Developing a player happens in stages, is somewhat of an art form and has proven to be something that certain NBA franchises can do and others just simply stink at it.
But in every NBA season there are players who burst out of the gates at a screaming pace and never relent. They shock us with skill we didn’t realize they had and help carry the torch of making the NBA the best basketball league on the planet. Here are five guys that NBA fans need to be looking at during the 2013-14 season as the potential stars of tomorrow.
1. Andre Drummond-After an injury riddled and intentionally limited rookie season, Drummond tore up the Orlando summer league and has packed on some meaningful pounds that will help battle other power forwards around the league. With another team, Drummond would play center, but in Detroit, the youthful seven footer will have to suit up alongside Greg Monroe if he’s going to start. Given his shot blocking prowess, rebounding ability and size, it’s doubtful Drummond rides the bench over the Pistons starting their own version of the Twin Towers model that saw San Antonio win a pair of titles. With new signing Josh Smith coming off the wing, the Pistons have a lethal front court. This could easily be Drummond’s year if he can stay healthy as he shows the potential to be a 15 and 10 contributor to an improved Detroit lineup.
2. Jonas Valanciunas-Toronto has long been thought of as a dead end for basketball players, but with the acquisition of Rudy Gay and the development of Valanciunas, it might be a place you can find playoff basketball sooner than later. The 21-year old Lithuanian stands 6-foot-11 inches and has a significant presence on the interior. He probably still needs to put on a bit of weight, but his skill with the ball in his hands is tough to deny. He won the Las Vegas Summer League MVP award yesterday and showed off his skills toward the tail end of last season when he became a consistent starter for the Raptors. The team has very little competition at his position and all the patience in the world when it comes to developing this young player.
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3. Tobias Harris-The Orlando Magic probably snickered a bit when the Milwaukee Bucks traded for J.J. Redick, giving up expiring contracts and the player who very well could be one of the most promising young power forwards in basketball in Harris. The 21-year old enters his third season in the league with the opportunity to vie for a starting spot for the first time in his career and does so after impressing Jacque Vaughn and Magic fans everywhere with his scoring ability toward the tail end of last season. He would break the 20 point mark nine times after his move to Orlando and makes a tantalizing front court partner for Nikola Vucevic. The starting job is his to take and should he get it, so look for Harris to become a household name with the Magic.
4. Jeremy Lamb-After a fantastic summer league showing in Orlando, Lamb is now expected to see increased minutes with the Thunder this year. The departure of Kevin Martin clears up some minutes for Lamb to see game time and he is a player Oklahoma City hopes will develop over the next year as another scoring option to ease the pressure on Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. If Lamb gets his time, it’s likely he could turn into one of the top OKC role player’s of next season.
5. JaVale McGee-In Washington he was a rough, unpolished kid with nothing but size and potential to offer. After being traded to Denver, it was expected that he would find a home in the starting lineup and make the jump to becoming one of the big name centers in this league under much improved coaching. But George Karl never gave him the chance, a key sticking point in the dispute that saw the coach fired this summer. This year, McGee will be guaranteed minutes and compose a front court partnership with Kenneth Faried that may be one of the scariest slam dunk and block combos in the league. Under Brian Shaw with plenty of playing time and a good supporting cast, it’s very realistic to expect McGee to become an elite rim protector, rebounder and legitimate 20 point, 10 rebound per night threat. If he doesn’t make the jump from good athlete with tons of potential to marquee big man this season, it won’t be because he’s not being given a fair chance and good coaching.