Projecting the NBA All-Star Teams 3-5 Years from Now
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It's easy to project some of the current NBA All-Stars who will continue to make the team for the next three to five seasons. But attempting to discern which players will make it who have yet to make an All-Star appearance is far more difficult.
Barring career altering injuries, the premier players of today will still be All-Stars.
My podcast co-host Brandon LaChance (@LaChance_Writer) and I discussed potential future All-Stars on our podcast, the Dig N Shot Show. LaChance's list differed significantly from my own, and his opinions are well worth giving a listen to gain a deeper perspective on some guys that aren't mentioned in this slideshow.
Let's delve into the potential rosters for the 2016-2018 All-Star games.
Incumbent Backcourt All-Stars in 2016-18
Kyrie Irving will likely have his mask off before 2016.
While there is no absolute certainty that Derrick Rose will return to the MVP-caliber level he played at prior to tearing his ACL in the 2012 NBA playoffs, it's unfair to assume he won't, either.
Rose says he won't return until he is 110 percent, but once he does, it's going to be interesting to see if the Bulls can re-emerge as Eastern Conference contenders.
Russell Westbrook is option "1-B" for the defending Western Conference champs. He's still getting better, and for those pundits who claim Westbrook is nothing but a shoot-first chucker who inhibits team chemistry, please explain how he is averaging over eight assists per game while the Thunder have posted the second-best record in the West, sans James Harden.
Rajon Rondo was the most recent victim to suffer a major ACL injury among All-Stars, but he was selected for the 2013 All-Star game before he suffered the injury.
Like Rose, the assumption is being made that he will return to form and continue to lead the league in assists as he had been this season prior to going down.
Chris Paul is a legitimate MVP candidate this year for the L.A. Clippers, and is almost indisputably the best pass-first point guard in the NBA. He's greatly enhanced the talents of Blake Griffin in "Lob City," and he and Griffin will be perennial All-Stars for the next half decade in all likelihood.
Paul George has shined while Danny Granger has been rehabbing his knee, and he's only scratching the surface of his immense potential. His value as a defender was easy to see in his rookie year.
Now George has developed his offensive game to the point that he could potentially be a No. 1 option on a contending team. Averaging 16.7 points per game this season, the ceiling for George is almost unfathomably high.
Jrue Holiday has put together a phenomenal season for the 76ers, and Brandon LaChance said on the show that not only will Holiday be an All-Star, but so will his backcourt mate Evan Turner and combo forward Thaddeus Young.
The Sixers are seven games below .500, but with that kind of potential and Holiday leading the squad, it's a pretty safe bet that he's an All-Star in 2016-18.
Kyrie Irving is making his first All-Star appearance in his second season as a pro. His talents haven't helped the Cleveland Cavs emerge as much more than a Central Division cellar dweller, but once Irving lures some free agents to come join him in Cleveland, it will only further strengthen his case as a potential top-three NBA point guard.
Irving is about a month away from turning 21, so his potential is only beginning to be seen.
James Harden went from being the sixth man for the reigning Western Conference champions to the No. 1 option on a much-improved Houston Rockets team. Harden is fifth in the NBA in scoring, and the Houston Rockets are well below the cap, even after awarding Harden a max contract.
That makes it likely he remains in Houston, and the Rockets could develop into a true contender in the next few seasons.
Incumbent Frontcourt All-Stars in 2016-18
How long will LeBron reign as the league's premier talent?
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LeBron James is now starting (even more) to be mentioned in the G.O.A.T. conversations that fans like to have. He became the NBA's youngest player to reach 20,000 career points.
On Feb. 12 against the Portland Trail Blazers, he recorded his sixth straight game with 30-plus points while shooting 60-plus percent from the field in each game.
Even at ages 31 through 33, he'll still be just exiting his prime and likely have no problem making an All-Star team.
Kevin Durant is tied with Carmelo Anthony for the NBA's scoring title with 29.0 points per game, and the 6'11" small forward led the NBA in scoring the last three seasons prior to this year.
Compared to George Gervin by many, Durant has established himself as one of the best pure scorers in NBA history and is not even close to entering what will be considered his prime.
