Skip to main content

10 young NBA players set to become stars

Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

This summer was filled with a whole host of All-Star players and future Hall of Famers changing teams. It’s going to lead to a completely different NBA landscape moving forward.

However, there are a ton of young NBA players set to reshape the Association. Here’s a look at 10 of them set to become stars.

Jaren Jackson Jr., forward, Memphis Grizzlies

Now that Mike Conley is in Utah and with Marc Gasol having already been moved, Jackson Jr. takes over the rebuilding Grizzlies. Still only 19 years old, the forward averaged 13.8 points and 4.7 rebounds on 51 percent shooting as a rookie last season. He has a solid mid-range game and can even step back form beyond the arc. That’s truly special for someone that stands at 6-foot-11. We’re expecting big things from the former No. 4 overall pick as a sophomore.

De’Aaron Fox, guard, Sacramento Kings

Fox already played like an All-Star for an improved Kings team last season. The former top-five pick averaged 17.3 points, 7.3 assists and 1.6 steals per game. He also shot at a 37 percent clip from distance. All of these numbers were improvements from his rookie season. with a sky-high trajectory and playing on a talented young team, there’s no reason to believe Fox won’t take the next step in 2019-20. In fact, an appearance in Chicago for the All-Star Game would not be surprising.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, guard, Oklahoma City Thunder

Dramatic changes are in store for Oklahoma City after it traded both Paul George and Russell Westbrook this summer. The team is now in full-scale rebuild mode with Gilgeous-Alexander acting as the most-important piece. The Los Angeles Clippers did not want to part with the youngster, but needed to in order to acquire Paul George. SGA, as he’s known, averaged 10.8 points and shot 37 percent from distance as a rookie. He’s now going to take that next step as a sophomore. It should be fun.

Lauri Markkanen, forward, Chicago Bulls

A lot of the focus in Chicago will be on Zach LaVine and Wendell Carter Jr. this coming season, but there’s an argument that can be made that Markkanen is the talented team’s best young player. The 7-foot foward has a unique skill set in that he can step out and hit it from the perimeter. As a sophomore, the Finn shot 36 percent from three-point range. He also averaged 18.7 points and 9.0 rebounds. Look for him to surpass the 23.0 points per game plateau with double-digit rebounds this season.

Luka Doncic, guard, Dallas Mavericks

Doncic might already be considered a star. But until he makes it to that mid-season exhibition game, we can’t classify him as such. Even then, the 20-year-old guard was absolutely dazzling as a rookie last season. He averaged 21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game. Those are significant numbers. Perhaps, one of the best rookie seasons in modern league history. Think Ben Simmons with an actual shot. That’s Doncic’s ceiling, and it’s going to make him one of the game’s biggest stars moving forward.

Trae Young, guard, Atlanta Hawks

Dominant. That’s the best way to describe the final couple months of Young’s rookie season. He averaged 19.8 points, 4.7 rebounds and 9.2 assists on 35 percent from three-point range over the past 26 games. It made the entire Luka Doncic draft-day trade look not as bad from Atlanta’s perspective. Now boasting one of the most-talented young teams in the Association, we’re expecting Young to take the next step as a sophomore. He’s going to be a legit star.

Jayson Tatum, forward, Boston Celtics

Boston better hope that Tatum does in fact turn into a star. It pushed back against trading him in separate deals for Anthony Davis and Kawhi Leonard over the past calendar year. That’s questionable, at best. However, the team’s confidence in Tatum does make sense. The 21-year-old forward averaged 15.7 points and 6.0 rebounds on 37 percent shooting from distance last season. Look for the Duke product to take the next step in 2019-20, averaging north of 20 points per game.

Zhaire Smith, guard, Philadelphia 76ers

We fully expect Smith to be Philadelphia’s top bench player as a sophomore this coming season. In doing so, he’s going to pack a tremendous punch for the championship contender’s second unit. The former first-round pick averaged just 6.7 points as a rookie. However, he showed out big time during the Summer League in Las Vegas and has the look of a rising star.

DeAndre Ayton, center, Phoenix Suns

It’s surprising that Ayton flew under the radar so much as a rookie. As the No. 1 pick, one might have expected him to be headliner. Probably due to Phoenix’ status as a bottom feeder, that never came to fruition. With that said, the center did average 16.3 points and 10.3 rebounds on 59 percent shooting from the field as a rookie. We’re expecting his ceiling to be near that of Karl-Anthony Towns. If so, he’s certainly going to be a star in the desert.

Zion Williamson, forward, New Orleans Pelicans

Let’s get this out of the way right now. Williamson will be an All-Star as a rookie. He might be the most-hyped first-year player since LeBron James. That’s not hyperbole. It’s the truth. And for good reason. This forward was absolutely dominant in his only season with Duke. His combination of physicality and athleticism can’t be taught. Williamson also packs a nice punch from distance and can play lethal defense. He’s the future face of the Association. Be prepared.