NBA

5 NBA players most likely to be first-time All-Stars next season

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - MAY 07: LaMelo Ball #2 of the Charlotte Hornets brings the ball up court against the Orlando Magic during their game at Spectrum Center on May 07, 2021 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)
Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

A ton of young talent has taken the NBA by storm in the last few years. As we witness new generations of players enter the league, many of them may become the new faces of the league. Fresh players like Donovan Mitchell, Ben Simmons, and Jayson Tatum have already made multiple All-Star teams in their young careers. So who are the top-five players most likely to be a first-time NBA All-Star next year?

Honorable mentions

Before going into the list, let’s look at a few development players or a roster move away from being All-Star contention. First, C.J. McCollum could find himself in the All-Star game next year. This could be even more likely if Portland trades Damian Lillard for future assets and McCollum stays on the team. The Trail Blazers could give McCollum the keys to the offense next year in this scenario. However, his productivity could also suffer significantly from losing a superstar in the backcourt with him.

Collin Sexton is an offensive workhorse in his third year in the NBA. He can score in multiple ways on that end of the floor, a talent that is ever-valuable in the league. He averaged 24 points per game for the Cavaliers this year. However, his playmaking is not at the caliber of other young guards on this list, and his perimeter defense leaves much to be desired. At just age 22, though, he has plenty of time to make leaps in his skill set to become an All-Star in years to come.

Another promising young guard is Shai Gilgeous-Alexander from the OKC Thunder. Shai has proven himself to be one of the best young talents from the 2018 NBA Draft. The 23-year-old star averaged around 24 points, six assists, and five boards in a season shortened by injury. Shai already has the skills needed to be an All-Star in this league. He needs to get some more pieces around him, start winning more basketball, and he will surely make the team in the future. It is uncertain when that will happen, though, but the Thunder have a really intriguing future.

Deandre Ayton rounds out the honorable mentions on the list. The third-year big is having an outstanding postseason, as his team battles it out with the Bucks in the NBA Finals. The 22-year-old big man has averaged a double-double every season since he entered the league as the number 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. He, without a doubt, has the skills to become a first-time NBA All-Star. However, I think a few other up-and-coming bigs outclass him with more offensive skills and opportunities.

#5 – LaMelo Ball

May 15, 2021; New York, New York, USA; LaMelo Ball #2 of the Charlotte Hornets heads for the net in the second quarter at Madison Square Garden on May 15, 2021 in New York City. Mandatory Credit: Elsa/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports
Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

LaMelo Ball has the skillset that screams “All-Star” in this league. Flashy plays up and down the floor have made this young gun one of the most entertaining players to watch in the entire league. The 19-year-old 2020-21 NBA Rookie of the Year has the potential to be one of the next generation of NBA basketball faces. He averaged 16, six, and six with the Hornets this year, who were knocked out by the Celtics in the Play-In Tournament this postseason.

Charlotte is on the brink of unlocking a young team that will be good for years to come. If Ball’s highlight-reel playstyle and solid production isn’t enough to get him an All-Star nod, he’d likely obtain it should the Hornets progress to consistent, winning basketball. In addition, LaMelo has a swagger to his game that is rare for rookies to possess. The league will be in great hands in the future.

#4 – Ja Morant

May 31, 2021; Memphis, Tennessee, USA; Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant (12) dribbles during the second quarter during game four in the first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs against the Utah Jazz at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports
Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Ja Morant is a special talent for the Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies made the 8th seed this year, and the third-year star had the heaviest workload of his young career. This was thanks to the absence of young big Jaren Jackson Jr., who missed almost 60 games this season. Morant is another extremely talented young guard that will be fun to watch over the next decade. Ja averaged 19.4 points, 7.4 assists, and four rebounds this season for Memphis.

The fact that the Grizzlies finished with a winning record without JJJ shows the potential of this Memphis squad. With proper help and continued chemistry development, Ja will help the Grizzlies surprise many teams in the future. Their potential is scary, and the rest of the league should fear Memphis reaching its ceiling. Ja Morant is probably the second-best player on this list, but the backcourt is a lot more stacked with All-Stars than the frontcourt in the present-day NBA.

#3 – Jerami Grant

Apr 6, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Detroit Pistons forward Jerami Grant (9) prepares to pass the ball past Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) in the third quarter at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Up next is Jerami Grant. The seven-year NBA veteran bet on himself last offseason. He declined an offer from his former team in Denver to sign with the Detroit Pistons for the same money. While many argued that it was a mistake to go from a championship contender to a bottom-of-the-league ensemble, Grant had much more playing opportunity now than he did with the Nuggets. He won big, though, and proved to be an outstanding player, leading the Pistons, despite the team’s lack of success.

Grant finished the year as the runner-up in Most Improved Player voting. He averaged 22.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 2.8 assists for Detroit this season. His career averages in the six seasons prior were 9.9 points, 3.9 boards, and 1.1 assists. Grant’s career resurgence has been inspiring to witness, and with another step in his second year with an expanded role, I would not be surprised to see him become a first-time NBA All-Star next season.

#2 – De’Aaron Fox

Apr 10, 2021; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Sacramento Kings guard De'Aaron Fox (5) dunks over Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) in the third quarter at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports
Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

De’Aaron Fox is the best player on this list. Despite being entrenched in “basketball hell,” Fox has given Kings fans some glimmer of hope in the midst of a 15-year playoff drought. Fox continues to put people on notice as his career goes on, and I guarantee that he will be an All-Star shortly. He put up 25.2 points, 7.2 dimes, and 3.5 boards a game for the Kings and has been a walking bucket in recent years.

Fox is among the most underrated players in the league. He has an electric offensive presence and being arguably the fastest player in the league. I wholeheartedly believe that he would’ve already been an All-Star if Fox played for a big-market team. The Kings are in a position to improve their team this offseason. If the Kings can potentially break free of their playoff drought and Fox continues to approach stardom, Fox will be a shoo-in for All-Star consideration next season,

#1 – Christian Wood

Apr 23, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Christian Wood #35 of the Houston Rockets dunks the ball against Terance Mann #14 of the Los Angeles Clippers during the third quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Carmen Mandato/POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports
POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports

Finally, to top the list off is Christian Wood from the Houston Rockets. In the 2017-18 NBA season, Wood was elected the All-NBA G-League Second Team. Now just 3 years later, he is among the top 10 Centers in the NBA. He nearly averaged a double-double with 21 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in a season shortened by injury. At just 25-years-old, the fifth-year Center has plenty of years left to have a lasting career in this league.

So long as he can stay healthy, he will be fed endless opportunities to rebuild Rockets next season. I give him the edge on the list because of the aforementioned amount of skilled frontcourt versus backcourt players. Wood’s skyrocketed over the league and is someone that everyone should have their eyes on next season. He has a strong presence on both ends of the floor and will be a bright spot on a young Rockets team that will be sneakily fun to watch next year. He is my pick for the most likely first-time NBA All-Star next season.

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