There is no doubt that the skill and talent level of the current NBA is tremendous. In what is looking to become a “position-less” league, certain talents and skills are being accomplished by unexpected players. This new NBA era is filled with aggressive guards who can do work down low, and bigs who can handle and shoot the ball.
There is a strong class of rising stars who are under the age of 23 who are competing for a spotlight in today’s league. These 10 elite players are dominating and making their presence known throughout the NBA.
Honorable Mentions: D’Angelo Russell, Nerlens Noel, Jamal Muray
10. Aaron Gordon
PPG 17.8, RPG 7.7, APG 2.2, FG% – 52.8%, 3P% – 50%
In 2014, the Orlando Magic drafted Aaron Gordon who was said to be the most athletic player in the draft. Often times placed second to Andrew Wiggins. Aaron Gordon is an extremely explosive player that has strengths in nearly every aspect of the game. His potential is through the roof. A 6’9” player who has quickness, basketball IQ, an All-Star mindset, with gifted abilities such as scoring, rebounding, creating opposing defensive problems and possesses an astonishing vertical, he will always have value. It is said that his stats fail to demonstrate his dominance.
Gordon’s passing is reasonable but he often times fails to set up teammates given the situation. It is no secret that Gordon can do it all. His only challenge is using his athleticism and drives to elevate his craft to become elite. It will be interesting to follow along as Gordon attempts to become the league’s best two way forward.
9. Jaylen Brown
PPG – 14.7, RPG – 6.7, APG – 1.2, FG% – 44.1%, 3P% – 37.3%
There is no doubt Jaylen Brown is breaking out of his shell this year. The season is young, however, many of Brown’s stats have doubled in his sophomore season. From his rookie year to today, Jaylen Brown now scores 6.8 more points and grabs 3.3 more rebounds than his rookie year. With tremendous athleticism, scouts’ main concern was if his shooting would be elite enough to be a star in the NBA. As average points per game has increased for Jaylen, his shooting percentages has not moved.
A focused weakness is his shot IQ. Brown is an extremely limited passer. Despite, leading the team in minutes, Brown averages the least amount of assists for starters on his team. Out of the 106 total NBA guards who have started a game this year, Brown ranks 98th in assists per game. Passing and shooting are the predominant points of developing Brown’s game into the next level.
8. Nikola Jokic
PPG – 16.4, RPG – 11.6, APG – 4.6, FG% – 50.3%, 3P% – 41.2%
Nikola Jokic is a rarely discussed valuable player on the mediocre Denver Nuggets. Jokic the 41st overall pick, was the steal of the 2014 NBA Draft. He has shown large amounts of potential with multiple improving stats, such as; three-point percentage, rebounds and point per game. Denver looks to improve Jokic’s offensive game by working towards a more efficient and controlled transition game, and with scoring in the post.
Despite being said to be an all-around player, Nikola Jokic is horrendous at isolation defense. It is very easy for players to get around Jokic, due to a lack of lateral quickness. Entering his third year in the NBA, it will be interesting to see the impact Jokic will make on the Nuggets who play in the extremely difficult western conference.
7. Joel Embiid
PPG – 20.9, RPG – 10.8, APG – 3.2, FG% – 49.4% 3P% – 22.9%
Joel Embiid has a roof of potential that is highly unknown, however, it is often debated. With yet to play an entire NBA season, Philadelphia fans pray for health for their blossoming center. Embiid was drafted in 2014 from the University of Kansas. He made his NBA debut in 2016, beginning an unfortunate 31 game season. Since his rookie year, he has developed muscle which has contributed to his growth into a stronger finisher and better rebounder.
Embiid has excellent court vision in finding the open man, but tragically, he struggles to execute the passes. Embiid has the lowest Assist/Turnover Ratio and currently is placed fourth for most turnovers per game. On the upside, Embiid leads his team points, rebounds, and blocks and continues to be a key leader on the rising Philadelphia 76ers.
6. Myles Turner
PPG – 14.3, RPG – 8.9, APG – 0.9, FG% – 46.9%, 3P% – 35.7%
Myles Turner was said to be the highest risk/reward player of the 2015 draft. Drafted 11th by the Indiana Pacers, Turner’s numbers continue to increase by year. With an improving shot, the Pacers center strengths and weaknesses are transparent. Watch any Pacers game and focus in on the energy Turner plays with. Defensively, Turner is extremely versatile and excels in isolation defense. Leading the league with 2.6 blocks per game, Turner is a strong force on the defensive end. Offensively, he runs the floor well and can score in transition with ease. Myles Turner specializes in catch and shoot situations.
