Ranking Every NBA Team's 3 Best Future Prospects

Greg Swartz@@CavsGregBRFeatured Columnist IVAugust 11, 2022

Ranking Every NBA Team's 3 Best Future Prospects

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    Not every farm system in the NBA is created equal.

    Teams often have to choose between a young talent base (Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Detroit Pistons) or a win-now veteran core (Milwaukee Bucks, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Clippers) with some lucky enough to have both (Golden State Warriors).

    In ranking every team's three best prospects, we're looking for young, sometimes untapped, talent. To qualify for this list, players must check the following boxes:

    • Are 23 years of age or younger.
    • Have been in the NBA for three years or less.
    • Are on a standard, guaranteed contract for the 2022-23 season.

    This means that even young stars like Luka Doncic, Trae Young, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Deandre Ayton and Desmond Bane are either too old or have too many years of experience to be considered a "prospect" anymore. It also means that some of the older teams in the league won't even have three total players to rank.

    With all this in mind, here's how every NBA team's prospects stack up.

Atlanta Hawks

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    1. Onyeka Okongwu, C, 21

    2. AJ Griffin, F, 18

    3. Jalen Johnson, F, 20

    It's only a matter of time before Okongwu passes Clint Capela as the best center on this roster. He's got incredible switchability on defense and is already a good rim protector and shot finisher around the basket. He needs to develop somewhat of an outside shot to claim the starting job, however.

    Griffin slipped to 16th overall in this year's draft, giving the Hawks incredible value with a player who could end up being the best three-point shooter in his class (44.7 percent at Duke) if his durability isn't an issue.

    Johnson is a big, athletic forward who didn't see the floor much as a rookie but could receive more minutes this season with Danilo Gallinari traded in the Dejounte Murray deal. He's an excellent lob threat who needs to improve his three-point shooting.

Boston Celtics

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    1. PF Grant Williams, 23

    2. N/A

    3. N/A

    With Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Robert Williams III aging out of the prospect range, Boston trading away first-round picks in 2021, 2022 and 2023 and giving up Romeo Langford and Aaron Nesmith for veteran help, the Celtics don't have much left in the truly young talent department.

    Grant Williams still qualifies, however, and is coming off the best season of his three-year career.

    He averaged 7.8 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.0 assists and shot 41.1 percent from three in 24.4 minutes as a part-time starter, giving Boston a knockdown shooter in the frontcourt.

    If everyone's healthy, he'll likely be the backup power forward to Al Horford and first big off the bench for a Celtics team with championship aspirations.

Brooklyn Nets

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    1. Cam Thomas, SG, 20

    2. Nic Claxton, C, 23

    3. Day'Ron Sharpe, PF, 20

    Thomas averaged 17.4 points per 36 minutes as a rookie and will be a big-time scorer in the NBA when given the opportunity. He's never met a shot he didn't like (for better or worse) and just finished off a second straight offseason of dominating Summer League.

    With Kyrie Irving, Ben Simmons, Joe Harris, Seth Curry and Patty Mills all taking guard minutes ahead of him, it could be some time before we see Thomas completely unleashed, however.

    Claxton stifled opponents at the rim last season, holding opponents to a stingy 49.7 percent shooting, per NBA.com. He'll almost certainly start at center for Brooklyn, as Claxton is by far the best option among a limited group of bigs.

    Sharpe made the most of his limited minutes as a rookie, putting up 18.2 points, 14.7 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per 36 minutes while shooting 57.7 percent overall. He should see a jump in playing time with Andre Drummond, Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge all gone.

Charlotte Hornets

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    1. LaMelo Ball, PG, 20

    2. P.J. Washington, F/C, 23

    3. Mark Williams, C, 20

    A first-time All-Star last season, Ball is one of the best and most exciting young players in the NBA today. He'll eventually need a reliable second option for the Hornets to be a true playoff threat and could benefit from getting to the free-throw line more, but Ball is a nightly triple-double machine who makes everyone around him better.

    Washington averaged 11.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.1 steals and shot 50.2 percent in 28 starts for the Hornets last season and may find himself in a bigger role depending on the status of Miles Bridges. His combination as a floor-spacer and shot-blocker is extremely valuable.

    Williams gets the nod over James Bouknight here, as the No. 15 overall pick in this year's draft should be the Hornet's new defensive anchor at center. He blocked 2.8 shots a game at Duke last year while taking home ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors.

