Predicting the 2024 NBA All-Star Class

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistFebruary 16, 2019

Predicting the 2024 NBA All-Star Class

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    The NBA is in tremendous shape. If you need proof of that, we'll suggest two places to look.

    For starters, soak up every second of All-Star Weekend 2019. This is a superstars' league, after all, so you would be remiss not to see its largest contingent of star power.

    But you'll also want to glance in our crystal ball for a glimpse into the All-Star future—specifically, the 2024 midseason classic.

    That's a ton of time in basketball years. Flash back to the 2014 All-Star Game, for instance, and you'll find the likes of Joakim Noah, Roy Hibbert, Dwight Howard and Joe Johnson. You'll see a decent number of present stars, too—LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and James Harden all had starting spots—but the changes are significant.

    By weighing past production with future potential, we'll attempt to predict how the aging process will predict our latest batch of ballers. Youngsters, for instance, could get a lift for additional experience, while older players who depend on athleticism might take a serious hit.

    For simplicity's sake, our player pool is only as deep as the current NBA's. In other words, if you find yourself wondering why Zion Williamson didn't make the cut, you have your answer.

    Got it? Good. Let's go time-traveling.

Giannis Antetokounmpo

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Current Team: Milwaukee Bucks

    2018-19 Notable Numbers: 27.2 PPG, 12.7 RPG, 6.0 APG, 30.3 player efficiency rating (PER)

    2024 Age: 29

    Antetokounmpo's NBA ascension should be complete by this point, so the only question might be whether he's still on top of the league.

    His arsenal has everything but a jumper. And who knows, maybe he'd have found one by this point. His career 74.1 free-throw percentage suggests he's not a lost cause as a shooter, and he seemed relatively competent from distance as a rookie (41 makes at a 34.7 percent clip).

    Given his unfair combination of size, athleticism and skill, though, age-29 Antetokounmpo will be snatching souls with or without a long-ball. He never seems more than two dribbles away from a dunk, he understands how to leverage his gravitational pull on defenders to create shots for his teammates, and he's a beast on the boards.

    There is not a more appropriate face for position-less NBA basketball than a 6'11" phenom who's spent at least 4 percent of his career minutes at all five spots.

Deandre Ayton

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Current Team: Phoenix Suns

    2018-19 Notable Numbers: 16.5 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 58.8 FG%, 21.0 PER

    2024 Age: 25

    We probably aren't talking enough about how dominant Ayton has been from day one. He debuted with an 18-point, 10-rebound, 8-of-11 shooting double-double, and he's kept the pedal floored ever since. If the campaign closed today, he would join Shaquille O'Neal as the only freshmen to average at least 16 points and 10 rebounds on 55-plus percent shooting.

    And if you ask the 20-year-old, he's just getting started.

    "First half (of the season), you can't show it all, but I'm working, though," Ayton told reporters.

    Ayton's game has room for growth from every angle. He can expand his shooting range, become more of a passer, attack more off the dribble and improve in all defensive facets. In five years, though, we should be seeing the polished version of a nearly unguardable 7'1" force, and good luck to all opposing bigs if he's regularly locking in defensively.

Bradley Beal

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    Ron Turenne/Getty Images

    Current Team: Washington Wizards

    2018-19 Notable Numbers: 25.1 PPG, 5.4 APG, 5.1 RPG, 19.8 PER

    2024 Age: 30

    While Wizards fans probably want to erase all memories of this season, it at least served one purpose—ending all debates on the identity of their best player. Truth be told, Beal may have surpassed John Wall on the pecking order before entering this year, but he's lapped the hobbled point guard several times since.

    Through six-plus seasons, Beal has enjoyed almost perpetual improvement. Every time you want to put him in a box—sniping specialist, three-and-D swingman—he shatters through the ceiling.

    This year is no different. His 25/5/5 line is not only one of just seven this season, but it also makes him only the 10th player to clear those marks in the 2010s. Give his 30-year-old version added hoops smarts without significant subtractions in athleticism, and he'll be one of the league's most impactful two-way players.

