Every NBA Team's Top “Up-and-Comer”
It’s no secret that NBA teams and fans alike love their stars. With so many great talents in the league, “The Association” has a bright future once the lockout is over and the CBA is agreed upon. Every team has a player or two on their team who is still developing and showing promise, but maybe is a couple years away from reaching that “next level” in their game.
These “up-and-comers” are the type of players who excite fan bases and tantalize teams with their talent, it just becomes a waiting game with their maturation and skill advancement. Everyone is well aware of the budding young stars in the league like John Wall, Tyreke Evans and Derrick Rose, but there are some other bright stars in their own rite who haven’t earned the accolades or been in the spotlight as the “franchise savior.”
The criteria for players to make this list was as follows:
-Have never made an NBA All-Star or All-NBA team roster
-Must be 26 years or younger
-Averaged less than 15 points per game last season
-Excludes incoming rookies and draft picks from 2011 (i.e. Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving, Derrick Williams, etc.)
-Have shown promise for even greater future expected statistical production
Atlanta Hawks: Jeff Teague
Teague is an incredibly gifted point guard, both in terms of athleticism and NBA point guard skill set. He’s a playmaker who is more than capable penetrating the defense for a quick basket or finding the open man. He’s one of the more exciting young players in the league who was sparsely used last season, but with Mike Bibby out of the equation for the Hawks, Teague will get a chance next season to really breakout.
Boston Celtics: Jeff Green
A mid-season acquisition for the C’s, Green stepped in as a reserve and gave strong performances for the second unit. Once a perennial star in the OKC rebuilding efforts, Green finds himself playing behind the Big Three and fighting for playing time. Fortunately for him, that roster isn’t getting any younger and he figures to be a much bigger piece for the franchise moving forward if he can improve his perimeter shooting accuracy and continue to refine his post play.
Charlotte Bobcats: DJ Augustin
While playing in the shadow of Raymond Felton’s his first two seasons, DJ was given the keys to the Bobcats offense this past season and produced impressive 14.4 points and 6.1 assists per game while starting every game. He’s a quick young player who excels at penetrating defenses and getting his teammates involved as the ‘pass first’ player he is. Augustin is a great decision maker who takes good care of the ball and rarely turns it over, making him a great long-term centerpiece for the Bobcats backcourt alongside Kemba Walker.
Chicago Bulls: Joakim Noah
Probably the single best “up-and-comer’ on this list, Noah is a relentless player with a one of a kind motor and unparalleled hustle. Held back only by injury in his short yet impressive career, he has managed to average a double-double over the past couple seasons. Joakim is a big piece to Chicago’s recent post-season success and if he can stay healthy, expect him to be a regular come All-Star weekend and on All-NBA rosters because of his work on the boards and on the defensive end.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Daniel Gibson
“Boobie” looked like great compliment to LeBron during his rookie season that lead to a NBA Finals run. However, his career has been stunted by a myriad of injuries. He might not be the star he once was thought to be capable of becoming, but he has been a lights out shooter from three, hitting better than 40 percent beyond the arc in four of his five seasons. He may be just an up-and-coming role player for Cleveland at this point, but his value is in his great shooting consistency.
Dallas Mavericks: Rodrigue Beaubois
Roddy has seen his share of setbacks and injury early on, but he is a tremendous natural talent and an excellent perimeter defender. His quickness and basketball IQ are big reasons for his success in the league and why he has been very productive in limited minutes for the Mavs. Would have been a big-time contributor for Dallas in the playoffs had he not suffered a recurring foot injury, but expect him to step up next season as the rest of that backcourt continues to age.
Denver Nuggets: Ty Lawson
With Chauncey Billups gone to NYC and Raymond Felton on his way to the Rose City, Lawson has been given every indication that he is the Nuggets point guard of the future, and deservedly so. He’s a smart, efficient competitor who takes care of the ball and maintains a great balance of scoring and distributing while handling the ball, not to mention that he plays great perimeter defender.
He’s shot better than 40 percent from NBA three during his career, kept his turnovers to a minimum and can really get in the zone as a shooter and scorer, as we saw when he knocked down 10 of 11 three-pointers against the Timberwolves late last season. The Nuggets are in good hands with this guy, who looks to be one of the great young NBA point guards of the future.
Detroit Pistons: Greg Monroe
Monroe was one of the smoothest natural talents I had ever seen at the high school level and he has had little trouble adjusting at the top level because of his skill set and physical gifts. He has done a great job of filling out his frame with muscle, in turn using his body in the paint to score and crash the boards. He has plenty to learn in the way of refining his post game and polishing his perimeter jumper, but Monroe shows a lot of promise for a young big in the Motor City.
Golden State Warriors: Ekpe Udoh
The Warriors have plenty of young talent who put up big numbers in a free flow offense, disqualifying the majority of them from this list given their rather gaudy production. However, Udoh gives them a piece that fits their style and gives them tremendous grit in the paint, as he’s a player that is super active on the boards and locking down the paint. He’s a great individual defender who plays his role well in the post and plays like a guy who can be counted on to help shut down the other teams best big on a nightly basis.