Chicago Bulls

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    1. Patrick Williams, F, 20

    2. Coby White, G, 22

    3. Dalen Terry, G, 20

    Williams is entering his third NBA season despite not yet turning 21 and is the perfect fit for a Bulls team in need of three-point shooters and wing defenders.

    Injuries wrecked his sophomore season, but Williams still averaged 9.0 points, 4.1 rebounds and hit 51.7 percent of his threes in 24.8 minutes. He's the key to taking this Bulls team from a sixth seed to an elite team in the East.

    White has fallen into a reserve role in Chicago, but he was actually pretty good as a starter last season (16.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 43.7 percent from three). With so many ball-handlers on the team, White could become a trade chip heading into the final year of his rookie deal.

    Terry was the Bulls' 18th overall in the 2022 draft, a 6'7" guard who will have to fight for rotation minutes to begin the season. If Lonzo Ball continues to have knee issues and White gets traded, however, Terry could be an important player for Chicago by playoff time.

Cleveland Cavaliers

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    1. Evan Mobley, F/C, 21

    2. Darius Garland, PG, 22

    3. Isaac Okoro, G/F, 21

    Even with Garland making the East All-Star team last season and locking up a five-year, $193 million contract extension this summer, Mobley is still the crown jewel of this Cavs core.

    A future Defensive Player of the Year, Mobley moves incredibly well for a 7-footer, able to guard anywhere on the floor while keeping his fouling (2.1 per game) to a minimum. He's got terrific footwork on offense as well and will be a true force on both ends with added muscle and a three-point shot.

    Garland is terrific at the point of attack, breaking down defenders off the dribble before getting into the paint and finding his bigs for lobs or kicking out to open shooters. His raw numbers may not be as good this season if Collin Sexton is re-signed along with Caris LeVert and Ricky Rubio handling the ball, but Garland could make the leap to a 40.0 percent three-point shooter with his smooth mechanics.

    Okoro is the Cavs' best defensive option on the wing, one who upped his three-point accuracy from 29.0 percent as a rookie to 35.0 percent last season. He's in danger of losing a starting job with LeVert, Lauri Markkanen and Ochai Agbaji on the wing, however, with a jump on offense likely needed to maintain a large role on the team.

Dallas Mavericks

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    1. Jaden Hardy, SG, 20

    2. Josh Green, SG, 21

    3. N/A

    Dallas has only made one first-round pick since selecting Luka Doncic (well, technically Trae Young) in 2018 and won't have their 2023 selection either following the Kristaps Porzingis trade. This is one of the older teams in the NBA, and it desperately needs the little young talent that's on the roster to prosper.

    Hardy has the highest ceiling, although he's probably a few years away from even being a reliable part of the rotation. After struggling with his efficiency in the G League, Hardy shot just 34.7 percent overall and 26.9 percent from three during the Summer League while turning the ball over 5.0 times per game.

    Green looked much better in his second season in Dallas and will likely play an even bigger role this year with Jalen Brunson gone. If he can turn into a reliable offensive option, the Mavs future will look far brighter.

Denver Nuggets

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    1. Bones Hyland, G, 21

    2. Christian Braun, G/F, 21

    3. Zeke Nnaji, F/C, 21

    Hyland showed off his ability as a scorer and part-time facilitator as a rookie, and he should play some backup point guard minutes with Monte Morris sent to the Washington Wizards in a trade. He needs to continue to add muscle to his 173-pound frame and work on getting to the free-throw line more often to become an even more dangerous offensive threat.

    Braun was the 21st overall pick this summer who projects as a three-and-D wing with some playmaking sprinkled in. He should thrive as a floor-spacer and cutter next to Nikola Jokic in this offense.

    Always buried by veteran options ahead of him, this should be the year Nnaji steps into a bigger role in Denver. He's been an incredible outside shooter (61-of-139, 43.9 percent for his career) who could carve out a permanent spot in the rotation with improved rim protection. If DeAndre Jordan is taking minutes from Nnaji, something's gone wrong.

Detroit Pistons

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    1. Cade Cunningham, G, 20

    2. Jaden Ivey, G, 20

    3. Jalen Duren, C, 18

    This is one of the best young talent bases in the NBA, one that already possesses a future superstar to build around.