When dribbling is involved, his numbers are a different story. Creating his own shot is a predominant weakness in Turner’s’ game. Decision making with the ball would be a massive improvement to his play. Myles is dead last on his team in Assist/Turnover Ratio. Besides that, bettering his post work would be extremely impactful.
5. Devin Booker
PPG – 23.2, RPG – 4.8, APG – 3.9, FG% – 45.5%, 3P% – 37.4%
Devin Booker’s play style is beyond suitable to the current NBA era. His strengths are essential in today’s game. Booker is a gifted shooter who specializes on the step back. Devin Booker is often underlooked for his defensive ability. His lack of fighting over screens is in just about every scouting report. However, Booker displays excellent lateral quickness defending players at the perimeter exceptional. Devin Booker is certainly a two-way player but his offensive abilities are the focal point of opposing teams.
With a trade of Eric Bledsoe, Booker’s role has increased as the star of the Suns. Booker recently put up a tremendous 35 point game in a comeback effort versus the Minnesota Timberwolves. Averaging nearly 28 PPG since the trade(including three 30+ point games), Booker’s stats will be expected to increase throughout the year.
4. Ben Simmons
PPG – 17.8, RPG – 9.2, APG – 7.5, FG% – 49.7%, 3P% – 0%
Ben Simmons is a valuable player with a fast pace mentality and an athleticism that overpowers almost every NBA guard. The top-rated Rookie of the Year candidate Ben Simmons is having a dominant run of games. With unpredictable stat lines you will always get value and efficiency out of Simmons minutes. Looking through the young player’s box scores his scoring, rebounding, and assist totals are unpredictable. Scouts have compared Simmons to many greats including LeBron. His athleticism and basketball IQ are elite and far more advanced than most rookies.
Simmons is very versatile position wise, being 6’ 10” with handles. His phenomenal use at running the best play each time down the court proves his basketball IQ. Offensively, Simmons quickness creates many opportunities for drives and backdoor cuts which teammates often take advantage of. Defensively, on ball defense and defending against the pick and roll are strong points of emphasis in a short list of necessary improvements for the young rising star.
3. Karl-Anthony Towns
PPG – 21.2, RPG – 11.2, APG – 1.2, FG% – 54.4%, 3P% -35.4%
Karl-Anthony Towns (KAT) is an exceedingly valuable player on the Timberwolves roster, debatable the most. Towns is a tremendous rebounder who is often times consistent with boards and scoring. However, Town’s three-point shooting has been the most streaky part of his game. Often times analysts question his confidence. With much to learn, Towns is a determined center who has a championship mindset. Nevertheless, immense improvements must take place on the defensive end for KAT and the Wolves.
The Timberwolves are currently ranked 30 (last), for opponent field goal percentage. Obviously, that stat inevitably must improve if the Wolves plan for a worthy season. KAT’s defense and shot consistency are the major aspects of his game that must improve.
2. Kristaps Porzingis
PPG – 29.5, RPG – 7.3, APG – 1.1, FG% – 49.8%, 3P% -41.7%
Kristaps Porzingis is the dream player for the current era’s power forward/center position. A selfless two-way player that has extreme value and potential. Often times Porzingis and Antetokounmpo are compared due to their extreme size and ability to dominate scoring and rebounding. It is obvious Antetokounmpo is the better athlete, however, Porzingis overpowers Antetokounmpo with incredible ball handling and three-point shooting.
Porzingis is a strong two-way player and will no doubt be a superstar in this league. A major improvement to Porzingis’s game would be better post work to create more scoring inside.
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo
PPG – 31.3, RPG – 10.3, APG – 4.8, FG% – 58.2%, 3P% -29.2%
Giannis Antetokounmpo (The Greek Freak) is truly a freak of nature. He is capable of taking over a game with his uncommon two way playing abilities. With a seven-foot wingspan, Giannis provides lethal rim protection. Antetokounmpo can get to in the lane well but can finish even better.
The Greek Freak is looked at as an MVP candidate with the extreme potential to becoming the face of the league. Two key areas of growth are his confidence and 3 point shooting.