12 NBA Young Guns To Watch (If There’s A Season)

By: 11.10.11  •  28 Comments
Graphic: Dimplez

As the NBA lockout passes its 25th hour, TSS faithful (writers and loyal visitors alike) continue to hold a candlelight vigil outside league offices every night. We refuse to believe the owners and players can f*ck this up to the point an entire season is cancelled. So you know what we did? We write as if there will be one.

Talking about the usual suspects is great, but can get monotonous after awhile. This logic is the exact reason we’ve decided to highlight some of the up-and-coming talents the league will have to offer whenever they decide to re-open for business. The Crew’s sports fanatics – S. Cadet, Ben Lampin and J. Tinsley – gathered 12 players all within their first three seasons in the league and provided a breakdown.

Read. Let it marinate. Offer your feedback, but most of all, pray.

Page 2

Player: Jeff Teague
Team: Atlanta Hawks
Year: Third

Cadet wrote a dope piece about this very topic this summer, but the question still remains. Has Atlanta finally found the point guard that can lead them to the Eastern Conference’s upper class? Teague’s impressive showing against the Bulls in the East semis last year – at times going dribble for dribble with MVP Derrick Rose – have Hawks faithful sitting impatiently. Pending Teague can continue the good will from his 2011 postseason, Atlanta may finally be an imposing foe come spring time as opposed to the “free pass to the next round” stereotype they’ve been defined by in recent years. — J. Tinsley

Page 3

Player: Kemba Walker
Team: Charlotte Bobcats
Year: Rookie

Young Kemba put a precarious UConn squad on his back all the way to the NCAA Tournament chip. Now the emergent player may take a more traditional role at the point under Michael Jordan’s watchful eye. Walker’s a talented iso player with a decent J off the dribble. But the score first combo guard doesn’t have much to offer as a court general out the gate. The NBA’s a point guard’s league now and growing pains at the position are tough to bear: word to Russell Westbrook. It’ll be interesting to see if Kemba can adapt under the league’s bright lights. — S. Cadet

Page 4

Player: Landry Fields
Team: New York Knicks
Year: Second

Landry Fields, for most of the 2010-11 season, was a revelation. Athletic, smart, hard-nosed, the man did all the little things on the court for the Knicks. His shooting touch helped spread the floor and open up space for Amar’e. His surprising rebounding ability helped out the team’s undersized front line. He played solid defense, on a team with few guys who did.

But, throughout the second half of the season – especially in the playoffs – he fell off. He rarely looked in sync on the floor. His shot deserted him. He seemed exhausted. As a Knick fan, man, it was heartbreaking. Hopefully, in the 2011 season, Landry Fields can take a step forward, and become one of the impact players the Knicks need to become a force in the East. — Ben Lampin

Page 5

Player: Tyreke Evans
Team: Sacremento Kings
Year: Third

Injuries somewhat played an issue for the 2009-2010 Rookie Of The Year. Still, Tyreke Evans is one of the most gifted players in the league and with a young, quirky and unique cast of characters being assembled in Sacramento around him, his third season could (and that’s the keyword here) be his breakout year. Playing in such a small market West Coast team – which hasn’t been on the national radar since the early 2000’s – is what hinders the casual basketball fan to truly appreciate Evans’ skill set. That being said, all it takes is one breakout year. He has 25-5-5 potential written all over him. — J. Tinsley

Page 6

Player: Derrick Williams
Team: Minnesota Timberwolves
Year: Rookie

Look, I really want to see this Rubio-Williams-Love trio work even though it is admittedly confusing as hell to see how it will. But is D-Will the rare talent he bills himself as or the merely second coming of Michael Beasley, who happens to be his teammate? Of all the rookies, Derrick is the one I’ll be checking for the most because his skill set says he’s supposed to be physical monster. His Sweet 16 field day versus Duke serves as precedence. For the sake of everyone involved, however, let’s all pray Williams turns out to be more Charles Barkley than Derrick Coleman. — J. Tinsley

