Young NBA Studs Who Could Blossom into Stars During 2013-14 Season
We saw a lot of young NBA studs flash towering ceilings in 2012-13. For some, those ceilings are going to take time to reach.
But there's a select few ready to immediately take the elevator up.
Thanks to a year or two of experience, along with better roster situations, these young studs should all emerge as stars in 2013-14.
Iman Shumpert, New York Knicks
With Carmelo Anthony in the lineup and J.R. Smith at the 2, Shump is unlikely to put up any mind-blowing numbers. But he's clearly a young stud on the rise and an X-factor for New York.
Shumpert's previous two training camps have been hindered by a lockout and torn ACL. But all systems are go in 2013-14.
One of the game's top on-ball defenders, look for Shumpert's offensive role to expand in year No. 3.
Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls
Jimmy Butler will slide right into Chicago's starting lineup after his strong performance during last year's playoffs. An excellent defender, reliable shooter and crafty slasher, Butler is a mistake-free, high-reward two-way wing.
With more minutes alongside a playmaker like Derrick Rose, Butler should see plenty of open looks and scoring chances this upcoming season.
Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
As a rookie, Andre Drummond made the most of every minute he was given, finishing his first NBA season with a 21.69 PER.
He's simply too overwhelming for most opposing big men, with the size, strength, athleticism and mobility to elude or outmuscle them.
A dominant presence in the paint, Drummond had adjusted averages of 14.7 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per 40 minutes. He's got a relentless motor, monstrous wingspan and a nose for the ball you just can't teach.
This year, look for Drummond to see more time and touches in Detroit's half-court offense. He's shown he can handle it in the open floor and clean up around the rim, but a low-post game could immediately catapult him to stardom.
Tobias Harris, Orlando Magic
Tobias Harris has the entire package, which Orlando finally got to open following the trade that brought him over from Milwaukee.
Harris went on a rampage following the deal, averaging 19.8 points and 9.8 boards in April and 16 and eight in March.
At around 6'9'', Harris has the frame and shoulders of a young Carmelo Anthony. He also has the inside-outside game he can go to as a small or power forward. Harris has the strength to bang down low, along with the agility and handle to shake defenders off the bounce.
He also knocked down 27 threes in 27 games with the Magic, showing his range and jumper are both improving over time.
Given his physical tools and skill set, Harris is going to be a tough mismatch for slower-footed 4s and skinnier 3s. And without many offensive options in Orlando, he should pose as the team's first.
Look for Harris to put up monster numbers in his first season as a featured offensive weapon.
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
I'm thinking superstar.
Anthony Davis has the chance to become an NBA superstar, and it could come sooner than you think.
Thanks to his ridiculous late-high school growth spurt, this is a rare and special prospect. He's essentially a guard at 6'10'' who can handle the ball, shoot it, finish at the rim and protect it.
Davis played less than 30 minutes a game as a rookie, so we only really saw flashes of potential. Still, those flashes were able to produce 13.5 points at a 51.6 percent clip, along with 8.2 boards and 1.8 blocks.
With added polish to his game and minutes to his role, Davis could quickly emerge as one of the most versatile players in the league—if he's not already.
Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
After averaging a 14-point, 11-rebound double-double through seven NBA Finals games, the bar has officially been raised for Kawhi Leonard.
And there's no reason to think he won't clear it.
He's maintained a respectable 37 percent three-point stroke in back-to-back years and continues to disrupt opposing scorers as a lockdown defender.
According to Vorped, Leonard raised his mid-range percentage from 38 to 48 percent. Pair his half-court scoring strengths with his effectiveness in transition, and Leonard can be an asset in any lineup, system or tempo.
Leonard fell into the ideal situation in San Antonio, where his skill set perfectly complements the talent around him. In 2013-14, expect Leonard to play with a little more offensive confidence and increase the threat he poses as a scorer.
Paul George made the leap his third year in the league. Leonard seems poised to follow.
Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto Raptors
Jonas Valanciunas had an eventful summer, which included an MVP performance at the Las Vegas Summer League and a silver medal at the 2013 FIBA EuroBasket in Slovenia.
The eye test indicates that Valanciunas clearly added strength, muscle and mass. He looks like a monster out there—a very skilled monster who can attack with his back to the rim or facing it in the mid-range.
He's developed a reliable jumper in that 10-to-15-foot range, and with nimble feet, he's able to put it on the floor and attack off the dribble.
He's also a space-eater in the paint—Valanciunas should be able to control the glass and protect the rim at a high level.
And with Andrea Bargnani no longer stealing minutes and space, Valanciunas should be in line for a huge bump in touches and production.
Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
Bradley Beal was turning the corner as a rookie before an ankle injury slowed him down.
He had at least 20 points 11 times during a 29-game stretch from January to March. Beal finished the year averaging 13.9 points on an accurate 38.6 percent shooting from three.
Physically, Beal has the perfect body and bounce for a scoring 2-guard. And with a lights-out three-ball and open-floor athleticism, he's got the offensive tools to put points on the board.
This year, look for Beal to expand his shot creativity off the dribble. Most of his shots as a rookie came off balanced scoring opportunities, either from line drives to the rack or spot-up and pull-up jump shots.
Beal should have the green light to grow as a one-on-one scorer, so he can emerge as a top option in Washington's offense.
Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix Suns
Eric Bledsoe has just been itching for his opportunity, and he'll get it this year in Phoenix as a top-scoring option.
In just 20 minutes a game as Chris Paul's backup, Bledsoe managed to score 8.5 points and dish out 3.1 assists a game. He also averaged 1.4 steals and .7 blocks, allowing his incredible athleticism to drive his off-ball production.
As a Sun, Bledsoe won't have a solidified position. Instead, he'll simply pose as a playmaker, whether it's scoring from the wing, creating from the point or pushing the tempo on the break.
He's truly a sick, sick athlete with a devastating blend of speed, strength and hops. By the end of the year, Bledsoe should sell a ton of mesmerizing posters, photographs and jerseys.
Phoenix is bound to play at a fast pace given its backcourt strengths and frontcourt weaknesses. That should allow Bledsoe to put up big-time numbers in his first year as a featured member of the offense.
Larry Sanders, Milwaukee Bucks
Larry Sanders' activity level was off the charts last year, when he averaged 9.5 boards and 2.8 blocks in 27 minutes a night.
But he averaged less than 10 points a game. Attribute that to playing with Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, arguably the most ball-dominant backcourt in the league at the time.
Sanders should see his minutes and scoring opportunities increase this season with a newly constructed roster that offers a little more balance.
As a scorer, Sanders hit 39 mid-range jumpers in 2012-13, compared to just 11 he hit the previous season, according to Vorped. He's improving his touch facing the rim, making him a bigger threat to score when the game is slowed down.
Sanders is already regarded as one of the top three rim-protectors in the game. With a little more offensive polish, he's got the chance to become a killer asset on both sides of the ball.
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