Houston Rockets: Patrick Patterson
The Rockets have a lot of young talent that helped them overachieve in the West without any real star outside Kevin Martin and included strong performances from youngsters Jordan Hill, Chase Budinger, and Goran Dragic. With Yao Ming lost for the season, Patterson stepped in at center part time and did an excellent job. His face up shooting stroke was a weapon and his post defense was an asset to team that that was relatively undermanned. With his skill set and strong play as a rookie, it’s easy to see why the Rockets really like him moving forward.
Indiana Pacers: Darren Collison
A classic example of the “underwhelming NCAA producer” in the prospect conundrum that Ben Howland has created at UCLA, Collison looks and plays like an NBA point guard very early in his career. He was so stellar as a rookie filling in for Chris Paul, that the Indiana Pacers invested in him as their point guard of the future, or at least for the time being.
His end-to-end quickness is among the league’s elite and his on-ball defense is impeccable, but his shooting has its ups and downs and decision-making is still a work in progress. He’s a great young player and one of the better “up and coming” point guards in the league right now outside that “elite” class.
Los Angeles Lakers: Andrew Bynum
The Lakers happen to be an older team, naturally making Bynum a no-brainer pick in this situation for a lot of reasons. When he’s not making it rain on his birthday, Bynum is a post presence who eats up the lane with his seven foot, 285 lb. frame. It’s easy to knock him for being unskilled, but truth is he really doesn’t have to be with that build, natural strength and finishing ability at the basket. He’s had his share of flagrant fouls and punkish plays which is a show of his immaturity, but there is not denying his natural talent and effortless production at his size, making by far the best young asset that the Lakers have right now.
Los Angeles Clippers: DeAndre Jordan
It seems that many NBA teams may have sold short on Jordan on draft day back in 2008, as he appears to be a second round steal at this point. Alongside Blake Griffin, he makes up on of the most athletic frontcourts in the league that plays predominantly above the rim. With explosive athleticism and a crazy 7’6” wingspan, Jordan is a shot blocking terror that erased 1.8 shots per game last season in only 25 minutes of play per night. He’s still very raw offensively, getting the majority of his points from offensive rebounds, dump offs and in transition, but he has a great motor and does a great job crashing the boards.
Memphis Grizzlies: Mike Conley
The Grizz have plenty of young talent on their roster and absolutely handled the Spurs this past post season, and Conley was a big reason why running the show at point. His perimeter jumper has gotten respectable, play making reliable, and production stellar on a nightly basis. Showed some tremendous “onions” knocking down a big three in the postseason play against the Thunder. He’s one of those point guards who hasn’t exactly burst onto the NBA scene, but he’s gotten progressively better and developed into a nice player.
Miami Heat: Mario Chalmers
Seeing as Chalmers is the only young player on the Heat who even sees the court, he takes the accolade on this list by default. He may not be the glue guy at point guard the franchise wants moving forward with the “Big Three,” but he did a solid job as a spot up shooter, fair effort as a distributor and was alright on D.
Milwaukee Bucks: Chris Douglas-Roberts
Many scouts weren’t very high on him out of Memphis a couple seasons ago, but CDR has turned out to be a pretty solid pro thus far. He had his moments this past season though for the Bucks, dropping 30 points on the Heat and Bulls during this past January. His production has been inconsistent, but his skill set and basketball IQ as a scorer has promise with his ability to isolate, create and flat out put up points off the bench.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Wesley Johnson
Johnson had a nice rookie year for the T-Wolves but tended to show an over reliance on his jumper. He’s a dangerous shooter from distance, but you would hope a player of his talents and athleticism might get to the free throw line more than 1.2 attempts per game. His length (7’1” wingspan) made him a tough perimeter defender for many players and that looks to be where he can make his mark. He does have the ability to isolate and create, but he needs to be more aggressive if he is to take his game to the next level.
New Jersey Nets: Anthony Morrow
Morrow is a “silent assassin” and deadeye shooter who has quietly buried teams from deep in his first three NBA seasons. He has a career 44.7 percent average from NBA three-point range and makes his mark as a perimeter shooter. He is one of the premier distance shooters in the league with his ability to isolate and create space for a jumper, come of ball screens to hit the open three, or just knock down the open spot up look.
New Orleans Hornets: Trevor Ariza
Ariza had a breakout year in Houston a couple seasons back, but didn’t really seem to have the same success or mesh that great with CP3 in New Orleans his first season. He’s come along way as a shooter and offensive threat in his seven seasons in the league, but his defense is what gets talked about. While his on-ball play may be a tad overrated, Ariza is still a solid talent capable of taking his game up a notch higher in the right situation, as we saw in Houston.
New York Knicks: Toney Douglas
I’m sure a lot of people are surprised that Landry Fields wasn’t our choice here for the Knicks given his unsuspected rookie success. While Fields is a nice guard/forward on the perimeter, his success will be limited with the ball in Carmelo’s hands moving forward and relegated to being a primary spot up shooter offensively.
