Not every superstar story follows the same plot as LeBron's did. He was a hot entity coming right out of high school, and while there are some star caliber players who are exceptionally younger, there are also some NBA athletes who aren't quite there but have the potential to get there.
Young prospects are an extremely interesting part of any NBA team. Watching and analyzing their development is nothing short of amazing in the long run.
Being able to look back three or four more years later and think, "Wow, I remember when so and so was just starting to build his reputation" is an invigorating type of thought.
With that in mind, let's take a look at the most promising young player from each of the 30 NBA teams. Some may be bona fide superstars already, and some may not. They all have one thing in common. As promising young players, none of them have reached their full potential yet.
And to avoid those who will bellow that LeBron and others are still relatively young, as well as for the sake of keeping things fresh, players must be 24 or under in order to be considered for a spot in this slideshow.
At 23, Jeff Teague is easily the Atlanta Hawks' most promising youngster.
Teague had a mediocre regular season, averaging 5.2 points and two assists per game off the bench, but in the playoffs he rose to the occasion. In eight postseason games, Teague averaged 11.8 points and 3.5 assists, turning heads as he did so.
Atlanta has never really utilized Teague too often, he averaged only 13.8 minutes per game during the season, but the Hawks gave him an opportunity, playing him nearly 30 minutes per game during the playoffs, and he delivered.
Teague will be entering only his third NBA season, and all indications are he will continue to improve. His defense is solid, he can dribble through traffic and he can direct Atlanta's offense efficiently. And, as he displayed in the postseason, he can score too.
The Hawks will almost certainly rely on the point guard more frequently next season, and as Teague has indicated, he is up to the challenge.
Jeff Green, the Boston Celtics’ 24-year-old forward out of Georgetown is by far the organization’s most promising young player, which gives further merit as to why he was acquired from the Oklahoma City Thunder, in a trade that shocked many.
Last season, Green averaged 13.3 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. He is a solid low post player, and can hit the mid-range jumper consistently. His defensive awareness is also very good.
Green will be entering his fifth season in the league next year, and his game is still developing. The Celtics have high hopes for him, and regardless, he adds some much needed youth to an aging team.
Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce are all 33 or older, and Green, along with Rajon Rondo, gives Boston a core for the future.
While much consideration went toward new additions Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo, D.J. Augustin takes the title of the Charlotte Bobcats’ most promising player.
Ausgustin is only 23 and will be entering his fourth season in the league. He has already proved he is a more than capable point guard and should turn heads for years to come.
Last season, Augustin was tasked with replacing Raymond Felton, who was highly successful running the Bobcats offense. Not only did Augustin prove to be an adequate replacement, he exceeded expectations, averaging 14.4 points and 6.1 assists per game.
Augustin can dribble through the pain with ease, and he is a great three-point shooter, at over 41 percent for his career. Additionally, he proved to quite durable, starting all 82 games last season.
Walker and Biyombo may be great fits in Charlotte, but Augustin is already a great fit.
And that is why he is the Bobcats’ most promising young player.
It may seem slightly monotonous to choose Derrick Rose as the Chicago Bulls’ most promising young player, being that he is their best player, but the fact is he is not done improving. He is continuing to get better.
Additionally, the only other Bulls player on the roster that met the age requirement for this list was point guard Jimmy Butler, and there is no justification of choosing him.
Last season, the 22-year-old Rose averaged 25 points, 7.7 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game, leading Chicago to the Eastern Conference Finals. Rose also won last season’s MVP award.
Rose is one of the best inside out scorers in the game. He can drive the paint with ease and hit the mid-range jumper almost on cue. Rose’s three-point shooting is not a standout part of his game, but at over 33 percent last season, it is more than adequate.
Many may think that Rose does not have much else to accomplish or anymore to show that we haven’t already seen, but the truth is, Rose has plenty more to offer.
Despite Kyrie Irving being a promising prospect, he has no NBA experience, and many were chastising the Cleveland Cavaliers for not selecting Derrick Williams with the first pick in this year’s draft, so Omri Casspi takes the title of the Cavs’ most promising youngster.
During his time with the Sacramento Kings last season, the 23-year-old Casspi averaged 8.6 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. He also shot over 37 percent from beyond the arc.
