Out with the Old, in with the New

Thank you NBA League Pass. Watching the NBA’s best and brightest stars on any night of the week is quite a luxury. What makes the current state of the association so exciting is that many of the league’s best players are barely old enough to order a drink at a bar. Players such as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Karl-Anthony Towns, Kristaps Porzingis, and Joel Embiid are crashing the NBA party and letting us know they’re here to stay.

What makes the league’s current crop of young talent arguably the best it’s ever seen at their respective ages is the versatility they already possess. In today’s game, being capable of spacing the floor and knocking down three pointers has never been more important, especially as a big man. Towns, Porzingis, and Embiid are all frontcourt guys capable of doing so while showing defensive prowess, protecting the rim at an elite level; just another way to show their versatility. Already filling up stat sheets on a nightly basis, a quadruple double is in play for numerous up-and-coming superstars.

Most prospects come into the NBA with certain facets comparable to an ex or current player. It’s hard to make comparisons to Embiid, Towns, Porzingis, and the Greek Freak as their unique skill sets leave their potential untapped. All you can do is ask yourself hypothetical questions of what they could become.

What if Scottie Pippen was about 3 inches taller and was being taught how to run point under the tutelage of one of the best to ever play the position? That or maybe the human version of Michael Jordan’s game-winning dunk against the Monstars might be an ideal description of Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Greek Freak, standing at 6’11”, is a one-man fast break, running like a gazelle going coast to coast in 3 dribbles. Read that again. Currently averaging 23.5 points, 8.9 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 2 blocks, and 1.8 steals, the Bucks forward has a chance to enter historic territory. The next step to him being truly unstoppable will be developing a consistent jumper to compliment already living in the paint. Not too shabby for turning 22 years old last month.

When your star player is fully bought into the organization, good things will happen. Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers are the perfect example of this. Sitting out the past couple of seasons due to injury, Embiid never lost faith in Philly’s “Process” and is on a tear in his first year of action. While on a minute restriction, Joel Embiid is averaging 38.5 points per 100 possessions, the most by a rookie since 1973-74, the first year possessions were measured (per Basketball Reference). Good for 2.5 blocks a night along with being a 20+ scorer, Embiid has single-handedly changed the Sixers’ fortune, making fans wonder how many centers are actually better than him; even at the age of 22. He has built quite the aura around him and his teammates are following suit, leading to Philly becoming one of the hottest teams since the new year.

To make it simple, it doesn’t make sense what Kristaps Porzingis is able to do on the basketball court. At 7’3″, it should be nearly impossible to have his agility and athleticism to handle the ball as well as he can while also having the shooting stroke of a guard. While known for his ability to stretch the floor, Porzingis has already proven he’ll be able to protect the rim for years to come. Per Tommy Beer, KP recorded more 3 pointers than Ray Allen while also blocking more shots than Dwight Howard through their first 106 games. With his swagger, supreme confidence, and drive to win in New York, there isn’t much of a ceiling for what Porzingis could be. Could he be the tallest member of the 50/40/90 club? Could he put up such numbers while also leading the league in blocks? Only time will tell for the Unicorn.

It’s no secret that the Minnesota Timberwolves are viewed as NBA’s team of the future. Led by Karl-Anthony Towns to go with young studs like Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine, their future is brighter than ever. KAT is changing the way the center position is played every night he steps on the hardwood. At 21, it’s already a challenge trying to find a flaw in his game, averaging 22.4, points, 11.9 boards, and 3 assists a night. With an already dominant inside presence on both sides of the floor, the handle of a guard, and the ability to knock down threes, Towns is the safest bet to become the league’s best player in the next few years.

There is plenty of extremely young talent in the league that also need to be recognized; Wiggins mentioned above, Nikola Jokic, Jabari Parker, and Devin Booker to name only a few. It’s incredible from a fan perspective to see the production of these players on a nightly basis at their ages, yet the scariest part for the rest of the league is that we still have at least half a decade until most of them will reach their peak.

Until then, we can all relax, enjoy the show, and know that the NBA is in great hands for years to come.

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