We don’t always keep a close eye on the NBA here. We’re all excited about the finals and eagerly anticipate which team will come through as champions. But there is a distinctly older edge to the big names in the league right now.
LeBron James is undoubtedly one of the greatest ever to play basketball – but he’s almost 40 and still going. We get more excited about the next generation of fearsome players.
Victor Wembanyama looks set to take the NBA by storm. But five players are already in the league and could develop quickly in the next few years.
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After just one year at Duke in the NCAA, Paolo Banchero declared for the 2022 NBA Draft and gave up his remaining college ball eligibility. But it was hardly a surprise after a season where he regularly looked like the best player on the court. He ended up being taken first overall by the Orlando Magic.
You never know how a good college baller will adapt to the big league. But Banchero has stepped up with ease. He was the first player since LeBron to post 25 points, five rebounds, and five assists on his NBA debut and ended up taking the Rookie of the Year award and got named in the All-Rookie Team.
Another Duke alumni, big things were expected from the power forward when he also decided to skip his remaining three years as a Blue Devil and made himself eligible for the 2019 NBA Draft. He was also taken first overall – this time by the New Orleans Pelicans, immediately slashing their championship odds.
Injuries have been Zion’s main issue since moving up to the NBA. But he is still an exciting player for the fans. He made All-Star in his first year before missing the entire second season. He was injured once again in the season, just gone. Hopefully, we won’t be robbed of watching him in action in 2024.
The New York Knicks have been underachieving for years. The organization hasn’t won a championship for 50 years, and the mismanagement of the franchise has become a running joke in the NBA. But this season saw the team, once again, make the playoffs – and a big reason has been the addition of RJ Barrett. He could be featured on the NBA websites in the next few years.
Knicks fans will look towards Jalen Brunson as the reason for the improvement. But the Knicks have started to look better since Barrett moved from Duke (again!) to Madison Square Garden. There is still a way to go – for the team and the player. But he could make all the difference for the Knicks.
After spending one year as an Iowa Hawkeye, Keegan Murray followed the recent trend for freshman stars to turn professional. Murray was taken fourth overall by the Sacramento Kings and impressed so much during his Summer League performances that he was named MVP.
He took that form into the NBA season and posted 19 points, five rebounds, and two blocks on his debut. He went on to play many games for the Kings as they made the playoffs and got named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team. It hasn’t all been plain sailing for Murray – but we are excited to see what happens next.
After featuring on a reality TV show with his basketball-playing father and brothers, LaMelo Ball could quickly have been headed for a fall, giving up a chance to play top-tier high school and college hoops in the States. But after being taken by the Charlotte Hornets third overall in the 2020 draft, he is proving just how good he is.
It has been an unconventional route to the NBA for Ball, who also played in a league created by his larger-than-life father. But he was named Rookie of the Year in 2021 and appeared in the NBA All-Star game. A fractured ankle saw his most recent season ended in February. But the future looks bright for Ball for next year.