Predicting the 2023 NBA All-Stars

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistFebruary 14, 2018

Predicting the 2023 NBA All-Stars

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    Five years into the future, the NBA will be entirely different.

    Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell will no longer be competing for Rookie of the Year. Teams won't be gearing up for shots at the top pick in a potentially star-studded 2018 NBA draft, and many of the prospects in contention for this year's No. 1 selection will be leading the charge for their respective organizations. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Karl-Anthony Towns will be in the midst of their athletic primes.

    Meanwhile, Dirk Nowitzki still might be knocking down triples. 

    But who will emerge as All-Stars? 

    With Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman serving as the prospect guru, selecting and writing about the non-NBAers who'll represent their squads in 2023's All-Star festivities, we've gone through and picked out 24 representatives. Conference affiliation and positions are wholly irrelevant as we quest toward finding the league's premier talents in terms of popularity and production. 

    Before we begin, keep in mind that this is an inherently subjective exercise. Plenty more players likely will be deserving of inclusion. After all, we're not exactly wanting for All-Star snubs in the present. 

    Now, to the time machine!

Giannis Antetokounmpo

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    Current Team: Milwaukee Bucks

    Current Per-Game Stats: 27.9 points, 10.3 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.5 steals, 1.3 blocks

    Age in 2023: 28

    The question isn't whether Giannis Antetokounmmpo will be an All-Star when he's 28 years old, so much as whether he'll be the NBA's best player.

    That lofty goal is well within the realm of reasonable and realistic possibilities for the Milwaukee Bucks superstar, who's already representing his squad in the midseason classic's starting lineup and is on the verge of bursting into MVP contention. In fact, Basketball Reference's NBA MVP Award Tracker already lists him at No. 5, trailing only James Harden, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and LeBron James.

    Even if Antetokounmpo doesn't develop a consistent jumper, he'll continue producing some of the NBA's most well-rounded lines with his Euro-stepping proclivities, basket-attacking mentality and fearsome defense. But what if he does? What if five years is enough time for him to start knocking down triples and spacing out the opposition even more? 

    If that's the case, we'll start talking about historical rankings rather than just his place atop the Association's present-day hierarchy.  

Deandre Ayton

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    Current Team: Arizona Wildcats

    Current Per-Game Stats: 19.5 points, 10.7 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.5 steals, 1.8 blocks

    Age in 2023: 24

    Deandre Ayton's size, length, power and athleticism have registered under the NBA's scouting lens for years. But his skill level has continuously evolved, and he's now averaging 19.5 points on 60.4 percent shooting as a freshman at Arizona, scoring in translatable ways that have helped create a case for Ayton as college basketball's No. 1 prospect.

    Physically, he mirrors Karl-Anthony Towns (7'0", 248 pounds). But at 7'1" and 250 pounds with a 7'5 ½" wingspan, Ayton is longer and far more chiseled than Towns was at the same age.

    He's been dominant offensively inside, shooting 72.1 percent at the basket with 29 putbacks through 26 games. His blossoming skills are what point to future NBA All-Star appearances, though. Ayton is averaging 1.08 points per possession on 60.0 percent shooting on post-ups, and he's putting up 1.11 points per possession in isolation. He's shooting 47.9 percent on jump shots inside the arc, and he has flashed enough range (10 three-pointers) to suggest his three-ball will eventually be an every-game weapon. 

    Even if he never develops into an elite rim protector, Ayton could wind up generating similar All-Star numbers as Towns by his third NBA season. 

     Jonathan Wasserman

Lonzo Ball

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    Current Team: Los Angeles Lakers

    Current Per-Game Stats: 10.2 points, 7.1 rebounds, 7.1 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.9 blocks

    Age in 2023: 25

    Don't be fooled by the early-season narrative or Lonzo Ball's down-in-the-dumps shooting percentages. Though he's shooting just 35.6 percent overall, 30.3 percent from three-point range and 48.0 percent on his free-throw attempts, those numbers mask the panoply of impressive developments he's made as a rookie.