Douglas is a feisty play making point guard with quickness to burn and capable of getting in the zone as a scorer. He has been productive in limited minutes, doesn’t turn the ball over a great deal and does a nice job of getting the ball to the stars. To put it frankly, Billups time is running out, meaning it increasingly likely that Douglas should get more minutes and opportunity to step up and breakout as the Knicks point guard.
Oklahoma City Thunder: James Harden
The sidekick to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Harden came on strong in the playoffs. Known for that “old man” game, James is routinely one of the smartest players on the court and an indispensable playmaker for the Thunder. Why he’s not starting on that team at this point is puzzling, and while its understandable that he gives them a burst off the bench, he’s becoming an explosive scorer for them worthy of putting on the floor immediately. A true up-and-comer that is far from reaching his true potential at this point.
Orlando Magic: Ryan Anderson
You have to be a big NBA fan to realize the impact and importance that Anderson gives the Magic off the bench. He’s a second unit stud who plays great post defense and an impressive perimeter shooter capable of putting up points in bunches. Having the green light from beyond the arc in Orlando has been great for his game, as he cashed in this past season on 39.3 percent of his attempts from deep. He does a great job crashing the boards and making hustle plays, setting himself apart as one of the better bench players in the NBA.
Philadelphia 76ers: Jrue Holiday
Another UCLA product that was sub-par at the NCAA level but has been impressive as a pro, Holiday is the Sixers PG of the future. He is quickly emerging as one of the better perimeter defending point guards in the league because of his lateral quickness and length. His jumper his coming along nicely and he’s emerged as a respectable perimeter threat, but he’s at his best attacking the basket and setting up his teammates. Put up an impressive 14 points and 6.5 assists per game in his sophomore season.
Phoenix Suns: Aaron Brooks
The Suns got quality insurance on Steve Nash when they dealt Goran Dragic and a first rounder at the NBA trade deadline this past season. Brooks is a blur with the ball in his hands, showing an incredibly quick first step and incredible shooting range that made him the 2009-10 leader in three-point filed goal makes. Granted he also took 45 more threes than any player that season, but he was hitting a stellar 39.8 percent of his looks from range. Brooks is definitely a shoot first player at the point, but he’s a great competitor who is a tough defensive assignment for any player.
Portland Trailblazers: Nicolas Batum
Batum has already been in the league for three seasons, making it easy to forget that he’s only 22 years old. Despite his youth, he’s found a spot on the Blazers starting five because of his length and defensive play. He needs work handling the ball and becoming more assertive attacking the basket, but he’s a respectable spot up threat that commands attention from the perimeter. The Frenchman doesn’t stand out as a stud on the roster, but he’s a glue guy for the Blazers who can keep the other team best perimeter player in check.
Sacramento Kings: DeMarcus Cousins
“Talented” and immature” seem to be the choice words when describing Cousins, which is really quite accurate. He has an incredible NBA build at 6’11”, 270 lbs. with an immaculate 7’6” wingspan. His back to basket game is very impressive and his face up jumper is super crisp offensively, not too mention his natural knack for rebounding. However, he’s a knucklehead with attitude that makes you wonder if he is really even trying or cares about winning. Nonetheless, Cousins has the making to be one of league premier big men and should be in just a couple years time if he is willing to put in work to be.
San Antonio Spurs: DeJuan Blair
Putting it simply, Blair is a beast in the paint and on the boards. His strength is amongst the best the league and his motor among the most energetic as well, making for a great rebounder. Despite playing a hair over 20 minutes per games this past season, he still managed to snatch seven boards per game. Blair has uncommon bulk and grit for an undersized big man that make him a great up and coming talent in the NBA, especially as Tim Duncan gets up there with age.
Toronto Raptors: Ed Davis
The Raptors have a youth movement going and while it looked certain Chris Bosh was headed elsewhere, they made a smart move taking a guy who would make Toronto fans forget about him. While not quite like a Bosh, Davis is similar in many ways in terms of build and skill set. Was productive as a rookie, putting up a cool 7.7 points, 7.1 rebounds and one block per game in only 24 minutes per contest in a crowded frontcourt. He offers them true post play, something that Amir Johnson and Andrea Bargnani could only dream of with their contrasting styles. Davis is a good one in the paint and he will get the job done for the next few years in the paint for Toronto.
Utah Jazz: Derrick Favors
With Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Mehmet Okur and now Enes Kanter in the Jazz frontcourt, minutes could be hard to come by for Favors, a victim of circumstance in this case. His ceiling is very high, given his 6’10” size, 7’4” wingspan, freak athleticism and budding post play. Favors is one of the best young big men in the league, but it will be interesting if the Jazz use him as a trade chip or a long term solution in the post like he is more than capable of becoming.
Washington Wizards: JaVale McGee
The Wizards have done a nice job in their rebuilding effort by acquiring plenty of young talent, and perhaps none more dynamic than JaVale McGee. There wasn’t much buzz about him back in the 2008 Draft, but he has generated plenty as of late with his highlight reel plays and potential that leaves many NBA fans drooling. McGee is an acrobatic big man who has become a premier shot blocker, sending away 2.4 shot per game. Despite solid production, it’s hard to believe that his game is still on the raw side and still fairly undisciplined. Expect him to have a breakout season and take his game to the next level.