    Cunningham is coming off a strong rookie season (17.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 1.2 steals) and should benefit from the presence of Ivey. Just 23.5 percent of Cunningham's shots from inside the arc came off an assist last season, per Basketball Reference, so using the 20-year-old off ball for stretches next to Ivey should lead to an uptick in his overall field goal percentage (41.6 percent last year).

    Ivey is going to be a star and is in an ideal situation where he's not the No. 1 option for defenses to focus on. His scoring, speed and athleticism should make him a starter from Game 1, making Ivey a strong candidate for Rookie of the Year.

    Picking a third prospect for this list is difficult, as there's plenty (Duren, Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Stewart, Isaiah Livers) to choose from. Of this group, Duren has the greatest potential, as he led the AAC in rebound (18.0) and block percentage (9.9) as a freshman. If Duren can round out his offensive game, he'll be an All-Star in a few years.

Golden State Warriors

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    1. Jordan Poole, G, 23

    2. James Wiseman, C, 21

    3. Jonathan Kuminga, F, 19

    Not only is it unfair that the Warriors have this rich of a young talent pool and still won the NBA title, but a prospect as good as Moses Moody not making the top three here is borderline cruel for the rest of the league.

    Poole has worked his way into becoming a major offensive threat, whether it's as a primary ball-handler, spot-up shooter or cutter looking for passes from Draymond Green or Stephen Curry. After averaging 18.5 points, 3.4 rebounds, 4.0 assists and leading the NBA in free-throw shooting (92.5 percent) last season, Poole is going to be rewarded with a major payday either in the form of an extension this fall or in restricted free agency next summer.

    We got to see Wiseman at Summer League after he missed the entire 2021-22 season, and he reminded us all of his incredible size and athleticism while averaging 10.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in just 19.9 minutes. If Wiseman can stay healthy this season, he can thrive as a defensive force and as-needed go-to scorer on offense.

    Kuminga is already one of the most athletic players in the NBA who should see more minutes with Otto Porter Jr. leaving for the Toronto Raptors. He's coming off a 19.3 point-per-game Summer League performance and carries elite two-way potential as a multi-positional defender.

Houston Rockets

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    1. Jabari Smith Jr., F, 19

    2. Jalen Green, SG, 20

    3. Alperen Sengun, F/C, 20

    Like the Detroit Pistons and Oklahoma City Thunder, the Rockets have a ton of prospects to choose from.

    Smith falling to Houston at No. 3 should be a blessing, as he's a better fit for this roster than Paolo Banchero given his defensive potential. At 6'10" with a 7'2" wingspan, Smith can be a regular on All-Defense teams while also being a No. 2 scorer and solid rebounder for this Rockets team.

    Green should be viewed as a 1B instead of a No. 2, as he finished the final 18 games of the season averaging 22.7 points, 3.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists and shooting 41.0 percent from three. He's a true offensive alpha who will take pressure off of Smith and will be in the running for scoring titles as his career progresses.

    Sengun edges out players like Kevin Porter Jr., Tari Eason and others because of his incredible passing ability for a big man. With Christian Wood traded, Sengun should be the team's opening center and averaged 12.1 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.0 blocks in 13 starts as a rookie.

Indiana Pacers

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    1. Tyrese Haliburton, PG, 22

    2. Ben Mathurin, SG, 20

    3. Jalen Smith, PF, 22

    Year 1 of Haliburton being a full-time point guard is going to be a lot of fun, as he put up 17.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 9.6 assists and 1.8 steals on 50.2/41.6/84.9 percent shooting splits following his trade to the Pacers. He's got a real chance to lead the NBA in both assists and steals while scoring over 20 points a game.

    Mathurin lit up Summer League with 19.3 points in just 22.4 minutes a game and could be the Pacers' second-leading scorer as a rookie. He's lethal from all three levels and will make this one of the most exciting young backcourts in the NBA.

    Smith was re-signed to be Indiana's starting power forward and played well after joining the team last season. His 13.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.0 blocks and 37.3 percent mark from three were a pleasant surprise and numbers that should only increase in a larger role.

Los Angeles Clippers

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    1. Brandon Boston Jr., SG, 20

    2. Jason Preston, PG, 23

    3. N/A

    There's not a lot of young talent to be found on this Clippers' roster, and it's hard to imagine players like Boston and Preston will see any real minutes this season with so many veterans ahead of them.

