1. Giannis Antetokounmpo
2. Anthony Davis
3. Karl-Anthony Towns
4. Kristaps Porzingis
Hah. Gotcha. You thought I was going to talk about the same young players everyone and their mothers are talking about. No, today I will talk about young players who have been flying under the radar and do not get as much attention as Davis, Towns, etc. To qualify as a “young player who is flying under the radar”, this player will need to meet 4 criteria:
- Must be 23 or younger
- Must have never been an all-star
- Must not have been on the all-rookie first team
- Can not be a rookie currently
Here, in no particular order, are the top 4 underrated young players who have the potential to become a star:
1. Jaylen Brown
Jaylen Brown was a surprise 3rd overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft and his rookie season was seen as a disappointment by many. However, on a contending Celtics team, he saw limited action and only averaged 17 minutes per game. Last year, he averaged 6.6 points per game on 45 percent shooting from the field, 2.8 rebounds per game, and 0.8 assists per game. To put it bluntly, these stats are not good. However, this year, when he was inserted into the starting lineup, he has been averaging 16.1 points per game on 47 percent shooting from the field, 6.5 rebounds per game, and 1 assists per game. He has been very good and a key contributor to the league-leading Boston Celtics. His defense has been outstanding, and in his matchup against the Cavaliers, he was able to stay in front of Lebron the whole night. He is in an amazing situation in Boston with a great front office and coach. He has also shown the ability to persevere through adversity. On the morning of November 16, Brown was getting ready for a huge matchup with the Golden State Warriors when he got the tragic news that his best friend from childhood tragically died. While no one would blame him if he sat out a game, to recover from this tragedy, he starred in a comeback victory over the defending champions. He put up his best game of the season with a 22 point, 7 rebound, 2 block, and 2 steal performance. The next game, he put up 27 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists against the Hawks. I think he has the potential to fit the Paul George/Jimmy Butler mold. His athleticism, his amazing situation with one of the best coaches and front offices in Boston, his outstanding defense, and his ability to persevere through adversity that many players lack, are the reasons he will become a future star in this league.
2. Julius Randle
As much as we all hate Draymond Green, he has been a huge part of the Warriors’ championship runs. He is a defensive star, a triple-double threat, and can make a good team into a great team. It pained me to type that last sentence, but he is the player Julius Randle should thrive to become. Last season, Randle has averaged 13.2 points per game on 50 percent shooting from the field, 8.6 rebounds per game, and 3.6 assists per game. While these stats are solid for a 21-year-old, they do not necessarily scream, “superstar”, he did put up some Draymond-esque stat lines last year. He had a 13 point, 18 rebound, and 10 assist triple-double against the Mavericks last year, and a monster 23 point, 19 rebound, 6 assist, 3 steal, and 2 block performance against the Hornets. Watching his best performances in this league make it clear that Randle has the potential to become a star in this league. He also has an insane work ethic. Just look at this 5-week transformation:
He went from an in-shape NBA player to an absolute monster. His work ethic combined with his athleticism and his good situation in LA are the reasons he will become a future star in this league. I think he could develop into a more athletic Draymond Green. While I don’t think he will become the best or even second best player on a championship team, he could absolutely fit the Draymond Green role on a championship team.
3. Jamal Murray
When the best young players in the league got together at NBA All-Star Weekend, nobody looked better than Murray. With every 3-point basket(9 for 14) he swished while earning MVP honors in the Rising Stars Challenge, he established himself more and more as a rising star in this league. Even though he had a solid rookie season, averaging 9.9 points per game on 40% shooting from the field, 2.6 rebounds per game, and 2.1 assists per game. Even though Murray is widely considered to be a great 3 point shooter, he only shot 33% from beyond the arc last year. This year he has upped his scoring to 15 points per game and has shown potential to become a big-time scorer in this league. Against Orlando and New Orleans, he scored 32 and 31 points respectively. His ability to spot up from the 3 point line combined with Nikola Jokic’s sweet passing ability, He and Gary Harris form one of the best young backcourts in the league and make the Nuggets one of the best young teams in the league. In a few years, he will be a big-time scorer in this league on one of the best teams in the NBA. He has the potential to be a taller, more athletic version of Kyle Lowry and will be a future star in this league.
4. Myles Turner
There are two archetypes for a modern day big man. You either have to be a phenomenal rim protector(Rudy Gobert, Hassan Whiteside, etc.) or someone who can shoot the three ball, space the floor, and score on the interior(Demarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, etc.). Myles Turner fits both of these archetypes. Last season, Turner averaged 14.5 points per game on 51% shooting from the field, 7.3 rebounds per game, and 1.3 assists per game. He also showed that he has a jump shot, shooting 35 percent from beyond the arc and is already one of the better rim protectors in this league, averaging 2.1 blocks per game. These stats are very good for a 20-year-old in his second season in the NBA. The Paul George trade this offseason opened up a huge path for Turner to emerge as a star. The pick and roll combo of Turner and Oladipo should be deadly and both have the potential to make the all-star team this year. Also, Turner dominated the Team USA select camp in the summer of 2016, dominating guys like Willie Cauley-Stein and Jahlil Okafor. When he was promoted to the Senior team, he more than held his own against Demarcus Cousins. Leading Paul George, his teammate at the time, to say, “I think the whole talk around that camp was, ‘Man, you got a good one.’ That’s coming from all the guys on the Olympic team. Everybody was just raving about how good Myles is.” His athleticism, his good jump shot, his outstanding rim-protecting abilities, his good situation in Indiana, and the fact that he has been able to more than hold his own against elite NBA talent, lead me to believe that he will be a future star in the NBA.
There we have it. These four guys who have been flying under the radar their whole careers, won’t be any more in a few years.