and put extra pressure on the defense.
Defensively, he is a good athletic perimeter defender. He isn't extremely quick, but he can use his size and athleticism to guard great players. The Warriors have struggled with defense in recent years, and Barnes is going to need to step up and be a defensive stopper.
If he can do that and also help the team on the glass, then he could be a future centerpiece for the Warriors. If all he can do is be another scorer, then the Warriors won't win any extra games this year.
There were a lot of different option here, considering that half the Houston roster is now 23 or younger. But of all their young players and rookies, Jeremy Lamb appears to be the most likely to become a star.
In Las Vegas this summer, Lamb played five games and put up averages of 20 points and 4.4 rebounds a game, dominating any competition given to him.
Lamb is an extremely athletic player, and has a freakish wingspan for a two-guard. That extra length in his arms allows him to grab extra boards and play great defense in addition to having range and a great jump shot on offense.
Lamb may never be a superstar, but he does have a bright future as a valuable asset on any team. He also might not be best cast as a No. 1 scoring option, but he will be counted on for his scoring ability. Kevin Martin is a free agent next season, and it wouldn't surprise me to see the Rockets trade Martin at the deadline to allow Lamb to start and develop as a player.
Paul George is coming off a very successful sophomore season for the Pacers, and this may just be the season he transforms into a star.
George averaged 12.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.6 steals last season for the Pacers. At 6'10", he is freakishly large for a shooting guard which gives him a huge advantage for grabbing boards.
George also shot 39 percent from downtown last season and is a great outside shooter, but that isn't the only way he can score. George is versatile and very explosive, which allows him to attack the basket, finish off the dribble and also showcase his extraordinary dunking ability.
His length doesn't just help him on the glass either. Because he is so lanky, he can disrupt passing lanes and swipe the ball with ease. In fact, his 1.6 steals a game were 9th in the league last season.
Paul George and Roy Hibbert are two young stars who are quickly turning the Pacers into contenders. Granger is still the leader of the team for now, but it's obvious that George is the focus of the future.
Blake Griffin is already a superstar, right? So what is he doing on this list? Hasn't he already reached his ceiling? The answer is no, Griffin has yet to reach his ceiling, and here's why.
Griffin's stats took a small hit last year. It looks as if he'll stay consistent in scoring 20 points and grabbing 10 boards a game, because you can't do much better than that. But Griffin still has to work on his defense and versatility on offense.
Griffin shot 55 percent from the field last season, but his mid-range jump shot was inconsistent. He could make that shot every once in a while, but he was no Kevin Love. Right now, Griffin relies on post moves and leaping ability to score his points, but if he could work on developing a consistent jump shot or even three-point shot, he would be all the more dangerous.
In addition, he isn't a good defensive player. The Clippers don't desperately need him to provide defense as long as DeAndre Jordan is around, but being able to use Griffin and Jordan together to completely deny opposing teams of any successful post scoring would make the Clippers amazing. Adding a defensive game would be what separates Griffin from Love, and what transforms him from a star into a superstar.
Furthermore, if Griffin works on those two aspects of his game, it might be just what the Clippers need to finally be contenders.
This is the best the Lakers can do? Apparently so. Drafted in the second round of the 2010 draft, Ebanks hasn't had much of a chance to play in his first two seasons in the league.
Last year, Ebanks played in just 24 games, averaging 4 points and 2.3 rebounds a game. He isn't a bad player though. He has shown a pretty good mid-range game.
If Ebanks can add some muscle to his 6'9", 215 lb. frame and work on his defense then maybe he does have a future with the Lakers. After all, small forward does happen to be the team's one weak position that could use some more talent.
With a 6'5", 200 pound frame, Wroten Jr. could be an interesting player in the NBA. He's very strong and is huge for a point guard, two qualities that should allow him to be a solid rebounder in the league. He also has a tendency to drive and is very good at finishing at the basket.
Unfortunately, he has a lot of weaknesses too. Though he isn't a horrendous defensive player by any means, it's an area that needs work. Not only that, but he is an absolutely horrendous shooter with almost no range—his 16 percent three-point shooting for the Huskies last season makes that plain enough. He also has some issues with ball control and racks up too many turnovers for a point guard.
On the bright side, Wroten Jr. is only 19. Maybe he would have benefited from one or two more years in college, but he should be a fine player in the NBA. He's pretty raw, but he'll have plenty of time to develop and could eventually take the starting spot from Mike Conley.
