15 NBA Players Who Will Be Stars by 2015

Branden FitzPatrick@divingmelvinCorrespondent IJune 16, 2012

15 NBA Players Who Will Be Stars by 2015

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    The NBA is filled with young players that have the potential to be stars by 2015. 

    We are currently watching the careers of many of the great players from the '90s come to an end. Kobe Bryant, Ray Allen, Tim Duncan, Steve Nash, Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce are all legends. The game won't be the same after each one of them retires.

    The players drafted in the 2000s are now veterans, which seems odd. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard have all been around the block a few times at this point.

    The new guys, drafted from 2010 and on, are the future of the NBA. If these young players can capitalize on their situations, the future of the NBA looks bright.

    Here's a list of 15 NBA players who will be stars by 2015.

    (Please note: Every player on this list is already in the NBA. If the player will be selected in the upcoming 2012 NBA draft, he is absent from the list.) 

15. Isaiah Thomas

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    At first, you may think it's crazy that Isaiah Thomas is on this list. But if you've ever seen the little man play, then you might hold your tongue.

    Thomas is a baller. Considering the Sacramento Kings snagged him with the last pick in the 2011 NBA draft, Thomas was one of the best picks in the NBA draft in recent years.

    Most of the time, the No. 60 pick in the NBA draft doesn't even play a game on the big stage. By midseason, Thomas was the starting point guard for the Kings, winning Western Conference Rookie of the Month twice.

    Thomas may never be an All-Star because of how crowded the point guard position is in the NBA, but he's definitely a game-changer and not a player other teams can take lightly. Defenses have taken Thomas lightly his whole basketball career. Time and time again, Thomas makes them pay.

14. Iman Shumpert

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    Like Ricky Rubio and Derrick Rose, Iman Shumpert fell victim to the infamous torn ACL injury.

    The 17th overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft, Shumpert exceeded expectations and finished his rookie season on the NBA All-Rookie First Team. Shumpert is not only the New York Knicks' best perimeter defender—he's one of the best in the entire NBA.

    Despite not earning a spot on the NBA All-Defensive First Team, he did earn four first-team votes from a panel that consisted of the NBA's 30 head coaches.

    Like Rubio, if Shumpert can return to full strength, he can develop into the league's premier perimeter defender. That would be a priceless weapon for the Knicks, especially in a conference with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Rose.

    Defense wins championships, and a lockdown defender like Shumpert who can also score is a valuable commodity.

13. Klay Thompson

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    Klay Thompson, drafted 11th in the 2011 NBA draft, was a pleasant surprise for the Golden State Warriors. Thompson earned himself a spot on the 2011-12 NBA All-Rookie First Team, averaging 12.5 points per game.

    Thompson's game should improve once he plays with a more consistent roster. The Warriors were a juggling act roster-wise for most of the 2011-12 season, either caused by trades or injuries.

    Steph Curry and Thompson give the Warriors an interesting backcourt. As long as Curry can stay healthy, the two should develop into a dangerous tandem.

12. Brandon Knight

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    Brandon Knight finished his successful rookie season with a spot on the 2011-12 NBA All-Rookie First Team. Many critics believed Knight left Kentucky too early, but he displayed a great feel for the game as soon as he hit the court.

    Knight averaged 12.8 points, 3.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.6 three-pointers in 32 minutes per game. Along with Greg Monroe, the Pistons have a solid core to rebuild the franchise around.

    Knight has the potential to become a great three-point shooter. He was one of only two rookies to make over 100 three-pointers. Playing with a good big man will ease Knight's development. If John Wall fails to reach his true potential, Knight could be the best guard from Kentucky's John Calipari era by 2015.

11. Kenneth Faried

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    The "Manimal" Kenneth Faried exploded following the three-team trade that sent Nenê to the Washington Wizards.

    Known as an ultimate hustle player, Faried surprised many his rookie season with how effective he was on the offensive end of the floor. Faried averaged 11.6 points per game in the month of April and 10.4 points per game in the playoffs against the Los Angeles Lakers.

    Faried is also an excellent rebounder, averaging a double-double in the seven games against the Lakers.

