NBA: Emerging Franchise Cornerstones

NBA fans have been spoilt for choice this year as exciting rookies and second year players alike have breakout seasons. Fanbases that have been starved of stars for years now have hope for the future.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

SGA has the NBA world at his feet as the cornerstone for the Los Angeles Clippers. Picked by many to be drafted inside the top 10, Shai was selected by the Charlotte Hornets. Not long after, he was traded to the LA Clippers.

Typically, rookie point guards take a year or two to be contributors. Shai has been the exception to this rule, as he is contributing strongly on a playoff contending team. An excellent shooter coming out of Kentucky, he is shooting 46.8% on the season. So far, per game he is averaging 10 points 3 rebounds and 3 assists. Notably, he is shooting 55% from deep since December and has taken on higher usage with Tobias Harris being moved to the 76ers.  

The Clippers have their eyes firmly on the future and Shai is clearly one of the cornerstone pieces. With $62 million in cap space this offseason, he is the perfect complimentary piece to a superstar. Shai even earnt high praise from Durant as he praised the rookie’s confidence and shooting prowess.  

De’Aaron Fox

Fox wax the fifth pick in last year’s draft, coming out of Kentucky. After a middling rookie season on a struggling Sacramento team, Fox has exploded out of the blocks this year. Not only has he increased in every statistical category this year, but defensively he has taken a massive step forward. He is top 10 in the league in loose balls recovered and top 20 in deflections.  

The former Kentucky star has Sac-Town competing for a postseason bid while averaging 17 points 4 rebounds and 7 assists per game. Not afraid to take a shot when the game is on the line, Fox is exactly the young star that Sacramento fans have been craving.

Caris LeVert

LeVert has been a feel-good NBA story this year. A breakout season the first 17 games was followed by what the league thought was a horrific season-ending injury. To the delight of Brooklyn Nets fans, LeVert was welcomed back to the team only 40 games later.

When the Indiana Pacers drafted, LeVert he was recovering from injuries in college that prevented him from being a sure-fire lottery pick. Drafted at 20, the Nets saw the potential in him and traded Thad Young for him.

Three years later, the Nets investment in him has paid off. He is averaging 17 points 4 rebounds and 4 assists. As a strong secondary play-maker to D’Angelo Russell, LeVert operates well in the pick-and-roll and is adept at finding cutters and shooters.

Though his three-point shot hasn’t been dropping this year, CLV’sat rim finishing and mid-range game have been strong. The Nets have the chance to extend a guy that can be a star in the NBA for years to come in 2020.

Jaren Jackson Jr.

The son of an ex-NBA player, JJJ has been a lone star on a lottery bound Grizzlies team. Showing defensive skills that have drawn comparisons from Kevin Garnett, Jackson is the real deal on both ends of the court. His offensive game is polished for a guy that was drafted while still 18.

Already an elite rim finisher, triple J is also shooting the three-ball at an impressive 35% rate. At almost 7-foot-tall, he can defend out to the perimeter. Along with Deandre Ayton, he is one of only two rookies to contest over 10 shots a game. It’s clear Grizzlies management are going all in on Jackson following the Marc Gasol trade.

Dejounte Murray

Murray sadly tore his ACL prior to this season as many expected him to assume the lead guard role.

Named to the All-Defensive second team last season at just 21 years old, Murray is the aggressive young point guard that fits perfectly in the Spurs culture. Murray was maturing quickly with early experience behind Tony Parker.

Murray’s effect on defence especially is clear this year. Last year the Spurs had the league’s best defence, this year they are rated only 16th. Murray’s shot needs work, but the success that shooting guru Chip England has had with previous Spurs players suggests this won’t be a problem. His passing is picturesque as well.

Murray is the cornerstone on one of the youngest Spurs teams in almost 20 years.

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