    Boston is a 6'7" shooting guard who shot just 38.5 percent as a rookie and struggled in Summer League (13.4 points on 33.3 percent shooting. His best chance to develop this season may be in the G League with so many other two-guards on this roster.

    Preston missed his entire rookie season following foot surgery but has now recovered and showed off his playmaking ability in Summer League. He's a big point guard at 6'4" who could see time if Reggie Jackson or John Wall miss time because of injury.

Los Angeles Lakers

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    1. Talen Horton-Tucker, G/F, 21

    2. Max Christie, SG, 19

    3. N/A

    Horton-Tucker probably needs a change of scenery to maximize his potential, as he's a talented ball-handler and poor outside shooter who doesn't fit next to ball-dominant players like LeBron James and Russell Westbrook. He's one of the NBA's worst three-point shooters (26.9 percent) but uses his big 6'4", 234-pound frame to get into the paint and finish around the basket.

    Christie made the Big 10 All-Freshman team at Michigan State but is another odd fit with with roster given his poor shooting ability. He made just 31.7 percent of his threes and doesn't offer much playmaking or rebounding potential.

    Horton-Tucker and Christie can both be solid NBA players with time, but these Lakers aren't in developmental mode. Both will likely be trade chips before the deadline.

Memphis Grizzlies

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    1. Ja Morant, PG, 23

    2. Ziaire Williams, SF, 20

    3. Jake LaRavia, F, 20

    Morant seems too good to be labeled a prospect anymore, but he checks the boxes as someone just finishing their third year and is still under the age of 23. An All-Star starter and the NBA's Most Improved Player this past season, Morant should be in the MVP conversation as the unquestioned leader of one of the best young teams in the league. If he can add a reliable jumper to go with his dominant paint scoring, Morant will be an unstoppable offensive machine.

    Williams often goes overlooked when discussing the Grizzlies' young talent, but the No. 10 overall pick in 2021 should be set for a breakout season with Kyle Anderson gone. He averaged 10.3 points and shot 36.5 percent from three over his final 16 regular-season games as a rookie.

    LaRavia edges out Xavier Tillman Sr., David Roddy, Kennedy Chandler and others here with his versatile overall game. The 19th pick in the draft this summer could see early playing time with Jaren Jackson Jr. recovering from foot surgery and averaged 14.6 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.0 blocks as a junior at Wake Forest last year.

Miami Heat

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    1. Tyler Herro, SG, 22

    2. Nikola Jovic, G/F, 19

    3. N/A

    Herro was the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year in 2022-23, a role he was far more efficient in. While the raw numbers were similar (20.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.4 assists in 10 starts compared to 20.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.9 assists as a reserve), Herro shot 46.2 percent overall coming off the bench compared to just 37.6 as a starter. He's currently up for an extension, something that may not come as Miami stays in the hunt for Kevin Durant and Donovan Mitchell.

    If Herro can continue to get stronger and become a better defender, he's got All-Star potential as one of the league's best shooting guards.

    Jovic was Miami's first-round pick this past June, a 6'10" ball-handler who should earn a spot in the rotation immediately. He was a terrific value at No. 27 overall and has considerable upside with his size and skill set.

Milwaukee Bucks

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    1. MarJon Beauchamp, SF, 21

    2. N/A

    3. N/A

    Thanks to trades (primarily for Jrue Holiday), this was the first summer the Bucks made a first-round pick since selecting Donte DiVincenzo in 2018.

    Beauchamp was the No. 24 overall selection, a 6'6" wing who averaged 12.8 points and made 45.8 percent of his threes at Summer League.

    He may need to be ready to play immediately, as Khris Middleton had wrist surgery in July and newly-signed small forward Joe Ingles is still recovering from a torn ACL. Beauchamp will be 22 before the season begins, so he carries a little more experience than a typical rookie coming into a team with championship aspirations.

    While Sandro Mamukelashvili is on a two-way deal, the Bucks should consider making him a permanent part of the roster after he averaged 17.0 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.0 blocks and shot 47.6 percent from three and looked like one of the best players at Summer League.