Devin Booker

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Current Team: Phoenix Suns

    2018-19 Notable Numbers: 24.6 PPG, 6.7 APG, 46.0 FG%, 18.8 PER

    2024 Age: 27

    Suns fans, you're probably struggling to see the light amid this anemic 15-game losing streak, but take note—that's two 2024 All-Stars among our first four picks.

    Booker feels like one of the safest bets in this group. He seemingly entered the 2015 draft as a sharpshooter, but his offense has burst at the seams since. There are more compelling 2018-19 storylines to be sure, but the steps he's taken as a passer (previous career high was 4.7 assists) and efficient scorer (first time above 43.2 percent shooting) show just how well-rounded his future could be.

    "He's somebody who has worked so hard and his skills are so evident that his confidence should be there and he should never doubt anything about what he can accomplish," San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told reporters.

    By age 27, Booker might have a VIP pass to the free-throw line, a better understanding of defensive principles and—maybe most importantly—a possible powerhouse team around him if he stays in Phoenix. Give the Suns an actual point guard and time to grow organically, and this young nucleus might turn into something special.

John Collins

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    Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    Current Team: Atlanta Hawks

    2018-19 Notable Numbers: 19.4 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 36.6 3P%, 21.7 PER

    2024 Age: 26

    In less than two seasons, Collins has gone from a mid-first-round draft pick to a franchise centerpiece posting near-All-Star numbers. He might be a high-flying novelty to casual fans, but he's an invaluable puzzle piece to the Hawks.

    "You just see him becoming more comfortable as a lead scorer and he's doing it in a variety of ways," Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce told SB Nation's Paul Flannery. "Everyone knows he can score in the pick-and-roll. To see him on the glass, to see him put it on the floor, and then to see him stretch the floor, you're just seeing his growth all at once right now."

    There's no point in putting a cap on Collins, because he can just jump right through it. He'll still have all his bounce by 2024, but his supplemental skills will have had time to sharpen. He's only now tinkering with a three-ball and slightly ramping up his passing. With his length and hops, his 0.4 blocks average looks comically low.

    He's also simply in need of a longer leash. If Atlanta lets him go, there's no telling what he might do. His per-36-minute marks already include 23.4 points, 11.7 rebounds and 2.6 assists—numbers only 13 players have averaged in the three-point era.

Stephen Curry

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    Sam Forencich/Getty Images

    Current Team: Golden State Warriors

    2018-19 Notable Numbers: 28.6 PPG, 5.2 APG, 5.1 3PG, 25.8 PER

    2024 Age: 35

    While most mid-30s guards are aging in dog years, Curry's perimeter proficiency should be one of basketball's best anti-aging devices.

    The three-point total he's cleared just since the start of 2015-16 would rank among the top 70 all-time (1,174 makes, would be 69th). He's on pace to make 200-plus triples at a 44-percent clip for the fourth time in his career; the rest of the NBApast and present—has four such seasons.

    Even if a 35-year-old Curry has lost some off-the-bounce elusiveness, he'd still be warping opposing defenses by demanding attention as soon as he clears half court. As long as his body is holding up, he should still be an All-Star regular.

Anthony Davis

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    Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

    Current Team: New Orleans Pelicans

    2018-19 Notable Numbers: 28.5 PPG, 13.1 RPG, 2.6 BPG, 30.6 PER

    2024 Age: 30

    Before Davis turned his—and New Orleans'—season on its head, The Brow was busy pushing himself closer to all-time greatness.

    Between the 28 points, 13 boards and two blocks alone, he'd compiled a stat line only previously posted by Bob McAdoo, Shaquille O'Neal and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Davis already positioned himself for his second campaign with a 30.5-plus PER. O'Neal, Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan and LeBron James are the only the other players with more than one.

    There's a reason the entire league paid attention once Davis' trade request went public. He has the size and interior defense of a center, the versatility of a swingman and the on-ball creativity of a former floor general. Regardless of where he's suiting up in five seasons, he's maybe the safest bet of all these players to be an All-Star starter.