Carmelo Anthony is the only player selected in the top five of the 2003 NBA draft who hasn't yet won a title, but that likely won't prevent him from continuing to make All-Star teams for the next half decade.
The Knicks have the second-best record in the East, which has helped Melo silence doubters who said he could never be the No. 1 option on a contending team.
Blake Griffin's continued over-reliance upon athleticism only illustrates just how scary good he could be once he further develops the finer aspects of his game. Teams still dare him to shoot jumpers, and he has a lot of progress to make as a defender.
Griffin will likely hone these aspects of his game and become the NBA's best power forward by 2016. He is just 23 years old, so he'll be just entering his prime by the 2018-19 season, most likely.
Kevin Love has to be in the discussion for the best power forward in the NBA right now. Unfortunately, this season he's battled injuries most of the year and just isn't playing his best basketball. Love has appeared in only 18 games this season, which made it impossible for the coaches to select him as a reserve for the West.
Last season, Love posted 24 points per game while grabbing 12.3 rebounds a night. In 2010-11, he averaged 15.3 rebounds per game. He's a perennial All-Star and is just 24 years of age.
If he hadn't been voted in by the fans, it is questionable as to whether Dwight Howard would have made this year's All-Star game. The herniated disks in his back that he had surgery on during the offseason seem to have greatly reduced his prowess on both ends of the court.
And the L.A. Lakers haven't exactly been the feel good story of the 2012-13 season.
Even still, Howard is a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, and after a full offseason of more rehabilitation and rest, he will likely return to the form he displayed while in Orlando.
Chris Bosh, Brook Lopez, Joakim Noah, LaMarcus Aldridge, Luol Deng and David Lee are all very good players who will appear in this year's All-Star game. But none of them are locks to be All-Stars in a few seasons' time.
It's not just their ages, but also the fact that there will be new players coming into the league who could exceed their production. They're fringe All-Stars by 2018.
Current All-Stars Who Will Likely No Longer Be All-Stars
How much longer can Wade extend his prime?
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Dwyane Wade, Tyson Chandler, Tony Parker, Luol Deng and Zach Randolph will all be 33 years of age or older by that point. That makes their prospects of playing at an All-Star level significantly lower than if they were under 30.
That's not to say none of the five will be All-Stars, but it's a near certainty that all five won't be.
Potential Frontcourt All-Stars
Andre Drummond is already posting beastly per-minute stats.
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Greg Monroe isn't flashy, but what he lacks in pizazz, he makes up for in substance. He's a lot like Tim Duncan, minus the great shot blocking. Monroe can face up opposing centers, and he passes very well for a center.
The fact that DeMarcus Cousins has All-Star potential really isn't in dispute. It's just a matter of whether he ever grasps the mental aspects needed to become that type of player.
His case will also be further helped if he can transform the Sacramento Kings/Seattle SuperSonics, or whichever NBA team he ends up playing for, into a winning ball club.
"The Manimal" Kenneth Faried is a high-energy player, and he's an absolute monster on the boards. He's astoundingly fast for a player of his size, and his speed advantage has enabled him to drive opposing power forwards nuts.
Serge Ibaka could potentially win the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year award, and his offensive talents are continuing to improve as he's assumed a larger role in the Thunder's offense this year.
While he's not relied upon very heavily, playing for a squad that is sure to contend for seasons to come will help him get the exposure and notoriety needed to make an All-Star team.
The No. 1 overall pick of the 2012 NBA draft is having a slightly disappointing rookie season, but NBA big men sometimes take a few seasons to come close to reaching their ultimate potential.
A stat line of 12.3 points per game, 7.4 rebounds and 1.9 blocks doesn't scream future All-Star, but Davis has yet to even turn 20 years of age. His deft coordination and work ethic will help him take the steps necessary to make it.
In his first six games as a Toronto Raptor, Rudy Gay averaged 22 points per game while the Raptors won four of six games. He struggled on Feb. 13 in the win over the New York Knicks, but all indications are that his move north of the border is going to further accelerate his ascent into the elite class of NBA small forwards. It's somewhat astounding he hasn't yet made an All-Star team.
Jabari Parker committed to Duke. He'll likely be a one-and-done player for the Blue Devils, and he's currently projected by NBADraft.net to go No. 2 overall in the 2014 NBA draft.