    Ball's perimeter jumper—complete with his patently unique form—has shown flashes of growth throughout his inaugural campaign with the Los Angeles Lakers. But the benefits of his inconsistent marksmanship have paled in comparison to his court vision and remarkable defensive instincts. 

    The passing chops aren't going anywhere by 2023, and Ball should be a virtual lock to average double-digit dimes when surrounded by a more impressive cavalcade of compatriots. His distributing is contagious, causing the rock to move more freely as the Lake Show engages in unselfish offense.

    Defense has been his unexpected calling card. Ball has proved capable of anticipating passing lanes, and he frequently knocks the ball free with his quick hands. That isn't going anywhere by 2023, either. 

    Popularity alone should keep Ball in the hunt while he wears Purple and Gold. But five years from now, he'll also be making an All-Star impact even without a Rookie of the Year trophy on his mantle to validate his selection at No. 2 in the 2017 NBA draft. 

R.J. Barrett

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    Current Team: Montverde Academy (committed to Duke Blue Devils)

    Current Per-Game Stats: 27.0 points, 8.1 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.9 blocks

    Age in 2023: 22

    RJ Barrett, Scout.com's No. 1-ranked prospect in the class of 2018, should make his NBA debut in 2019 after a one-and-done year at Duke. 

    After having led Canada to gold at the U19 World Cup this summer and going for 38 points, 13 rebounds and five assists to bury the United States, Barrett now has Montverde Academy undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the country.

    It wouldn't be surprising if he spent time at the top next year with Duke, either, given the absurd strength of its recruiting class. Barrett should ultimately benefit from practicing and playing alongside future top picks and pros.

    The athletic 6'7" wing is big and skilled enough to play multiple positions, but he's a scorer first, capable of converting in different ways using pull-ups, runners, hard drives and improvisation. His shooting continues to improve and enhance his scoring versatility.

    He's flashed the game and mentality to become a team's top option. Four years in the league should be enough time for Barrett to get there.

    — Jonathan Wasserman

Bradley Beal

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    Current Team: Washington Wizards

    Current Per-Game Stats: 23.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.4 blocks

    Age in 2023: 29

    You've used all your lifelines. You can no longer phone a friend. This is the million-dollar question: 

    The Washington Wizards have a 3.9 net rating with Player X on the court, and a minus-4.7 net rating when he's riding the pine. Meanwhile, their net rating changes from 4.3 to minus-0.6 when Player Y leaves the floor. Each man starts in the backcourt when healthy, but which one is which?

    Both contributors are important, but the differential is significantly larger for Player X. And using context clues, you've likely guessed that's Bradley Beal, while John Wall checks in as Player Y. 

    Though Wall is typically viewed as the Wizards' best player, his shooting guard has filled that role throughout 2017-18. The offense falls apart without his sharpshooting opening up the interior of the offensive schemes, and small defensive strides have prevented the Florida product from serving as too much of a liability. 

    That isn't going to change going forward.

    Beal has arrived, which is especially impressive considering his shooting percentages have trended in the wrong direction this season. That hasn't prevented him from continuing to improve, though. 

Devin Booker

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    Current Team: Phoenix Suns

    Current Per-Game Stats: 24.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.3 blocks

    Age in 2023: 26

    Devin Booker can flat-out score the basketball. 

    Not only is he averaging 24.1 points and 4.9 assists, but he's doing so while splashing in 43.1 percent of his field-goal attempts, 38.1 percent of his triples and 89.5 percent of his free-throw attempts. That's good for a 56.4 true shooting percentage that represents drastic improvement upon his freshman (53.5) and sophomore (53.1) marks. He's one of only 11 qualified scorers averaging at least 24 points per game with a true shooting percentage north of 56 during the 2017-18 campaign, but let's expand the criteria. 

    Throughout all of NBA history, 75 different players have hit the necessary cut-offs during at least one go-round. That's already an impressively small group for Booker to join, but we can make it tinier still. How many have gained admission during (or before) their age-21 season? 