Norris Cole found a lot of success early on in his rookie season, so much so that some Heat fans thought he could compete for a spot on one of the All-Rookie teams. He slowed down a lot towards the end of the season, but he still has the potential to be a solid starter in the NBA.
He showed his fair share of weaknesses last season. For one, he racked up 1.6 turnovers in just 19 minutes a game off the bench, which is too many. He also struggled with his jump shot and only shot 28 percent from behind the arc.
If you can get past those weak points, you also have to look at his strengths. He has impressive speed and quickness, and he's a great, competitive defender.
Cole may never really have an opportunity to shine on the Heat. He plays better with the ball in his hands, but Wade and LeBron are the same way. Cole may start over Chalmers at one point, but it's unlikely he can ever reach an All-Star level of play.
Brandon Jennings is only 23 but he hasn't improved much over his three seasons in the NBA, and the addition of Monta Ellis shouldn't exactly help him reach a star level. However, John Henson is already looking like a great pick for the Bucks.
Henson has the potential to be an elite defender at the NBA level. He has decent leaping ability and athleticism that allow him to block a lot of shots, but he also is a hard worker and is able to stop opposing offenses in the paint. He can also finish low in the post, and has a decent if unpolished jump shot.
Henson has all the tools to be a force in the league, but his size presents more of an issue. Though Henson is tall enough and has the necessary length to guard NBA power forwards, he's very thin and adding some more muscle would go a long way in making him a better player.
Henson will most likely never score 20 points a game or be a dominant offensive player, but he does have enough skill to be an asset and not a liability on offense, and his defense will be superb. He has a very bright future in the league.
Though Derrick Williams is a name that also comes to mind, Ricky Rubio could be one of the greatest point guards the league has to offer if he recovers well from the injury he suffered last year.
Rubio is an absolutely amazing passer. He sets up his teammates with great open looks, and averaged 8.2 assists a game in his rookie season.
He has already drawn comparisons to Steve Nash. Keep in mind, Nash didn't have a season with more than 8 assists a game until he was 29 and in his last season with Dallas. Rubio is just 21 and is already looking like one of the best passers in the NBA.
Additionally, Rubio is a good defender. His length, speed and quickness around the court will allow him to guard even the fastest point guards, from Westbrook to Paul to Rose.
Rubio is already a great defender, passer, and even a decent shooter. He is great in the pick and roll with guys like Pekovic and Love. A couple seasons of experience in the NBA could turn him into a legendary player. This guy is the real deal.
After being drafted first overall, Anthony Davis automatically became the future of the Hornets. Sure, they have other promising young guys like Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson and Austin Rivers, but Anthony Davis may very well the face of the next generation of NBA players.
What makes Davis so special?
First of all, he has a ridiculous wingspan and athleticism that makes him the perfect partner for a point guard in transition. Austin Rivers is probably not that guy, but pair Davis with a pass-first point guard and it will be Lob City 2.0.
Another perk that comes with a long wingspan? Defense and rebounding. Davis is great at both. He can block shots at ease and has the potential to become one of the next great shot-blockers in the NBA.
He can hit the glass to grab offensive boards and give his team second and third opportunities on offense and he can rise up for defensive rebounds as well. His mid-range game could use a lot of work, but it isn't bad and he is able to make those shots.
Davis has almost no weaknesses. He is thin and might be pushed around by other NBA forwards and centers, but if he can put on some muscle and work on his mid-range game and post moves, Davis will be as close to a perfect player as there is. I'm sure he would have dominated in the Summer League against other rookies too, but he was too busy playing against the world's greatest players in the Olympics.
Despite the fact that he hasn't even played an NBA game, Davis already has superstar potential. He is young, but he's ready to be the next big thing in the NBA.
Iman Shumpert had a pretty impressive rookie campaign last season, and unless the big-market Knicks decide to go after another star in the next few years, the shooting guard spot could be Shumpert's.
Shumpert put up averages of about 9.5 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists a game last season. He struggles a little with his shot, but he is able to drive to the basket and has amazing athleticism and leaping ability that makes him one of the better dunkers in the league. In fact, he was chosen to participate in the Sprite Slam-Dunk Contest last season but didn't participate due to injury.
Shumpert's real strength comes with his defense. He is an extremely hard worker on defense and has the potential to be one of the greatest perimeter defenders in the league, shutting down even the most elite, athletic guards such as Dwyane Wade. Shumpert's average of 1.7 steals a game was one of the best in the league and reflects his ability to disrupt passing lanes.