    Denver Nuggets head coach George Karl loves the energy Faried puts on the floor night in and night out. He's the opposite of Carmelo Anthony in terms of coachability.

    Faried will be the Nuggets' starting power forward for many years to come. If he continues to develop at an incredibly fast rate like did in his rookie season, Faried will be an animal for a long time.

10. Evan Turner

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    Before the 2010 NBA draft, every mock draft predicted Evan Turner would be the next Brandon Roy. Things haven't exactly turned out that way.

    Despite not playing at an All-Star level like Roy, there's no doubt Turner will be a solid longtime NBA player. Turner's issue may be his situation with the Philadelphia 76ers and head coach Doug Collins. The 76ers are stacked with guards, which has hurt Turner's development.

    Turner's minutes are an issue as well. Some games Turner will play 40 minutes, while some he'll play 17. It's probably just Collins' coaching philosophy, but playing inconsistent minutes can mess with a young player's head.

    Turner needs to improve his shooting percentage. He was lousy from both the free-throw line and behind the arc all season. The talent is there; Turner just needs to learn how to use it.

9. Kawhi Leonard

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    If you play for the San Antonio Spurs, there's a good chance you will develop into a solid NBA player because you play for the best coach in the NBA—Gregg Popovich.

    Kawhi Leonard was drafted 15th overall in the 2011 NBA draft by the Indiana Pacers but was traded to the Spurs shortly after for George Hill. Leonard had a great rookie season, especially following the regular-season injury to Manu Ginóbili.

    In the playoffs, Leonard proved he was capable of playing solid defense and knocking down the open three-point shot.

    Leonard is the type of player Popovich loves—hard-working, tough defender, solid rebounder and with the ability to hit the open jump shot.

    As long as he learns from Popovich and continues to develop his game, he could make the future departure of Tim Duncan much easier for the Spurs. Who knows—maybe Leonard can even take Duncan's spot in the Big Three.

8. Derrick Favors

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    The guy who was picked before DeMarcus Cousins and Greg Monroe in the 2010 NBA draft has found himself in the perfect situation. Derrick Favors, who was drafted by the New Jersey Nets, was traded along with Devin Harris and two first-round draft picks to the Utah Jazz for Deron Williams.

    Unlike the Nets, the Jazz are a playoff team. The playoffs are a wonderful experience for young players, especially for one who plays in the low post. On the Jazz, other solid low-post players, including Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Enes Kanter, surround Favors.

    Unless the Jazz trade Millsap in the next year, it may take Favors a while to establish himself as a legitimate low-post presence. In the meantime, there's no harm learning and competing against two NBA veterans, especially since Favors is only 20 years old.

    By 2015, the Jazz will hope to have a nasty two-headed monster in Favors and Kanter. After seeing how well Favors played against the San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs, there's no reason to believe he won't reach his potential.

7. Avery Bradley

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    The Boston Celtics won't take too huge a hit if Ray Allen chooses to sign elsewhere because of Avery Bradley.

    Bradley was huge for the Celtics after Allen battled injuries throughout the season. He emerged as one of the best backcourt defenders in the NBA. Bradley's season-ending injury was detrimental for the Celtics in their playoff series against the Miami Heat. He was their best option to guard Dwyane Wade.

    Bradley is expected to be close to full recovery by the start of the upcoming training camp. Along with Rajon Rondo, Bradley will help the Celtics ease into life without the Big Three.

    If Bradley can continue to develop his offensive game, the Celtics will have one of the best backcourts in recent memory. The Big Three may not be around in 2015, but the Rondo-Bradley combination will be.

6. Greg Monroe

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    A lot of people have never heard of Greg Monroe because he plays for a sub-.500 basketball team. At the moment, Monroe is a less known version of DeMarcus Cousins.

    He's an efficient low-post scorer and a solid rebounder. In fact, he averages only three points and two rebounds less than the more revered Cousins.

    Along with Brandon Knight, the Detroit Pistons have a solid young core to build their team around. Once the Pistons can get rid of some of their ugly contracts (the team is paying Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva an awful lot of money), this team can be right on track again to be a consistent playoff team.

    Monroe is set for a huge 2012-13 season. By 2015, he very well could be the best power forward in the Eastern Conference.

