With many of the NBA's best players not getting any younger, it's time for the new generation of players to step up and take over the game. Kobe Bryant announced his retirement prior to this season at the age of 38. Bryant is one of the best players in NBA history and now has decided to hang it up after 20 seasons. Bryant will finish his career as a five-time NBA Champion, two-time NBA Finals MVP, NBA MVP, 18-time All-Star, four-time All-Star game MVP, selected to 15 All-NBA teams, 12 All-Defensive teams, and a 2-time Olympic Gold Medalist. Bryant's resume will be a hard one to follow, which makes him one of the best, but there are current players that can take over games like Bryant did.
Tim Duncan is one of the oldest players in the league at age 39 and will be retiring soon as well. Duncan is a five-time NBA Champion, three-time NBA Finals MVP, two-time NBA MVP, 15-time All-Star, selected to 15 All-NBA teams and 15 All-Defensive teams. Duncan is arguably the best power forward to lace up a pair of basketball shoes and has left his mark on the game as well.
Although Bryant and Duncan are two of the best players in NBA history, there are current players who are having the same impact on the game that they did. Current MVP Stephen Curry is already being declared as the best shooter in history at the age of 28. Kevin Durant is being named one of the best shooters and small forwards in history at the age of 27. These are some of the young and upcoming superstars in the NBA.
In the past five years, there are some players that have made a name for themselves already. When a team is giving a top three pick in the draft, they draft a player that they expect to make an immediate impact on their respective teams. In the past five NBA drafts, some teams made the right decisions with their picks and others not so much.
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15 Joel Embiid: Third Overall - Philadelphia 76ers (2014)
In college, Joel Embiid drew comparisons to the great Hakeem Olajuwon because of the combination of his post game and defense, which is why he was drafted so high despite being injured at the time of the draft. Nobody has gotten to see how Embiid will fair in the NBA because he has not played in a single game to date. His rookie season, Embiid had surgery on a broken navicular bone in his right foot, which forced him out for the season. After his rookie season, Embiid had a setback and had to have more surgeries on his right foot, which caused him to miss this current season as well.
In his single season at Kansas University, Embiid averaged 11.2 ppg, 8.1 rpg, and 2.6 bpg for the Jayhawks. Fans will have to wait to see if Embiid lives up to the hype he had coming out of college. Hopefully Embiid will play in his first NBA game sooner than later.
14 Anthony Bennett: First Overall - Cleveland Cavaliers (2013)
When the Cleveland Cavaliers drafted Anthony Bennett with the first overall pick in 2014, many were shocked and surprised. Until this day, many feel the same way. In just three seasons, Bennett has played with three different teams and is current playing with the Toronto Raptors D-League team. Bennett has a career average of 4.2 ppg and 3.1 rpg, which is not even close to the statistics of a number one overall pick. In a total of 128 NBA games, Bennett has only started in three. Instead of helping the Cavs, Bennett is one of the biggest draft busts in NBA history.
13 Otto Porter: Third Overall - Washington Wizards (2013)
In the 2015 playoffs, Otto Porter broke out and =inally showed some potential after a terrible first two seasons in the league. Porter averaged 10 ppg and 8 rpg in 10 playoff games off the bench. His breakout performance earned Porter a starting role this season after the departure of Paul Pierce. This season Porter is putting up the best numbers of his career. This is a big improvement from Porter's first two seasons, in which he only started in 13 games out of 111 games. Wizards fans were starting to doubt Porter until his playoff performance reassured them a little..
12 Derrick Williams: Second Overall - Minnesota Timberwolves (2011)
In five seasons, Derrick Williams is already with his third team. Williams had his best season with the Timberwolves, averaging 12 ppg and 5.5 rpg, which are both career highs, in 56 starts. Williams is now considered a role player and does not start, unless a player has sustained an injury. Williams is having a decent first season with the New York Knicks, but many expected more form Williams out of Arizona State, where he averaged 17.8 ppg, 7.7. rpg and shot 58.6% in two seasons at Arizona. Williams has a nice offensive game, but needs some major improvement on defense.
11 Michael Kidd-Gilchrist: Second Overall - Charlotte Bobcats (2013)
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is a great role player, but has a history of being injured. In just four seasons, he has not played in a full year. During the 2104-15 season, Kidd-Gilchrist missed some time due to a stress reaction in his right foot. During the 2015 preseason, he suffered a separated right shoulder in a game against the Orlando Magic and was originally announced out for the entire 2015-16 season. However, Kidd-Gilchrist came back way earlier than expected and played seven games before he had a torn labrum that required surgery, making him miss the rest of the current season. Before his injury this season, he was averaging a career best of 12.7 ppg. So far in his career, Kidd-Gilchrist has a career average of 9.1 ppg and 6.1 rpg.
