Future NBA Stars Stuck on Awful Teams

Daniel O'BrienFeatured ColumnistMarch 12, 2013

Future NBA Stars Stuck on Awful Teams

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    It's bittersweet to watch the NBA's up-and-coming ballers. They show so much promise, but their teams are far from 2013 playoff contention.

    In some cases, their teams may be far from 2014 contention as well.

    Whether they're part of a roster lacking adequate talent, a roster assembled incongruously or a roster coached incompetently, these young players are stuck in the cellar of the league.

    A few of them are on the doorstep of stardom, ready to take the league by storm in 2013-14 if only their clubs would let them.

    Who are some of the brightest future stars stuck on awful teams?

Dion Waiters, Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Age: 21

    Team Record: 21-42

    Cleveland Cavaliers shooting guard Dion Waiters is on the cusp of stardom already, and he's not yet through his rookie season.

    In one sense, he still sits in the shadow of budding megastar and unquestioned team leader Kyrie Irving. On the other hand, he's building his own reputation as an explosive playmaker and future star.

    Waiters has the combination of skill and physical gifts necessary to create his own shot, and that's an attribute that few NBA players have truly mastered.

    The next step is to get those shots to fall—and be part of a winning lineup.

Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic

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    Age: 22

    Team Record: 18-46

    If stardom was based purely on rebounding, Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic would be one of the brightest in the NBA.

    Due to Andrew Bynum's knee issues, Vucevic is the envy of his former club, the Philadelphia 76ers. But they're not the only team that would love to acquire the developing post player.

    Unfortunately for Vucevic, he may not be able to test the free-agent market until 2015.

    By then, he could be hauling in 14 rebounds per game with no playoffs to show for it. The Magic need to make a splash in free agency in the meantime if they want to be anything more than a doormat to the Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks.

Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons

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    Age: 19

    Team Record: 23-43

    Andre Drummond turned out to be one of the most worthwhile picks in the entire 2012 NBA draft, and it's a shame that he doesn't have much of a backcourt to work with.

    The Detroit Pistons have floundered chiefly because of a lack of playmaking depth at the guard and swingman positions.

    Drummond is one of the few players on the team who has met or exceeded expectations. Prior to being sidelined by his back injury, he was posting 13.3 points and 13.7 rebounds per 36 minutes.

    His potential is still gigantic because there is still much room for ball-skill development.

    Will he be able actualize this potential on a winning club? Not for a couple more seasons.

Marcus Morris, Phoenix Suns

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    Age: 23

    Team Record: 22-42

    Newly acquired Phoenix Suns forward Marcus Morris has made significant strides across the board since his rookie season, and even bigger strides since arriving from the Houston Rockets.

    In his nine games with Phoenix, Morris is tallying 10 points and 1.7 steals per game in 20 minutes of play, and that's not the best part. He's shooting 49 percent from the field and hitting more than half his three-point attempts.

    Morris could blossom into one of the most versatile power forwards in the league before he even turns 25.

    Let's just hope the Suns become more than a West Coast whipping boy.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte Bobcats

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    Age: 19

    Team Record: 13-50

    Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will probably never be a star playmaker and the first option on any team, but he will become a star because he'll be a vital piece to a winning club.

    Whether that winning club is the 2016-17 Charlotte Bobcats remains to be seen.

    Despite his shortcomings and rough patches throughout the 2012-13 season, Kidd-Gilchrist has been a solid rookie for a 19-year-old.

    His court awareness, focus and competitiveness are terrific for someone his age, and his ball-handling skills have noticeably improved since his Kentucky days.

    Will he and Kemba Walker ever get out of Charlotte, or better yet, lead them to a playoff run?


Isaiah Thomas, Sacramento Kings

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    Age: 24

    Team Record: 22-43

    Whether you're a current star like DeMarcus Cousins or Tyreke Evans, or a future star like Isaiah Thomas, being stuck with the Sacramento Kings is no fun.

    Ownership hasn't made it easy on anyone, and the incompatible and incompetent lineup makes the whole situation a nightmare.

    Thomas exhibits spurts of stardom, but he struggles with inconsistency. Only once in 2012-13 has he assembled three straight games of 20-plus points.

    He doesn't have the potential to be a superstar, but 15-17 points and seven assists is well within his power if he can escape from Sac-town.

Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards

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    Age: 19

    Team Record: 20-41

    Bradley Beal isn't quite a star yet, and his Washington Wizards club isn't good yet, but both of those things could change in 2013-14.

    He's quickly developing into a shooting guard who can do much more than toss triples and take the occasional drive from the wing. Beal's rebounding, passing and defense are all swiftly becoming above-average assets.

    If he and John Wall can get a full season, or even three-quarters of a season together, the Wizards will have a legitimate chance to make the playoffs and even advance past the first round.

    For now, Beal must work past his ankle sprain and finish out a losing season.

Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Age: 21

    Team Record: 21-42

    Much like his teammate Dion Waiters, Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson has stardom in his near future.

    He's so close, in fact, that when the dust settles from the 2012-13 season, he may be worthy of such a label.

    Thompson has notched double-doubles in four of the Cavs' five games. His ambidextrous short hook and athletic rebounding prowess set him apart from most first- and second-year players.

    Cleveland could potentially keep him through 2016. Hopefully, by then, he won't be a guy "stuck" on a bad Cavaliers team, but rather the guy who was a big part of the solution.

Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto Raptors

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    Age: 20

    Team Record: 25-39

    The Toronto Raptors are just one spot away from the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference tournament, but they're still an awful team, 8.5 games from catching up with the Milwaukee Bucks.

    Lithuanian import Jonas Valanciunas possesses a bundle of coachable talent, but he doesn't have any great post players to work with in the U.S.

    With three straight double-digit performances, including a pair of multi-block games, he's ready to make his final substantial rookie progress before he accepts a larger role in 2013-14.

    The Raptors have rights to him through 2016, and after that the club could bid its way into keeping him for 2017.

    Until Toronto gets Valanciunas some help on the low block, it will find it extremely difficult to take those next steps to the No. 8 spot.