Page 7

Player: Brandon Jennings
Team: Milwaukee Bucks
Year: Third

Brandon Jennings said “it’s time to become an All-Star” this summer. Does the streaky not-quite point guard really have it in him to break through? The overwhelming talent at the 1 makes his chance to succeed super slim. Consistency has eluded sir Jennings, and if he’s intent on playing at the next level, he’ll need to find some kind of hard-nosed resolve to remedy his game. Hey, anything can happen and we definitely want to see a high top fade among the crowd of dark caesars and bald heads on the All-Star lineup. At any rate, let’s hope Jennings didn’t put too much on his plate in eyeing such a lofty goal. — S. Cadet

Page 8

Player: James Harden
Team: Oklahoma City Thunder
Year: Third

Harden quickly became one of the deadliest threats off the bench throughout the league. Second teams feared the beard/road warrior combo from Jeff Green’s departure all the way to the Western Conference Finals. The only thing keeping him from starting, however, is his unimpressive defense. The never ending off-season continues to give him plenty of time to work on that aspect of his game. I wonder if he made good with the extra time off? After all, He’s far too talented to let the likes of Thabo Sefolosha get first string. — S. Cadet

Page 9

Player: Blake Griffin
Team: Los Angeles Clippers
Year: Second

Blake Griffin is other-worldly. He’s part of that special group of NBA players – the kind who are so athletic, they’re a whole class above the merely “incredibly athletic” guys in the League. Last year, night-in-and-night-out, he made plays you absolutely had to watch the next day. And, beyond the phenomenon, he was a really good basketball player. He posted 22.5 points, 12.1 rebounds, and 3.8 assists a game. He was the first rookie to be named to the All-Star team since 2003, when Yao Ming made the first of his yearly appearances.

And, just as an added bonus, he’s an incredible passer – his assist total was second in the league among big men. The man’s absurd. Missing a season of Blake Griffin would be a tragedy. — Ben Lampin

Page 10

Player: Lance Stephenson
Team: Indiana Pacers
Year: Second

If physical abilities were the only requirement to be a great player in the NBA, the word “bust” wouldn’t be apart of our vocabulary. However, having the right mental approach is a huge factor in determining the success of a player and in this case we’re talking about Lance Stephenson. The second year man from Brooklyn has all the physical attributes in the world. Now the question centers around can he develop the correct mental approach to the game. Hopefully, last season’s demotion presses all the right buttons. There’s a nice nucleus of talent in Indy and ideally Lance would be one of the players the Pacers invest in to advance past the second round. — J. Tinsley

Page 11

Player: Kyrie Irving
Team: Cleveland Cavaliers
Year: Rookie

Honestly, even as he was being hyped up as the consensus number one pick in last year’s draft, Kyrie Irving never really captured my imagination as a player. First off, I hadn’t seen him play in college, really, because he missed most of the season with a foot injury. Even when he was healthy, he seemed a step slower, a bit more average, than the hyper-quick, hyper-athletic point guards who’ve shown up in the past few years.

But then, these long, cold lockout-cursed months left me fiending for all things NBA. So, I decided to take a closer look at Kyrie Irving. And I see it now. He’s sneakily athletic – the way he gets off the floor reminds of Brandon Jennings. He’s got great handles, of course, and he’s solidly built. So, we’ll see. I’m hoping he’s great, if only for Cleveland’s sake. — Ben Lampin

Page 12

Player: Enes Kanter
Team: Utah Jazz
Year: Rookie

Enes Kanter’s a bit of a mystery. He was ruled ineligible by the NCAA last year – preventing him from joining Brandon Knight at Kentucky – so he hasn’t played organized ball in almost two years. He’s big though – 6’11,” 259, with 5.9 percent body fat according to DraftExpress. He’s got some post moves too, and has a soft touch from outside. Plus, he won’t have to do it all right away. Instead, he can spend the year learning from Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap on the Jazz. — Ben Lampin

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