Luka Doncic

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    Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    Current Team: Dallas Mavericks

    2018-19 Notable Numbers: 20.7 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 5.6 APG, 19.2 PER

    2024 Age: 24

    How are we still in the first season of Doncic's NBA career?

    He already feels like a certainty every time he steps inside the lines. His tool box is overflowing. He has "LeBron James-like" passing, according to LeBron James confidant Dwayne Wade. Doncic's step-back triple is the closest rival to James Harden's. Doncic is 55 games into his first season with a sub-.500 team, and he's already known as a killer in the clutch

    "He's made a name for himself," Dirk Nowitzki said, per ESPN.com's Tim MacMahon. "Any time you're known by just your first name after just a few months in the league, that's a great sign."

    It seems like 2018-19 will be the only season in which Doncic misses the All-Star cut for a very long time.

Kevin Durant

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    Current Team: Golden State Warriors

    2018-19 Notable Numbers: 27.6 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 5.9 APG, 25.1 PER

    2024 Age: 35

    Everything that makes Durant an impossible cover at 30 will keep him near the unguardable ranks at 35.

    He could lose a half-step and still torture defenders on post-ups, quick isolations and pull-up triples that can splash at any time. He's basically a 7-foot guard; even with passable athleticism, that's a nightmare matchup.

    He has already started his shift to a power position, playing predominantly at the 4 for the third straight season. He's also expanding his game with a career assist rate and more self-created triples than ever (44.8 percent unassisted). In other words, he could lose some of his above-the-rim highlights without giving up his NBA Elite membership card.

Joel Embiid

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Current Team: Philadelphia 76ers

    2018-19 Notable Numbers: 27.3 PPG, 13.5 RPG, 3.5 APG, 25.5 PER

    2024 Age: 29

    If Embiid's feet can support his 7'0", 250-pound frame, his future should be extraordinary.

    Already, he looks like the reincarnation of Hakeem Olajuwon. Embiid has everything you'd want in a post-scorer and then some: flawless footwork, soft touch, fluidity, balance, brute force. If you crowd him, he can shred you like a pocket passer. And if you leave him unattended away from the basket, he's liable to launch from long range or even put the ball on the deck, knowing a dribble or two can get him to the rack.

    No 7-footer is guaranteed a stable future, and Embiid's injury history is enough to give you pause. But considering he'd still be under 30 and close to his athletic peak, we're guessing he'd make his seventh All-Star appearance in a row in 2024.

De'Aaron Fox

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    Bart Young/Getty Images

    Current Team: Sacramento Kings

    2018-19 Notable Numbers: 17.2 PPG, 7.2 APG, 1.7 SPG, 17.8 PER

    2024 Age: 26

    Fox is on a short list of this season's pleasant surprises, and if he makes one more leap like this, he might become an All-Star regular.

    Sacramento's speedy lead guard is a blur with the basketball, going from zero to Westbrook faster than you read this sentence. Of course, there are other fleet-footed floor generals. What makes Fox most interesting is how quickly he's become more than an athletic specimen. Speed alone isn't the reason he's suddenly shooting 46.1 percent (36.6 from deep) or improving his decision-making.

    "He's a lot more comfortable, the game is slowing down for him," Tony Parker said, per The Athletic's Jason Jones. "He's playing very well this year. ... He's improved a lot and I think he can go very high in this league. He's got all the tools to be an All-Star in this league."

    Fox could carry the Kings to heights they haven't reached in years, and he'll secure his spot in the annual midseason festivities if he can do it.

James Harden

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    Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

    Current Team: Houston Rockets

    2018-19 Notable Numbers: 36.6 PPG, 7.7 APG, 5.1 3PG, 30.8 PER

    2024 Age: 34

    He's the reigning MVP and perhaps the front-runner for this year's award. Do we need to explain this any further?

