In today’s NBA, fans are obsessed with the future. Even when teams are built to win right now, fans always want their General Manager to keep the farm loaded and ready for the future. The best way to do that is to, somehow, acquire young superstars, whether it be through the draft, a trade, or free agency.
But who is the best young superstar to build your team around today?
To figure that out, we have constructed a bracket with sixteen of today’s young stars and will be voting on each matchup to see who will advance and be crowned the best young building block in the NBA today. To start, here are the rules for this bracket:
- Each matchup (1v16, 2v15, etc.) will be voted on by three writers for International Sports Hub, and the winner of each matchup will move on to the next round, just like in any normal bracket.
- Only players UNDER 25 are eligible. Players who are 25 and older are not. For example, even though James Harden is a great young building block, he is exactly 25 years old and therefore is not eligible for this contest.
- You will have an opportunity to cast your vote in the process and if the vote is overwhelming, then the player most voted for will be accredited one more vote.
That’s it! Now, for a list of the players and their seeds…
- Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
- John Wall, Washington Wizards
- DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings
- Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors
- Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
- Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
- Paul George, Indiana Pacers
- Gordon Hayward, Utah Jazz
- Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic
- Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets
- Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves
- Brandon Knight, Phoenix Suns
- Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
- Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
- Jrue Holiday, New Orleans Pelicans
- Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
In this article, we will be doing the top half of the bracket (Davis vs. Green, Hayward vs. Vucevic, Thompson vs. Leonard, and Lillard vs. Knight). Without further ado, here we go!
#1 Anthony Davis (New Orleans) vs. #16 Draymond Green (Golden State)
Davis- 23.9 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 1.7 APG, 2.7 BPG, 31.9 PER (Player Efficiency Rating, League Best)
Green- 11.0 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.6 BPG, 15.5 PER
Don’t get me wrong; Draymond Green is a great young player who had a good case to be an All-Star this year and could win the Defensive Player of the Year (I picked him to win the award over Davis a few weeks ago). Green even could receive a max contract extension this summer when he is a free agent, and any team would love to have him on their side.
With all of that said, this isn’t close. While Green is a great player, Anthony Davis is looking like he will be a transcendent player. When all is said and done, he could be mentioned in the same breath as Magic, Bird, Michael, Kobe, and LeBron. He obviously has a long way to go, but he is already a top 5 player in the league and still has worlds of potential. Davis wins this round pretty easily.
Ever since Anthony Davis’ high school growth spurt, he’s dominated every opponent which has challenged him. He was the centerpiece of his National Championship college team and jumped right into NBA stardom after one year. He has a combination of length and skill not matched by any other player in the league. The best part is that he is only 21 and still developing new moves, better handles, and sharper shooting. The pelicans are lucky to have him because he has potential to be an all time great; not to mention his signature unibrow, which is branding gold. Draymond Green is also a great NBA talent, with a very long career ahead of him, but not one like Davis’. He was an amazing college power forward, especially because he was overweight and undersized. Once he got to Golden State, he had a bit of a rough start, but he got into great shape and worked on his handle. He primarily plays 3 and 4, but in a pinch can play all 5 positions. His versatility should get him the nod for most improved player, which he truly deserves. I have no doubt that he can be a great player, and even an eventual All Star, but he’s no Anthony Davis. No one is.
While Davis and Green both have balanced stat sheets, their impact on the court varies greatly. Don’t let Draymond Green’s points per game fool you, he can score at a high rate. Teaming up with the “splash brothers,” Green isn’t regularly asked to shoot often. Davis on the other hand, hasn’t had the benefit of a great team around him. With that said, Davis has done an exceptional job in New Orleans and they’ve struggled more since Davis injured his shoulder. Overall Davis just cannot be challenged by Draymond Green in this arena.
VOTE: 3-0 Anthony Davis
#8 Gordon Hayward (Utah) vs. #9 Nikola Vucevic (Orlando)
Vucevic- 19.9 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 1.9 APG, 0.8 BPG, 22.3 PER
Hayward- 19.6 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 4.2 APG, 0.4 BPG, 20.3 PER
This is a really tough one. On one hand, Hayward is a very promising young guard, and this is a guard’s league today. He has great size for a two guard and can shoot the ball really well. Utah, while not a great team with him, would be horrible without him, and he is the key component of a very promising young nucleus including other players like Derrick Favors, Dante Exum, and Rudy Gobert.