Minnesota Timberwolves

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    1. Anthony Edwards, SG, 21

    2. Jaden McDaniels, F, 21

    3. Wendell Moore Jr., G/F, 20

    Looking for a young player to make the jump to All-Star status this year? Edwards should be a lock coming off a playoff series in which he averaged 25.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.2 blocks and shot 40.4 percent from three. With one of the best screeners and lob threats in the game in Rudy Gobert now sharing the floor, Edwards will enter the "best shooting guard in the game" conversation soon.

    McDaniels will be key to holding the team's perimeter defense together and keep Gobert's workload to a reasonable level. He's a 6'9" athlete who can attack off the dribble or spread the floor as needed. Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns and Gobert will receive the bulk of the attention, but McDaniels is going to win games with his play on both ends.

    Moore was the 26th overall pick in the draft out of Duke, a 6'5" wing who was named ACC All-Defense and hit 41.3 percent of his three-pointers.

New Orleans Pelicans

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    1. Zion Williamson, PF, 22

    2. Herbert Jones, G/F, 23

    3. Dyson Daniels, G, 19

    Few players can bank $193 million off of potential, but after playing just 85 total games in three seasons, that's precisely what Williamson is now getting from the Pelicans. We don't really know just how good Williamson can be since we've never seen a player quite like his combination of size, strength and mobility. He's talented enough to lead the NBA in scoring, even with Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollum and Jonas Valanciunas on the team, especially if he develops a reliable outside shot.

    Jones's raw numbers won't wow anyone, but he's already an elite defender who had a swing rating in the 92nd percentile as a rookie (plus-9.6 points per 100 possessions), per Cleaning the Glass. For a team that lacks impact defensive players, Jones needs to be a fixture in this starting lineup moving forward.

    A twisted ankle spoiled Daniels' Summer League, although the 6'8" guard could play an important role for the Pelicans as a rookie. He won't have to do much scoring and isn't a great outside shooter yet, but Daniels can make an impact from Day 1 with his defense and playmaking.

New York Knicks

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    1. RJ Barrett, G/F, 22

    2. Cam Reddish, SF, 22

    3. Immanuel Quickley, G, 23

    The Knicks have quietly assembled one of the more intriguing young talent bases in the NBA, many of whom could end up on the Utah Jazz before the season begins.

    For now, Barrett is the best of the bunch, a three-level scorer who's improved his playmaking and cut down his turnover rate (9.9 percent in 2021-22, per Basketball Reference) over his three seasons. If Barrett can tighten his shot selection and improve his overall efficiency this year, he could be in play for a max contract next summer.

    Reddish never got a fair chance following his trade to the Knicks, averaging just 14.3 minutes per game as a part-time member of the rotation. He still possesses incredible two-way potential, however, and needs to be in a stable situation where he can flourish as a three-and-D option at the least.

    Quickley and Quentin Grimes can both make an argument for the No. 3 spot here, although we've seen more of the former at this point. Quickley isn't a true point guard but showed off better playmaking skills in his second season. He looks like a quality spot starter or sixth man off a team's bench for the next decade.

Oklahoma City Thunder

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    1. Chet Holmgren, F/C, 20

    2. Josh Giddey, G, 19

    3. Ousmane Dieng, F, 19

    While some teams don't have enough young talent to fill up these top-three prospect rankings, the Thunder have a whopping 11 players on the roster who are age 23 or younger and have played in the NBA for three years or less.

    That's an incredible amount of youth and inexperience, although it could also make the Thunder one of the league's most dangerous teams in a few years.

    Holmgren is the centerpiece for now, He was the No. 2 overall pick in the draft after averaging 14.1 points, 9.9 rebounds, 3.7 blocks and shooting 60.7 percent overall as a freshman at Gonzaga. He's got other-worldly defensive potential with his 7'6" wingspan and athleticism, and he's able to serve as a rim protector and perimeter disruptor.

    Giddey didn't shoot the ball well as a rookie (26.3 percent from three) but was good at nearly everything else. Only three other players in the NBA (Nikola Jokic, Luka Doncic and Dejounte Murray) matched or exceeded his averages of 12.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.4 assists per game. All three were All-Stars, while Jokic took home MVP honors.

    The third spot here could go to a number of players, a list including Lu Dort, Aleksej Pokusevski, Darius Bazley and Jalen Williams. While all these guys are either good already or have the potential to be, Dieng is the most intriguing after being selected No. 11 overall this summer. A 6'10" ball-handler, Dieng will need a few years of development but was someone the Thunder gave up three first-round picks to acquire. That should say something.