    Here's the full list:

    • Carmelo Anthony
    • Anthony Davis
    • Kevin Durant
    • LeBron James
    • Michael Jordan
    • Shaquille O'Neal
    • Karl-Anthony Towns

    If you still have any doubt about Booker's All-Star inevitability, consider this: He's posting these elite scoring figures while being subjected to constant defensive attention. The Phoenix Suns should only improve over the next five years, and Booker will do even more damage when paired with a stronger supporting cast capable of lessening his responsibilities and drawing away some of the opposition's focus.  

Stephen Curry

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    Current Team: Golden State Warriors

    Current Per-Game Stats: 26.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.1 blocks

    Age in 2023: 34

    Point guards tend to decline dramatically as they enter their 30s. The fast-paced action becomes a bit too much, forcing them to back off some of their primary responsibilities and fill new roles as Father Time begins to impair their athletic abilities.

    Since the 2000-01 season, 11 different 29-year-old guards have been All-Stars. That number basically stagnates for 30-year-olds, only dipping to 10. At ages 31 and 32? We're down to eight and six, respectively. Somehow, 33-year-olds jump back up to eight

    But Stephen Curry is going to buck the trend, joining Sam Cassell, Gary Payton, Jason Kidd, Dwyane Wade and Allen Iverson in the age-34 All-Star club during the 2022-23 season. Though he won't be as effective on defense and likely won't be competing for the league lead in scoring, he has one skill that won't diminish as he moves deeper into his 30s. 

    Yup. You guessed it. 

    The Golden State Warriors floor general is the best shooter in league history, and that three-point ability should allow him to maintain his transcendent level far longer than most players at his position.

    Five years into the future, the complexion of the Dubs will be significantly different. But assuming Curry is still on the roster, his three-point habits will be one guaranteed constant. 

Anthony Davis

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    Current Team: New Orleans Pelicans

    Current Per-Game Stats: 27.1 points, 10.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.3 steals, 2.1 blocks

    Age in 2023: 29

    What can't Anthony Davis do? 

    The New Orleans Pelicans big man has morphed into a complete player who can change the game in every way imaginable. He's a deadly scorer on the interior, whether he's creating looks for himself or rolling to the basket and awaiting an alley-oop feed. He's taking more triples than ever (2.1 per game) and is connecting at a 35.5 percent clip. He's involving teammates with his passing and is dominating on the glass. He's morphing into a Defensive Player of the Year candidate who doesn't always leave his feet in pursuit of blocks. 

    And since he's still only 24 years old, we may not yet have seen the full extent of what he can do.

    Maybe he'll become the NBA's best defensive presence. He could challenge for a scoring title. Considering he took 1.8 treys per contest last year and hit only 29.9 percent of them, he's already improved enough that we can't rule out further growth from deep, either. Again, Davis can pretty much do anything. 

    Come 2023, he'll likely be just outside his prime, particularly because he has a lengthy history of minor injuries. But expecting him to decline enough that he won't be in the starting mix to represent his conference would be foolish. 

Luka Doncic

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    Current Team: Real Madrid

    Current Per-Game Stats (Euroleague and Spanish ACB): 16.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.1 steals

    Age in 2023: 23

    Prospects don't come more proven before the draft than Luka Doncic, who's already playing at an All-Star level against top pros overseas. 

    Even in September, he had started building a No. 1 overall case for 2018, having averaged 14.3 points, 8.1 rebounds and 3.6 assists at Eurobasket, where he helped lead Slovenia to gold alongside Goran Dragic. Doncic went for 27 points against Kristaps Porzingis and the Latvians before nearly triple-doubling (11 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists) against a Spain team that featured the Gasol brothers, the Hernangomez brothers and Ricky Rubio.

    Though he's only 18 years old, he currently leads Euroleague in player efficiency rating, and he ranks second in scoring. 

    The 6'8" playmaker mixes wing size with point guard passing instincts and an improving jumper that's connecting on 1.6 threes per game between Euroleague and Spanish ACB play. And we continue to see signs of developing scoring ability with step-backs, floaters and improvisation.

