Superstars the NBA's Young Guns Must Emulate
With the NBA's young stars rising to the top, there will occur a bevy of comparisons, fair or not. There are your standard Kobe Bryant to Michael Jordan comparisons, but those are growing a bit stale, so now it's time for LeBron James to take that mantle.
Growing up as a kid from San Francisco, my favorite player was Jason Kidd and I tried to imitate the way he was able to locate his teammates from seemingly impossible angles whenever I stepped onto the court. However, my middle school coach stamped that dream out when she played me as a center.
Every player has their idols, but most importantly, most young players have a superstar's skill set they can build their game around and hopefully achieve the same success and stardom.
Does each player absolutely have to duplicate that star's game to portend future accolades? In a word: No. In fact, most players despise comparisons because they want to be their own player and set their own basketball goals.
Individual ego or not, there are just too many striking similarities in these nine young players' games that remind us of what it might take for them to take it to the next level.
In no way are we attempting to compare each player to their respective superstar, but there are enough correlating qualities that warrant improvements to fulfill their potential.
Kenneth Faried and Joakim Noah
In an All-Star Game atmosphere, Kenneth Faried was able to dominate the Rising Stars challenge primarily because he was the only one that cared, playing at a frenetic pace up and down the court. Fast-forward a day later and we saw Joakim Noah wolfing at referees and playing your proverbial 110 percent in the All-Star Game.
Endless amounts of energy connect the two players, but Faried has a ton of work to do, especially on defense, to play like Noah.
Faried is great at running the pick-and-roll straight to the rim, but his defense leaves a lot to be desired; his five on the court allows 0.6 more points per 100 possessions, according to 82games.com. Noah, on the other hand, allows 1.6 less points per 100 possessions when he is in the game.
Noah's ability to hedge hard on guards and contest the shooter while being able to recover to grab the rebound is rare in the NBA. However, Faried has that ability because of his quickness and energy.
He isn't as big as Noah, but a gradual improvement on the defensive side while learning a couple post-moves—no matter how ugly—would put him as one of the best forward/centers in the league.
Klay Thompson and Ray Allen
After many people expected a second-year breakout from Klay Thompson, he has struggled with his decision-making and shooting (from the field), while perhaps dealing with a bit of fatigue.
Playing an average of 35.3 minutes in every game this season, Thompson is averaging 1.9 turnovers per game and shooting just 41.8 percent from the field. The Warriors like to run Thompson (and Curry) around crossing screens in a figure-eight around the middle of the court, and there are numerous times when Thompson is uncertain of what to do when he gets the ball.
Saying that, Thompson is shooting 38.5 percent from three. However, there are numerous occasions when Thompson enjoys shooting without setting his feet and fading away, causing a different trajectory of the ball on every shot. Learning how to set his feet on screens like Allen would help immensely.
Let's not forget that Allen can pass as well, averaging 3.5 or more assists for 11 straight seasons.
If Klay can provide better decision-making and shooting, the Warriors have the backcourt of their future.
Andre Drummond and Dwight Howard
Both Andre Drummond and Dwight Howard are allergic to the art of free-throw making. Fortunately, that's where the negative similarities end.
Like Howard, Drummond came into the league with standard big man questions concerning his ability to grow a post game and ability to grow into his potential. If the 2012 NBA Draft was drafted based solely on potential, Drummond would finish second behind Anthony Davis.
Drummond was drafted ninth by the Detroit Pistons.
Per 36 minutes, Drummond is averaging 13.3 points, 3.1 blocks, 13.7 rebounds and 59.2 percent shooting. Howard averaged 13.2 points, 1.7 blocks, 11.1 rebounds and 52 percent shooting in his rookie season, according to Basketball Reference.
Once Drummond is able to fill into his body, as Dwight was able to do, he should be a dominant force defensively. There may never be a day when Drummond will have a great post-game, but he can pass and run the spread pick-and-roll well enough, because of his agility, to where it doesn't matter as much.
He is well on his way to emulating Dwight on the defensive end, but adding pieces to his offensive game like pre-Lakers Dwight will be huge for his development.
Pair him with Greg Monroe and the Detroit Pistons have a potentially dominant big-man duo.
Eric Bledsoe and Derrick Rose
If the NBA were without Russell Westbrook and pre-injury Derrick Rose, Eric Bledsoe would be the most athletic point guard in the league.
