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Who is the Best NBA Player Under 25 to Build Your Team Around? | Round 1 Part 2

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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…

Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 10.53.10 PM

    1. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
    2. John Wall, Washington Wizards
    3. DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings
    4. Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors
    5. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
    6. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
    7. Paul George, Indiana Pacers
    8. Gordon Hayward, Utah Jazz
    9. Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic
    10. Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets
    11. Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves
    12. Brandon Knight, Phoenix Suns
    13. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
    14. Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
    15. Jrue Holiday, New Orleans Pelicans
    16. Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors

Part two of the first round! Last week, Anthony Davis, Nikola Vucevic, Kawhi Leonard, and Damian Lillard all advanced in the upper half of the bracket for the best player under 25 to build your team around (you can read that, plus rules for the voting, here).

Now, here is the bottom half of the first bracket with this week’s matchups: #2 John Wall vs. #15 Jrue Holiday, #7 Paul George vs. #10 Kemba Walker, #3 DeMarcus Cousins vs. #14 Andre Drummond, and #6 Kyrie Irving vs. #11 Andrew Wiggins, broken down by three of ISH’s NBA analysts – David Rosenthal, Mike Anders, and Korey Burdman. Here we go!

 

#2 John Wall (Washington) vs. #15 Jrue Holiday (New Orleans) – Burdman

Via kentuckysportsradio.com
Via kentuckysportsradio.com

Jrue Holiday- 16.2 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 7.6 APG, 18.7 PER

John Wall- 17.0 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 10.1 APG, 19.9 PER

Jrue Holiday and John Wall are two young point guards that are really exciting players in the NBA. Holiday was a dynamo in Philadelphia, and was traded to New Orleans when Sam Hinkie took over and decided to tear the Sixers down to nothing. Since being traded, he has been good, but has not necessarily been on the path to being the elite player many thought he could be. This is partially because he has been overshadowed by Anthony Davis, and partially because he just hasn’t been as good as he was in Philly.

Wall, meanwhile, is one of the most electric players in the league and leads a Wizards team that, while struggling currently, still has a lot of talent on the roster to be able to make a strong playoff push if they receive favorable matchups. Wall has improved every year since entering the league, and while he still has some weaknesses (his shooting being the most noteworthy), his strengths make up for them.

In the end, the winner here is easily Wall. Holiday is a nice young player, but not a franchise centerpiece by any means. Wall is, and he should only continue to improve as he gets older and matures. If he can develop his jump shot to respectable levels, he could be the class of NBA point guards in five years.

Rosenthal

J0hn Wall and Jrue Holiday are both very talented player. Up until the past 3 seasons, I wouldn’t really know which one to choose. Both were great college players, and very talented and promising young NBA guards. However, John Wall has put himself on another level.

He is arguably the quickest player in the league and maybe its best finisher as well. He has consistently improved his jumper every season, and now has an almost serviceable 3 pointer. He is a true floor general, who passes even better than he scores. The attention a defense needs to give him gets the rest of his team to be more open, and more able to score. Jrue Holiday is also a good player, but it seems like he fell of his path to the top when he was traded to New Orleans. He will have a great and long NBA career, but he doesn’t really make his teammates any better, and is not the same level distributor that Wall is.

 

Anders

Similar to Brandon Knight of last week’s article, Jrue Holiday has struggled to live up to the hype for which he was given as a teenager. Holiday was the second best player in the 2008 recruiting class. As a 6’3″ combo guard, Holiday to provided an all-around game which resembled that of UCLA counterpart, Russell Westbrook. After a lack-luster season at UCLA, Holiday was drafted by Philadelphia in 2009. Holiday developed nicely during his time in Philly, but I’ve been disappointed with his production since being traded to New Orleans. During his time with the Pelicans, Holiday’s scoring, assists, and rebounding have all declined. Holiday this season has been plagued by a stress fracture in his right leg.

John Wall seems to have discovered the perfect balance between electrifying play and precision passing. While still unable to shoot from long range, Wall has improved his mid-range shooting and ability to attack the paint. In the 2014-2015 season, Wall is shooting the most accurate field goal percentage of his young career.  Coming to the league, Wall was a showtime player. My opinion was that Wall was too flashy to develop as a solid point guard, but I was completely wrong.

While the statistics of Wall and Holiday are fairly similar, John Wall performs Jrue Holiday in nearly every aspect except for long-range shooting. With that said, John Wall is an easy choice.

 

Vote: 3-0 Wall

#7 Paul George (Indiana) vs. #10 Kemba Walker (Charlotte) – Burdman

Photo via slumz.boxden.com
Photo via slumz.boxden.com

Kemba Walker – 16.5 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 5.4 APG, 17.4 PER

Paul George (2014 Season)- 21.7 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 3.5 APG, 20.1 PER

Interesting matchup here. Both George and Walker are currently injured; George obviously had his gruesome leg injury in the Team USA Olympic Scrimmage, and Walker is recovering from knee surgery.

