You could argue that this year’s Finals represent the past (the San Antonio Spurs) vs. the present (the Miami Heat). The future is knocking, though. The rising stars of the NBA will be watching and waiting.
The Spurs are led by battle-tested but grizzled veterans like Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan. The Miami Heat have the champions of the arena—LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. In the NBA, more than any professional sport, the right two or three stars can carry a team to a title.
That’s why the young, rising stars have so much appeal: They can mean a team is crashing the championship party in two or three years. So, let’s look at the kids who have the most promise.
These are current NBA players who will be 22 or younger next season.
I did not include this year’s rookie class because there is too much unknown about them (such as where they will play) to adequately judge where they will place. Also, Nerlens Noel of the Philadelphia 76ers is not on here for similar reasons. We know where he's playing but not how well he'll play after sitting for a year.
Also, you’ll notice last year’s Rookie of the Year, Michael Carter-Williams is not on here. That’s because he’s over 22. Before asking about a player, make sure he’s not over the age limit.
In ranking the players, I considered various factors, such as traditional box score stats, advanced stats like player efficiency rating (PER), win shares and player impact estimate (PIE). I also took into account coaching, normal progression and how their roles changed last year.
They are listed here, bottom to top, in order of how I think they will fare next season.