The 2014-15 NBA All-Up-and-Coming Team
Few leagues across all of sports are as star-driven as the NBA, which is why basketball fans are in good shape with guys like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Andre Drummond blossoming for the future.
To qualify for the 2014-15 All-Up-and-Coming Team, a player must be 23 years old or younger (with one special exception for a birthday boy). Additionally, he must have yet to make an All-Star Game—and of course, he has to exude star potential.
With age and All-Star appearances in mind, youngsters such as John Wall, Damian Lillard and Anthony Davis are excluded from this list. Then there are the notable omissions like DeMarcus Cousins and Kawhi Leonard, who haven't earned All-Star recognition but have "made it" for all intents and purposes.
In this analysis, the 2014 draft class will also be left off. We suspect Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Jabari Parker will make this team eventually, but until we've seen them on the court, we'll consider them all honorable mentions.
Guard: Michael Carter-Williams
2013-14 Stats: 16.7 PPG, 6.3 APG, 6.2 RPG, 15.59 player efficiency rating
Michael Carter-Williams may not jump off the page to casual fans as the best up-and-coming point guard in the NBA, but that's more a testament to how good the position has become league-wide. Players such as John Wall, Damian Lillard and Eric Bledsoe have already arrived, giving the youngster from Syracuse a chance to shine as the floor general of the future.
Although Carter-Williams was the 11th pick in 2013, he entered the league without much hype. He was going to a team that had no interest in winning, and there were questions about whether his style of play would translate right away to the professional game.
As it turned out, Carter-Williams shocked the league in his first game by recording 22 points, 12 assists, nine steals and seven rebounds against the Miami Heat.
It would have been unrealistic to expect that kind of production throughout the course of the season, but the then-rookie continued to exceed expectations. He needs to work on his jump shot but has plenty of time to improve at just 22 years old.
Honorable Mentions: Ricky Rubio, Trey Burke
Guard: Lance Stephenson
2013-14 Stats: 13.8 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 4.6 APG, 14.72 PER
Once upon a time, Lance Stephenson—who just turned 24 Sept. 5—was just a name in the documentary Gunnin' For That #1 Spot. Now he's infamous for his antics during the 2014 NBA postseason, but he has so much more to offer as a player for his new team, the Charlotte Hornets.
During the 2013-14 season, Stephenson turned into something of a stat sheet-stuffer. He boosted virtually every major statistic to a career high while becoming arguably the second-best player on the second-best team in the East (depending on which part of the year you look at).
Does Stephenson have things to work on? You bet he does. Maturity is one of those question marks, but offensive production might be just as important.
That said, he's the kind of player who can be a true difference-maker on the defensive side of the floor, and he's starting fresh with an organization that is also heading in a new direction.
Honorable Mentions: Bradley Beal, Dion Waiters, Andrew Wiggins
Forward: Giannis Antetokounmpo
2013-14 Stats: 6.8 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 1.9 APG, 10.82 PER
When you look at Giannis Antetokounmpo's stats, the small forward from Greece doesn't move the needle much. That's why watching this kid is even more important, as his skill set and potential don't translate directly to the box score.
As B/R's Jonathan Wasserman put it, "He's got that Kevin Durant-like body and physical makeup—power-forward height, small-forward mobility." Comparing anyone to Durant is sanguine, considering the lofty expectations that come with such a comparison. But the small forward looks like someone a franchise can groom, especially at just 19 years old.
Oh, and just to add icing on the cake that is Antetokounmpo's physical frame, he's apparently still growing, according to the Journal Sentinel's Matt Velazquez.
This is the kind of player fans can look forward to in the future, and Bucks fans have first dibs on having him as their own.
Honorable Mentions: Harrison Barnes, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Khris Middleton
Forward: Derrick Favors
2013-14 Stats: 13.3 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 19.01 PER
The Utah Jazz may have flopped this past season (as expected), but they have a plethora of young talent that will be worth watching regardless of the team's record.
Among the group of promising youngsters is Derrick Favors. After being stuck behind Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson for three years, 2013-14 was his first opportunity as a starter, and he boosted his numbers to career-high levels.
As B/R's Andy Bailey put it in his projections for the upcoming season, "His raw numbers of 13.3 points and 8.7 rebounds won't blow anyone away, but Favors is clearly the best big man on Utah's roster and arguably the best player overall."
Despite being listed as a center in multiple places, we'll consider the 6'10" big man a power forward, just as ESPN did during its preseason projections. Favors is harboring All-Star talent deep inside, and while the league won't recognize it on a losing team, he's ready to make a name for himself in 2014-15.
Honorable Mention: Jabari Parker, Tobias Harris
Center: Andre Drummond
2013-14 Stats: 13.5 PPG, 13.2 RPG, 1.6 BPG, 62.3 FG%, 22.6 PER
In 2012, Andre Drummond entered the NBA as one of the biggest boom-or-bust prospects we'd seen in a while. As B/R's Adam Wells put it in his 2012 mock draft:
We keep hearing about all the talent that Drummond has. Certainly, he has the look of a star in the NBA, but there is a world of difference between looking the part and acting the part. To date, there has been a lot more of the former than the latter.
Wells wasn't wrong. At UConn, Drummond had a propensity for shooting short- and mid-range jumpers (something he had no business doing), and the concern was that he wouldn't have the discipline to become a true low-post player.
To date, Drummond has proved all of his critics wrong. In 2013-14, not only did he grab an impressive 13.2 rebounds per game, but he shot 62.3 percent from the field as a first-time starter.
What Drummond really needs to improve his game is just a couple more shots per game. He's smart, dominant and capable of scoring down low, but with Josh Smith and Greg Monroe as the more proven bigs, he's the third wheel in a crowded frontcourt.
Then again, he is a defensive player at heart, as he told me before he was ever drafted, meaning he'll be just as effective even if his shots don't increase at this point in his career.
Honorable Mentions: Nikola Vucevic, Jonas Valanciunas, Jared Sullinger