Bledsoe has shown glimpses of greatness this season, especially on the defensive end. His long arms and blinding speed make it tough for opposing guards to even bring the ball up the court. What he can do to improve his game is to become an uber-agressive slasher on the offensive end, a la Rose.
What they both lack in shaky jumpers they can make up for by repeatedly putting pressure on the defense by driving to the rim. Rose averaged 6.3 shots at the rim in 2011 (shooting 60 percent). Bledsoe is averaging 3.5 shots at the rim this season (shooting 61.8 percent), according to Hoopdata.com.
It remains to be seen what kind of role Bledsoe will play behind Chris Paul and next to Blake Griffin (maybe a trade?), but driving to the basket like Rose will elevate his game to the next level.
Stephen Curry and Steve Nash
Steve Nash and Mike D'Antoni formed one of the greatest innovative duos in NBA history when they took the Phoenix Suns within a couple games of the NBA Finals with a style no one believed could sustain itself.
On his way to becoming one of the greatest point guards ever, Steve Nash won two MVP awards with the up-and-down system built around spread pick-and-rolls and a multitude of shooters.
Stephen Curry, on the other hand, plays without the ball the majority of the time at the end of games. The offense doesn't revolve so much around the David Lee-Curry pick-and-roll as it does the spacing with the great three-point shooting of Curry.
In the past couple weeks, we've seen Curry try to maneuver the ball into the lower regions of the paint more and more, with mixed results. He is shooting 36.6 percent from 3-9 feet, according to Hoopdata.com.
Very few can duplicate the passing ability of Nash, but Curry can take lessons from how Nash probes the defense with his dribble until he finds someone open. It wouldn't hurt if Bogut could come back healthy as well.
The shooting prowess is there, but the decision-making and passing are what separates Curry from becoming great like Nash.
Anthony Davis and Kevin Garnett
Mired by ankle injuries and Monty Williams' unwillingness to hand over the reins to the rookie, Anthony Davis hasn't played as many minutes and games as he would have liked.
However, that hasn't stopped him from producing super-efficient numbers whenever he is on the court. Davis is still having problems rotating on pick-and-rolls offensively and defensively, but his 1.8 blocks per game signal a future defensive star.
Davis had shown a sweet touch from outside in college, but he's struggled from mid-range in the NBA.
His defensive prowess and smooth touch for a big man reminds us of Kevin Garnett, who is still one of the best defensive players in the league. If Davis can adapt Garnett's post game, he'll be a force on both sides of the ball for the next decade and a half. David may never be the trash-talker enforcer (might not ever be another one), but his long lanky arms and rare touch compare favorably to Garnett.
Dion Waiters and Dwyane Wade
After a sluggish start to the season, Waiters has played more efficiently and meshed better with Kyrie Irving. He went from shooting five threes a game in October to just 1.6 a game in February, according to Hoopdata.com.
In comparison to Wade, Waiters has had a similar year shooting, passing and scoring. Waiters is averaging 17.6 points, 1.3 steals, 3.1 rebounds, 31 percent from distance and 6.7 made field goals per 36 minutes. Wade in his rookie season averaged 16.8 points, 1.5 steals, 4.2 rebounds, 30.2 from distance and 6.3 made field goals per 36 minutes, according to Basketball Reference.
If Waiters can cut down the three-point attempts and take it to the basket like Wade, they possess similar offensive qualities. Neither lack confidence, and are rhythm shooters, but Wade is lethal shifting gears at the right time. Waiters can become a superstar with Irving if he can temper his reckless play.
Paul George and LeBron James
The most improved and breakout player of the year, Paul George has tapped into his potential (with Danny Granger injured) in becoming the franchise player for the Indiana Pacers.
Let's get this out first; George has a less than one percent chance of having a career like LeBron, but the talent level is there, and learning through James' all-around game will help him a ton.
Looking at his numbers, there is nothing George cannot do on the hardwood. He can shoot (38.7 percent from distance this year), rebound (7.9 per game), pass (four assists per game) and is part of the NBA's best defense.
But unlike LeBron, George came into this league as more of a shooter than someone who overpowered people on his way to the basket. But he can follow a similar linear improvement like James by taking his game to the post and creating for other players.
Possessing a similar wingspan as LeBron, George is not only able to clog passing lanes on defenses, but he can shoot over players on the offensive end. He can also look over the defense and make passes guards simply cannot—unless your name is Chris Paul.
But most of all, he can stand to improve on the low block, especially the pinch post, to open up a rather slow Pacer offense.