Casspi’s points per game dropped a bit in 2011, but the potential is there. He will be entering only his third season and is now on a Cavaliers team that desperately needs his shooting touch now and for the foreseeable future.
Look for Casspi’s statistics to improve substantially, not only for next season but for seasons to come.
The Dallas Mavericks only have two players on the roster currently who are 24 or under, and with this being the case, it comes down to point guard Rodrigue Beubois or center Ian Mahinmi.
Beaubois’ production last season indicates that he has the edge. He averaged 8.4 points and 2.3 assists in 28 games for Dallas. This may not sound like much, but keep in mind he started 26 of those games.
Beaubois is only 23 and now has two years of experience under his belt. Next season, especially if J.J. Barea heads to a different team, Beaubois will become an integral part of the Mavericks rotation.
Beaubois is sufficient enough at running the offense. He has room to improve, but all indications are that he will. His ball handling skills are tremendous and he is a career 36 percent three-point shooter.
Jason Kidd and Jason Terry may not be around much longer. And there is a strong possibility Barea is already out the door.
The little-known Beubois is full of potential. Don’t be surprised if two or three years from now he is a starter on this Dallas team.
Danilo Gallinari of the Denver Nuggets is on the cusp of stardom, which is why Denver insisted he be included in the Carmelo Anthony trade this past season.
In time split between the New York Knicks and Nuggets last year, Gallinari averaged 15.6 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. He is an underrated defender, and at nearly 38 percent for his career, he is one of the best three-point shooters in the game.
At 6'10", Gallinari needs to be grabbing more than five rebounds per game, but he is only 22 and continuously improving. His rookie season in New York was hampered by a back injury, but since then, he has come back strong.
Additionally, while Gallinari draws a lot of criticism for not taking the ball to the basket enough, the Italian forward took a giant step toward correcting this by settling for fewer jump shots last season.
The Nuggets are extremely high on Gallinari and believe that he is a player they can build their future around. However, Gallinari is a free agent next summer and should he have the breakout season he is heading toward, the Nuggets are going to have some competition.
Kyle Singler is by far the Detroit Pistons most promising youngster, and he hasn’t even set foot on the court yet.
The 23-year-old out of Duke was selected 33rd overall by Detroit in this year’s draft and is set to make an immediate impact. Many had Singler going in the first round, but luckily for the Pistons, he slipped as far as he did.
In his last season at Duke, Singler averaged 16.9 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. He fills a major hole in Detroit’s frontcourt and was one of the better defending forwards while in college.
Expectations may not be set all that high being that he went in the second round, but this is puts Singler in a position to impress people even more so. The Pistons are officially entering a rebuilding period, so Singler should get plenty of opportunities to prove himself on the court.
And if his senior season was any indication, Singler won’t disappoint.
Klay Thompson was a great pickup by the Golden State Warriors in this year’s draft, but he is no match for the 23-year-old Stephen Curry.
Curry averaged 18.6 points, 5.8 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game in his second NBA season. He is one of the purest shooters in the game, especially from beyond the arc, with a career average of nearly 44 percent.
Curry will only continue to improve his game, and his willingness to play defense, may be a large reason why Monta Ellis was put on the trade block and he remains untouchable.
Additionally, Curry’s ability to run the offense is extremely underrated. He has exceptional court vision, and his quick ball handling skills make him a major scoring threat from inside and out.
With Ellis apparently on his way out, Curry is the prime building block for the future; he is now the franchise player.
And Curry’s potential, combined with his willingness to work hard, makes it clear the Warriors are in capable hands for the foreseeable future.
The 22-year-old point guard out of Syracuse stands out as the Houston Rockets’ most promising young player.
Flynn spent his first two seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves and turned a lot of heads during his time there. However, with Ricky Rubio on his way in, he became expendable, and Minnesota shipped him off to Houston.
Last season, in limited action, Flynn averaged 5.3 points and 3.4 assists per game. These are not exactly head-turning numbers, but he appeared in significantly less games and played a lot less minutes than in his rookie season, when he averaged 13.5 points and 4.4 assists per game.
