The summer was always my favorite time as a teenager, and it wasn’t because of the pool trips to check out girls in bikinis or because of the Italian Ice that tasted perfect on 90-degree days. It was because the summer, when school was out, when the heat was in, and when everyone else wanted to watch re-runs of the Best Damn Sports Show Period, or go out to Friendly’s, I could get into the gym and go to work. As any basketball player will tell you, the summer is when you improve. Ask Kobe. After winning his first championship, Shaq came into camp out of shape. Bryant came in ready to rev himself up, having shot 2,000 jump shots a day and literally, never taking a breath, never taking a moment off. Ask Dwyane Wade. Before his second season in the league, O’Neal was traded to Miami, and D-Wade knew expectations in South Beach were suddenly different. The following season, he came in stronger, with a better handle and a better jumper, and led Miami deep into the playoffs.
Of course, players can grow in-season. Ask Klay Thompson about his rookie year. I used to joke during his first few weeks in the league that DeAndre Jordan might make his first jumper of the year before the Golden State rookie did. During those openings weeks, he averaged three points a game. In April: 18.6.
Some of that is growth. Some of it is confidence and opportunity. But in order to take the next step as a player – which is to become an All-Star – you need all of that. With our recent cover story about John Wall and his fight with his own All-Star expectations, I figured now was a perfect time to highlight the 10 young players most likely to become All-Stars next season. With a little growth, a little more confidence and a lot more opportunity, some of the guys on this list might just do it.