NBA fans have been spoilt for choice this year as exciting rookies and second year players alike have breakout seasons. Fan-bases that have been starved of stars for years now have hope for the future.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has the NBA world at his feet. Picked by many to be drafted inside the top ten, Shai was selected by the Charlotte Hornets with the 11th pick then traded to the Clippers.
Typically, rookie point guards take a year or two to be contributors. Shai has been the exception to this rule, as he is contributing strongly on a playoff team. An excellent shooter coming out of Kentucky, he is shooting 46.8% on the season. So far per game he is averaging ten points three rebounds and three assists. Notably though he is shooting 55% on three pointers since December and has taken on higher usage with Tobias Harris being moved to the 76ers.
The Clippers have their eyes firmly on the future, and Shai is clearly one of the cornerstone pieces. With 62 million in cap space this off-season Shai is the perfect complimentary piece for a heavy scorer like Kevin Durant. Shai even earnt high praise from Durant as he praised the rookie’s confidence and shooting prowess.
Fox wax the fifth pick in last years draft, coming out of Kentucky. After a middling rookie season on a struggling Sacramento team, Fox has exploded out of the blocks this year. Not only has he increased in every statistical category this year but defensively he has taken a massive step forward also. He is top ten in the league in loose balls recovered and top 20 in deflections.
He has led his Sacramento team to the seventh seed in the playoffs while averaging 17 points four rebounds and seven assists per game. Not afraid to take a shot when the game is on the line, Fox is exactly the young star that Sacramento fans have been craving. Only just turned 21, Fox’s improvement so far has shown the Kings he is the piece for them to build around for the next ten years
LeVert has been a feel-good NBA story this year, a breakout first 17 games were followed by what the league thought was a horrific season ending injury. To the delight of Brooklyn Nets fans LeVert was welcomed back to the team only 40 games later. When the Indiana Pacers drafted LeVert he was recovering from injuries in college that prevented him from being a sure-fire lottery pick. Drafted at 20, the Nets saw the potential in him and traded Thad Young for him.
Three years later the Nets investment in him has paid off. Through 18 games he is averaging 17 points four rebounds and four assists. As a strong secondary play-maker to D’Angelo Russell, LeVert operates well in the pick and roll and is adept at finding cutters and shooters. Though his three-point shot hasn’t been dropping this year, his at rim finishing and mid-range game have been strong. Coming into restricted free agency at the end of next season the Nets have the chance to extend a guy that can be a star in the NBA for years to come.
Jaren Jackson Jr
The son of an ex NBA player, Jaren Jackson Jr has been a lone star on a lottery bound playoff Grizzlies team. Showing defensive skills that have drawn comparisons from Kevin Garnett, Jackson is the real deal on both ends of the court. His offensive game is polished for a guy that was drafted while still 18. Already an elite at rim finisher, he is also shooting the three ball at an impressive 35%. Impressively at almost seven-foot-tall he can defend out to the perimeter. Along with Deandre Ayton he is one of only two rookies to contest over ten shots a game. After trading away Marc Gasol while also trying to re-home Mike Conley, its clear Grizzlies management are going all in on Jaren Jackson.
The only player on this list to have not played this season, Murray sadly tore his ACL prior to this season. Adorned this year as the replacement for all-time spurs great Tony Parker, Murray isn’t going to play at all this season. Named to the all-defensive second team last season at just 21 years old, Murray is the aggressive young point guard that fits perfectly in the Spurs culture. With strong performances in both of the last playoffs it became clear to the league that Murray was maturing quickly. Though this years Spurs team is well entrenched in the playoffs, Murrays effect on the defence especially is clear this year. Last year the Spurs had the leagues best defence, this year they are rated only 16th. Murrays shot needs work, but the success that shooting guru Chip England has had with previous Spurs players suggests this won’t be a problem. Already an excellent passer, Murrays year off will give the Spurs more time to develop young pieces to play alongside him in Lonnie Walker and Bryn Forbes. An excellent draft steal at number 29, Murray is the leader on of the youngest Spurs teams in almost 20 years.