Orlando Magic

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    1. Paolo Banchero, PF, 19

    2. Franz Wagner, F, 20

    3. Jalen Suggs, G, 21

    Banchero is the prospect the Magic needed, an offensive focal point to lead the team in scoring after Cole Anthony's 16.3 points on 39.1 percent shooting was enough to earn him the title last year.

    The former Duke star should be the favorite for Rookie of the Year, as he'll likely have the highest usage of any first-year player. A talented scorer, rebounder and underrated passer, Banchero could put up 18 and 10 every night already.

    Wagner was a pleasant surprise last season, nearly leading Orlando in scoring while doing so on solid efficiency (55.9 percent true shooting, per Basketball Reference). He'll have to play even more on the wing this season with Banchero in the fold, but he is versatile enough to start at either forward position.

    Suggs gets the nod over Anthony here, even after his disaster of a rookie season. A healthy Suggs is still a really good scorer from all three levels, as well as a playmaker and leader who we'll hopefully see more of this year.

Philadelphia 76ers

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    1. Tyrese Maxey, G, 21

    2. Paul Reed, F/C, 23

    3. Jaden Springer, SG, 19

    The jump Maxey took in Year 2 should have gotten him more love for the Most Improved Player award, as he more than doubled his scoring and assist averages (up to 17.5 points and 4.3 assists) while going from a liability from the outside (30.1 percent from three) to one of the best shooters in the NBA (42.7 percent, third overall).

    After Maxey, the young talent level drops a bit in Philly.

    Reed is a skilled yet undersized big who gets into foul trouble quite often. His per-36 career numbers are impressive (15.3 points, 11.5 rebounds, 3.2 steals, 2.0 blocks) but 6.5 fouls in this amount of time is an issue. With DeAndre Jordan gone, we could see Reed in a bigger role as the backup big to Joel Embiid.

    Springer was Philly's first-round pick in 2021 yet saw just six total minutes of NBA action. He showed promise in the G League, averaging 14.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.7 steals and shot 47.0 percent overall.

Phoenix Suns

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    1. N/A

    2. N/A

    3. N/A

    The Suns are the NBA's only team without a true prospect, someone 23 or younger with three years of experience or less. Even Cam Johnson, going into his fourth season, is already 26 years old.

    Duane Washington Jr. is the closest player to qualify, although the 22-year-old point guard is only on a two-way contract for now. He averaged 9.9 points and 1.8 assists in 20.2 minutes while shooting 37.7 percent from three for the Indiana Pacers last season.

    While this used to be one of the best young talent bases in the NBA, players like Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton are now on their second contracts and about to enter their eighth and fifth seasons, respectively.

Portland Trail Blazers

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    1. Shaedon Sharpe, SG, 19

    2. Nassir Little, F, 22

    3. Keon Johnson, SG, 20

    The No. 7 overall pick in the draft, Sharpe saw just five minutes of Summer League action before suffering a small labral tear in his left shoulder, one he thankfully didn't need surgery for.

    Sharpe is easily the most intriguing player in the draft after going to Kentucky but ultimately choosing to sit the season out. He's a big shooting guard at 6'6" who could help take this Portland team from the play-in tournament to a top-six seed in the West if he has a dazzling rookie season.

    Little averaged 11.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and shot 34.4 percent in 23 starts last season, but he will likely return to a reserve role behind Jerami Grant. He's a versatile defender who the Blazers desperately need, however.

    The 21st overall pick in 2021, Johnson is in danger of getting buried in a guard rotation that now features Damian Lillard, Sharpe, Anfernee Simons, Gary Payton II and Josh Hart. He's extremely athletic and showed some playmaking ability last season, but he shot just 36.4 percent from inside the arc.

Sacramento Kings

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    1. Keegan Murray, F, 21

    2. Davion Mitchell, G, 23

    3. N/A

    Murray, the No. 4 overall pick in the draft, should be an immediate starter for a Kings team in need of wing help. He dominated Summer League, putting up 23.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.3 steals over four games while shooting 50.0 percent overall.