    Assuming he lands in a suitable situation, Doncic is poised to become the favorite for the 2018-19 Rookie of the Year award. His tools, versatility, basketball IQ, toughness and track record suggest he's as ready as any draft-eligible college player. 

    The 2023 NBA All-Star game may not be his first. 

    — Jonathan Wasserman

Kevin Durant

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    Current Team: Golden State Warriors

    Current Per-Game Stats: 25.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 0.8 steals, 1.9 blocks

    Age in 2023: 34

    Will Kevin Durant be an All-Star when he's 34? Of course he will. 

    The Golden State Warriors small forward is a scoring superstar, arguably among the best we've ever seen in the NBA. That touch from all over the half-court set isn't going anywhere, especially now that he's sharing the ball more frequently and preserving himself while also growing other parts of his game. 

    Durant's point-producing prowess makes it easy to overlook his distributing acumen. How many people realize he's averaging a career-best 5.5 assists per game for the Dubs? And what about the defensive chops that suddenly have prominent writers such as The Ringer's Jonathan Tjarks analyzing the merits of his Defensive Player of the Year candidacy? 

    This is the most complete version of the future Hall of Famer we've ever seen. As such, we should have unabashed confidence that he'll be in the All-Star mix throughout the foreseeable future. 

    The more interesting inquiry will be whether he can join Michael Jordan, Bernard King, Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone, Dominique Wilkins and Alex English to become the seventh man to average at least 25 points per game during his age-34 season. 

Joel Embiid

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    Current Team: Philadelphia 76ers

    Current Per-Game Stats: 23.7 points, 11.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 0.6 steals, 1.8 blocks

    Age in 2023: 28

    When 2023 rolls around, Joel Embiid should be in the midst of his prime. Health will be the only obstacle standing between him and yet another All-Star berth, most likely still representing the Philadelphia 76ers. 

    The second-year center already plays like the leader at his position when he's in working order. No one blends together skills quite like he does on a regular basis, whether he's dazzling defenders with post moves, hitting face-up jumpers or shutting down the paint so effectively that foes don't dare challenge him. According to ESPN.com's real plus/minus, DeMarcus Cousins has been his only superior at the center spot in 2017-18.

    This level of dominance comes while Embiid learns how to operate alongside Ben Simmons. It's happening as the youthful Sixers grow in conjunction with one another. It's taking place while the big man figures out how he can cut down his turnovers—his only glaring negative, at least from a statistical standpoint. 

    Embiid is a risky pick, but only because we don't know whether his body will betray him. After he's progressed throughout the current campaign with no significant setbacks—he even played in his first-ever back-to-backswe should feel confident in his ability not just to represent the Eastern Conference, but to potentially serve as a captain and a leading vote-getter. 

James Harden

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    Current Team: Houston Rockets

    Current Per-Game Stats: 31.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.7 blocks

    Age in 2023: 33

    Age should be irrelevant for James Harden now that he's figured out how to master the art of offense. Working alongside Chris Paul or operating solo for the Houston Rockets, he's produced unbelievable scoring and distributing numbers while maintaining extreme levels of efficiency. 

    Even after the NBA changed its rules in order to curtail his foul-drawing tendencies, Harden has continued to work his way to the stripe on a regular basis. He baits defenders into ill-advised movements, attacks weak points in defenses and puts on a show every night with his step-back jumpers and awkward arm movements while driving toward the hoop. Foes are intimidated into fouling him, almost as if they don't believe they're capable of corralling him without resorting to more physicality than normal. 

    Those tricks won't work quite as well once Harden moves well past his 30th birthday. But the mentality with which he plays should endure, allowing him to continue probing for the right opportunities and scoring with dizzying variety—all the while continuing to find open teammates with a bag of passing tricks that's often overlooked. 

    We've reached the point at which Harden deserves to be considered a historic offensive machine. And historic offensive machines don't tend to fade away into obscurity too quickly. 

