Each generation has it's superstars. Each year a new crop of players emerge, but only a select few reach that pantheon of greatness. Franchise players. Players that change a franchises destiny. Players that are marketable off the court and have the killer instinct on it. We all know who they are right now. CP3, Kobe, Dwight, D.Wade. But who are the next crop of players that will lead the NBA in to the next decade?? These are the players on my list. It will spark debate and it will incense some. Your feedback is welcome.
Yeah I know what you're thinking. This guy is the right now right? Correct. But he is also the future. He will be the face of the League for the next decade. King James is still only 25. The perfect skill set for the modern game. What superlatives can we use that haven't already been used? Quickness, power, the court vision. LBJ possesses it all. You want a drive to the bucket and a possible and1? LBJ can deliver. How about a 18 footer from an improved outside game? Consider it done. What about playing the role of waiter and serving up dimes to new teammates D. Wade and Chris Bosh? You know Bron Bron is more than capable. Things are looking good for the future in the 305. We haven't even mentioned the fear an opponent has when they sense James streaming down court for a chase down block. The guy can do it all.
Haters are going to be quick to point out that his legacy will tarnished by joining 'Wades team'. We disagree. Look for James to play a Magic Johnson type role on his new Heat team and relish getting teammates involved. Winning silences critics. We see James winning 3-5 'Chips in MIA. Dude will even average a triple double at some point in his career. Remember this piece when he does.
Even before last seasons breakthrough campaign, KD was destined to be a star in the league.Kid had a pro ready game from high school. Being the youngest ever to win a scoring title validates kids game. Winning the scoring title doesn't satisfy. He wants to win championships. Dude can score from almost anywhere on the court and his length causes headaches for opposing defences. A 25ppg, 7.7reb and 2.3 assist stat line in your first play-off series -against the defending champs no less- is pretty impressive.
Skill set reminiscent of old school George Gervin and a young Tracy McGrady from the modern era makes Durant so versatile that he can see over defenders for a quick assist, glide through the lane for a deuce or even just step back for a long 3. 6'9 with a wingspan of 7'4, Durant is too big for smaller guards to guard and always leaves the bigger guys looking like they have cement filled shoes. The best part of Durant's game? He is a tireless worker. That 'Kobe-like' work ethic. Leading by example. His coming out party at the World Championships, winning the tournament MVP. This season, hoping to lead the upstart Thunder into a Western Conference battle against the defending champion Lakers.
While your reading this, know, that somewhere Kevin Durant is hoisting up jumpshots and running sprints. Working at being the best.
Young Money. A pioneer for the new generation. The high school phenom has become a legit NBA star. Standing 6'1 and weighing barely 170lbs he often looks like a schoolboy playing amongst men. His game is grown though. Does the lightening quick ability to drive to the rim, take the heavy knocks and get straight back up remind you of anyone? That's right. A young Allen Iverson. Like A.I the knock on BJ is his low FG percentage. Once he works on his outside shot so opposing defenders stop lagging off him, that high pick and roll with Andrew Bogut should be a joy to watch and a nightmare to defend.
The move straight to Europe from High School was met with derision by many, but may have actually helped the youngster. "It's more team-oriented and less about individual play, so I never got discouraged when my stats didn't show it's true reflections". It's that confidence in his own abilities that has held Jennings in good stead when it's time to take responsibilty as the primary option in the clutch. Just as colorful and entertaining off the court ( peep dudes Twitter page for proof ) as he is on, Young Money has assured us of one thing at least. Milwaukee's future is as bright as his star.
Personally I am a big proponent of inside/outside basketball. To achieve success with this type of play you need two things. A guard who is a willing passer but can also wet the basket when needed. And you need a big man capable of pounding the block down low. Blake Griffin is going to be that man for the LA Clippers. How could we pick a guy who hasn't even played one meaningful game in the NBA yet? Well, anyone who witnessed Griffins two year onslaught with the Oklahoma Sooners would understand. A nightly double-double machine waiting to happen. In 2008-09 he finished with 30 of them. One shy of David Robinson's Big 12 Conference record.
Excellent hands, the ability to finish at the rim and create his own shot will make Griffin a menace in the NBA. Double team him and he can kick it out to either Baron Davis or Eric Gordon for an open J. Play him single coverage and he will power straight through defenders for an easy deuce. A pleasant predicament the Clippers rarely find themselves in. Griffin and Gordon are the cornerstones of a new era in Clipperland. One that will see them emerge from the depths of being the "other" team in LA to firmly entrenched in some of that Hollywood spotlight.
How's this for pressure? Play for your home town team in the enormous shadow of the greatest baller of all time. In the words of Jay Z, "Pressures on but guess who ain't gonna crack? Pardon me I had to laugh at that". Derrick Rose is thriving in that environment and hell bent on forging his own legacy in the Windy City. A scoring PG who averages 6 dimes a game to go with his 21 points per, Rose is powerfully built at 6'4 and able to post up ( think Chauncey Billups ) yet athletic and quick enough to attack and finish at the rim ( ask the Atlanta Hawks ).