Vucevic, on the other hand, is a center who has been having a fantastic season for the otherwise lousy Orlando Magic. Vucevic isn’t much of a defender, but is an incredible rebounder and low post scorer. You can absolutely center a successful NBA offense around Vucevic today with proper shooters and scorers around him. However, he is a big man in a guard-dominated league, and isn’t necessarily good enough to be a franchise-altering player.
In the end, in a very close decision, I’m going with Vucevic. He is more elite than Hayward compared to their respective positions, as Hayward is somewhat of a dime-a-dozen guard. They are similar situations as the best player on a young team with lots of potential, so we will see going forward who the right choice is. For now, though, I’m picking Vucevic.
Hayward and Vucevic are two great underrated up and comers in the league. Vucevic has ideal NBA big man size with a great jumper and a gift for grabbing any and every rebound. Gordon Hayward is your prototypical small forward; he has the athleticism, the handles, the height, the offensive ability, and the IQ. His big games during the NCAA tournament got him to this stage and he continues to play well, however Vucevic is more of a force. He has averaged a double-double three out of his four seasons in the league, and can go for 30 points any given night. Whether it’s from his mid range jumpers or his soft touch with his back to the basket, he has become one of the East’s better big men. That’s not to say that Hayward isn’t great, but he is still very replaceable.
There are about 10 other small forwards in the league that offer his skills or better. In Vucevic’s case, there is really no one else in the league that offers the same volume of rebounds and as consistent an offensive game.
In the end, I’m rolling with Vucevic.
On paper, Vucevic is far superior to Hayward. The seven-footer has shown great potential and is suprisingly unknown by the casual basketball fan. If paired with the right teammates, Vucevic could be unstoppable.Realizing the potential of Vuce, the Orlando Magic inked a 4 year, $54 million dollar contract with the Swiss beast.
Hayward made a name for himself by leading the unknown Butler Bulldogs to the NCAA National Championship Game against Duke in 2010. Despite being unsuccessful in beating the Blue Devils, Hayward was able to shine on the brightest stage. Four years since being drafted, Hayward was signed to a max contract with the Utah Jazz and has proved his worth.
Judging off the numbers, Vucevic is the way to go here.
VOTE: 3-0 Nikola Vucevic
#4 Klay Thompson (Golden State) vs. #13 Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio)
Kawhi Leonard- 14.8 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 2.5 APG, 2.1 SPG (Steals Per Game), 19.2 PER
Klay Thompson- 22.1 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 2.9 APG, 1.2 SPG, 20.9 PER
What an interesting matchup here. On one side is Thompson, already one of the best shooters in the NBA, and on the other is Leonard, a great young small forward who won an NBA Finals MVP in just his third season.
This is really tough. Thompson is the second best player on his team with the league’s best record and is half of the Splash Brothers, the best back court in the NBA bar none. He also has established himself as an elite offensive player all-around as evidenced by his 37 point quarter earlier this season. He also is an excellent defender, but usually doesn’t have to guard an opponent’s best player (that honor usually goes to Draymond Green).
Leonard, meanwhile, is an all-around small forward and is one of the two or three guys in the league who can guard the likes of LeBron James and Kevin Durant. The Spurs suffered immensely when he was out with a hand injury earlier this year, and he has been playing some good basketball since returning.
In the end, I’m picking the upset and going with Leonard. For my money, Leonard does more than Thompson and has more room to grow and improve. If the best organization in the NBA is building their team around Leonard for the future, he has my stamp of approval.
Both Klay Thompson and Kawhi Leonard have done some amazing things in their few season in the NBA.
Thompson holds the NBA record for points in a quarter, with 37, and Leonard already has a finals MVP under his belt. If this were last season, I would’ve voted in favor of Leonard, because he is a great small forward, who can do a little bit of everything. However, this season has been Thompson’s welcoming to the league. The “Splash Bros” used to be very one sided; Steph Curry was Mario and Klay was definitely Luigi, but now I’m not so sure.