The biggest concern right now with Shumpert is durability. He suffered a few injuries last season and eventually went down in the playoffs with a torn ACL. Now, he will be out for the start of the season, and if he is unable to stay healthy when he comes back he may not ever be able to make a large impact in the league despite the fact that he has the potential to have a successful NBA career.
For now, he just has to focus on recovering. As long as he can stay away from further injury throughout his career, he has All-Star potential.
With Westbrook and Durant ineligible, it was Harden vs. Ibaka for this slide. Ibaka is obviously a great player, but I had to go with Harden.
Harden is a spectacularly efficient player. Westbrook and Durant might score more, but Harden led the Thunder in true shooting percentage, effective field goal percentage and offensive rating last year. Oh yeah, and he was also tied with Durant in win shares per 48 minutes, making him look like a pretty important player.
And as for his stats, those weren't bad either. He shot 49 percent from the field and scored 16.8 points a game to win the sixth man of the year award. Harden is a guy who can handle the ball and run a pick-and-roll like a point guard or shoot from long distance.
In terms of who is more important to the Thunder, that would be Ibaka, since scoring is more easily replaced than defense. That's why Ibaka got an extension first. But Harden is definitely the better player and has the potential to be an All-Star in the near future.
The Magic lose Howard and so starts the rebuilding process. The only problem: Who do they build around?
They have some young players like Vucevic, Andrew Nicholson or Maurice Harkless, but none of those guys look like future superstars to be the centerpiece of the team.
For now, Vucevic looks like a promising young talent. In 51 games for the 76ers last season, Vucevic averaged 5.5 points and 4.8 rebounds in just 15 minutes a game. Vucevic has the size and strength to be a pretty good center in the NBA one day. He has a 7'4" wingspan and uses that length to grab a lot of boards on both ends of the floor.
Vucevic also is a fairly versatile offensive player. He has a good set of post moves, but he can also step out and hit a mid-range shot. He can function in either the high post or low post and can use either hand to finish at the rim. He's no Dwight Howard, but he definitely isn't useless.
In his sophomore season for the Sixers, Evan Turner definitely had an improved year, putting up averages of 9.4 points and 5.8 rebounds a game and starting at the end of the season.
Turner's position has never really been obvious. His 6'7", 205 lb. frame would make you think of him as a small forward or shooting guard, but both Turner and his teammates benefited last season when Turner brought up the ball as a point guard.
Jrue Holiday will remain the main point guard, but Turner will see more minutes at the position with Williams gone, and maybe that's the key to his success as an NBA player. He could bully other point guard with his size and strength, have a huge advantage on the boards and use his great defense to try and stop opposing elite guards from scoring on the team again and again.
Turner will never be a guy with an amazing playmaking ability who racks up double-digit assists every night, but perhaps putting him in more of a point guard role would allow him to finally become an everyday starter.
It's hard to believe that Beasley is still just 23 years old after four years of experience in the NBA. It's also hard to believe that after posting career lows in virtually every statistic he would show up on this list.
Beasley is not a lost cause, and he could still be a very good player. He took seven less shots per game last season because he played off the bench, and that's what hurt his production.
Now that he's in Phoenix, Beasley gets a completely fresh start. He is going to be counted on as the go-to scorer for a young and rebuilding team, and there is no reason to believe he can't do it. He did average almost 20 points a game two years ago, and someone has to score for Phoenix this season. Beasley has developed a more consistent three point shot and a good mid-range game in addition to using his athleticism on offense, and he could potentially be very dangerous.
Beasley can easily score at least 20 points a game this season if he works for it. He isn't the most efficient player, but he'll get the job done. Now if he could develop some more consistency and work harder on defense, maybe he could be an All-Star in a couple of years too.
Lillard was without a doubt the best rookie and possibly the best player in the whole summer league, and now it's time for him to continue to surprise in the regular season.
The Weber State product should execute the pick and roll beautifully with LaMarcus Aldridge, and he is able to get to the rim at will even while being double teamed. After four games in Las Vegas, Lillard averaged a league high 26.5 points and 5.3 assists a game, and had a couple of beautiful performances including a 31-point and seven-assist game. If any player is the MVP of the Summer League, it's Lillard.
With his performance in those games, Lillard successfully earned himself the starting point guard spot. It's pretty obvious that Portland sees him as their their future point guard and very likely a franchise cornerstone. He was double teamed a lot during college, but sharing the court with Batum and Aldridge could draw attention away from Lillard and make him an even more dangerous scorer.
