They are young but talented. Still fresh. And yet too often pass under the radar. Because the NBA is a ruthless world where everything goes very fast, too fast, with superstars and franchises already monopolizing the media attention. There can’t be ten LeBron James, ten Luka Doncic, or ten Kevin Durant.
Moreover, most of the league’s athletes are not stars. It is precisely that makes stars… and many stars. Unique. That make us dream. But even without becoming future MVPs, there are dozens and dozens of basketball players who get us excited on the floors every night. Some of them even have an intriguing potential. With perhaps, one day, a very important role within a candidate team for the title.
They probably won’t be the faces of it. But the parts around. These solid, gifted, precious players who contribute to the success of great champions. They are all 25 years old or younger, sometimes underestimated, sometimes unrecognized. Presentation.
Those who railed against the consideration recovered by the Sacramento Kings during the abortive transfer of Bogdan Bogdanovic to the Milwaukee Bucks have probably never met Donte DiVincenzo. The 23-year-old full-back, two-time NCAA champion with Villanova, now finds himself in one of the main contenders for the title.
And it does the Bucks good! Lively, good ball handler, skillful from afar, DDV creates links between the different pieces of the five major. Between percussion and external threat without the ball. Rest assured that he will be one of the X factors of the Wisconsin franchise in the playoffs.
Highlights: 13.8 points, 61% on shots, 68% on three-pointers
I could have cited Luguentz Dort, already treated very well by Shai Mamou after his new interesting performance against Jazz. Go for Darius Bazley, slender sophomore of the Thunder. A physical profile à la Kevin Durant – 2.03 meters, 94 kilos – and sprawling arms.
Luguentz Dort grows visibly, OKC holds a nugget
The most interesting, or the most intriguing, is his ability to attack the circle and create play before concluding with his left paw. Its size, agility and liveliness are valuable assets. We must maintain continue to polish the rest: dribbling, shooting, defense. A potential “two way player”.
Highlights: 10 points, 9 rebounds
You had to see him battle with Zion Williamson for the preferential position to really understand. Keldon Johnson is a warrior who will stop at nothing. In defense as in attack. Especially in attack. The Kentucky winger takes advantage of his broad shoulders to make his way through the rackets, while percussion, from one contact to another, from one body to another, before finishing below. Here is one that should confirm the beautiful promises of the bubble.
Moreover, the San Antonio Spurs are quite attractive at the start of the season. A clever mix of young talents like Johnson, but also Lonnie Walker IV or Dejounte Murray, and confirmed veterans (DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay). A team to follow.
Highlights: 14 points, 8.3 rebounds
A long, sturdy, athletic, mobile and lively pivot on its supports can hide another. After unearthing Bam Adebayo with the fourteenth pick in 2016, the Miami Heat may already be one of the new “steals” of the draft. Precious Achiuwa is built in the same mold as its elder. An interior capable of bringing energy and defending in several positions.
From there to becoming a star like Adebayo? Everything will depend on his progression in attack. The potential may not be quite the same. But it’s already an interesting replacement five position for Miami.
Highlights: 9.7 points, 68% on shots
Oh oh oh. If you haven’t necessarily followed the Phoenix Suns closely, if you think that their three wins in four games are mainly due to the arrival of Chris Paul, know that in reality, the real reason for hope of this start of the season is called Mikal Bridges.
Renowned for his defense and his external skill when he arrived in the NBA, a classic and precious profile of “3 and D”, the former university champion (with Villanova, where he rubbed shoulders with Donte DiVincenzo), added assets to his range and it changes everything. For example, he is much more comfortable, much more efficient in dribbling. With drives which gives it a more important dimension. The Suns’ third blade behind Devin Booker and Chris Paul.
Highlights: 15.5 points, 53% on shots, 45% on three-pointers, 6 rebounds
Quite surprising to find a first draft pick here. But after disappearing from radar, Markelle Fultz became underestimated. The Magic trust him, to the point of giving him the keys to the attack for his second season in Orlando. And it works ! Sharper, more at ease, both physically and mentally, the leader excels in his role of scorer-slasher-playmaker.