Thompson can score from anywhere on the court, and at times, can be even more lethal than his partner in crime. He has perfect swingman height, at 6’7″ and has become one of the better back court defenders in the league. Leonard might be the better defender out of the two, but I don’t know if there is any player in the league that can be considered a better scorer 100% of the time. Harden, Curry, Westbrook, and Anthony all might be bigger names right now, but don’t really have a skill that Thompson doesn’t have. Harden takes too much of the team’s burden, Curry can have some very off nights, Westbrook can be selfish, and Anthony can be VERY selfish. Klay Thompson is like the porridge that’s just right, not to hot and not too cold, and the perfect star of a team.
While Kawhi Leonard is lower ranked on our list, the 23 year old is a proven winner and the reigning Finals MVP. In 2014, he shined with the Spurs and made the Miami Heat look like amateurs. He is one of the few players in professional basketball who can rebound like a big, but play like a guard. Don’t get me wrong, Klay Thompson is a fantastic shooter. As a member of the Splash Brothers, Thompson can make it rain from any spot on the floor. I see many similarities between Thompson and Carmelo Anthony in this respect. Both of which are exceptional shooters, but will leave you empty-handed in other aspects of the game.
I too am rolling with the upset and picking the former Finals MVP.
VOTE: UPSET, 2-1 Kawhi Leonard
#5 Damian Lillard (Portland) vs. #12 Brandon Knight (Phoenix)
Damian Lillard- 21.2 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 6.2 APG, 21.2 PER
Brandon Knight- 17.7 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 5.3 APG, 17.9 PER
Two young point guards square off in this match up between Damian Lillard and Brandon Knight. Lillard is a great young point guard for the Portland Trail Blazers and has already developed a reputation for being one of the most clutch players in the league.
Knight, meanwhile, was a solid-but-not-spectacular guard for the first three seasons of his career, before turning in a fantastic season with Milwaukee this year, even getting some All-Star consideration. However, he was shockingly dealt to Phoenix at the trade deadline, who picked him up to help replace the loss of both Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas.
Overall, this is a relatively easy choice. Knight has had a nice career thus far and will be a really good NBA player, but Lillard has already proven he can be a franchise centerpiece. He will continue to get better as well, and that’s why he’s moving on for me.
Damian Lillard has been in the league for two years now and has already made himself the clutchest player currently playing. He went from a no-name draft pick to a star very quickly. He has Westbrook athleticism, Paul shooting, Wall handling, and Irving flair. Not to say that he’s that much better than those players, but he is an amazing talent.
He is also a great leader who already commands his team, even with another star in the lineup, Lamarcus Aldridge. Brandon Knight had an opposite start to Lillard. He came from the super hot Kentucky team, who somehow made it all the way to the NCAA finals, but lost to Kemba Walker and the UCONN huskies. This momentum, however, did not follow him into his rookie season. It really took him until last year on the Bucks to get his feet under him and look like the dominant scorer and point guard we saw in college. He now has a chance to take control of the Phoenix offense, and show us if he can actually be a star or not. Even so, Lillard already has all the accolades which Knight is still trying to find.
After being one of the most hyped high school players of the 2000s, Brandon Knight’s NBA career has been solid but disappointing. After hitting so many clutch shots at Kentucky, his ceiling for the NBA was sky high. Yet, After four solid years at Weber State, Dame Lillard had become a dark horse prospect. The talent was there, yet nobody knew if it was a result of playing against weak opposition. Damien Lillard has become one of the best floor generals in the NBA. Still only 24 years old, the Oakland native has nothing but a bright future ahead of him. On the other hand, Knight may have reached his ceiling.
VOTE: 3-0 Damian Lillard
So there we have it. Damian Lillard and Anthony Davis advance in their heavily favored matchups, Nikola Vucevic sneaks by in the 8-9 upset, and Kawhi Leonard takes a huge 4-13 upset over Splash Bro. Klay Thompson.
Check back next week for the next four matchups!
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