    Dude has been on a Wilt Chamberlain-esque scoring binge since mid-December, clearing the 30-point mark in each of his last 31 games. Harden's 36.6-point scoring average is the highest recorded since Michael Jordan in 1986-87, and it would make The Beard only the fourth player to ever top that mark.

    Maybe it's optimistic, but our crystal ball shows minimal concerns for Harden heading into his mid-30s. He uses skills, smarts and strength to beat defenders; which one of those would have difficulty aging well? He seems to add something new to his arsenal every season—he's only once failed to average more points than the previous yearand his bag of tricks should be overflowing by 2024.

Kyrie Irving

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    Current Team: Boston Celtics

    2018-19 Notable Numbers: 23.6 PPG, 6.9 APG, 49.8 FG%, 25.2 PER

    2024 Age: 31

    If all the Uncle Drew content has taught us nothing else, it's at least shown us how Irving should age like wine.

    Sure, he might lose a little burst off his rapid first step and could go entire seasons without dunking. But his dribble moves are bound only by his creativity, and most of his inside-the-arc scoring just comes down to learned ability. His career high is four dunks in a campaign (2012-13 and 2014-15). The only real threat from age is that he'll forget how much spin to put on his scoop layups.

    He keeps morphing into the most efficient version of himself, forcing us to keep moving his career goal posts. If he gets hot at the foul line down the stretch, he might gain entry to the famed 50/40/90 shooting club. He'll be dizzying defenders—and dazzling spectators—for years to come.

Jaren Jackson Jr.

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    Brandon Dill/Associated Press

    Current Team: Memphis Grizzlies

    2018-19 Notable Numbers: 13.8 PPG, 1.4 BPG, 35.9 3P%, 16.6 PER

    2024 Age: 24

    Ostensibly, Jackson was the Grizzlies' long-term play on draft night, a then-18-year-old loaded with upside but perhaps less NBA-ready than his older classmates.

    He's still very much at the center of Memphis' future plans, it's just that he's also ingrained himself as the organization's present focus. The only thing missing from his stat line is playing time. Give him 36 minutes per game, and he'd be giving back 19.0 points on 50.6 percent shooting, 6.5 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, 1.2 steals and 1.2 triples a night.

    "We knew he could be good. He could shoot, he's athletic enough to protect the rim, all the stuff," a Grizzlies official told Yahoo Sports' Vincent Goodwill. "But no, we didn't know he would have the feel for the game that he does. ... It's hard to keep the expectations down because we can see what he can become."

    Jackson checks every box as a modern big. He can protect the paint, defend on the perimeter, launch from long distance, create shots off the dribble and move the ball to open teammates. Those are All-Star ingredients as soon as he gets an All-Star workload.

Nikola Jokic

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Current Team: Denver Nuggets

    2018-19 Notable Numbers: 20.4 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 7.7 APG, 27.0 PER

    2024 Age: 28

    The Joker's future is every bit as scary as his villainous nickname would make you think.

    Jokic, who turns 24 next week, might already be the best passing big man we've seen. Among all 7-footers to suit up, only Chamberlain topped Jokic's assists mark. But then, Jokic might also be a historically accurate sniper. He was knocking on the 50/40/90 club last season (49.9/39.6/85.0), and only an uncharacteristic cold spell from distance (30.8, career 34.9) is keeping him out of arm's reach this season.

    His defense is better than you think, and his scoring punch is more powerful than even he might admit. When he takes 20 shots, he's good for 28.8 points on 58.6 percent shooting. If he maxes out his potential, he might wind up penciled into an All-Star starting spot year after year.

Kawhi Leonard

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Current Team: Toronto Raptors

    2018-19 Notable Numbers: 27.0 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 1.9 SPG, 26.1 PER

    2024 Age: 32

    So, playing basketball at an elite level is sort of like riding a bike, we guess? How else can we explain the way Leonard has effectively erased all memories of his strange 2017-18 season while tossing his hat back in both the MVP race and the top-two-way-talent talks?