Before his injury, George was well on his way to being one of the NBA’s elite players. He was a 6’10” wing who was a terror on the defensive end and a fantastic scorer. His shot was greatly improved from early in his career as well. Not only that, but he proved he could lead a playoff team, leading the Pacers to two consecutive Eastern Conference Finals appearances (losing to Miami in both). If he can return to his original form when he’s back on the court, he can be one of the top players in the league.

Walker, meanwhile, was not the same elite scorer early in his career that he was at UConn. However, he has developed nicely and is the most important player on a playoff contender in Charlotte. He is a bit undersized, but he is a fantastic scorer as well and is a very good point guard in today’s NBA.

In the end, I’m going with George. The only risk here is the potential for a substantial drop off after he returns from injury. If George can become the same player he was before the injury, he could be the best player on this list. I fully expect George will not show ill-effects, and return to the terror that he was before. Because of that, George moves on for me.

Rosenthal

Kemba Walker is a very overlooked player. The Charlotte Hornets might not get much coverage or recognition, but they play some decent basketball. Kemba walker is a floor general, who almost single-handedly won UCONN the NCAA tournament. His biggest struggle has always been his small size, but it’s also his motivation to continue to improve. He is one of the league’s best scoring guards, but does not have the same ceiling as Paul George.

Before his gruesome injury, George was kicking ass and taking names. He led the Pacers to the 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, played in his second All-Star game, and was selected to represent his country for Team USA. As a 6’8″ swing man, you can’t ask for much more, because he has a beautiful shot, unmatched athleticism, great handling, stifling defense,  and that swagger necessary to lead in the NBA. He just has more of a wow factor than Walker.

Anders

If you had asked this question a year ago, Paul George would be the obvious choice. Being the face of the best team, George was expected to be among the NBA’s elite. Well… that belief lost steam quickly as George broke his leg in a Team USA scrimmage in the summer. I don’t think we’ll ever see the same Paul George. His athleticism won’t be replicated and he will be unable to replicate his confidence when going for rebounds or diving out of bounds.

Coming into the 2011 college basketball season, nobody believed that University of Connecticut was able to contend with the top teams in the country. Kemba Walker and co. came out of nowhere, shocking the basketball world and winning the NCAA title. He was drafted by the Charlotte Bobcats in 2011 due to his excellent production. His career in the NBA has been solid. It hasn’t been mind-blowing, but it is far from bad. He provides a balanced attack. His good size allows him to play lock-down defense and grab rebounds. I love his quick feet and handles, this is what separates him from most.

Due to declining health, I think Paul George will eventually be chalked up as a “What If.” For this reason, I select “Cardiac Kemba” for the next round.

Vote: 2-1 Paul George

 

 

#3 DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento) vs. #14 Andre Drummond (Detroit) – Burdman

Photo via Kings official Facebook page
Photo via Kings official Facebook page

Andre Drummond- 12.9 PPG, 13.1 RPG, 1.8 BPG, 20.1 PER

DeMarcus Cousins- 23.6 PPG, 12.1 RPG, 1.7 BPG, 24.6 PER

A face-off between two of the brightest young centers in the NBA here. Cousins and Drummond have some similarities but also have some vast differences.

Cousins is probably the most skilled center to play in the NBA in a long time. He can handle the ball, score from anywhere inside the arc (and even hit some threes sometimes, a scary thought for the rest of the league), distribute, rebound, and defend. He can do it all. The only weakness in his game is that his field goal percentage is a bit lower than one would hope for a center, but given the volume and types of shots he takes, this is excusable. The biggest issue preventing him from taking the next step is his attitude: he has been immature and volatile, and while this is improving, it is absolutely a concern. Playing for a bad franchise in Sacramento doesn’t help this situation much.

Drummond, meanwhile, is a physical specimen unlike any other in the league today. He probably is the most dominant low-post player the league has seen since Shaquille O’Neal. He grabs every rebound in his vicinity and bullies defenders to finish shots at the rim, where he converts at a high rate. He also is a good defender. Unfortunately, his Achilles heel is a major issue: he can’t shoot free throws. He is shooting just 39% from the line this season and it makes hacking him a very viable strategy, making him unplayable at some points.

While both are very good centers, I’m going with Cousins here. While both have had one major flaw plague them in the NBA, Cousins at least has shown improvement in that area while Drummond has not. Also, Cousins brings more to the table, therefore making him easier to build around. Drummond is a great young center, but Cousins may be the best in the league. He’s the pick here.

Rosenthal

DeMarcus Cousins and Andre Drummond are two of the most tantalizing players in the league. Cousins has all the natural ability to become an NBA great, and Drummond has unreal athleticism and size. The difference between the two players is that Drummond has continued to trend upward through his short career, while Cousins is very wishy washy. He could have stretch of magnificence for months at a time, followed up by complete averageness. His biggest problem is that he is entitled. He never had to face adversity in his career and because of that, he doesn’t have the same mentality of true star, like Harden, James, or Durant. Andre Drummond has been in the NBA for only two seasons, but he is already turning heads because of his defense and rebounding.