    It will be interesting to see if new head coach Mike Brown uses Mitchell as the team's starting shooting guard or backup point guard, as his defense alone deserves a spot in the opening lineup. The Kings allowed 4.3 fewer points per 100 possessions with Mitchell in the game as a rookie, a swing that ranked in 82nd percentile already among all NBA players, per Cleaning the Glass.

    Trading Tyrese Haliburton for Domantas Sabonis has left this team with no other true prospects to draw from, however, as even De'Aaron Fox is about to enter his sixth season despite being just a year older than Mitchell.

San Antonio Spurs

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    1. Keldon Johnson, F, 22

    2. Devin Vassell, G/F, 21

    3. Josh Primo, G, 19

    Johnson broke out in Year 3, averaging 17.0 points per game while shooting 39.8 percent from three. With Dejounte Murray and Lonnie Walker IV now gone, He'll likely pass the 20-point-per game barrier as the Spurs' leading scorer next season.

    Vassell is an athletic 6'5" wing who more than doubled his scoring average in Year 2 (up to 12.3 points per game) while improving his passing and true shooting percentage, per Basketball Reference. He carries terrific potential as a defender and should make the jump to full-time starter this season.

    Primo had a rocky rookie year, but that was to be expected for someone who didn't even turn 19 until two months into the season. He's going to get far more opportunity to run the offense now with Murray gone, and his 6'6" frame is going to be incredibly difficult to defend when Primo puts it all together. Look for a bigger role this season with a true breakout coming the year after.

Toronto Raptors

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    1. Scottie Barnes, F, 21

    2. Precious Achiuwa, F/C, 22

    3. Dalano Banton, G/F, 22

    The Raptors need to keep their Rookie of the Year at all costs, even if Kevin Durant is on the table. Barnes' upside is too high to punt on, as he can play and defend four positions and is a reliable jump-shot away from All-Star status already. He's that good.

    Achiuwa isn't your typical big man, as he moves like a small forward on the court. Able to dribble-drive past opponents or knock down open threes, Achiuwa is going to have a big role in Toronto moving forward whether he starts or is the first big off the bench.

    The Raptors need Banton to make a jump in Year 2 and help keep Fred VanVleet's minutes down. He has incredible size as a 6'9" point forward who can handle the ball, and his length helps clog passing lanes and rack up steals.

Utah Jazz

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    1. Walker Kessler, C, 21

    2. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, G/F, 23

    3. Leandro Bolmaro, G/F, 21

    The young talent pool in Utah could quickly grow, especially if players like Donovan Mitchell, Mike Conley Jr., Bojan Bogdanovic, Jordan Clarkson, Malik Beasley and Patrick Beverley are traded before the season starts.

    For now, Kessler is the most intriguing prospect given his defensive upside. He should get plenty of opportunity as the likely new starter at center in Utah and was the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year at Auburn after blocking 4.6 shots a game.

    Alexander-Walker showed star potential at times with the New Orleans Pelicans but received just 9.9 minutes a game after a trade to the Jazz. If Utah goes into rebuild mode, the 6'6" wing could once again find a bigger role and tap into his potential once more. He turns 24 on September 2.

    Bolmaro, like Kessler, was part of the Rudy Gobert trade. He was selected 23rd overall in 2020 and averaged 13.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 1.4 steals in the G League last year.

Washington Wizards

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    1. Deni Avdija, F, 21

    2. Johnny Davis, G, 20

    3. Corey Kispert, F, 23

    The Wizards have a number of intriguing young players, yet none have broken out to this point.

    Avdija may have the best chance. He can play either forward position at 6'9", is a good defender already and had one of the best swing ratings on the team at plus-5.2, per Basketball Reference. He's flashed some playmaking ability, and Avdija's shooting mechanics are smooth despite a 31.7 percent success rate from three last season. The Wizards need to give him real playing time, something not easily done with so many forwards on the roster.

    Davis was the 10th overall pick this summer. The combo guard will learn behind Bradley Beal for now. The Big 10 Player of the Year at Wisconsin, Davis is a talented scorer and rebounder at 6'5" who gets to ease into a bench role to begin his career.

    Kispert averaged 11.8 points and shot 38.8 percent from three in 36 starts as a rookie, giving the Wizards offense some spacing between Beal and Kristaps Porzingis. Although he's not much of a playmaker or rebounder, Kispert can become an elite three-point shooter.


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