Young guns taking over NBA

Young guns taking over NBA
June 03
11:15 2021

Superstars carry every sports league on the planet. For the NBA, players like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Damian Lillard, Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry have carried the league for well over a decade. But now that many of these players are nearing the end of their careers, it’s time for a new crop of stars to step up.

Over the last five or six years, there have been several superstar-caliber players that have entered the league. Father Time is undefeated, so at some point, the older players will have to pass the mantle to the young guys, and they will have to carry the league.

I was worried once James, Curry and Durant chose to hang it up. Who was going to be “the guy” in the NBA? As I stated earlier, there are several superstar-caliber players, but would there be a select few that vie for that coveted best player in the league title? As this season has progressed and now entered the playoffs, a few of these young guns are showing they are ready to be the face of the NBA.

With the short offseason and a condensed season, the pace of the season has really taken a toll on many of the older players. Many have suffered injuries that were more than likely due to wear and tear. It looks as though some of the young guys don’t want to wait for the old guard to retire; instead, they want to take over the league now.

I know there are impact players in their late 20s and early 30s that have several years left in the tank; however, I want to focus on the guys that are under the age of 25. There are a few players in this range that have the tools to become one of the best, if not the best player in the league. The players below are in no particular order.

The first player that comes to mind is Luka Dončić (22) of the Dallas Mavericks. The Slovenian sensation has become one of the best players in the league in only his third season. Many, including me, did not think Dončić was quick or athletic enough to become a top player in the league. He quickly proved everyone wrong.

His game is not dependent on speed or athleticism. Instead, he uses elite ball-handling, footwork and change of pace to score at will or find an open shooter. He is not only a top-notch scorer, he is also a threat to get a triple double on any given night. Two or three years from now, don’t be surprised if he has a couple of MVP awards, especially if he continues to average 27.7 points, 8 rebounds and 8.6 assists per game, as he is this season.

Jayson Tatum (23) has been trending upward every year of his career. The 6’8 forward out of Duke, is averaging 26.4 pts., 7.4 rbs. and 4.3 asts. per game this year and it seems he still hasn’t scratched the surface of how good he can actually be.  

Tatum can score at all three levels and has enough bounce to put you in the rim if you let him elevate around the rim. The two-time All-Star is silky smooth with the ball and is also a more than adequate passer. Barring any serious injuries, Tatum will be a perennial All-NBA caliber player. He is the type of player that can be the first option on a championship team.

The forgotten man on this list, until this year, is Devin Booker (24) of the Phoenix Suns. The Kentucky product is one of the top scorers in the league. He has the killer instinct that you look for in a 2 guard, but his skills were overlooked for far too long due to the Suns not being good for several years.

Now that Chris Paul is in town, the Suns are one of the best teams in the league, record wise. The rest of the country gets the opportunity to see how good Booker is, now that Phoenix is in the playoffs. With season averages like 25.6 pts., 4.2 rebs. and 4.3 asts, Booker definitely has a shot to be the best in the business.

Philadelphia 76ers point guard, Ben Simmons (24), seems like he has been around for a long time. After missing his first year in the league due to injury, Simmons has established himself as one of the most talented players in the league. He does so much, so well, Simmons is like a human Swiss Army knife.  

He is not the scoring threat that many of the other players on the list are, but at 6’7, he is a great point guard. Another aspect of his game that makes him a difference-maker is the fact that he is one of the best defenders in the league. Simmons can guard multiple positions on the floor and once he obtains a jump shot, he will be nearly unstoppable. 

Donovan Mitchell (24) of the Utah Jazz is making big waves in the small market of Utah. Mitchell is averaging 26.4 pts., 4.4 rebs. and 5.2 asts. on the year and has led the Jazz to become one of the best teams in the western conference.  

Mitchell is a two-time All-Star and paired with center Rudy Gobert, they make up a great front and backcourt combo. He has the tools to be the lead guy on a championship team and as he continues to refine his game, he may do just that.

Jamal Murray (24) of the Denver Nuggets really has come into his own this season. Unfortunately, Murray tore the ACL in his left knee earlier this season and ended his season prematurely. Murry has flown somewhat under the radar, but when he’s hot, he can light it up from anywhere on the court.

Murray has improved his game every year that he has been in the league. It would have been nice to see what he could have done in the playoffs, but I guess we will have to wait until 2022 for that. I hope that Murray can come back at full strength once he recovers from his injury.

Atlanta Hawks’ guard, Trae Young (22), will always be connected with Dončić as they were traded for one another on draft night in 2018. The trade looks to have worked out for both teams so far. Young led college basketball in scoring and assists his lone season at Oklahoma, so he has shown what he is capable of for years.

So far in his career, Young has averaged 24 pts. and 9 asts., which are great numbers for a point guard. Young is one of the best shooters in the NBA and can make shots from beyond 30 feet. Young has also been proven to be very clutch in the most important moments for Atlanta. This may be an unfair comparison, but he looks like the second coming of Curry.

Ja Morant (21) of the Memphis Grizzlies is another point guard with star written all over him. Morant is very athletic with a great handle and reminds many of a young Russell Westbrook. Morant was Rookie of the Year last season and has improved his game during his sophomore campaign.

In just his second season, he has led the Grizzlies to the playoffs. He has impressive numbers this season; 19.1 pts., 4.0 rebs. and 7.4 asts. are quite impressive. Morant plays like he still has a chip on his shoulder and that has bode well for him so far as a professional. He can get to the rim at will and once his jump shot evolves, he will be in the MVP conversation routinely.

It’s still unbelievable that anyone 6’7 and 285 is as athletic as Zion Williamson (20) is. The New Orleans Pelicans forward impressed everyone in a limited role as a rookie. Williamson has been even better in his second season, averaging 27 pts., 7.2 rebs. and 3.7 asts.  

Williamson is one of the most efficient scorers in the league, shooting over 60% from the field. He has lived up to his Number One overall draft status and if he stays healthy, who knows how far his game can progress.

The last player I’m going to touch on is probably the biggest question mark. Because of injuries, Michael Porter Jr. (22) of the Nuggets was taken 14th overall in the 2018 draft. He has just as much talent as any player on this list and with the knee injury suffered by Murray, he will get the playing time to show how good he really is.

The NBA is in good hands with this young group of players. It will be interesting to see who can maintain their trajectory toward superstardom. The older players better look out because these young guys are not willing to wait their turn. They want to win now.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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