10 D'Angelo Russell: Second Overall - Los Angeles Lakers (2015)
D'Angelo Russell is having a nice rookie season with the Los Angeles Lakers, averaging some solid numbers. At the beginning of the season, Russell was coming off the bench but now he has entered the starting lineup and has taken full advantage of the opportunity. Although he is rookie, Russell has showed signs that he can compete in this league. In a game against the Brooklyn Nets on March 1, Russell scored a career high 39 points in 35 minutes. With Kobe Bryant gone next season, Russell should have a breakout year... if he doesn't completely alienate himself from his teammates.
9 Enes Kanter: Third Overall - Utah Jazz (2011)
When Enes Kanter arrived in Oklahoma City to play with the Thunder, he displayed his talents to the world. Kanter averaged 18.7 ppg in 26 games at the end of the 2014-15 season. The Thunder had a whole team of injuries last season causing them to trade for Kanter right before the trade deadline last season. This season Kanter is a top sixth man off the bench, averaging respectable numbers for the Thunder.
8 Jabari Parker: Second Overall - Milwaukee Bucks (2014)
After only 25 games last season, Jabari Parker tore his ACL in December and missed the rest of the season. Prior to his injury, Parker averaged 12.3 ppg and 5.5 rpg. This season, Parker has come back with a vengeance and is finally looking like his old self after a slow start earlier in the season. He has started in the majority of his games and has played PF as opposed to playing SF last season. Hopefully this injury won't stop Parker form showing his full potential, as injuries like this tend to do.
7 Bradley Beal: Third Overall - Washington Wizards (2012)
The Washington Wizards have one of the best backcourts in the NBA with John Wall and Bradley Beal. Beal is considered one of the best two guards in the NBA, but many people never get to see him display his talents because he is always hurt. In four seasons, Beal has never played a full regular season. This season Beal has already missed 25 games due to a lower right leg injury and a shoulder injury. Despite that, Beal is averaging a career high in points. Beal is entering a contract year this offseason and will be a free agent. Beal has a playoff career average of 21.2 ppg, showing he can step up when needed.
6 Victor Oladipo: Second Overall - Orlando Magic (2013)
At Indiana University, Victor Oldaipo drew comparisons to Michael Jordan with his playing style. He may not be as good as Jordan, but he has a similar game. In three seasons, Oladipo has a career average of 15.8 ppg while shooting 43.1% from the field. Oladipo can play both sides of the ball and should definitely be in the best shooting guards of the league conversation. On March 18th of this season, Oladipo dropped a career high 45 points against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
5 Jahlil Okafor: Third Overall - Philadelphia 76ers (2015)
Despite his off the court troubles, Jahlil Okafor is having a great rookie season for the terrible Philadelphia 76ers. Okafor averaged 17.5 ppg, 7 rpg, and 1.2 bpg in 53 games for his rookie season. Okafor was announced out for the season after 53 games for a small tear of the meniscus in his right knee. Okafor has a bright future as a big man in this league as he can play both sides of the ball. The 76ers were the worst team in the league this season, but Okafor was a bright spot for them.
4 Andrew Wiggins: First Overall - Cleveland Cavaliers (2014)
After being selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers first overall, Andrew Wiggins never got to play for them as he was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Love and others. After winning the Rookie of the Year and being named the Rising Stars Challenge MVP last season for this rookie campaign, Wiggins' sophomore year is looking even better. The Timberwolves have great talents but most of them are young. With players such as Wiggins, Zach Lavine, Ricky Rubio, and rookie Karl Anthony Towns, they will be a serious problems for opponents in the future.
3 Karl Anthony-Towns: First Overall - Minnesota Timberwolves (2015)
In the 2015 draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves had the first pick and they had a decsion to make between selecting big man Jahlil Okafor or Karl Anthony-Towns. The Timberwolves went with Towns, which is a choice they do not regret. This season, Towns is leading the race for Rookie of the Year. Towns is solid on offense and defense and was a great add for the Timberwolves. Towns with the help of other young players on this team, can eventually lead them to the playoffs.
2 Kyrie Irving: First Overall - Cleveland Cavaliers (2011)
Kyrie Irving has arguably the best handles in the NBA. Although he is criticized for his lack of defense, Irving is one of the best offensive players in the league. In five seasons, Irving has a career average of 20.8 ppg on 45.3% shooting from the field. Irving is a three-time All-Star, the 2014 NBA All-Star game MVP, made the All-NBA team in 2015, was named Rookie of the Year, and the Rising Stars Challenge MVP in 2012.
1 Anthony Davis: First Overall - New Orleans Pelicans (2012)
Anthony Davis is a top-five player in the league and if it wasn't for injuries, many would have noticed this sooner. In four seasons, Davis has not played a full season but has a career average of 20.8 ppg. In just four seasons, Davis is a three-time All-Star, made the All-NBA team, led the led the league in blocks twice, and is Olympic Gold Medalist. Davis seems to be getting better now, including this season when he showed he could shoot from long range. Davis is going to be a superstar in this league for a while and could be one the best ever when it's all said and done.
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