Kyrie Irving

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    Current Team: Boston Celtics

    Current Per-Game Stats: 24.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.3 blocks

    Age in 2023: 30

    Kyrie Irving's game isn't the only element behind his ascent to unfettered superstardom.

    We can't possibly ignore his ball-handling wizardry when he so frequently puts defenders on skates, treating the basketball like a yo-yo until he pulls off audacious combinations of moves that open up the tiniest slivers of space. Nor can we overlook his pure shot-making ability, as he can go off the wrong foot and showcase ridiculous levels of contortion to finish in traffic or  pull up and drain a jumper over an opponent's outstretched arms. 

    But Irving the person has fascinated NBA fans as well, allowing him to gain even more popularity upon being freed from the lengthy shadow of a certain former teammate. Just take this excerpt from Nathaniel Freedman's excellent mid-January article for GQ as an example: 

    "Right now, it's impossible to ignore him. After LaVar Ball, he's the NBA's premier sideshow, whether he's dissing the entire city of Cleveland, rejecting Christmas as a valid holiday, planning an anti-capitalist 'self-sustaining community,' or going vegan because 'steak doesn't come from anything natural.' Instantly quotable, reliably outrageous, and smart enough to spin a real yarn, Kyrie has established himself as a full-fledged personality, eager to hold court and break down how things really work."

    We should all look forward to hearing what the Boston Celtics point guard might have to say on the 2023 All-Star stage. 

Nikola Jokic

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    Current Team: Denver Nuggets

    Current Per-Game Stats: 16.6 points, 10.4 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.7 blocks

    Age in 2023: 27

    Nikola Jokic doesn't yet have an All-Star appearance on his resume, though that's due largely to a trio of factors. 

    First, he plays for the Denver Nuggets, who have battled in relative anonymity over the last few years, devoid of many opportunities to strut their stuff on national television and operating in a football-first environment. Second, he doesn't look the part of a traditional superstar, since he boasts neither jaw-dropping speed nor vertical abilities that allow him to frequently punish the rim. Third, he's working in a Western Conference so loaded with talent that legitimate All-Star snubs are necessary every year. 

    Nevertheless, Jokic is too good to be denied throughout his prime. 

    He's shown significant defensive strides during the 2017-18 season, cleaning up his positioning and ensuring that he does solid work on the preventing end when he's not operating on the perimeter or as the last line of defense. He's getting even better as a passer, and his long-range stroke is coming around nicely enough that he's now averaging 3.6 three-point attempts per game while connecting at a 35.1 percent clip. 

    The Serbian standout is becoming an all-around asset for the Nuggets, and he's doing so while functioning as one of only two qualified players who's averaging at least 16 points, 10 rebounds and five assists (DeMarcus Cousins is the other). 

    Just imagine what might happen as he keeps moving toward his prime. 

Kawhi Leonard

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    Current Team: San Antonio Spurs

    Current Per-Game Stats: 16.2 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.0 steals, 1.0 blocks

    Age in 2023: 31

    Don't forget about Kawhi Leonard just because he's been injured for the vast majority of the current campaign. 

    The small forward showed off what he could do for the San Antonio Spurs while making nine appearances between crippling maladies, but the relative struggles of the NBA's model organization have been even more telling. They're still winning games, but they've been unable to generate much offense without Leonard on the floor. 

    Assuming he eventually returns from his right quadricep tendinopathy and regains a clean bill of health, Leonard should resume functioning like the NBA's best two-way player. He's a yearly Defensive Player of the Year threat who can challenge for the league-wide scoring lead with a wide variety of point-producing methods, ranging from three-point assaults to pull-up jumpers on the move to athletic finishes around the basket. 

    Once in his 30s, Leonard might not be a threat to overtake LeBron James as the league's best player—a class he found himself in before injuries derailed the preseason MVP expectations. But he's so effective in every area that he'll still be one of the league's deadliest all-around threats. 

