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Every NBA Team's Highest-Ceiling Prospect

Mo Dakhil

Training camp is nearly upon us, and once it arrives, there will be several stories about young players looking great in camp.

So we are going to take a look at the top young prospect on every team. These are young players who might play an important role this coming season or in the near future. They could also be assets in a major trade in the future.

All players included are 23 years old or younger. Some teams are stacked with young prospects, and others don't have one.

Atlanta Hawks: AJ Griffin

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The Hawks made a pretty big mistake last offseason when they traded away Kevin Huerter, but that trade opened up minutes for AJ Griffin. Even though he was the third-youngest player in the NBA—Griffin turned 20 in August—he found his way into the rotation for the Hawks.

Griffin averaged 19.5 minutes, scoring 8.9 points a game on 46.5 percent shooting from the field and 39.0 percent from three. He had two game-winners last season, one off a lob from Trae Young in transition and the other from a spectacular spinning shot off a sideline out-of-bounds play.

The offense from Griffin is great, but the most important trait is that he can help an Atlanta team that simply was bad defensively. With him on the court, the Hawks' defensive rating was 3.5 points better than it was when he was off.

The challenge for the Hawks will be trying to find more minutes for Griffin, assuming good health for everyone on the roster. If Griffin does continue to improve, though, it could put the front office in a good position to look to move some of the older, more expensive players that are playing ahead of him.

We went with Griffin over another young prospect in Onyeka Okongwu. We easily could have gone with him. He plays a larger role as the backup to Clint Capela and has had a major impact. We went with Griffin for two reasons.

First, this is more of a wing league, especially for those who can defend. Second, Okongwu is eligible to sign an extension this summer, and depending on that deal, he might not be a great trade asset.

Boston Celtics: No Prospect on the Roster

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The Celtics are not an old team. They are led by Jayson Tatum (25) and Jaylen Brown (26), but they are lacking prospects. No offense to guys like Jordan Walsh and JD Davison, but it doesn't seem likely either player will hit with Boston long-term. The Celtics have been picking late in the draft for years and have made mistakes, like trading Desmond Bane away.

Boston has plenty of draft capital to find its next prospect. The Celtics own all of their first-rounders except potentially their 2028 pick, for which the San Antonio Spurs have swap rights. They also have a first-round pick coming from the Warriors next draft from the Marcus Smart trade.

With the way most contenders are built, it usually takes a massive trade costing multiple draft picks. The Celtics are positioned to use their draft equity to add to their squad.

Brooklyn Nets: Cam Thomas

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It feels like ages ago, but does anyone remember when Cam Thomas was the most unstoppable scorer in the NBA? Over a three-game span, Thomas averaged 44.3 points and exploded on the scene.

Thomas' scoring ability makes him a pretty valuable prospect for the Nets or any team for that matter. There is no question that he'll have zero hesitation to get shots up when he gets into the game.

Even though Thomas is more of a one-dimensional player, it is a really good dimension. Any time the offense is lacking, Jacque Vaughn can just insert him in and hope he can provide a spark. Yes, he's a defensive liability, but the Nets are pretty well stocked with wing defenders, so it is possible to hide him on that end.

Think of players like Jamal Crawford and Lou Williams when looking at Thomas. He can play a role for the Nets this season off the bench, and teams that need a scoring punch should have interest in trading for him.

Charlotte Hornets: LaMelo Ball

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It's pretty obvious that LaMelo Ball is by far Charlotte's best young player. Last season was an injury-plagued year for Ball, and, as a result, the Hornets were out of a lot of games before they even began.

Ball is a highlight waiting to happen anytime he has the ball in his hands. He's an electric passer with elite ball-handling and can let it fly from anywhere. Ball in three seasons has already won Rookie of the Year and made an All-Star Game.

Ball has incredible skill, but his decision-making leaves much to be desired. His shot selection drives most coaches mad. He would rather go for the flashy play than the simple right one, and he can be very apathetic on the defensive end.

Ball is going to be a fan favorite and multi-time All-Star, but his style of play is just not conducive to winning. His career might have a trajectory similar to Jason Williams from his Sacramento Kings days. If Ball changes his way, he could be a winning player with his skill set.

Chicago Bulls: Patrick Williams

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It feels like the Chicago Bulls are in a dark place with Lonzo Ball likely out for the season, and the moves this offseason have put them on the treadmill of mediocrity. Their core is aging but the most promising young player they have is Patrick Williams.

