10 Current NBA Stars-in-Training

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistOctober 5, 2011

10 Current NBA Stars-in-Training

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    The NBA lockout could prevent us from not only watching the likes of LeBron James, but also the development of the league's future superstars.

    Every season new stars emerge and players reveal abilities we never knew they had. Next season, should there be one, will prove to be no exception as there are an array of candidates that fit such criteria.

    These players may not cross the threshold into superstardom immediately, or even at all next season, but they have shown that they are on their way.

    No, they do not quite measure up to the hype surrounding athletes like Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant and Dwyane Wade, but as superstars in training, they eventually will.

Brook Lopez of New Jersey Nets

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    New Jersey, soon-to-be Brooklyn, Nets fans are hoping the team can find another superstar to pair along with Deron Williams so that he commits to the organization long term.

    But they may already have one, or at least have a player who is a heartbeat away from becoming one.

    Lopez averaged 20.4 points, six rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game last season, keeping pace with the best of the league's big men. He is athletic for his size and has shown a willingness to adapt his game to whatever best fits the needs of the team.

    Is there room for Lopez to grow? Absolutely, but he is only 23 and just three years removed from Stanford. Based on what he has shown us thus far, there is no reason to believe he won't continue to improve, especially under Williams' prolific floor general capabilities.

    On too many occasions have young big men fallen victim to the pressures of being in a center-starved league, but Lopez is not going be one of them.

    If anything, he is going to continue to raise the latter for his potential as he becomes one of the more dominant big men in the league.

DeMarcus Cousins of Sacramento Kings

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    DeMarcus Cousins had a seriously volatile, yet at the same time impressive rookie season, averaging 14.1 points and 8.6 rebounds per game.

    He emerged as one the Sacramento Kings' go-to scorers early on, due largely in part to his ability to create his own offense if needed. Cousins is also a very good rebounder and no slouch on the defensive end.

    As far as Cousins' attitude is concerned, it may hold him back from being considered a superstar for another season or two, but it will not hold him back for so long. His abilities are undeniable and keep in mind that at 21, there is still some maturing to be undergone on his behalf.

    In Sacramento's case, they are in desperate need of a proven superstar, one they can rely on when on the basketball court. Cousins' attitude may prove to be unpredictable, but his path to stardom is anything but.

    It will not be long before the power forward sheds the "in-training" monicker and officially enters the realm of superstardom.

DeAndre Jordan of Los Angeles Clippers

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    DeAndre Jordan seems poised take over the starting center duties for the Los Angeles Clippers, and from there, it won't be long until he becomes an outright superstar.

    After just three years in the league, Jordan, who was drafted early in the second round back in 2008, has proved to be quite the draft day steal. He averaged 7.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in barely 25 minutes per game.

    During his short tenure in the league, Jordan has polished his offensive game quite a bit, to the point where given a more prominent role, he would become a dominant low-post scorer. He is also a stalwart on the defensive end, who is a threat to block shots on every possession.

    Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon have overshadowed Jordan's accomplishments up until now, but once the Clippers re-sign him, and they will re-sign him, he is at the point in his development where he is ready to develop a reputation all of his own.

    Sooner, rather than later, Jordan will reach a level that will propel him to superstardom as well as make a pairing of he and Griffin one of the best low-post duos of all-time.

Roy Hibbert of Indiana Pacers

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    Danny Granger of the Indiana Pacers is in desperate need of another superstar to share the burden of carrying this team with, and Roy Hibbert is poised to fulfill this need very, very soon.

    Last season, his third in the league, Hibbert averaged 12.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. He is absolutely massive and a major threat on both ends of the floor. He has also developed above average ball-handling skills for his size.

    At only 24, there is no ceiling to Hibbert's potential, which is good considering his stands at 7'2". In a league nearly void of prolific centers, Hibbert's size alone is a commodity, but his aptitude for improving his performance makes him that much more valuable.

    Come next summer, as he enters free agency, don't be surprised if he lands himself a lucrative contract, as by that time, he undoubtedly will have become one of the most dominant low-post players in the game. 

Jeff Teague of Atlanta Hawks

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    At first glance Jeff Teague's numbers over the two years spent thus far in the league seem less than impressive.

    Last season, he averaged 5.2 points and two assists per game. However, once the postseason arrived, so did Teague. In eight postseason games, he averaged 11.8 points and 3.5 assists per game, demonstrating he was more than capable of handling the full-time point guard duties.

    Teague is extremely quick and while he must develop his play-making skills a bit, his performance during the playoffs indicates that he will. Additionally, he is only 23, and has nowhere near peaked.

    With Teague running the show, the Hawks were visibly faster and more athletic-seeming, serving as not only a cause for him to become their everyday point guard, but also as an indication of what's to come.

    And what's to come sees as if its going to be spectacular. 

Marcin Gortat of Phoenix Suns

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    Marcin Gortat's potential went relatively unnoticed as he spent nearly four years buried behind the Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard.