Donovan Mitchell

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    Sam Forencich/Getty Images

    Current Team: Utah Jazz

    Current Per-Game Stats: 19.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.4 blocks

    Age in 2023: 26

    At this point, pretty much everyone in the NBA has said something glowing about Utah Jazz rookie shooting guard Donovan Mitchell. Let's use Phoenix Suns interim head coach Jay Triano, via Paul Coro of the Los Angeles Times, as one of many examples:

    "He just really seems to remind me of Damian [Lillard], especially in his early years. His ability, and it was more the way the ball went through the net. The shot hits and then it's down fast off that back iron. He's got that same type of body. He's got that same type of quickness to attack the basket. He's got the deep range the same way. His body is always on balance. I just keep thinking every time I see him and watch him in the scout prep, 'Man, this looks so much like Damian.'"

    Though Mitchell's career is still in its infancy, you can't blame Triano for throwing out a comparison to an established All-Star. After all, this first-year standout is already dropping 40-point performances, coming up big in clutch moments and winning over competitors left and right (see: James, LeBron). 

    He's only going to keep getting better. 

    Mitchell should already be viewed as an All-Star lock down the road, and it's abundantly likely 2023 won't be his first appearance. 

Jamal Murray

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    Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

    Current Team: Denver Nuggets

    Current Per-Game Stats: 16.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.3 blocks

    Age in 2023: 25

    Jamal Murray is the riskiest selection of anyone featured here. He hasn't done much of note during his year-and-a-half NBA career, and his shooting percentages as a rookie pushed him closer to "bust" than "breakout."

    But patience is key for so many prospects, and this Kentucky product is still just 20 years old. We're already seeing signs of his offense coming to life, especially after he returned from a brief period off and started torching opponents left and right. 

    During Murray's last 11 outings heading into Tuesday, he averaged a whopping 19.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 4.1 assists while shooting 51.7 percent from the field, 45.9 percent from downtown and 97.1 percent from the charity stripe. He essentially caught mega-fire, including a 38-spot against the Portland Trail Blazers, a 33-point outing in which he traded blows with Russell Westbrook down the stretch and another 30-pointer in a loss to the Phoenix Suns.

    Perhaps this is a fluke. Eleven games aren't a large enough sample size to be projectable. But this surge feels legitimate, and the Nuggets seem to be acting accordingly by deferring more touches to the 2-guard.

    As ESPN.com's Zach Lowe explained during a recent podcast appearance with colleague Adrian Wojnarowski (via John Clay of the Lexington Herald-Leader): 

    "I'm going to be wrong on Jamal Murray. I wasn't high enough on Jamal Murray. I wrote earlier this year that 'He may top out as a league-average point guard; there are scenarios where he can be better than that.' He's going to be better than that. He's going to be the second-best player on the Nuggets and better than I thought he was going to be, that's very clear."

Victor Oladipo

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Current Team: Indiana Pacers

    Current Per-Game Stats: 24.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 2.1 steals, 0.8 blocks

    Age in 2023: 30

    Rewind to this past offseason, and Victor Oladipo was part of an uninspiring haul for Paul George. The Indiana Pacers got ripped off trading away their superstar, since all they received in return was Domantas Sabonis and this 2-guard, who was already on a massive contract and might eventually become a financial liability. 

    Now, journey back to the present. 

    The 25-year-old Oladipo seemed closer to displacing Kyrie Irving and DeMar DeRozan for a starting nod in the All-Star Game than missing the festivities entirely—a reward for the massive growth he's shown while becoming the unabashed leader of the Pacers. He was supposed to become a complementary piece alongside Myles Turner, but he has instead overshadowed the former Texas center to such an extent that Turner has been nearly anonymous throughout 2017-18. 

    Oladipo's tenures with the Orlando Magic and Oklahoma City Thunder pushed him into different roles and expanded his comfort zone. Now, he's making the most of everything he learned during those prior stops, becoming a featured scorer who can still thrive defensively and involve the rest of his running mates. 

    He could well be the future of the shooting guard position.  

