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7 Young Players That Need to Make a Leap
By: Khaqan Khan
The process of becoming great is one that requires patience and grinding only to see minimal results. However, after a few years of delaying gratification, all the hard work begins to accumulate, and you are able to break through to the next level. The players on this list have seen varying degrees of improvement, but improvement nonetheless. All of these players have tasted some type of success in the NBA. For some, that's enough, but for the ones determined to be great, that's when the real work begins.
The teams of these seven players are banking on their development to accomplish their goals for this season and ultimately lead them to the Championship one day. Failing to take the leap can mean losing out on millions of dollars and forcing the team to reconsider their plans for the future. However, I believe all these players on this list will rise to the occasion. These are young players that need to build off last season and take the next step forward in order to help their team take the next step.
- RJ Barrett G/F - New York Knicks
Barrett probably has the most pressure of any player on this list, but that's nothing new to him. In fact, being the young building piece in the revival of the New York Knicks is something Barrett takes with great pride. Barrett's advantage is understanding how much is required to get where he wants to get. He also understands for the Knicks to build off what they accomplished last year, he's going to have to make real strides as a playmaker and develop into a go-to scorer. The Knicks had a hard time creating offense against the stingy Hawks defense in the playoffs. To address that need, they re-signed Derrick Rose, signed Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker to add to Barrett and Quickly, but those are all short-term moves. Long-term, the Knicks ceiling is tied to Barrett's ceiling.
- Darius Garland G - Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavaliers started off hot last year before coming back down to earth. This off-season, they rebuffed their roster by re-signing Jarrett Allen, drafting Evan Mobley, and trading for Lauri Markkanen. This is the make-or-break year for this current young core. There's no doubt they have talent, but it's still unclear that even if the talent clicks and matures ntogether, how good they will be. It all starts with Darius Garland improving his game to take the Cavaliers to the playoffs. The young point guard made strides in his second season last year but has yet to find that pace that allows him to control the game as Maestro.
His averages increased in his second year, including his assists jumping from 3.9 to 6.1 per game. There is the concern with the fit next to Collin Sexton, which the Cavaliers tried addressing by making him available all off-season. Though he is an efficient scorer, Sexton has a bad tendency to be a ball stopper which minimizes the strengths of Garland playing Point Guard. However, the addition of Evan Mobley will make the lives of all other Cavs' players easier. I can see Mobley and Garland forming a connection that could potentially resemble Tony Parker and Tim Duncan.
- Cameron Reddish G/F - Atlanta Hawks
Nearly forgotten, Reddish brought himself back into the minds of NBA fans with his incredible showing in the Bucks series, where he showed a glimpse of his talent if he ever put it all together. The Hawks surprised everyone by reaching the conference finals, making everyone reevaluate their perception of the Hawk's trajectory. With a lot of money assigned to key players, and contracts coming for the younger players, it's important for Reddish to join De'Andre Hunter as a vital contributor to this talented Hawks team.
- Robert Williams C/PF - Boston Celtics
This incredible freak athlete at the center position won the hearts of fans with his play in the latter part of last season. He became the saving grace for a Celtics team that lacked any worthwhile center play. Though he has ways to go from becoming a two-way starting center, there's no doubt he has incredible potential to be a dynamic anchor on the defensive end. If the Time Lord can play with more discipline, and the Celtics can play with more cohesion, don't be surprised if the Celtics become a dark horse team in the east.
- Tyrese Maxey G - Philadelphia 76ers
With all the mess and uncertainty surrounding the Ben Simmons situation, it leaves the door open for Tyrese Maxey to assume the starting point guard role, fulfilling the wish of many Sixers fans for years of having competent shooters around Joel Embiid. Maxey was a key contributor last year, showing flashes of solid point guard play and the ability to score in bunches from time to time. That experience, along with the trust of Doc Rivers, should lend Maxey a chance to show he can be a starting point guard in this league. If this Simmons' situation continues as is, the Sixers are going to desperately need Maxey to take the next step if they want another shot of reaching the conference finals.
- Miles Bridges F - Charlotte Hornets
Quietly, Bridges strung together an impressive finish to the end the season and helped LaMelo Ball lead the Hornets to the Play in Tournament. Last year, the Hornets went from the most desolate to the most exciting team in the league, which Bridge's dunks had a large part of doing. Now it's time for Bridges to be known as more than just an explosive dunker. The majority of his contributions on offense came from either slashing to the basket or spotting up for the three. He has the tools to become a more reliable scorer and a willingness to be a playmaker. For the Hornets to take the next step as a promising young team ready to compete, Bridges needs to become that other young player to complement LaMelo. Hopefully, he can pick up a few things from playing behind Gordan Hayward. We've seen stretches of how dynamic he can be. Heading into a contract year in his 4th season, look for Bridges to become one of the more dynamic young forwards in the league.
- Jordan Poole - G/F - Golden State Warriors
The talent level outside of Steph and Draymond has been lackluster for the Golden State Warriors, but their late 1st round pick from two years ago emerged as a vital piece for this team trying to get back to their championship ways. There are shades of Bradley Beal in Poole's game with his wiry build and ability to get hot at any second. His scoring coming off the bench will take off so much pressure on the starting unit in a similar way Jordan Clarkson takes pressure off for the Utah Jazz starting unit. There seems to be something special about Jordan Poole. It wouldn't surprise me if he becomes one of the more important players on the Warriors going forward. The Warrior's Depth has improved tremendously since last year, and a lot of that has to do with the progress Jordan Poole has made and, hopefully, will continue to make.
The really exciting part about all of this is that there are so many other players I could have put on this list and so many other players that will emerge seemingly out of nowhere. The league is in precious hands with the amount the talent spread across the 30 teams. The veteran players do a good job of passing on knowledge to the young players directly by mentoring them or indirectly by setting an example of what it takes. All the players on this list seem to me like players that just get it and are willing to put in the work. Let us all pray injuries don't interrupt the paths of these young men like many people expect after two straight expedited seasons. The more these players can grow, the higher the ceiling for their respective teams.
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