With the departure of Aaron Brooks, Flynn’s abilities will be put to good use in Houston, and his numbers will most likely climb back up as a result. He is more than capable of handling the starting point guard duties, but he is versatile enough to assume any role that is handed to him.
Flynn is very good defender, and his ability to make sharp, quick lateral movements gives him a fighting chance against guards like Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose.
Flynn failed to further impress last season, but look for him to pick up where he left off his rookie season, as he gets a fresh start in Houston.
The Indiana Pacers made quite in acquisition when they landed Darren Collison from the New Orleans Hornets last summer.
Collison averaged 13.8 points, 5.1 assists and 2.8 rebounds per game last season, helping Indiana clinch a playoff berth. At only 23, and with only two NBA seasons under his belt, Collison has demonstrated a knowledge for the game that makes him seem like a veteran.
On the floor, Collison is a fantastic floor general. He orchestrated the Pacers offense well, and his court vision was remarkable. Additionally, he has a knack for distinguishing between times to pass, and times to attack the basket.
The point guard actually has a Chris Paulesque efficiency to him. He is an asset on both ends of the floor and plays aggressively on a daily basis. And what's more is he has not even reached his full potential. He will only continue to get better and more effective at this point.
Indiana barely made it to the playoffs this past season, but with Collison at the helm, brighter days seem just ahead.
While many may feel this spot should belong to Blake Griffin, I firmly believe that he is very close to reaching his peak performance level while Eric Gordon on the other hand still has so much more untapped potential.
Last season Gordon averaged 22.3 points and 4.4 assists per game. His ability to score from both the inside and out propelled the 22-year-old to the brink of stardom.
Gordon can penetrate the pain with ease, and his court vision is above average for a shooting guard. Additionally, he is a very good three-point shooter, averaging over 37 percent from beyond the arc for his career.
Gordon is no one side of the ball pony either, he is also a capable defender. He averaged 1.3 steals per game last season and used his quickness to keep his man from beating him off the dribble.
Griffin is no doubt crucial to any success this Clippers will have for the foreseeable future, but Gordon, whether it is this season or next, will prove to be just as valuable, if not even more so.
Andrew Bynum has been the Los Angeles Lakers' most promising prospect for quite some time now, and some may be sick of waiting to be quite truthful.
However, despite Bynum's slower than anticipated development, he is still a very solid center. Additionally we tend to forget that he is only 23 and has a lot to learn still.
At 7-feet tall, Bynum is an enormous present in the paint. He averaged 11.3 points, nine rebounds and two blocks per game last season, and he even made his way into some Dwight Howard trade rumors as well.
Bynum is a very good defender. He can block shots as good as the next guy. And he is also a more than capable rebounder, though with his height, you would like to see him grab double-digit rebounds per game.
The main issue surrounding Bynum is his offense. Los Angeles needs him to become a dominant weapon down low. His post-up game is OK as far they go, but he tends to force the action instead of letting it come naturally.
Despite the aforementioned issue though, Bynum has a promising future ahead of him. Once all this Howard trade talk is settled, and he knows where he will be playing for the foreseeable future, look for anxiety to decrease and his stats to increase.
A case could most certainly be made for Rudy Gay in this department, but during his stint on the inactive list, Mike Conley turned quite a few heads.
Last season, Conley 13.7 points, 6.5 assists, three rebounds and one steal per game. He helped lead the Memphis Grizzlies to a surprisingly successful season and an even more shocking upset of the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the playoffs.
The 23-year-old point guard directed an offense that suffered the loss of Gay extremely effectively. He knew when to pass and when to drive the ball to the basket. Additionally, he orchestrated a balanced offensive attack, distributing the ball to Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, Shane Battier and O.J. mayo quite evenly.
Conley will be entering his fifth NBA season, and should the Grizzlies elect to hold on to Gay, and it seems they are inclined to, he will have another capable shooter to dish the ball off too. Additionally, with Gay's presence, the floor should open up more for Conley to take advantage of.
Conley seems to have a knack for generating success even in the most difficult situations. Look for him to build upon that as we head into next season.
Mario Chalmers, at 25, is the exception to this 24 years of age or younger rule.
Why you ask?