Now, is Lillard going to be as good a scorer as Westbrook or Rose once he develops? It's too early to tell. But at least right now, if anyone can make the ROY race interesting and give Anthony Davis some competition, it's Lillard. Watch out, because this kid could be amazing.
Cousins has some weaknesses, but he is a very good player with the potential to be one of the best bigs in the league. Cousins put up 18.1 points and 11 rebounds a game last year for the Kings, and he's only getting better.
There are definitely some things Cousins must work on. For example, aggressiveness can be a good quality, but Cousins has led the league in fouls for two straight seasons, with 30 more fouls last season than the second place Paul Millsap. He's in foul trouble way too often, and it only hurts his team. Cousins also shot just 45 percent from the field last season, and he does have a mid-range shot but needs to work on his consistency.
Honestly, Cousins' strengths far outweigh his weaknesses. He does have the ability to hit a mid-range jump shot or score in the post and is a versatile offensive player. He's a great rebounder, and his strength and quickness allow him to guard almost any power forward or center in the game.
Overall, Cousins has the potential to become an amazing player. He has shown some problems with maturity, but hopefully he'll grow out of them. At just 21 year old, he has a ton of time to improve and become one of the more dominant bigs his generation has to offer.
Leonard was a nice surprise for the Spurs last season, as the 15th overall pick started for the majority of the year and put up averages of 7.9 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 24 minutes a game. Leonard is a player who possesses All-Star potential.
Leonard's huge wingspan helps him shut down players on the defensive side of the ball. In addition to that, Leonard is also an extremely skilled rebounder with that huge wingspan of his.
He's an extremely versatile player who can guard many different positions, and he not only rebounds but can also stretch the floor and hit threes all game long. The Spurs are getting old, and it's becoming clear that Leonard is the future.
Valanciunas was selected 5th overall by the Raptors in the 2011 draft, but had his international team allowed him to play in the 2011-2012 season, he likely would've been drafted even higher.
Valanciunas has yet to play even any preseason or Summer League games as an NBA player, but he is considered one of the greatest international prospects of the past several years. Though international players are often busts, it is hard to imagine the 6'11" Lithuanian center falling in that category.
After all, he has plenty of experience. He's played pro basketball since 2008 and has been Lithuanian Player of the Year, FIBA European Young Player of the Year, Eurocup Rising Star, has been to two Lithuanian Basketball League All-Star games and has made the LKL finals twice. All that experience abroad should help him make an easy transition to the NBA, even if the competition is harder.
Valanciunas is a great player, and he definitely has the potential to be Rookie of the Year. The Raptors aren't a very good team, but maybe that could change in the future. Valanciunas should develop into a great player over the next few years and maybe he can lead the Raptors to the playoffs.
Derrick Favors is an asset the Utah Jazz acquired in the Deron Williams trade a couple years ago. Favors, 21, averaged 8.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game last season for the Jazz.
The rookie was drafted third overall by the New Jersey Nets in the 2010 draft, however he did not exactly perform up to expectations.
He is known as a great defender, and we saw flashes of his good defense in the past as he averaged one block in in under 20 minutes of play per game last season.
Hopefully Favors will finally get his opportunity to shine soon, but he may still be stuck on the bench. Utah may be willing to place Jefferson or Millsap on the trade block in the future and build around the youngsters like Hayward, Burks, Kanter and Favors, but there has been no implication of that happening.
Until either Millsap or Jefferson leave the team, Favors is stuck on the bench, but he is still a great asset. He has the potential to become dominant on both ends of the floor, and could have a successful career, but he's being held back.
John Wall is young enough to be put in this spot, but after taking a step back last season, he looks like he might never actually be a star. Beal on the other hand has all the potential to make that happen.
Beal was not nearly as good in the summer leagues as some of the other top rookies, but he was solid for the most part. He was the main scorer for the Wizards and demonstrated the ability to be a leader. He also got the ball more than any other player. That will obviously change when Beal plays with Nene and Wall, but he'll still get plenty of opportunities to shoot on a rebuilding roster.
Beal is the type of player that isn't afraid to shoot. He has terrific range, and he'll be counted on to take a lot of shots and score. However, Beal is also unselfish at the same time and will find his open teammates.
Beal is going to be a large focus of this team as they move forward. A few years down the road Beal could very well be a prolific scorer and the go-to scorer on the team, and he could also be an All-Star player.