Kristaps Porzingis

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    Current Team: New York Knicks

    Current Per-Game Stats: 22.7 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.8 steals, 2.4 blocks

    Age in 2023: 27

    History doesn't treat players kindly when they tear their ACLs early in their professional careers, but ESPN.com's Kevin Pelton does provide some hope to New York Knicks fans (and everyone else who enjoys watching Kristaps Porzingis ply his trade): 

    "Porzingis' famed outside shooting is a reason to be hopeful he can buck the trend. Most of the players who struggled after their ACL tears were poor outside shooters, such as [Derrick] Rose and Ricky Rubio. The better shooters on this list, most notably Crawford and stretch big Al Harrington, tended to perform much better than others. Both Crawford and Harrington enjoyed long, productive careers, as has Nene Hilario.

    "The other encouraging note for Porzingis' development is that he has room to fall short of his projections and remain a valuable player. Based on his performance over the past two-plus seasons, SCHOENE would project Porzingis for nearly 30 WARP over the next three seasons, more than anyone in the group of comparable players, save Rose."

    But let's remain optimistic. 

    Perhaps Porzingis uses his rehabilitation period to continue adding muscle and developing his outside shot. His size isn't going anywhere, which means his status as one of the league's most fearsome rim protectors shouldn't be in too much jeopardy, either. 

    And if that's the case, the Latvian big man will remain a mortal lock for the All-Star festivities, given his immense international popularity and game-changing impact as the face of the Big Apple franchise. 

Cameron Reddish

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    Current Team: Westtown High School (committed to the Duke Blue Devils)

    Current Per-Game Stats: 28.4 points, 6.9 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 2.5 steals, 0.4 blocks

    Age in 2023: 23

    Nobody has more pure upside from the 2018 recruiting class than Cameron Reddish. 

    The long, explosive wing plays and guards positions 1-4. He'll often work as a point forward in a playmaking role, but as his shooting has improved, his scoring has evolved. 

    In terms of natural ability and versatility, Reddish could be Duke's most complete player and well-rounded prospect in 2018-19.

    Questions have emerged about his focus, but there aren't any regarding his talent and potential. They're worth betting on as Reddish matures. He should be right in the mix for 2019's No. 1 pick, and he'll be a fit on just about any NBA roster. 

    — Jonathan Wasserman

Ben Simmons

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    Current Team: Philadelphia 76ers

    Current Per-Game Stats: 16.4 points, 7.7 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.9 blocks

    Age in 2023: 26

    Rookie wall? What rookie wall? 

    Ben Simmons has been a force for the Philadelphia 76ers since Day 1 of the 2017-18 campaign, but he's getting better as time goes on. He endured a brief rough patch as defenders adjusted to his lack of a jump shot, and then he took off yet again. Since Jan. 1, he's averaged 15.9 points, 5.9 rebounds and 6.8 assists while shooting 57.2 percent from the field and gaining even more confidence on defense.

    During the first two-and-a-half months of his inaugural campaign, the Sixers were 5.9 points per 100 possessions better when he was on the floor—an on/off differential that left him trailing only Joel Embiid (15.4) and Robert Covington (17.1). Since the calendar flipped over, he trails Embiid (15.1), Dario Saric (15.9) and JJ Redick (16.3), but his individual mark has surged to 10.3. 

    Sticking with stats, Simmons checks in at No. 11 among point guards in ESPN.com's real plus/minus, with positive scores in both the offensive and defensive components. Only Dejounte Murray and Tyus Joneshave higher marks on the preventing end. 

    The oversized floor general is already making a monumental impact, and defenses have no idea how to account for this matchup nightmare. Nor do they understand how to score against him, since he can capably switch onto multiple positions and has been an integral reason for Philadelphia's No. 3-ranked defense (No. 2 since Jan. 1, and No. 1 with room to spare in February). 

    What happens if he learns how to shoot?  

Jayson Tatum

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    Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

    Current Team: Boston Celtics

    Current Per-Game Stats: 13.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.8 blocks

    Age in 2023: 24

    Don't be fooled by Jayson Tatum's shooting struggles over the last month-and-a-half. They're perfectly understandable, as they stem from some combination of inevitable regression, rookie adjustments and injury effects from the badly dislocated pinky he suffered against the Miami Heat on Dec. 20. 