Ever since drafting Williams three years ago, the hope was he could turn into a pivotal rotation piece. An injury limited him to only 17 games his second season, thus hampering his development. He has true three-and-D potential with his measurements, and is a career 41.4 percent three-point shooter.

One concern about Williams is he might have plateaued. Last season the Bulls had a negative net rating with Williams on the floor, and it's a 9.4 swing when he steps off the floor. Chicago may have also missed their chance to use Williams as a trade piece. Two years ago there were rumors the Bulls could have traded for Jerami Grant by sending Williams to Detroit but they refused.

That missed opportunity might have lowered the Bulls' ceiling for the next few years.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Evan Mobley

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There is a way to look at Evan Mobley's second season in the NBA as a bit of a disappointment. The hope was the Cavs would show off his offensive game but that never happened. With Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell dominating the ball for large portions of the game, the opportunities were just not there for Mobley. That needs to change this season.

The Cavs were eliminated in the playoffs and a big part was their offense was completely reliant on Garland and Mitchell. That is where Mobley's game can provide a different look for defenses to have to deal with. Using him as a facilitator of the high post is the answer and could put Mobley in position to make the All-Star game.

Mobley has the skill level to operate out of that area with his court vision to find counters and play the high low game with Jarrett Allen. His usage the past two seasons has been around 20 percent but that will need to be ticked up closer to 25-28 percent.

With more usage will come more responsibility to score more. That will require Mobley to extend his shooting range as he has mostly operated within a 10-foot area around the rim. Starting this season that needs to be extended out to at least 15 to 20 feet for him to help Cleveland level up.

All eyes should be on Mobley when gauging how far the Cavs can go this season.

Dallas Mavericks: Josh Green

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The Dallas Mavericks have some young prospects that could prove very useful for the next few seasons but the cream of the crop right now is Josh Green. The Mavs have already invested three years of development into him.

That development began to pay off last season when he shot 40.2 percent from three. His minutes average has gone up to 25 minutes a game, making him a regular contributor. Green is more than just a shooter, though, as he helps on the defensive side of the ball as well. The Mavericks have a defensive rating of 112.8 with Green on the floor and 116.4 when he is off it.

It will be challenging to see how the Mavs work him into the rotation this year as they are loaded at the guard spot and he might be too small to play as a wing.

A few other names to keep an eye are Jaden Hardy who came on strong towards the end of the season. Rookie Oliver-Maxence Prosper is an intriguing prospect that the Mavs drafted at 10 last year and could provide some minutes at the forward spot.

Denver Nuggets: Christian Braun

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The NBA champion Denver Nuggets have a big hole to fill with the departure of Bruce Brown. That's where young Christian Braun is expected to step up into a bigger role.

In his rookie season, Braun created a role for himself off the bench, averaging 15.5 minutes. He had a big game for the Nuggets in Game 3 of the Finals, where he scored 15 points on 7-8 shooting. He plays extremely well off Nikola Jokic as a cutter and always gives maximum effort. Braun may not have the defensive versatility that Brown had, but he'll fight just as hard.

Braun will have several chances to increase his role, and it is going to be a position of need for the Nuggets.

Peyton Watson deserves an honorable mention as a young prospect to keep an eye on. He had two strong summer-league games averaging 19 points a game. He's an athletic shooting guard who will need to work on shooting. Watson is an intriguing piece that the Nuggets might be able to use him at the trade deadline if replacing Brown might be too hard for Braun.

Detroit Pistons: Cade Cunningham

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The Pistons have a ton of young prospects that can make this list from Jaden Ivey, Jalen Duren, James Wiseman and Ausar Thompson. But everything starts and stops with Cade Cunningham.

Cunningham had a great rookie campaign, but his sophomore follow up was cut short after just 12 games. Without him, the Pistons finished the season 17-65. As a rookie, Cunningham led the Pistons in assists and was second in points.

As good as Ivey and Killian Hayes are, the Pistons need Cunningham's game to help ease the burden off everyone's plate. He's a talented scorer who can get into the lane and force the defense to shift and make the correct read to find the open teammate.

Cunningham drew rave reviews when he led the USA Select Squad over Team USA in an August scrimmage. Team USA coach Steve Kerr had this to say about Cunningham. "He's a guy who can really control the game from the point guard spot with his size and physicality."

With all the Pistons' young talent, Cunningham is the string that ties all of it together.

