The evolution of the game is bringing in a variety of intriguing prospects to league. 10 years ago, a 7 foot 3 center pulling up 3's would be a hysterical joke, yet today I wouldn't be surprised if 7 footers were bring down the ball. While as of now, the Cavs and the Warriors pretty much dominate the League, these 10 players are primed to make the league competitive again.
1. GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO
Why? The un-spellable Greek freak matchup nightmare, Giannis already averages 23/9/6 in only his fourth year in the NBA. His unbelievably rare ability to play point guard at 6’11” and his wingspan of 7’3” haunts point guards today as he’ll only continue to get better. Giannis is a force to be reckoned with: his all-around play style will allow him to dominate the league in the years to come.
What needs to happen: Change his name so that he can get more all star votes spelled correctly. All jokes aside, a notably missing quality of Giannis as a player is his ability to make jump shots consistently. His inability to shoot the ball consistently is reflected in his poor 3FG% at 28%. If he can develop a more consistent jumper, the NBA can only DREAM of guarding this all-around matchup nightmare.
2. KRISTAPS PORZINGIS
Why? You used to boo him on his draft day and now he’s coming for you. Kristaps stands at 7’3” and 240 lbs, already giving him a huge advantage as the second tallest player in the league only behind Boban Marjanovic. Despite his towering height, his ability to run the floor as a center is second to none and his ball handling ability is off the charts. He’s averaging 19 pts and 7 reb along with 2 blocks in only his sophomore season. While this stat-line alone deserves praise and recognition, Porzingis plays with the high usage rate blackhole player in Carmelo Anthony. Just imagine what he could do leading a team on his own. They don’t call him Porzingod for nothing.
What needs to happen: Stay healthy. It’s no secret that some of the greatest players were cursed with injuries and were only able to show a glimpse of their potential when healthy. As a 7’3” center, Kristaps’ legs - especially his ankles - will take a toll throughout his career from supporting his body. We as fans can only pray that he won’t end up like Yao Ming.
3. JOEL EMBIID
Why? We have never ever seen a basketball specimen quite like Joel Embiid. I remember this being said to describe LeBron James. While LeBron James could be seen as a point guard in a 6’8, 250 pound body, Embiid shows that similar agility, quickness, and touch, impressive for a gigantic 7 foot, 260 pound body. I mean, notice how he executes a flawless crossover and dream shake. It's natural. Looking at his stats, Embiid is already the favorite for rookie of the year, averaging 20 points, 8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks.
What needs to happen: Like the man preaches, #TrustingTheProcess is key for Embiid’s development and progression. This means both physically, as Embiid must remain healthy for the upcoming years, and to the 76er’s organization as a whole. We don’t want to see Joel in a Demarcus Cousins situation, where his talents get wasted on a hopeless team.
4. KARL-ANTHONY TOWNS
Why? After winning rookie of the year in 2016, Towns hasn’t slowed down one bit. He’s upped his stats, now scoring 22 points, grabbing 12 rebounds and swatting 1.7 shots away per game. His athleticism and motor is unquestionable, and he has also has developed different post skills and a nice shooting touch. He is also on a young but dangerous Timberwolves squad that is ready to make some noise. In a sense, he reminds me of a young Kevin Garnett back in his early Minnesota days. Funny how history tends to repeat itself.
What needs to happen: His strength is his weakness (see what I did there). I believe Towns would need to start hitting the weight room to take that next step. Too often I see him being bullied by stronger big men down low. I wouldn’t be too concerned though. Unlike Basketball IQ or shooting, strength is relatively easy to develop.
5. DEVIN BOOKER
Why? Once I saw this guy shoot a basketball, I knew he was going to be something else. Devin Booker is a natural scorer. At 20 years old, Booker is currently averaging 20 points per game and shooting 38% from 3. People like to compare this kid to Klay Thompson, because he can flat-out set the court on fire. After back to back 39 points (one of those games had him shooting 14-20 and 6-7 from 3), he has really proven his gift on the offensive end. The evolution of the 3-point shot has more teams taking shots beyond the arc, and Devin can surely make those. The future should be very sunny in Phoenix.
What needs to happen: As of right now, I’d like to say that Booker’s game is heavily centered on scoring (only averaging 2.8 assists and 0.9 steals per game). To become a star, Booker would need to expand his game and become an efficient two-way player. But with his tremendous work ethic, the sky is the limit for Booker.