Well the Miami Heat only have two players under 24 on the roster for next season, and one of them is rookie Norris Cole. The other is Dexter Pittman, and to call him a promising young player would be a misconception, and I am not inclined to endorse such a thing, nor did I want this slide to become a "one liner."
Chalmers 6.5 points, 2.5 assists and 1.1 steals per game last season. He shot a solid 36 percent from beyond the arc and proved that he was a capable point guard.
Chalmers numbers are not that impressive, but how could they be when he is on the outside looking in at a "big three" combination of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh?
The bottom line on Chalmers is that he did what the Heat needed him to do: defend. Chalmers, in barely 20 minutes of action per night, was able to swipe a little more than steal per game, which is extremely impressive.
Wade and James are exceptional defenders, but when one would sit on the bench, Chalmers was more than capable of taking over their defensive duties.
Chalmers still has room to grow, and with the bleak outlook in terms of the Heat's salary cap situation, Miami should be thankful they have an affordable yet capable role player in him to play along side the widely heralded and hated "big three."
Brandon Jennings had a terrific sophomore season for the struggling Milwaukee Bucks and is easily their most promising prospect.
Jennings averaged 16.9 points, 4.8 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game. He is a prolific ball handler, making dribbling through traffic look easy. He can score from the inside or from the perimeter, although his three-point shooting could use some work.
Another area Jennings can improve upon is his court vision. He only averaged 4.8 assists per game and that number needs to rise if the Bucks want to make it to the next level.
The good news is though that Jennings is only 21 and continuing to improve. And for his age, the knowledge of the game he has displayed is more than adequate.
Jennings also helps relieve the scoring burden off of center Andrew Bogut's shoulders, which is something Milwaukee values very much.
And not to get ahead of ourselves, but if Jennings improves his passing and continues to improve upon the rest of his strengths, he may become not only the face of the Bucks organization but also one of the premiere point guards in the entire league.
Kevin Love could easily make an appearance here, but what fun would that be?
I would have avoided dropping Derrick Rose on a previous slide if it wasn't for the fact that there were basically no other options. The fact of the matter is, even though Rubio has not played a single second for the Minnesota Timberwolves, his outlook is bright.
Rubio is a prolific passer and more than capable scorer. He provides Love with some much needed offensive relief and even gives him his first competent pick and roll partner.
Additionally, Rubio is a very good defender. His quickness should help him guard elusive point guards like Chris Paul and Deron Williams.
While Rubio can cut in and out of the paint with ease, he would be even more valuable should he bulk up just a bit, so that he could be more aggressive in the paint.
Overall though, Rubio's future with the Timberwolves looks bright.
As long as he doesn't get any second thoughts that is.
Brook Lopez is the clear choice for the New Jersey Nets' most promising young player.
Last season, the 23-year-old center averaged 20.4 points, six rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. His rebounding could use some work, but his overall defensive game is quite good. Additionally, he is one of the more versatile centers, able to score from not only the low post but also from the outside.
Lopez's potential is also a big factor in the Nets' pursuit of signing Deron Williams to an extension. Williams will want to see huge improvement from this New Jersey team if he is to stay, and the key lies with Lopez.
Defenses are going to consider Williams more of a threat on offense than Lopez, and as a result, he is going to get a lot of opportunities that he, and the Nets, can not afford miss.
Lopez is also promising in regards to Dwight Howard. The Nets are reportedly going to go after Howard hard, and Lopez would prove to be the centerpiece of any potential.
If Lopez is able to block out all of this trade talk, look for his numbers to go up next season. Whether it be as a building block for the future or a potential trade asset, Lopez is certainly a promising prospect.
Quincy Pondexter is the only player under the age of 24 on the New Orleans Hornets roster, making him the clear choice for the team's most promising youngster.
Pondexter is coming off a not-so-shocking rookie season in which he averaged 2.8 points and 1.3 rebounds per game. Then again though, it was his rookie season. Not everyone is an early bloomer.
Pondexter is a pretty good three-point shooter, shooting 36 percent from beyond the arc last year. He is also a capable defender and the type of player who will always risk everything for a loose ball.
While Pondexter did turn many heads this past year, we cannot rule him out from playing a more pivotal role in the Hornets' rotation, especially amidst the Chris Paul saga. He is young and New Orleans hopes that he can continue to improve.