He might never get the offense of Cousins, but he is very willing to improve, and be a perennial All-Star. He reminds me of Dwight Howard back when he was playing his best basketball in Orlando, and might even be better on the backboards. I think Drummond wins, purely because of his willingness to improve and to become great.

Anders

Andre Drummond is midway through his third season, played a year at University of Connecticut and is still only 21 years old. Still learning how to play in the NBA, Drummond is a rock-solid centerpiece on both offense and defense. In his two previous seasons with the Pistons, Drummond leads the league in offensive rebounding. Extra possessions created by Drummond leads to easy chances for his teammates.

DeMarcus Cousins has become a dominant center with Sacramento. Coming out of Kentucky, I believed that he would not be able to continue his production and development without John Wall. Similar to my prediction of Wall, I was wrong to think that Cousins would be a bust. He has been brilliant. While his shooting percentage is down in 2014-2015, he has been able dominate the well-deserved double teams. Defensively, I’m not so sure about DeMarcus. He isn’t the most mobile or agile. But his ability to bang in the paint is very valuable.

While DeMarcus Cousins provides better TV and marketing value, Drummond gives constant effort and would put teams in a far better position than Boogie. I pick Andre Drummond with the upset over Demarcus Cousins.

 

Vote: UPSET, Andre Drummond wins 2-1

#6 Kyrie Irving (Cleveland) vs. #11 Andrew Wiggins (Minnesota) – Burdman

Kyrie Irving – 21.4 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 5.2 APG, 20.9 PER

Andrew Wiggins- 15.9 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 1.9 APG, 13.4 PER

Photo via www.midwestsportsfans.com
Photo via http://www.midwestsportsfans.com

This is torturous to pick. Irving vs. Wiggins is absolutely the hardest matchup to pick in the first round for me.

Irving is already one of the top 5 point guards in the league and has already exceeded the lofty expectations he had coming out of college. He is a fascinating player because he can shoot, and is probably the best ball-handler and finisher at the rim the league has to offer. Also, he has worked on the weaknesses that analysts killed him for last year, improving his defense and efficiency. It remains to be seen whether he can be the best player on a playoff team, and as long as LeBron James is in town, we won’t find out.

Speaking of LeBron, Wiggins was heralded as the best draft prospect since LeBron in 2003. They would both be drafted by the same team (Cleveland), but Wiggins was traded to Minnesota for Kevin Love. In Minnesota, Wiggins has impressed. He has been incredibly assertive and aggressive, the lack of which being the biggest knock on him coming out of Kansas. In his prime, he could be a player who scores 28 a night while locking up the best player on the other team.

In the end, while this is as close as can possibly be, I am going with Wiggins, due to positional scarcity as the deciding factor. Irving is a better player now, but his athleticism limits him (at least compared to Wiggins’ limitless athletic abilities). Wiggins has more potential and plays at a position where it would be harder to get another superstar down the road. This is as close as can be, but Wiggins moves on here.

Rosenthal

This Match-up hurts me.

I love both these players and think that both are game changers. Irving has been balling out since his first day in the NBA, and now that he and Lebron are partners in crime, the NBA needs to watch out. Wiggins is the second Canadian basketball player to actually matter. He has the athleticism, height, brain, shot, and will to become a great shooting guard and hopefully an All-NBA performer.

People wondered if Irving would be able to be number 2 in Cleveland, and his stats haven’t dropped at all. He has a magical handle and amazing point skills. He is one of those players that makes basketball look easy. I have not seen that in Wiggins yet, and even with his production, he is still working for it. Irving gets his points and assists almost effortlessly, and that trait is a priceless commodity for a team.

Anders

Being born in foreign countries, the highest rated high school talent and being selected first by the Cleveland Cavaliers, Andrew Wiggins and Kyrie Irving have followed similar paths to stardom. Despite being teammates at one point, Wiggins was involved in the trade for Kevin Love. Whether that trade was smart or not remains to be seen, but I believed the Cavaliers gave away a gem of a prospect.

Life in Minnesota has been good for Wiggins. His numbers aren’t mind blowing, but they are good for a rookie wing. He isn’t always a consistent scorer, but displays solid defense and superior athleticism every night. The biggest difference in Wiggins season was made on this year’s trade deadline. Bringing Kevin Garnett back to the T-Wolves will help Wiggins develop as an athlete on the court and a better man off the court.

In his first three seasons, Kyrie Irving was the face of Cleveland’s franchise. Signing Lebron James and Kevin Love removed Kyrie’s need to carry the Cavaliers. With Dion Waiters no longer in Cleveland, there has been far less drama in Cleveland.

At still only 22 years old, Kyrie has a lot more room to develop. Learning from KG will help Wiggins tremendously in the future, but I would take Irving in this round.

Vote: 2-1 Kyrie Irving

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