    His offensive game is always evolving. There were points when everyone wondered if he'd find the shooting to support being a three-and-D role player. Now, he's the focal point of a top-five attack and on his way to becoming only the ninth player in the 2010s to average at least 25 points on 49-plus-percent shooting.

    Oh, and his defense is maybe the best we've seen on the perimeter since peak Scottie Pippen. While that doesn't necessarily matter with All-Star voterspouring one out for you, Rudy Gobert—it can be a feather in the cap of a prodigious offensive talent.

Donovan Mitchell

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    Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

    Current Team: Utah Jazz

    2018-19 Notable Numbers: 22.4 PPG, 4.0 APG, 1.5 SPG, 15.9 PER

    2024 Age: 27

    History might hold 2018-19 as Mitchell's sophomore slump, when he couldn't rekindle the flames of his fiery rookie season.

    But this looks more like a stepping stone on the way to All-Star success. How many sophomore slumps feature an all-conference Player of the Week award? How many have more points, rebounds and assists than the first-year breakout? How many come from the top scorer of a (likely) Western Conference playoff participant?

    We're not seeing Mitchell bump against a lower-than-expected ceiling; this might simply be his ascension delayed by an underwhelming supporting cast. As it stands, he's still on course to become just the sixth player in the 2000s to average at least 20 points in each of his first two seasons. All others became perennial All-Stars, and there's no reason to doubt Mitchell is on the same path.

Victor Oladipo

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Current Team: Indiana Pacers

    2018-19 Notable Numbers: 18.8 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 5.2 APG, 17.8 PER

    2024 Age: 31

    Oladipo is an interesting case.

    On the one hand, there weren't many better two-way players last season, which he finished sixth overall in ESPN's real plus-minus. While he struggled to maintain that production this year, he also spent much of it fighting a sore knee, which he admitted might have been connected to his season-ending injury.

    On the other hand, this season's production was more in line with his career work. While you'd like to believe last year was a full-fledged breakthrough, you also must acknowledge the chance his shooting success was an unsustainable outlier. If that's the case, you're looking at a wobbly stock that now has a major knee injury added to the mix.

    We prefer to think with our glasses overflowing, though, so we'll say Oladipo will be back on All-Star track well before the 2023-24 season. When he's right, he's a relentless defender, ignitable shooter, punishing attacker and clever shot-creator all at the same time.

Kristaps Porzingis

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Current Team: Dallas Mavericks

    2017-18 Notable Numbers: 22.7 PPG, 2.4 BPG, 39.5 3P%, 20.4 PER

    2024 Age: 28

    If you're ever making a selection and a unicorn is one of the options, you should take it 11 times out of 10.

    In other words, we don't care that he will lose more than a full season to an ACL tear. And no, we're not worried about the fact that his future isn't guaranteed to be in Dallas.

    All we know is this is one of the more unique talents the league has ever seen. There aren't 7'3" three-point shooters; at least there weren't before he came around. But he's not some jumbo-sized novelty act. He was a 22-point scorer, a 39 percent splasher and the second-best shot-blocker before he went down last season. As long as his body cooperates, he might be destined for superstardom.

D'Angelo Russell

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    Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

    Current Team: Brooklyn Nets

    2018-19 Notable Numbers: 20.3 PPG, 6.6 APG, 37.2 3P%, 19.0 PER

    2024 Age: 27

    Maybe Russell always knew his All-Star turn was coming. He is a No. 2 pick after all (2015) and not even through the fourth season of his NBA career. But the Los Angeles Lakers unceremoniously used him to sweeten a salary dump, and little from his first three campaigns prophesied stardom.

    This, though, has been a narrative-changing year. He's overwhelming at the offensive end with volume and efficiency, delivering late-game knockouts and turning the Nets into a team no opponent can figure out.

    "He's not afraid of the moment," Nuggets coach Mike Malone said. "He's made big, big shots and plays for them, and when you take away the jump shot, he has an ability to get into the lane. He's got a great mid-range game, floater ... and he's making his teammates better."