Who knows, maybe he was saving the "shock and awe" factor for his sophomore season.
The 23-year-old Landry Fields had a standout year as far as rookie season's go, largely due to the fact that he worked his way into the starting rotation despite being taken in the second round of the 2010 NBA draft.
Fields averaged 9.7 points and 6.4 rebounds per game last season while quickly becoming a New York Knicks fan favorite. He proved to be one of the better defensive guards as well as one of the best rebounding ones.
Fields' production slipped a bit during the second half of the season, but this is not cause for concern. He had to adapt to playing along side Carmelo Anthony as well as acclimate himself to the rigors of an 82 game season.
The Knicks simply got a steal in Fields. His statistics beat out many of the players that were drafted before him. New York never expected to get an everyday starting shooting guard when they selected him.
Fields possesses a basketball knowledge that far exceeds his age, and this fact, combined with his hard work ethic indicates that there is much more to come from this draft day surprise.
While Russell Westbrook has already, or nearly, achieve superstar status, he is still the most promising young player on the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Westbrook averaged 21.9 points, 8.2 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game last season while helping lead the Thunder to a Western Conference finals appearance. He also continued to be a strong defender, averaging nearly two steals per game.
During the postseason, it became evident just how young Westbrook was. We sometimes forget that he is only 22-years-old and still developing his game. His struggles with establish cohesiveness with franchise player Kevin Durant are to be expected at this point in his career, and over scrutinizing such issues are ill-advised.
Heading into next season Westbrook definitely has to work at being on the same page as Durant. He has to learn to make smarter decisions and keep his frustration more in check. That being said, he is more than capable of doing all those things.
By the end of next year, Westbrook will have officially played his way into super-stardom, if he hasn't already.
Earl Clark, the 23-year-old forward out of Louisville, averaged 3.9 points and 2.4 rebounds in a 11 minutes per game last season.
What makes him the most promising young player on the Orlando Magic?
Well for one, it was slim pickens on Orlando's roster for this title.
However, Clark was a very good defender in college and hasn't really gotten to show what he can do in the NBA just yet, but the potential is there. However, his most promising attribute is stature in general.
Should the Magic be forced to trade Dwight Howard next season, or watch him walk in free agency next summer, there will be a humongous void to fill in the low post. Clark, and his 6'10" frame, would be a good start at filling said void.
Clark's height and his potential on defense make him Orlando's most promising young player.
Thaddeus Young was considered for this slide, but has four years of experience already under his belt and is closer to reaching his full potential. Plus Evan Turner is the one who truly makes Andre Iguodala expendable to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Turner averaged 7.2 points, 3.9 rebounds and two assists per game in his impressive rookie season. His inside out drew the attention of many, and now has the 76ers shopping Iguodala.
Turner, like Iguodala is an asset on both offense and defense. His quickness allows him to defend elusive players like Dwyane Wade, and his strength allows him to hang tight with players taller than himself.
Iguodala has been the face of the 76ers for years now, but should he be shipped out for someone other than Monta Ellis, Turner will be running the show at shooting guard.
And if his rookie season is any indication, the 22-year-old is up to such a challenge.
The Phoenix Suns are another team that did not offer up many options to fit this criteria, but they do have a promising young player in center Robin Lopez.
Lopez averaged 6.4 points and 3.2 rebounds per game last season, which are stats that do not exactly scream game-changer. However, he displayed great composure on the defensive end, and at 7-feet tall, the potential his there.
Lopez has the same build as his twin brother, Brook Lopez, and if really pushed he may be able to develop a similar inside out game. Additionally, Lopez played less than 15 minutes per game last season, which is not enough time on the court to make too much of an impact.
The tools are there, Lopez just needs the time to learn how to use them.
Greg Oden demanded much of my consideration for this slide.
Nicolas Batum is by far the Portland Trail Blazers' most promising young athlete. He averaged 12.4 points and 4.5 rebounds per game in his third NBA season. He proved to be an offensive savior at time for the Blazers and he is one of their better defenders.
