Being a teenage, lottery draft pick in the NBA is difficult, to say the least. Juggling fans’ expectations and newfound responsibilities while trying to prove themselves to their NBA peers can be a lot. An injury can derail months of hard work and practice.
Some of these young stars have struggled to stay on the court, but we feel if they can stay on the court and build chemistry with teammates, big things can happen.
5. D’Angelo Russell And Jahlil Okafor
D’Angelo Russell and Jahlil Okafor, the No. 2 and 3 overall draft picks from the 2015 NBA draft, have a lot in common. Both young players have struggled with immaturity issues in their rookie seasons, have been written off by the teams that drafted them, and are getting fresh starts thanks to the Brooklyn Nets.
Russell, who was traded to Brooklyn in the offseason, has shown flashes of his potential. In 12 games prior to needing arthroscopic knee surgery in November, he averaged 20.9 points and 5.6 assists.
Jahlil Okafor has played sparingly ever since the Philadelphia 76ers decided Joel Embiid would be the future at the center position. It’s one of the reasons he was out of shape when he was traded to Brooklyn in December. In his first 13 games with Brooklyn, Okafor has never played more than 17 minutes. On January 27, Okafor had his best game, playing a season-high 24 minutes and scoring 24 points and grabbing six rebounds.
Hopefully, Russell and Okafor can find health and consistent minutes together while in Brooklyn, and make the franchises once depressing future bearable.
4. Lauri Markkanen And Kris Dunn
Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen have solidified themselves as the future point guard and power forward of the Chicago Bulls. Both were key reasons as to why the Bulls have recovered from their 3-20 start to the season.
Although it’s worth noting Zach Lavine could make the dynamic duo into a ‘Big Three,’ he’s still playing limited minutes since returning from his ACL injury.
Dunn, who was an afterthought in Minnesota, has played elite defense and shown clutch playmaking ability. He’s averaged 13.7 ppg, 6.4 apg, and 4.6 rpg, and is third in the league with 2.1 spg. After suffering a concussion on January 17, the Bulls have lost four of their last five without the young guard.
Lauri Markkanen has averaged 15.3 ppg and 7.7 rpg, while setting the record for fastest to 100 three-point field goal makes (41 games). It’s no wonder he’s currently in the crowded race for Rookie of the Year.
Dunn and Markkanen are both very inexperienced but could have the Bulls in the playoffs sooner rather than later.
3. Giannis Antetokounmpo And Jabari Parker
Giannis Antetokounmpo is having an MVP-caliber year with averages of 28.5 ppg, 10.2 rpg, and 4.9 apg. In his last three seasons, he’s never played less than 80 games, the model of consistency.
Jabari Parker, the No. 2 overall pick from the 2014 draft, has had less luck staying on the court. Coming off his second ACL tear, Parker is still arguably the second best player on the Milwaukee Bucks.
If Parker returns this year and can become the 20 (or more) point per game scorer he once was, the Bucks could have a dynasty on their hands.
2. Kyrie Irving And Gordon Hayward
The Kyrie Irving-Gordon Hayward era had no more than eight minutes under its’ belt before being put on hold for a season. Hayward’s injury, although scary, doesn’t have Boston fans worried though.
Irving’s stats don’t do him justice. His insane clutch has helped the Celtic’s number one ranked defense to the top of the Eastern Conference. When Hayward returns, whether it be this season or next, it’ll give Boston a much-needed offensive boost and championships are going to be expected.
1. Ben Simmons And Joel Embiid
Both Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid have had injury troubles in their past, but have not disappointed in what (hopefully) is going to their first full season together.
The always charismatic, trash-talk loving Embiid is an All-Star starter, putting up 23.6 ppg and 10.9 rpg. Ben Simmons is also impressive. With averages of 16.4 ppg, 8.0 rpg, and 7.4 apg, he’s currently in the lead for Rookie of the Year. The two stars have the Philadelphia 76ers in the eighth seed at 24-21.
Markelle Fultz, the No. 1 overall selection from the 2017 NBA draft isn’t being rushed from his shoulder rehab but isn’t too much of talking point with the two stars showcasing their insane talents. If Simmons and Embiid both stay for the long haul and remain healthy, Philadelphia could potentially, someday compete with Boston for Eastern Conference supremacy.