Not Quite There Yet: Six NBA Players On The Verge Of Stardom
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Almost doesn't count.
But there are a lot of players that are almost to the top, but just haven't made it over the hump. I know who they are and you know who they are. There are a lot of them.
The problem? We have a hard time being realistic when we are talking about talent.
We tend to use the words "great" and "excellent" for more than what is deserving.
More players should be "average" or "slightly above average" because that is more accurate relative to their skills.
These players on this list are Top 10 in their position and are more than likely Top Five.
So in reference, these players that I am about to talk about are "above average," but still not elite level talent.
So thank you for reading and please enjoy.
LaMarcus Aldridge has been on the cusp of being elite for the past two years. His numbers have been going upwards over that time as well, but the injuries to the Portland Trail Blazers last season really challenged Aldridge in ways that many in the league would not be able to deal with.
Aldridge is a power forward, but since every center on the Portland Trail Blazers roster went down with a season-ending injury, the 6'10" Aldridge was forced to bang against the likes of Dwight Howard, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, Andrew Bynum, and Mehmet Okur throughout the most of the 2009 NBA season.
This forced his points per game numbers to fall slightly, but each and every other statistical category was improved.
LaMarcus, at 17.9 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 assists per game, is nearly an All-Star.
With the entire crew back next season, I wouldn't be surprised to see LaMarcus average 20 points and 9 rebounds over the course of the 2010-2011 NBA season.
Add the fact that he has gained 20 pounds in muscle over the summer only strengthens that argument.
Aldridge has every physical tool to be an elite level point guard, but he just needs to put it all on the court throughout an 82-game season.
But he only has one year under his belt and in that case, we cannot consider him an elite level player without more evidence.
Players aren't drafted into the Hall of Fame without a complete body of work, so we need to see a year or two more out of Evans at this level of production.
He is already an All-Star with those numbers, and I think that he is easily a top 10 point guard (if you consider him to be a point guard, and will likely end up being a perennial All-Star).
Things are definitely looking up for the Sacramento Kings and Tyreke Evans.
Would it be fair to say that Stephen Curry is ready for the big show? Yeah, or at least he is very close to being ready.
But like Tyreke Evans, we cannot consider Stephen Curry an elite level point guard because there is only one Trial completed in this experiment.
We need two or three trials completed with the same numbers and then we can talk.
But while we're at it, what would be fair to expect out of Curry next season? Twenty points, 7 assists, and 1.9 steals per game if he averages the same minutes played per night.
I think that's fair.
Not only does speed kill in the NBA, but so does a good mid-range jump shot.
Curry has both.
Three-pointers hurt pretty badly too, and Curry shot a whopping 44 percent from beyond the arc last season.
I can't wait to see what this guy has in store over the next 10 years.
Unlike Stephen Curry and Tyreke Evans, Russell Westbrook plays for a good team, and that can do a lot for your statistical averages, but it is most often a negative impact when you are not the first option on offense.
Let me explain.
While Curry and Evans averaged bloated numbers in the rookie campaigns, it was more than likely the result of both the systems they play in and the state of the teams they play for.
The Kings and Warriors are very poor teams.
The Warriors were the second-fastest team in the NBA last season, averaging seven more points per game and many more shots taken than the Thunder. That means that there were more shots available for Stephen Curry and company to take. More shots equals more points, rebounds, and assists.
It also usually means a lower shooting percentage.
The Kings played in a slower paced system with very few offensive options, making Tyreke Evans' assist numbers very impressive.
But that also means that his points numbers would be inflated because of the sheer number of shots he was given.
Russell Westbrook had fewer shots taken with fewer plays called for him, along with playing in a system that plays at an average pace.
Since he plays next to Kevin Durant, I think it is fair to say that Westbrook's assist numbers would be inflated, but since he was the second or third option on offense, it is impressive that he would be able to get 16 points a night.
So, in a roundabout way, I said that all three players—Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, and Tyreke Evans—are about an equal distance away from being an elite level talent.
What we need to see out of Brooks to consider him an elite level point guard is for his stats to go up next season and show that he can produce those numbers on a consistent basis.
Often times there are players in this league that average 20 and 10 one season and then drop off the next.
We need to see consistent production at that level from Aaron Brooks next season.
He is almost there, probably the closest out of any on this list, but he needs to inch himself over the top.
I don't think he'll score more than 50 points next season, and he sure as hell won't catch anyone by surprise, but this kid has a future in the NBA.
He will be an elite level player some day, but he will not be one next season because of his lack of experience.
Other than being inexperienced, Brandon Jennings really needs to improve his shooting percentage.
At 15.7 points, 5.7 assists, and 1.3 steals a game, he is solid. But when you realize that he shoots a terrible 37 percent from the field, it really takes away from Jennings' rookie campaign.
He could work on keeping his turnover numbers down too, but that is to be expected from a rookie point guard in the NBA.
Look for Jennings to make a run at the All-Star game next season, but ultimately I think it will be two years until we see him on that stage.
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