Golden State Warriors: Jonathan Kuminga

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The Golden State Warriors have struggled over the years in developing their young talent—see James Wiseman. Jonathan Kuminga has been trying to work his way up the depth chart. The Warriors need him to make a bigger impact this season.

Kuminga has not been able to crack the rotation over the past two seasons despite improving his three-point shooting from 33.6 percent to 37.0 percent. Kuminga can become the Warriors' athletic game-changing 4 off the bench.

If the Warriors cannot find a role for Kuminga, they can look to make a move at the deadline to bring in some veteran help to make another title run. The risk, of course, is they will need to be starting over once the Steph Curry era is over, because they will have traded all their young talent.

Houston Rockets: Jabari Smith Jr.

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The Houston Rockets were a disaster last season. The team often looked lost and without a plan. No one was more affected than rookie Jabari Smith Jr. With new coach Ime Udoka coming in, that should change. Smith was one of the best players at the Las Vegas Summer League.

Smith showed everything in the two games he played as he averaged 35.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists. He did a great job showing all the different parts of his game from coming off screens for shots to his dribble pull-up game and his ability to attack the lane with aggression. Smith even knocked down a game-winning three.

With a new coaching situation, it's safe to expect a big year from Smith. He has All-Star-level talent, and while it may not be this season, if he plays in the regular season the way he played in the last summer league, the sky is the limit for Smith.

Indiana Pacers: Tyrese Haliburton

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Let's be very clear: Tyrese Haliburton is a star. He has all the qualities of a lead guard, and the Pacers had a good shot at making the play-in tournament if he did not get hurt after the All-Star break.

Haliburton averaged a career high in points, assists and effective field-goal percentage, and was a first time All-Star in his first season with the Pacers. He is a knockdown three-point shooter, having never shot less than 40 percent from three in his career.

He only played in 56 games last season and the Pacers were 28-28 in those games. Without Halliburton, Indiana went 7-19. That is a true mark of a difference-maker.

With Team USA in the World Cup, Haliburton was a difference-maker, even off the bench. Steve Kerr compared him to a quarterback spreading the ball around. He went on to say, "He's really a unique player and a beautiful player to watch and obviously very effective."

The Pacers are going to be a fun team to watch this season with a lot of interesting young guys, but if Haliburton is on the floor, Indiana's odds of winning go up exponentially.

Los Angeles Clippers: Bones Hyland

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The Clippers made a move at the last trade deadline to bring in a young talent in Bones Hyland. It was a trade made with the 2023-24 season in mind more than last season. One thing is clear about Hyland: He has yet to meet a shot he did not like.

Hyland is another one of those smaller scoring guards that seem to populate the league. He stands at 6'2" and has an incredible knack to put down shots. He has had an above-average true shooting percentage both years in the NBA. He is a capable passer but not always that willing.

Hyland is always going to be best served as a scoring guard off the bench hoping to provide a spark to the offense. His ceiling gets lowered because of his lack of playmaking and poor defense, so it's hard to envision him playing at the end of close games because of those limitations.

Los Angeles Lakers: Max Christie

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The Lakers have done well in developing late first-round and second-round picks over the years. Kyle Kuzma, Alex Caruso and, now, Austin Reaves are all products of the Lakers' development program. The next guy up is Max Christie.

Christie played a really limited role for the Lakers last season, but he does bring some skills to the table that can be beneficial to the Lakers, namely his ability to shoot the ball. In 41 games, Christie shot 41.9 percent from three.

In a couple of summer-league games, Christie showed off his ability to score and facilitate off the dribble. The Lakers could use another shooter on the floor but also someone else who can make plays to take pressure off Anthony Davis and LeBron James.

The challenge will be breaking into the lineup for regular minutes. If he can do that, he has the skills needed to be another late draft pick who turns into a star for the Lakers.

Memphis Grizzlies: Santi Aldama

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The Memphis Grizzlies have several young players under 23 to choose from, but the truth is none of them have a ceiling higher than being a role player.

One young player who could step into a larger role for the Grizzlies is Santi Aldama as a stretch big off the bench. He shot 35.3 percent from three, just behind Jaren Jackson Jr.'s 35.5 percent for best shooting big man on the team.

One issue that might step in the way of Aldama getting a larger role is if his defense does not get better. He doesn't have to be as good as the current Defensive Player of the Year, but he simply needs to keep the team afloat.

The Grizzlies have a lot of young intriguing players and their own draft picks. It is entirely possible that Aldama is included in a trade if he is not able to carve out a bigger role.