    Even while he's been unable to connect from beyond the arc, he's found a way to continue contributing. He's focused on rebounding and defense more than ever, fitting seamlessly into the Boston Celtics' schemes while validating the belief that he's become far more well-rounded than initially expected coming out of Duke. 

    "That's what you want to see from young guys. When I got here, I saw how he holds himself, the swagger he's got. It reminded me of myself. He's a good kid and he's going to be around this league for a long time," Marcus Morris said about his teammate in mid-January, per ESPN.com's Chris Forsberg. "This kid, he's going to be a superstar."

    That mentality shouldn't be changing. 

    After all, Tatum's inexhaustible work ethic hasn't gone anywhere. Nor have his defensive contributions or his willingness to make the right play in any and all situations. Only his shooting has suffered, and again, that's easily explained away. 

Karl-Anthony Towns

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    Michael Reaves/Getty Images

    Current Team: Minnesota Timberwolves

    Current Per-Game Stats: 20.1 points, 12.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.8 steals, 1.4 blocks

    Age in 2023: 27

    Though it's hard to believe since he's already representing the Minnesota Timberwolves in the All-Star Game, Karl-Anthony Towns will be only 27 years old when 2023 rolls around. A young 27, at that, considering his birthday falls in the middle of November. 

    In other words, he'll be in the midst of his athletic prime. 

    That's a terrifying thought for the rest of the league. Even as a 22-year-old dynamo a few years removed from bullying the opposition at Kentucky, Towns has already become a prototypical big-man scorer. If you could design a point-producing 5 from scratch, he would have a game similar to this 7-footer, who's capable of raining in three-pointers, finishing athletically above the rim and getting buckets everywhere between those two extremes. 

    Towns is scoring 20.1 points per game this year while shooting 54.6 percent from the field, 42.2 percent from downtown and 85.0 percent at the line. Even though he's sharing touches with Andrew Wiggins and Jimmy Butler, he's found himself in a near-constant rhythm, allowing him to become one of only 10 qualified players in NBA history to average more than 20 points with a true shooting percentage north of 64. 

    And he hasn't yet reached his seemingly infinite ceiling. 

James Wiseman

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    Current Team: Memphis East (undeclared, class of 2019)

    Current Per-Game Stats: 18.2 points, 8.5 rebounds, 0.3 assists, 0.3 steals, 2.4 blocks

    Age in 2023: 21

    The 2022-23 NBA season will likely be James Wiseman's third, which could be right when his big breakout occurs.

    Predicting future All-Star appearances means betting on his potential, because at this stage of his development, he's just a raw 16-year-old fueled by physical tools and athleticism. Still, the mix of 7'0" size, 7'4" length and fluidity—plus the time and room he has to improve skill-wise—creates the perception of upside.

    During last summer's U16s Americas Championship, he averaged 25.6 points and 11.2 rebounds per 40 minutes, posing as an easy-basket target and cleanup man. But he also flashed enough ability with his footwork and touch, which he'll look to continue expanding over the next few seasons. 

    — Jonathan Wasserman

          

    NBA players who received strong consideration: Bam Adebayo, Steven Adams, Jaylen Brown, Clint Capela, John Collins, DeMarcus Cousins, DeMar DeRozan, Andre Drummond, Paul George, Rudy Gobert, Aaron Gordon, Gary Harris, Brandon Ingram, LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma, Lauri Markkanen, CJ McCollum, Dennis Smith Jr., Klay Thompson, John Wall, Russell Westbrook

    Prospects who received strong consideration: Cole Anthony, Marvin Bagley III, Mohamed Bamba, Charles Bassey, Romeo Langford, Scottie Lewis, Michael Porter Jr., Zion Williamson, Trae Young

          

    Adam Fromal covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @fromal09.

    Unless otherwise indicated, all stats from Basketball Reference, NBA.com, NBA Math or ESPN.com and are current heading into games on Tuesday, Feb. 13.