5. Ricky Rubio

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    Before tearing the ACL in his left knee, Ricky Rubio was on top of the basketball world. Along with Kevin Love, Rubio turned the Minnesota Timberwolves into one of the most exciting teams to watch in the NBA.

    Before the injury, Rubio started in 31 games, playing above expectations and displaying a special passing ability reminiscent of the late, great "Pistol" Pete Maravich.

    What made Rubio a special player last season was his ability to make his teammates better. His passing was contagious. It's no surprise that the Wolves fell apart following Rubio's injury.

    If Rubio returns to full strength, he will continue to be a special talent in the NBA for a long time. Point guards with the ability to raise the games of their teammates don't grow on trees.

4. John Wall

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    The No. 1 pick in the 2010 NBA draft has been somewhat of a disappointment so far. There's no doubt the talent is there, but John Wall sometimes looks clueless on the court.

    The thing Wall has going for him is his infinite potential. He has rare athletic talents similar to LeBron James or Russell Westbrook. The Washington Wizards did Wall good by shipping off many of their bonehead players, including JaVale McGee and Nick Young.

    McGee and Young are each talented players, but neither had a high basketball IQ. When a team has too many inexperienced, young players, it can be a poisonous learning environment.

    Wall needs to improve on making his teammates better, a skill that is needed to be a successful point guard in the NBA. Wall also needs to improve his jump shot in order to keep defenses honest. He's too one-dimensional at the moment.

    Once Wall develops a consistent jumper, he will become an unstoppable force. His first step is lightning-quick. If defenders know Wall can knock down the open jump shot, he will leave many defenders lost in their shoes because they won't be able to play off him.

3. Paul George

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    Paul George made a big leap from his rookie to sophomore season. In the 2011-12 season, George averaged 12.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per game.

    Since the shooting guard position is currently the weakest it's ever been (seriously, think of the top five shooting guards at the moment), George could elevate himself into the elite class as soon as next season.

    George has a body similar to Tracy McGrady. He's 6'8" and weighs 215 pounds. Physically, George is one of the most imposing guards in the entire NBA.

    George got valuable playoff experience this year when the Indiana Pacers lost to the Miami Heat in six games after knocking off the Orlando Magic in the first round. He struggled, as most young players do their first time in the NBA postseason.

    George will use the playoffs as motivation to continue to improve his game. By 2015, the Indiana Pacers may no longer be Danny Granger's team, but George's team.

2. DeMarcus Cousins

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    DeMarcus Cousins emerged in 2011-12 as one of the best low-post presences in the NBA.

    The Sacramento Kings once again finished the year on a disappointing note, but Cousins' emergence as a go-to guy is at least something the franchise can build on.

    Cousins' offensive game is great, especially compared to other young post players around the league. Once Cousins develops a consistent mid-range jump shot, he will be a nightmare for opposing teams.

    Cousins' rebounding ability is what will make him a future perennial All-Star. He finished the 2011-12 season averaging 11 rebounds per game, 17.3 per 48 minutes. Twice, Cousins finished with a game with 20.

    Cousins is the best player the Kings have had since Chris Webber. Playing for the USA Select Team this summer will do wonders for Cousins' development. Surely, 2012-13 will be a big year for Cousins. By 2015, expect him to be a perennial All-Star.

1. Kyrie Irving

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    Boy, did the Cleveland Cavaliers get lucky. One year removed from the Decision, the Cavaliers again struck gold in the draft lottery.

    Kyrie Irving, the reigning Rookie of the Year, is the best young point guard in the NBA. Irving is not only a deadly slasher, but he's a great spot-up shooter as well. He shot 47 percent from the field, 40 percent from behind the arc and 87 percent from the free-throw line his rookie season.

    Irving isn't just a scorer—he gets his teammates involved as well. Irving averaged 5.4 assists per game his rookie year, which is impressive considering he doesn't have the most talented teammates.

    Irving also has shown the ability to play well in late-game situations. He is the third-youngest player to make a game-winning field goal or free throw since 2002-03.

    If the Cavaliers can build a young foundation around Irving unlike they did with LeBron James, this team could be the next Oklahoma City Thunder. Irving is that special of a player. It won't be long until he's starting for the Eastern Conference in the All-Star game.