Up until know, Batum's offensive numbers have been slightly lower than they could be because he has lacked that premiere level point guard to get him the ball. With Raymond Felton now on the roster, Batum should get even more open looks.
He is only 23 and still improving, which is great news for Portland, who are ready to break out of their rebuilding stage. As we look toward next season, expect to see much more from Batum, who should emerge as the clear No. 2 offensive option behind superstar LaMarcus Aldridge.
It was a toss up between DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans for the Sacramento Kings most promising young player, but I had to give Evans the edge.
The 21-year-old Evans averaged 17.8 points, 5.6 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game last season. His sophomore year indicated a lot of maturing had taken place on Evans' parts. He was making smarter, quicker decisions on the court, and his court vision improved tremendously.
Additionally, Evans continued to be a force not only on the offensive end, but the defensive end as well, where he averaged 1.5 steals per game. His rebounding also puts him near the top of the list in terms of point guards.
Evans is rapidly learning how to use his strength and explosiveness to exploit the opposition on both ends of the floor.
Don't expect Evans to slow down next season either, rather prepare to watch this young player blossom into a bonafide star.
The 22-year-old DeJuan Blair easily takes the title of most promising young player on the San Antonio Spurs.
Last season, the 6'7" Blair average 8.3 points and seven rebounds in barely 20 minutes per game. His offensive production was stellar; he was able to take over when within 10 feet of the basket.
Additionally, Blair was a defensive juggernaut during his short stints on the court. He plays hard, physical defense, and he always seems to know where the ball is, which accounts for his high rebounding total.
Tim Duncan is aging and cannot play defense as well as he used to. While Blair is much shorter, he possesses a tough quickness about him that allows him to defend players he should be overmatched by.
The fact that Blair is still learning how to develop and hone his defensive skills should come across as scary to the rest of the NBA.
Strike that, extremely scary.
DeMar DeRozan was another clear slide choice, this time for the Toronto Raptors.
Last season, DeRozan 17.2 points and 3.8 rebounds per game, putting himself in the same category as many other elite offensive players. At 6'7", the 21-year-old punished the opposition on countless occasions, taking the ball to the basket with constant authority.
DeRozan definitely needs to improve his outside shooting, specifically from beyond the arc, and his defense could stand to undergo some changes as well. However, in terms of defense, the effort is there. He averaged one steal per game last season, and while he took too many chances at times, he has potential on that end of the ball.
DeRozan is as young as they come though, and he has time to improve upon his weaknesses and turn them into strengths. The guy is incredibly athletic and all indications are he will be considered a star in this league one day.
The reputation he has earned is extremely impressive considering how much improvement his outside shooting could stand. However, what this truly brings to light is how lethal he will be if he is ever able to develop a consistent outside game.
Now that is something to consider.
Derrick Favors was the prime asset the Utah Jazz acquired in the Deron Williams trade.
Favors, 20, averaged 6.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game last season.The rookie, drafted third overall by the New Jersey Nets in the 2010 NBA draft, did not exactly perform up to what was originally expected of him.
However, this was largely due to the never ending trade rumors that plagued the rookie since just after he was drafted.
Next year, under more favorable circumstances, Favors should really be able to show what he can do. He is known as a great defender, and we saw flashes of this last season as he averaged nearly one bock in in under 20 minutes of action per game.
Most may believe that Utah simply dumped Williams to avoid being burned next summer, but Favors is a real asset. He has the potential to become dominant on both ends of the floor.
And that sounds promising to me.
Rookie John Wall had a superb season for the Washington Wizards, averaging 16.4 points, 8.3 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game.
Additionally, Wall quickly emerged as probably the quickest player in the NBA. Simply no one was able to keep pace with the highly coveted 20-year-old. He was able to maneuver in and out of the paint like there were no defenders even on the court at times.
Wall's quickness also served him well on defense. He rarely got beat by anyone, and his hands proved to be just as quick as feet, being that he averaged 1.8 steals per game.
One knock on Wall is his outside shooting. He needs to become more consistent from mid-range as well as from behind the arc. However, once again, he is only 20 and just finished his rookie season, so there is more than enough time for him to add an outside game to his repertoire.
Wall is the face of the Wizards' future. I'm not sure it can get much promising than that.