The NBA’s elite stars like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, James Harden, and more are running the league as of now. Father time is undefeated as those guys inch closer towards the finish lines of their careers. So who are the bright stars of tomorrow? Do not worry as Jimmon Felton and I have you covered.
1. Build a starting five, ages 23-and-under, and decide who would be your sixth man.
Shelton: PG- Ben Simmons, SG- Donovan Mitchell, SF- Jayson Tatum, PF- Giannis Antetokounmpo, C- Joel Embiid
6th man: Jaylen Brown
Felton: PG- Donovan Mitchell, SG- Devin Booker, SF- Giannis Antetokounmpo, PF- Karl-Anthony Towns, C- Kristaps Porzingis
6th man: Andrew Wiggins
2. Which coach are you pairing with your team?
Shelton: My coach would be Brad Stevens. The way Stevens can maximize any player’s potential is remarkable. He turned Isaiah Thomas from a decent point guard to one who was scoring nearly 30 points per game and receiving MVP votes. So imagine what he could do with that starting five. His teams play great defense and give their best effort every night. His teams won’t blow others out, but they rarely get blown out.
Felton: The coach that I would want to be over my players would be Gregg Popovich. You take the best coach and put him with the best young players and they would only get better.
3. Which team, around the league, has the best young core?
Shelton: I’ll give the nod to the Philadelphia 76ers. Simmons cannot shoot, but he does everything else well and has all-time potential. Embiid is the best big man on both ends of the floor. Dario Saric has helped the Sixers rise with his size and much-improved three-point shooting percentage. If Markelle Fultz can team together with Simmons to learn how to make a jump shot, then the sky is the limit for the 76ers.
Felton: The team in the NBA with the best young core would have to be the Boston Celtics. The Celtics were one game away from making the NBA Finals without their two stars Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving. The Celtics leaned heavily on the play of rookie Tatum (20) rising stars Brown (21) and Marcus Smart (24) to carry them. They are destined to run the East along with Philly for years to come barring any trades or injuries.
4. Which foreign player is showing the most promise?
Shelton: I gave strong consideration to Embiid and Simmons, but I’m going to take Antetokounmpo for this one because of his durability. The Greek Freak has yet to have a major injury and has played at least 75 games in all five of his seasons, whereas Embiid and Simmons both have missed entire seasons.
Antetokounmpo can play virtually every position on the floor, has tremendous size and length, and can drive the lane at will on defenders who are usually smaller. He has improved every year since entering the league. Last season, he averaged a double-double with 27 points and 10 rebounds per game on 53 percent shooting. If The Greek Freak can get a stable coach, then maybe we’ll see him lead a team on a deep playoff run.
Felton: The foreign player with the most upside has to be The Greak Freak. He has went from averaging 6.8 points 4.4 rebounds to 26.9 points 10 rebounds in his fifth season. Within the next few seasons, he could be the MVP of the league and the first player to average 30 points and 15 rebounds since Wilt Chamberlain.
5. Who has the most potential, age 23-and-under, to become the face of the league?
Shelton: When LeBron James retires, I believe Simmons has the most potential to be the face of the league. Antetokounmpo might be a better scorer and defender, but I think Simmons has a chance to be a modern day Magic Johnson. Simmons has a better team which means his path to winning a title has less wrinkles than the Bucks superstar. All it takes is a decent jump shot for Simmons and he could become the best player in the league in the near future. Also, I think about 75 percent, or more, of fans cannot spell Antetokounmpo, so I am going with Simmons.
Felton: The face of the NBA will soon be Antetokounmpo. If it was not for James Harden having an amazing year, he would have a better shot at winning the MVP this year. Kobe Bryant himself tweeted The Greek Freak and challenged him to win MVP last offseason. Well, he accepted the challenge as his numbers took a leap nobody was ready for. If he keeps his work ethic up, he will truly be unstoppable and players will flock to play with him.
The NBA continues to evolve and the young talent that is in the mix will continue to help shape the game. There is an emphasis, right now, on being multi-skilled, playing position-less basketball, and shooting. Over the next few seasons, expect a change in the association headlined by the youngsters.