A natural leader, the Chicago Bulls are Derrick Rose team now. Great instincts on running a team and willing to set up teammates. Will be better for his time as a starter on the Gold Medal winning USA squad in Turkey and as an All-Star last season, Rose is already establishing his credentials on the league as a dangerous man. Coupled with Carlos Boozer to form a viable inside/out threat when defenders sag off on his inconsistent outside shot adds even more punch to a young Bulls core including Joakim Noah. Blessed with a signature shoe from adidas and the face of the Bulls team for years to come, Rose is going to be a perennial All-Star on the East squad. Now you know Michael Jordan is nodding in agreement.
Who are the only players to have averaged 20 pts, 5 asts and 5 rebs per in their rookie campaigns? If you answered Michael Jordan, Oscar Robertson and Lebron James you would be correct. But throw one more name into that group. Tyreke Evans.'Reke has the most complete NBA ready game we have see since a certain LBJ entered the league. The Rookie of the Year put the whole league on notice last season that this year will be his coming out party. Ask the Chicago Bulls if they remember what 'Reke did in December? Leading the Kings from 35 points down to a win and singlehandedly outscoring the Bulls in the 4th quarter by himself. The kid has potential to say the least but will be faced with the pressure this season of having to carry the Kings once again.
"I'm just going out there, doing what I have to do and everything takes care of itself. Pressure isn't an issue for me" claims Evans. His inconsistent defence was a concern last year but only highlights how much better he is going to get once he improves. The Kings are hoping a little off-season speeding incident is an aberration rather than a pre-cursor of things to come. The league has been made aware. Sacramento is not to be taken lightly when Tyreke Evans hits the floor.
Of course John Wall is on this list. He has his own dance - the John Wall dance, Youtube it - a shoe deal with Reebok, and the Washington Wizards have done all but declare Gilbert Arenas irrelevent in the DC area and handed the keys to John Wall to lead them. Not bad for someone who has not played a minute of meaningful NBA ball. The hype is huge around this kid and if he can deliver like he did in the collegiate ranks the Wizards will be challenging for a playoff spot in no time.
His game is suited to the pros. Super quick especially on the first step, should be able to use the NBA's perimeter hand checking rules to his advantage. Athletic - think D.Rose/Russell Westbrook - and a willing passer, how well he gels with Gilbert Arenas will be key to Washington's success. The new face of the franchise and may become one of the faces of the league in a couple of years time. One to most definitely watch out for in 2010-11.
Game 3 2010 Eastern Conference Finals. Orlando are down 34-17 in the 2nd at TD Bankworth Garden and facing a 3-0 deficit. They're not panicked though. This Boston team has lost more games after leading by double digits than any other team. Orlando has the C's right where they want them. Comfortable, relaxed, playing with a big lead. J.J Redick drives to the bucket but an errant pass means the ball is deflected to the backcourt as J.Will sets upon retrieving it. "The Celtic players aren't going to give chase, they're up big" he must've been thinking. As the ball reaches towards the Boston free throw line a sliding Rondo appears through William's leg. Clutching the ball as 'White Chocolate' over-runs it. Standing, regaining his composure, faces then crosses over to his right and kisses the ball off the top of the square for an easy enough deuce. Series effectively over at that point.
Reputations are formed in the playoffs, and Rondo has solidified his. Make no mistake about it, the Celtics are his team now. The Big 3 are now the Big 4. And as Rondo goes, so will his team.
The Blazers haven't had much luck with big men over the years. Greg Oden being the latest victim of the 'Blazer Curse'. LaMarcus Aldridge is the exception. While Portland waits on Oden to recover, it is this 6'11 forward with a wonderfully versatile skill set who has blossomed into the star many expected Oden to be. In his fifth year in the league and only 25 years old, LA reminds many of a young Rasheed Wallace. Deadly on the block, good mid-range game, Aldridge has been working hard to improve his sometimes inconsistent game. Reports indicate he has added 10 kg of muscle in the off-season and has been in the gym working on post moves.
The hard work put in during the summer should see LaMarcus increase his numbers and average a double-double this year. The concern with Aldridge is he will fall into the 'late career' version of 'Sheed, settling for J's and a seemingly apathetic attitude towards the game. Heirarchy at the Blazers will make sure that doesn't happen. Once he figures it all out dude has potential to be a Top 10 player in the league and pick up where Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett will eventually leave off, and in tandem with Brandon Roy will be looking to achieve the chemistry that has Pau Gasol clicking so well with Kobe Bryant.
We had this kid pegged for stardom even before the World Championships. The rest of the globe just found out just how good this guy is going to be. Explosive in the open court, a menace on defence and a great all round game that fits in nicely with Kevin Durant. A lazy 20.5 points per, 6rebs and 6asts in the playoffs show the young gun is not shy of big stages and at 6'3 is able to guard multiple positions.
Westbrook's number's have increased each year he's been in the league. Look for them to increase while maintaining his double threat status causing opponents to look over their shoulder when attacking the rim. The chemistry on a young Thunder team is off the chain. These boys are committed to each other and to winning a championship together. The Western Conference has been put on notice.