One of the reasons why basketball is my favorite sport is because it rewards persistence and hard work. The more you practice, the better you become. The more you look at game tape, the more your basketball IQ increases.
The athletes that work the hardest always stand head and shoulders above the rest. Just look at Kobe Bryant. He came into the league straight out of high school. He was very scrawny and only averaged 7.6 points a game in his first season. But he works extremely hard and as we all know, he’s one of the top 10 greatest players of all time.
You work hard, you get your rewards. That might be a high draft selection, a starting position on your team or a massive contract. Or it might be the highest honor bestowed on an NBA athlete; induction into the Hall of Fame.
This shrine to basketball excellence is a museum housing the names of not only the game’s greatest stars but the players who have made huge contributions into making the NBA and basketball the global phenomenon it is today.
Enshrinement into this Mecca of basketball is not for your average Joe. As of September 2016, 354 individuals have made it in. Not all of these are players. Anyone who has contributed a substantial amount to the development of basketball and added significantly to its rich history is allowed to have their names inscribed in this temple of athletic achievement.
Players like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Dirk Nowitzki are already locked and I can’t wait to listen to their enshrinement speeches, but what about the young guns of the NBA? Which budding young stars will most likely end up on that podium waxing lyrical about their time in a pair of basketball sneakers?
Here are my top five guys under 25 most likely to make the hall fame.
Disclaimer: All these guys were under at the start of this season.
5. Andrew Wiggins
Anytime you can score over 20 points a game at the age of 21 then there’s no doubt you are a special talent. There have been 16 individual seasons where a player has scored over 23 points a game and been under the age of 21. These have been achieved by 13 different athletes and only one of them either isn’t in the Hall of Fame or will be. Wiggins is one of them.
Wiggins has a huge amount of potential and he’s already at All-Star level without a great jump shot or playmaking abilities. If he can up his three point shooting to the high 30s and start creating more for his teammates then no doubt he can average 27 a night at least and be a lockdown defender as well.
Next year with Jimmy Butler his stats will diminish a little, but that gives him the chance to be even more efficient and develop his off the ball game.
4. Giannis Antetokounmpo
If you were to ask the amazing Player Season Finder over at Basketball Reference which players have averaged 22 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 1.5 blocks per game you’d get three names. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kevin Garnett and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
If you then add the parameter of doing it whilst they were 22 or under, you only get Giannis.The Greek Freak is really living up to his nickname. We just haven’t seen a player like this before.
The man is 6 foot 11 with a 7 foot 3 wingspan with handles that rival Kevin Durant’s. He doesn’t have a position. You can play him as your point guard, your small forward, power forward or even at center, it doesn’t matter.
The guy creates mismatches at a rate unseen in NBA history and with his outside game improving every year as well as his physique the NBA is going to have a whole lot of Giannis to deal with for the next decade or so.
3. Kyrie Irving
Where will he end up? Your guess is as good as mine. Whatever team he plays on next season there’s no doubt that one day Uncle Drew will be an honorary member of the Hall of Fame.
I have never in my life seen anybody with the creativity at the rim that Mr. Irving possesses. His ability to change hands, go reverse or use the backboard is unparalleled in the game today and it’s a big reason why he has become a fan favorite around the country.
Everyone loves a thunderous dunk to get your blood pumping, but an acrobatic layup is just as breathtaking. Just when you thought you’d hear the thwack of a shot blocker sending his drive into the 10th row Kyrie will somehow twist his body and it will be two points for his team.
Irving arguably also has the best handles in the league which aid him in getting to where ever he wants to on the floor and leaving a trail of broken ankles in his wake. He isn’t afraid to hit the big shots as well, most notably his go ahead three in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals.
2. Karl-Anthony Towns
Who doesn’t love abusing Basketball Reference’s season finder? It’s so good for finding awesome facts about the players in the NBA. He’s a cheeky one for you: who is NBA history has averaged 25 points, 12 rebounds, shot better than 53% from the field and 80% from the free throw line?
You guessed it; it’s Karl-Anthony Towns.
The big man out of Kentucky is the jewel of Minnesota and will be the best center in the NBA very soon. His versatility on offense is simply remarkable. Many big men have troubles at the free throw line. See Dwight Howard or DeAndre Jordan as examples. They never developed that form which is the key to consistency at the charity stripe.
Towns has an impeccable form which is why he’ll never lose points like the other guys mentioned above, and it’s also a big reason why he is such a good shooter for a big man. He can hit the three with consistency and he shoots nearly 42% on his mid-range Js, a number that will only get better with time.
He is very strong and can bang down low where can either go Dirk Nowitzki with a fadeaway or Hakeem Olajuwon with some fancy post work. The sky is really the limit for what this guy can achieve.
1. Anthony Davis
The crown of the Kentucky Wildcat Empire, Anthony Davis is the brightest young talent playing in the NBA today. Although he is a bit injury prone (hasn’t played more than 75 games in a season yet) there’s no denying that he will be the best player in the league in the next few years.
6 foot 10, 253lbs with a 7 foot 6 wingspan, he dominates on both sides of the court. He’s always in contention for the league’s leading shot-blocker and averaged 28 points a game last season with 12 rebounds.
He has an amazing touch at the rim where he can finish with either hand and has a nasty mid range game to keep defenders honest. Like Towns, he shoots above 80% from the free throw line and can hit the three when asked. Him and DeMarcus Cousins next year should be a show to see with a full training camp to work on team chemistry.
Every year the GMs of the league are asked who they would pick to start their NBA franchise with and it would be incredibly surprising if they didn’t pick Davis who will be the face of the league very very soon.