Young NBA players have to carry a cross over their shoulders, something that can either lift them up or create so many expectations about him that can wind up sinking their blossoming careers: comparisons with former - current stars.
Making projections is extremely difficult and even though some metrics and features of their game may be pretty similar to the ones that former players had during their careers, it doesn’t always translate to the same kind of success, as there are hundreds of minor things that take their toll on a player’s development.
Coming out of high school, college or overseas, scouts and agents spend so many time looking for the game’s new star that they often tend to overhype youngsters and boost their draft stock, just to realize they aren’t nearly as good as expected, or sometimes even outplaying their projected draft position.
Nonetheless, after all we’ve seen from some of the Association’s youngest stars, we’re going to take a huge risk and do exactly this, trying to find parallelisms between them and former or active top-notch ballers.
Note: for being eligible, all of those players have to be 24 years old or younger.
10. Joel Embiid - Hakeem Olajuwon
It’s been a wild ride for the Philadelphia 76ers and Joel Embiid A.K.A The Process, and prior to his professional debut this past campaign, a lot of people started to wonder if the hype, the waiting and all the precautions were actually worth it for an unproven youngster that seemed to be enjoying partying too much.
But after watching him take the floor, he managed to shut all his doubters up, and barring injury, he might as well become one of the league’s perennial All-Stars. His feet movement, his post game, his defensive upside and his range remind us all of a poor guys’ Hakeem Olajuwon, and even if he manages to be half as good as him, it’ll be a huge win for the Sixers.
9. Devin Booker - Ray Allen
Devin Booker has the offensive upside to become the league’s leading scorer a couple of seasons from now, as he proved during that incredible 70 point outing, sending the rock to the bottom of the net in a huge variety of ways from crafty layups, poster dunks and lighting it up from beyond the arc.
Booker reminds us of the young version of Ray Allen that thrived with the Milwaukee Bucks and Seattle Supersonics, being one of the most gifted, versatile and dominant scorers in the league and having a beautiful shooting stroke.
8. Lonzo Ball - Jason Kidd
Lonzo Ball is yet to make his professional debut yet he’s been able to grab as much attention as the highest ranked players in the league, mostly because his incredible upside to become one of the league’s best point guards for the future.
His strength, his speed, his ability to rebound and push up-tempo in half court and his crafty passes remind us of a younger Jason Kidd, although Kidd was a much better defender at that age. Still, the sky seems to be the limit for a youngster that just needs to improve his shooting form and try to play instead of talking that much.
7. Ben Simmons - LeBron James
Just like Lonzo, Ben Simmons hasn’t made his pro debut yet, although he was forced to miss the season due to injury, but after all the footage we’ve seen from him coming out of overseas and in LSU, we can already assure he has one of the most complete skillsets and high ceilings in the NBA right now.
Simmons has the type of body that can make him an elite point forward like LeBron James, but Simmons passing seems to be even better. Like James, his shot needs a lot of work to find consistency, and he’s not quite yet on the defensive end either. Nonetheless, given a lot of time to blossom, Ben has the kind of tools to become a Hall of Famer.
6. Kristaps Porzingis - Arvydas Sabonis
Sadly, we didn’t get to see much of Arvydas Sabonis during his prime in the NBA, as he spent most of his career in Europe. Still, even though he was already banged up and old when he finally joined the Portland Trail Blazers, he proved to be one of the most talented players the league has ever seen.
Just like Sabonis, Porzingis has extremely capable handles for a guy his size, as well as being a terrific shooter from beyond the arc, a very good defender and a willingful passer. Nonetheless, Sabonis was kind of better when it comes to rebounding, an area Kristaps needs to drastically improve.
5. Giannis Antetokounmpo - Magic Johnson
Giannis Antetokounmpo has also blossomed as an incredibly talented point forward and with his length and ability to play and guard all 5 positions, he reminds us of a poor guy's version of Magic Johnson when he first entered the league.
Of course, Magic’s passing and playmaking ability was substantially better than Giannis’ but his versatility, leadership and ability to fill the stat sheet in a vast kind of ways make us expect the Greek Freak to win the MVP award in a couple of seasons when he improves his touch from mid and long range.
4. Karl-Anthony Towns - Vlade Divac
Unlike most of the players aforementioned, Karl-Anthony Towns seems to be actually better than the guy we’re comparing him, as his upside puts him in prime position to become the league’s best and most complete center in the league a couple of seasons from now.
His post game is already quite developed like Divac was, as well as his ability to gain and maintain position and own the glass in both ends of the court. Still, Towns touch from distance and shot seem to be better than Divac’s but he still lacks the character to take matters into his own hands and lead the team.
3. Nerlens Noel - Dikembe Mutombo
Nerlens Noel’s NBA tenure has been a huge rollercoaster, being the Sixers’ odd man out and being dealt due to the lack of value Jahlil Okafor had. Injuries, lack of playing time and an undeveloped offensive game have really took a toll on him, although future still seems to be bright for the Dallas Mavericks big man.
Noel’s defensive game resembles a lot of Dikembe Mutombo’s, as they’re both capable of completely locking down the paint, he has the upside to become an elite rim protector and his shot blocking ability has always been there. Still, he needs to stay healthy to actually prove it.
2. Anthony Davis - Kevin Garnett
Ever since entering the league, Anthony Davis has become one of the most dominant and talented players, improving his offensive game on a yearly basis, expanding his range and proving a very developed ball handling ability for a big man.
Davis is also quite gifted on the defensive end of the floor, and if he develops that winning mentality, trash talking, physical game and hard-nosed character, we could be seeing the next coming of Kevin Garnett with him.
1. Zach LaVine - Vince Carter
Zach LaVine really improved after his rookie season, proving all his doubters that he was way more than just an athletic dunker. Sadly, that season-ending injury he suffered may cause him to regress a bit for this upcoming season as one of the Bulls’ cornerstones for the future.
LaVine reminds us a lot to a young Vince Carter that could just take flight from everywhere on the floor, although Carter was stronger. Still, with his improving playmaking ability, he even has the chance to become one of the most dominant combo guards in the league, especially now that he’ll have the green light to hog touches with the Bulls.