    Once traded to the Phoenix Suns this past season though, Gortat took off, averaging 13 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. His excellent shot-blocking and rebounding skills were finally unearthed and he boasted an offensive game that few knew he had.

    Many had written Gortat off, but it turns out a change of scenery and a more prominent role was all that he needed. As soon as next season, Gortat will emerge as one of the top big men in the league, crossing the threshold into superstardom, an achievement barely anyone had him pegged for.

    What else does the future hold aside from him becoming one of the more heralded centers in the league?

    Well, the Magic are certainly bound to kick themselves for relinquishing such a talented post player as they watch Howard slowly slip further and further away.

Danilo Gallinari of Denver Nuggets

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    Danilo Gallinari's skills are one of the few certainties on a very uncertain Denver Nuggets team.

    Gallinari, splitting time with both the Nuggets and New York Knicks last season, averaged a combined 15.6 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. He is one of the most lethal shooters in the league, with the ability to create his own shot.

    Additionally, Gallinari is a willing defender who doesn't receive nearly as much credit as he deserves on that end. The biggest concern surrounding him is his rebounding abilities as well as his willingness to be more aggressive on the offensive end.

    All of that being said, Gallinari is about to assume a much more prominent role for Denver. The ball is going to be put in his hands a whole lot more and he is going to be pushed to become a more dominant player.

    These are circumstances that Gallinari is going to thrive under, and whether it be this year or next, he will no longer be a superstar in training, but rather one of the most prolific athletes on the offensive side of the ball, a proven star in his own right.

    And he gives Denver at least one thing to look forward to moving ahead.

Tyreke Evans of Sacramento Kings

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    Remember when I said the Kings were in desperate need of a proven superstar? Well, they are on their way to having two.

    After averaging 20.1 points, 5.8 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game in his rookie season, he seemed but a mere heartbeat away from superstardom. However, last season his production dropped ever so slightly thanks to being plagued by plantar fasciitis and also due to the emergence of DeMarcus Cousins.

    Even though his production slipped and he wasn't 100 percent, Evans still averaged 17.8 points, 5.6 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game. He is extremely quick and athletic, and is the best rebounding point guard in the league.

    Additionally, he is versatile enough to play the shooting guard position if the Kings need him to, which is great, as it is unclear if they will try and groom the incoming Jimmer Fredette to play the point. Evans is also a solid defender whose quick hands are going to snag multiple steals every night.

    Since he has only played two seasons in the NBA, Evans has gone fairly unheralded, something he is poised to change next year. His potential is truly limitless, and with his abilities and play style, fully expect him to evolve into a Dwyane Wade like backcourt threat.

    There, I said it.

Ty Lawson of Denver Nuggets

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    Joining teammate Danilo Gallinari as a superstar in training, point guard Ty Lawson provides some more hope for the future of a Denver Nuggets team that can use all the help it can get at this point.

    Last season, Lawson averaged 11.7 points and 4.7 assists per game. He really stepped up after both Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups were dealt to the New York Knicks. In fact, he played so well, it begs the question as to whether the only reason Denver started Billups over him was to justify him making more money.

    Lawson is an extremely agile point guard with sick hops for someone coming in at only 5'11". Additionally, unlike the slightly tinier Nate Robinson, Lawson is not as apt to getting shots stuffed back down his throat because he has an impressive understanding of the game for a 23-year-old floor general.

    His court vision is pretty good, but could use some improvement. Given the extra playing time he is bound to receive though, this almost becomes a non-issue. Lawson also has quick hands, which benefits him on both sides of floor, and there are few point guards that thrive in transition as well as he does.

    Sooner, not later, Lawson is going to deemed a superstar. His keenness and determination are virtues that more than make up for his lack of size.

    Remember his name, because in a year or two, he is going to be one of the hottest backcourt commodities in the league.

Jrue Holiday of Philadelphia 76ers

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    Thaddeus Young may desert the Philadelphia 76ers for greener pastures and pockets, but they can at least take solace in knowing that the ever-so-talented Jrue Holiday will be returning.

    Last season, his second in the league, Holiday averaged 14 points, 6.5 assists and four rebounds per game, starting in all 82 of them. He exceeded expectations on the offensive end, proving to be a phenomenal pick-and-roll player, and also exhibited a defensive toughness that impressed even defensive guru Andre Iguodala.

    Prior to the season, Holiday had his share of doubters in regards to if he could play the role of a true point guard. He rendered them wrong, improving in almost every facet of said role, especially his court vision and passing abilities.

    Holiday also has some speed in his arsenal, but his greatest attribute is his high basketball IQ, which has allowed him to play at a level well beyond his 21 years of age.

    The  76ers do not have much going for them at this point, as their team is currently caught in a whirlwind of limbos.

    Holiday provides some calmness to their storm however, giving them some hope for the future as he turns into a star-caliber talent the 76ers can build around. 

    You can follow Dan Favale on Twitter here    @Dan_Favale.