It's a bit early to say that Parker's success at the high-school level guarantees an All-Star spot in 2016-18, but his NBA comparison on NBADraft.net is Carmelo Anthony.
They cite Parker as "ultra-skilled forward with an innate, natural ability to play basketball." He's considered by many to be the top high school player in the nation.
Andrew Wiggins is part of the recent insurgence of Canadian players coming to make a big impact in the NBA. When Wiggins enters the NBA in 2014-15, he'll become the seventh Canadian player to play in the NBA; joining Steve Nash, Jamaal Magloire, Joel Anthony, Cory Joseph, Tristan Thompson and Samuel Dalembert.
Wiggins is projected to go No. 1 overall in 2014 by NBADraft.net, and they give a rather lofty comparison: Chicago Bulls legend Scottie Pippen.
They throw superlatives such as "freakishly gifted athlete," while also adding that he has an "unreal amount of potential." Expect the small forward to join Tristan Thompson of the Cleveland Cavs as the best frontcourt players to hail from the great north.
Andre Drummond has displayed immense potential this season and while he hasn't seen a ton of minutes (19.7 per game), he's played enough for us to know with certainty he is no flash in the pan. Per 36 minutes, Drummond is posting 13.3 points, 13.7 rebounds and 3.1 blocks.
Once the UConn product is inserted into the starting lineup, whether that be late this year or next season, he should propel himself into the discussion for a reserve spot in the east.
Those who still think the Orlando Magic got fleeced in the four-team deal that made Dwight Howard a Laker obviously haven't seen how good Nikola Vucevic is. He's very gifted around the basket, and his touch is very soft.
He's the fourth leading rebounder in the NBA (11.4 per game) in addition to scoring 12.5 points per game.
Vucevic pulled down a franchise-record 29 rebounds while also scoring 20 points in a game against the Miami Heat on Dec. 31.
JaVale McGee's asthma might be the only thing that keeps him from becoming an NBA All-Star. It's caused him to play reduced minutes, and Kosta Koufos is starting in front of him in Denver.
He's a bit of a long shot to make an All-Star team since he is only playing 22 minutes a game this season, but McGee's talent level makes him worth a mention.
Shabazz Muhammad of UCLA is thought to have franchise cornerstone potential as a small forward. He's an elite athlete who NBADraft.net compares to Latrell Sprewell.
If Muhammad can avoid choking coaches and become the kind of talent Spree was, he'll make an All-Star team.
Honorable Mention: Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Omer Asik, Harrison Barnes, Chandler Parsons, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Tristan Thompson
Potential Backcourt All-Stars
Should Lillard have made it this season?
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Damian Lillard is almost certain to win this year's Rookie of the Year award, and together with LaMarcus Aldridge has helped make a Portland team contenders in the Western Conference, despite low expectations coming into this season.
Lillard could have even made the team this season, as he's posting 18.4 points per game and dishing out 6.5 assists a night. Shaquille O'Neal obviously thinks a lot of him to have selected him ahead of Kyrie Irving for his squad in the 2013 Rising Stars Challenge.
Stephen Curry was this year's biggest snub, but it's hard to dispute that the guards who did make the squad played at a lower level than the point guard. Curry is bound to make one sooner or later.
Now that Jose Calderon is out of the way in Toronto, Kyle Lowry can go back to doing what he does best: posting incredible numbers that go unnoticed by a lot of NBA fans and analysts.
Through mid-January of the 2011-12 season, Lowry was the No. 1 ranked fantasy point guard before becoming mired in a horrible slump that ultimately killed his chances of making the team last year.
Ben McLemore is having a monster season for the Kansas Jayhawks and is projected by NBADraft.net to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 draft. He's a dead-eye shooter and an amazing athlete, a combination that nearly ensures success at the next level.
Ty Lawson has struggled this season, but he's a great talent and shot the ball very well leading up to this year. Lawson's production is down across the board (save averaging a fraction of an assist more per game), but he's on a loaded Denver Nuggets squad that hinders more than it helps his chances of putting up All-Star-like numbers.
Honorable Mention: Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson, Eric Gordon, John Wall, Dion Waiters, Ricky Rubio