Top 10 NBA Young Cores Right Now: 1-5
The Durango Herald
The NBA is stacked with young talent heading into the 2018-2019 season as teams around the league look to build cores capable of eventually toppling the Golden State dynasty. Looking towards the future, here are the ten most promising compilations of 25-and under talent around the league. Rankings are based on a combination of both quality and quantity, but favoring the cores with the most All-Star level talent, since it’s a star driven league.
5. Phoenix Suns (Devin Booker/DeAndre Ayton/Josh Jackson/Mikail Bridges/Marquese Chriss/Dragan Bender)
The margin between the Suns and the next team on the list is razor thin, but the Suns get the edge due to Devin Booker’s proven performance and the quantity of youngsters who could help lead Phoenix back to relevancy. Number one pick Deandre Ayton should be a double-double threat every game from the onset of the season, and if the offensive strides he showed at the close of last year are legit Josh Jackson is the perfect two-way wing to flank Booker and Ayton. With those players plus a prototypical 3 and D wing in Mikal Bridges and a couple of underperforming but still talented former lottery pick power forwards in Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender, the Suns youth movement is clearly starting to pay dividends.
4. Denver Nuggets (Nikola Jokic/Michael Porter/Gary Harris/Jamal Murray/Juan Hernangomez)
The Nuggets could arguably be ahead of Boston and Los Angeles thanks to Nikola Jokic, but he still has some work to do defensively to become a true superstar. That said, Jokic paired with the young backcourt of Gary Harris and the burgeoning Jamal Murray is an exciting core for Denver before even factoring in the true wildcard, Michael Porter Jr. If he’s healthy, the 20-year-old forward could end up being the best of the bunch in Denver and headline a roster that would be a perennial contender in the West. If the back injury lingers, it will be up to Jokic, one of the most well rounded offensive players in the league, to fine tune his game on the other end.
3. Los Angeles Lakers (Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Ivica Zubac, Mo Wagner)
Los Angeles made some weird signings to surround Lebron James, but thankfully for Laker fans they retained all their young core besides Julius Randle, who won’t be missed too much thanks to the aforementioned James. Kuzma and Hart will each have a ton of value this season and going forward thanks to their three-point strokes and ability to attack off closeouts, but Ball and Ingram are the ones with real star potential. Ingram made significant progress last season, and there’s no reason he shouldn’t continue on that trajectory in his third season. I’m a believer in Ball heading into this season, and even if his scoring continues to lag behind developmentally, the rest of his game will still make him a valuable contributor for LA.
Los Angeles Times
2. Boston Celtics: (Jaylen Brown/Jayson Tatum/Terry Rozier/Marcus Smart/Semi Ojeleye)
The Celtics have the most talent outside of their young core out of any of the teams on this list, but their youngsters are pretty damn good as well. Brown and Tatum are each tailor made for the modern NBA and could fit on basically any roster in the league thanks to their versatility, but each also has true star potential. Rozier and Smart are each overqualified backup guards for the Celtics as well, and they’ve both shown the ability to be starters when needed. Toss in the rugged Ojeleye and Boston has a young nucleus that can go toe to toe with any in the association.
1.Philadelphia 76ers: (Joel Embiid/Ben Simmons/Dario Saric/Markelle Fultz/Zhaire Smith)
Anyone who complained about “The Process” needs to look at the roster in Philly, then look back at their own team, and then say “red-shirt rookie” 100 times in front of a Sam Hinkie shrine in repentance. Maybe the Sixers embraced tanking a little too hard during Hinkie’s three year tenure, but the Colangelo leadership, and whoever will be replacing them, has inherited a young core that should compete for the ECF every year. Embiid and Simmons are a terrifying prospect for the league, even with the latter’s complete lack of a jumper, and those two alone make the Sixers a menace in the East for years to come. Dario Saric is a great complimentary big man, and if Markelle Fultz can iron out his own jump shot issues he could be the third star for Philly before they even go after 2019’s stacked crop of free agents.