Miami Heat: Jaime Jaquez Jr.

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There could not be a more perfect match in the draft than the Miami Heat selecting Jaime Jaquez Jr.

Jaquez fits everything that the Heat are about. There was no more intense competitor over his four-year collegiate career than him. The Heat are already raving about him. General manager Andy Elisburg said in an interview during the offseason" "I think he comes from the same kind of ethos that we think we value, with players that we value. He has that kind of competitiveness and the work ethic that you want to see."

Jaquez's ability to play-make and defend are his calling cards. Right now his ceiling is that of another tough role player, but if his shot improves, that ceiling will raise him up into a high-level role player, like Max Strus.

It should be mentioned that the Heat are in the running for Damian Lillard, and if Portland asks for Jaquez to be included in the trade, Miami would have to do it, even though Nikola Jovic might be a better piece for the Blazers.

Milwaukee Bucks: MarJon Beauchamp

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There were times last season that the Milwaukee Bucks looked a bit old, a bit unathletic and simply lacked explosion. That is a funny sentence to write when the team in question has Giannis Antetokounmpo, but apart from him there was not a lot of athleticism on the roster. That is where MarJon Beauchamp come in.

Beauchamp registered a lot of DNP-CDs through his first season, as then-coach Mike Budenholzer was not always eager to play the young kids. It will be interesting to see if new coach Adrian Griffin will embrace playing the young guys.

Beauchamp is an athletic defender who can explode to the rim. He can be a valuable cutter as teams lock into Giannis, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday. The Bucks need him to earn himself a role so they can get younger, quicker and more athletic players out there. That will come down to whether he can knock down shots and spread the floor. The 33.1 percent career three-point shooter will have to show improvement in that area to get that valuable court time.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Anthony Edwards

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Anthony Edwards is not a core piece for the Wolves… he is the core. Heading into his fourth year, Edwards looks poised to take a massive leap forward. This very well might be the season the Wolves go from being Karl-Anthony Towns' team to Edwards' team.

Over the previous three seasons, Edwards' scoring average has gone up from 19.3 to 21.3 to 24.6, with his three-point percentage up to 36.9 percent. Additionally, he's getting to the free throw line for 5.3 attempts a game. Beyond just scoring, his rebounding and assists numbers have all gone up.

Then we can look at Edwards' playoff performances. He led Minnesota in scoring both playoff runs, dropping 25.2 points in 2022 and 31.6 points in 2023. If that is not evidence enough of Edwards' leap, he carried Team USA at the FIBA World Cup. It's to the point that USA coach Steve Kerr said "he's unquestionably the guy".

It is reminiscent of when Kevin Durant took the leap playing for Team USA in the 2010 FIBA World Cup. The Edwards era in Minnesota has begun but this season it will take a massive step forward.

New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson

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Zion Williamson has superstar talent. He is the Pelicans' best young prospect, but there are some issues. He has spent more time in dress clothes than in uniform for the Pelicans.

Out of a possible 246 regular-season games, Zion has played in just 114 of them. He played in only 29 games last season.

The Pelicans are in a tough spot. Zion raises the team's ceiling from being a lottery team to a legit threat in the Western Conference. In the 29 games he played last season New Orleans had a net rating of 7.8, with him on the floor. It finished the season with a 1.9 net rating for the season.

But New Orleans just cannot depend on Williamson's availability. Those issues even led to rumors that the Pelicans were exploring Zion trades around the draft. Make no mistake about it: New Orleans is not going to give Williamson away. It would have taken a top-three pick for the Pels to make a move.

Zion is both their best long-term talent and their best asset should they decide it is time to move on, but that is an incredibly difficult decision for any front office to make.

New York Knicks: Quentin Grimes

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It might shock some that we went with Quentin Grimes instead of RJ Barrett. Barrett might have topped out on his talent level. It also seems the Knicks value Grimes more than Barrett. He reportedly was the one player New York was not willing to part with in a Donovan Mitchell trade.

Tom Thibodeau could not have dreamed of a more Thibs-like player than Grimes. He is a nose-to-the-grindstone-type player. That is why he went from playing in just 46 games his rookie year to starting 66 last season.

At the shooting guard spot, Grimes often had to take the tougher defensive assignment to cover for Jalen Brunson. That earned him the spot, but, at the same time, he does not have much of an offensive arsenal. As a career 38.4 percent three-point shooter, he is able to help keep the floor spread.