Markelle Fultz, the player who will break the house at the Magic this season?
He still lacks skill but his 93% in free throws testifies to a much cleaner mechanics. Above all, for now, Fultz is quick and agile enough to beat his vis-à-vis without needing to score from far. He is arguably the franchise’s most important player. Because the success of the Magic depends on its development, and in particular on the next milestones it can take.
Highlights: 18,3 points, 5,8 passes
Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, aka Sexland! The new tandem of alluring backs in the NBA. If they are still far from being able to fight with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, or Chris Paul and Devin Booker, the two young talents of the Cleveland Cavaliers have been kiffy since the start of the season.
The alliance of a dragster who bought himself a shot on ebay and an elegant manager who took muscles during the very long offseason. They are the two spearheads of this undefeated formation before the game last night (and a first loss against the… New York Knicks).
Sexton was already scoring profusely last year but he seems to be doing it smarter. It’s like the game has slowed down for this terribly fast guard. He controls his own speed better, precisely. This makes it easier for him to tell the difference. And above all with less waste.
Garland shows the face the franchise expected of him: that of a handy, technical, skilful fullback who maneuvers brilliantly in the racket, creating play for himself or others. Finally, this duo has a future.
Highlights: 25.3 points, 53% on shots, 53% three-pointers for Sexton, 18.5 points, 4 rebounds, 7.8 assists, 48% on shots, 45% three-pointers for Garland.
Kevin Huerter, De’Andre Hunter and Cameron Reddish
The Atlanta Hawks triplet. I wanted to bring them together, to emphasize the fact that Travis Schlenk, the GM of the franchise, is a genius. Because behind Trae Young and even John Collins are therefore hiding three very talented young people. All complementary to each other but also to their star.
De’Andre Hunter, fourth pick in the 2019 draft, is a slender winger with the physiological assets to defend well and switch to the screens. He has to assert himself as a consistent threat behind the arc to really make an impact. For now, things are going well. His progress in dribbling should also be followed even if he still lacks a little punch. Which pushes him to try long, difficult two-pointers because he failed to beat his defender.
Cameron Reddish is better than Hunter with the ball in hand but less skillful from a distance. And a little more crazy. There is more vista. A bit of creativity important to the Hawks alongside Young. As for Huerter, he is currently playing off the bench but that does not mean that he is less promising than his comrades.
There is a Klay Thompson side – ATTENTION, simple comparison. A sniper with an increasingly interesting passing quality, hence his place in the second five since he can have the ball more often in his hand. The Hawks are going to be terrifying in the future.
Highlights: 13.7 points, 3.3 assists, 46% on shots, 43% on three-pointers for Huerter, 12.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, 50% on shots, 50% on three-pointers for Hunter, 10, 3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 44% three-pointers for Reddish.
For us, he’s the best rookie without being the ROY. Because he comes off the bench and because he mainly seeks to play fair, Tyrese Haliburton may not be in the race for the trophy at a time when James Wiseman and Anthony Edwards are making statistics. But there is something special about the young Sacramento Kings point guard.
His coach Luke Walton does not hesitate to make him play in the money time of tight matches (like the two duels against the Denver Nuggets). Because he already knows how to make the right decisions. He is active, involved, often on the move. But also altruistic and diligent. A real good pick for the Kings.
Highlights: 10.5 points, 56% on shots, 50% on three-pointers, 5.3 assists
It deserves special attention. So, I’m going to keep some under my elbow for a more in-depth analysis on Christian Wood. His career is really interesting. Surprising. Touching too. It is rare for an undrafted player to assert himself as a superstar. But inside the Houston Rockets can do it. The similarities with Anthony Davis are quite stunning. A long, agile, athletic interior. Effective. A double-double machine. James Harden better stay in Texas to form a hell of a duo with him.
Highlights: 27 points, 8 rebounds, 54% on shots, 57% on three-pointers.