    Russell should be near the height of his powers in 2024, and he might have booked a boatload of All-Star trips by then.

Ben Simmons

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Current Team: Philadelphia 76ers

    2018-19 Notable Numbers: 16.8 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 7.9 APG, 20.2 PER

    2024 Age: 27

    There's a reason the hoop gods haven't given Simmons a jumper yet. It'd be game over if he had one.

    Even without it, the 22-year-old has become one of the NBA's premier stat-sheet stuffers. Since the start of last season, he's recorded 20 triple-doubles. That's not only the fourth-most in that stretch, it's the second-most anyone has ever posted over his first and second seasons. And don't forget, Simmons' second go-round still has a couple of months to go.

    He's already a dynamic finisher in the open court and an incredible passer for his size (6'10", 230 lbs). That said, it feels like he has ample room for growth as a scorer. That's not only about the missing jumper—although finding one would help immensely—it's also about his place on Philadelphia's pecking order. If the Sixers needed him to pick up more of the scoring slack, his 57.1 field-goal percentage says he's up to the task.

Jayson Tatum

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    Current Team: Boston Celtics

    2018-19 Notable Numbers: 16.5 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.9 APG, 16.1 PER

    2024 Age: 25

    Want the best testament to Tatum's potential? It's rich enough that it might have put the entire league on pause.

    Maybe the Anthony Davis discussions are more nuanced than that, but it feels like the Pelicans are waiting until the Celtics can make an offer and, more specifically, waiting for Tatum to enter their crosshairs.

    We can debate all we want about where the best place is for Tatum's future, but the important takeaway here is someone seems to value his upside enough to make him the key return piece for a top-five player.

    It's likely a matter of time before Tatum bursts through the All-Star barricade. He's such an effortless scorer you forget he can't legally drink an adult beverage before March. He can pile up points in every conceivable fashion, and his ceiling will shatter if he improves his playmaking and defense.

Karl-Anthony Towns

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    Current Team: Minnesota Timberwolves

    2018-19 Notable Numbers: 23.1 PPG, 12.0 RPG, 3.2 APG, 25.6 PER

    2024 Age: 28

    On the offensive end, Towns has the total package for a modern center.

    He can finish through, around or over defenders on the low block. Or draw them away from the basket with his career 38.8 percent three-point stroke. Or pull the attention toward him and then fire off a pinpoint pass to a cutting teammate or an unattended spot-up sniper.

    Defense is a bit of a different story, as he's too jumpy for his own good. He'll get his fair share of blocks, but he'll leave the Timberwolves exposed to dump-down passes or put-backs when he leaves his assignment to go chasing blocks.

    Five years from now, though, he should've unlocked all the tricks to maximizing his talents. His skill-based game should not only age gracefully but continue jumping forward as he applies the wisdom he's gaining. 

Myles Turner

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Current Team: Indiana Pacers

    2018-19 Notable Numbers: 13.5 PPG, 2.7 BPG, 40.7 3P%, 18.9 PER

    2024 Age: 27

    The Turner hype train isn't nearly as crowded as it once was. He finished his rookie season averaging 16.3 points per 36 minutes; he's at a career-best 17.2 points per 36 minutes this year. The presumed stagnation of his offensive development has surely scared away some believers.

    But what if he's just gotten better at executing his role? The Pacers don't look his way for offense, instead giving most shots to Oladipo and Bojan Bogdanovic. On a per-minute basis, even Tyreke Evans and Aaron Holiday are more involved. Turner is primarily asked to space the floor, and he's more than meeting that challenge with a career-high conversion rate outside.

    He's also at the heart of their climb from 12th to second in defensive efficiency. No one is blocking more shots than Indy's fourth-year big. He's also slicing 8.8 points off his opponents' shooting rates within six feet of the basket.

    This might be the riskiest prediction, but with Turner becoming an elite defender and still possessing major potential at the other end, we're not abandoning our All-Star dreams for him just yet.

                      

    Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference and NBA.com and accurate through games played Thursday, Feb. 14.

    Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.