At this juncture, the NBA elite are entrenched and don’t appear to be shifting anytime soon. From two-time MVP Steph Curry to LeBron James, this duo is regarded as the best ballers on the planet. Throw in Kevin Durant for best scorer in the league and the trio are complete. But it is no coincidence these superstars have been enjoying the fruits of franchises that are jam packed with talent.
LeBron is a perfect case in point. During his stint with the Miami Heat, the three-time MVP finished with two championships before returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers to finish 2nd and 1st in the Eastern Conference respectively. Curry took out a title and the best regular season record of all time with the Golden State Warriors, while Kevin Durant’s previous outfit via the Oklahoma City Thunder have remained a consistent contender in the West.
So now the question is – Who are the next wave of superstars to dominate the NBA? In 5-10 years time, who will we be talking about in the same light as James, Curry and Durant? By taking their team to the top of the tree and contending for multiple rings, which emerging talents will forge their names in history as legends of the sport?
The Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers are on the path to establishing themselves in the East, developing young rosters packed with potential.
Future superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo could be the Bucks saviour and a franchise player for years to come. The 22-year old Greek international has taken a huge leap forward this campaign to become a regular triple-double candidate. Pressure playoffs games often come down to agility on both ends of the court and defensive solidity, a department Giannis is steadily improving.
The Bucks have nice complimentary players in the form of quality shooter Kris Middleton, linking up with the next Carmelo Anthony in Jabari Parker. Then there is the case of the Aussie pairing Thon Maker and Mathew Dellavedova, the latter of which is helping to bring across his championship experience with the Cavs to embed this winning culture into a young dressing room. Maker on the other hand is starting to show signs of a really good defensive big. Youth is still their greatest asset.
Cycling through tanking seasons on and off for an eternity, the Philadelphia 76ers are finally starting to form a cohort of talent in their ranks. Back on the court following a number of setbacks, Joel Embiid appears like a beast that should be a cornerstone piece for the foreseeable future. The 22-year old Cameroonian is an elite shot blocker and has an almost unstoppable post game.
While Ben Simmons hasn’t taken to the court yet, the Australian has the promise of becoming a playmaking big with decent rebounding, transitioning into a worthy defender. Including Nerlens Noel as a solid defensive big on top of shooter Nick Stauskis and European import Dario Saric – the future is bright for the Pennsylvania franchise.
Out West, it is the Minnesota Timberwolves who are the obvious candidate to lead the charge in the coming seasons. NBA 2016 Rookie of the Year Karl-Anthony Towns is the cream of the crop, as the skilled big man’s all-round ability includes a quality 3-point shot. The 21-year old has started to spread his wings this year, mainly on the offensive end but if he can become a good defender then the rest of the league should beware.
Despite his reputation as an unsatisfactory defender, Andrew Wiggins is finding his feet at this level. Zach LaVine has showed some spark to be more than just a slam dunk specialist. His 3-point shooting is on the up and rounding out his game will help the Timberwolves. Gorgui Dieng is underrated and offers plenty on both ends. Then there is Kris Dunn – the key piece of the puzzle that should improve the rest of the team and have it running like a well maintained machine.
The Utah Jazz have to be mentioned as an emerging force. There is room for improvement offensively, but they boast the best defence in the NBA with Rudy Gobert anchoring the middle. With Derrick Favors by his side down low, Gordon Hayward is the leader of the team and has shown this year he is a franchise player. Other players around them include Trey Lyles who is consistently hitting 3s, Rodney Hood who can shoot and score and Dante Exum, the latter of which needs further development following a year out courtesy of a torn ACL. Throw in veterans George Hill, Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw, and the ingredients are there.