More than just playing the role as a spot-up shooter, Grimes does a good job playing off Brunson and Randle. He does a good job making the right cuts at precisely the right times. As good as Grimes is, he needs playmakers like Brunson and/or Randle to set him up for scores.

Until Grimes' off-the-dribble game improves, his ceiling will remain low and keep him as a very solid role player. He's the type of role player that helps you win playoff games, but if he has bigger aspirations, he needs to show he can play on the ball more.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Chet Holmgren

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Chet Holmgren's NBA debut was put on hold due to a Lisfranc injury, but the NBA better get ready for him.

Holmgren put on a show at summer league in July. He played two games in Las Vegas and two in Salt Lake City, totaling 14 blocks. Besides his offensive potential, it's his defense that is going to raise the Thunder up. They have been missing a rim-protecting presence since they traded Steven Adams, and now they have it in Holmgren.

Offensively, Holmgren is very skilled and smooth, having already developed great pick-and-roll chemistry from the last summer league. He did not shoot the three ball at summer league, but he has that kind of range. He's also going to be a difficult roller for teams to contend with.

Holmgren has a chance to be one of those new era big men who can attack off the dribble. But before he reaches that level, he needs to stop turning the ball over. Expect that to come over time, and once he's more comfortable with his handles, he's going to slide right in as the third guy on this Thunder team.

Orlando Magic: Paolo Banchero

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The reigning Rookie of the Year has a very high ceiling. Paolo Banchero did something that is difficult for a rookie -- he averaged 20 points a game. The last rookie to do so and play more than 70 games in the season was Luka Doncic. He is not as good as Doncic but he is closer to being a number one guy on a team than a role player.

The one caveat about Banchero's scoring numbers was that it is an inefficient 20 points. He shot 42.7 percent from the field and 29.3 from three. Again that is not uncommon for a rookie as going from college to the NBA is a massive change. With a season under his belt, Banchero should have a better understanding of what to expect as a pro.

That means this season Banchero has to take the next step to be the "guy" for the Magic, and that means he will need to be much more efficient.

Orlando has a lot of young talent, and Franz Wagner deserves an honorable mention nod. He is the perfect complement to Banchero, and they play quite well off each other. Both are willing passers and cutters. This is a fun pairing that will give this young Magic team a shot at the play-in tournament this season.

Philadelphia 76ers: Tyrese Maxey

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The Philadelphia 76ers are not a young team, but they have a great young talent in Tyrese Maxey. Over his first three seasons Maxey's role has increased and he has responded positively each year. His scoring average and shooting percentage have also gone up each year.

Maxey's ascension over the years has become critical for the Sixers' championship aspirations. With Joel Embiid and James Harden on the floor, Philadelphia tends to play slower. That is where Maxey's change of pace and speed gives the Sixers another gear.

So now comes the question: How good can Maxey actually become? He is lightning in a bottle and can score at all three levels. His ability to squeeze into the lane and finish with floaters makes him a lethal scorer.

The ceiling to Maxey's game is lower than most people would think, though. Standing at 6'2" he is a defensive liability. Last season, Maxey was willing came off the bench for 19 games and that was actually the best option for the Sixers. They were able to add a defensive player in the backcourt to cover for Harden's defensive inabilities.

Maxey has become a cornerstone piece for Philly and with all the chaos they have going with Harden, they need him to be less of liability defensively so the Sixers can have him on the court late in games.

Phoenix Suns: No Prospect on the Roster

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At the time of this writing, the Phoenix Suns have only one player born in the 2000s. Toumani Camara was a second-round pick in the last draft and is not projected to factor much.

So we are going to cheat the rules here and name Deandre Ayton as the Suns' most important "young prospect." The main reason he is on this list is because he is likely Phoenix's lone asset come the trade deadline. If the front office feels there are still a lot of holes on the roster, it can try to turn Ayton into two or three players to fill the holes.

This does not mean Ayton is not going to be an important piece for the Suns on the floor. He will be relied on to be a force in the paint. His shot-blocking and rebounding abilities are going to be critical.

Portland Trail Blazers: Scoot Henderson

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There has been a lot of drama surrounding the Portland Trail Blazers but one thing that was very clear at NBA Summer League is that Scoot Henderson has a legitimate chance to lead the Blazers as the Damian Lillard era comes to an end.

It was just one game, not even a full game as Henderson got hurt, but he started on fire. He went 3-3 to start the game and showed a massive amount of comfort controlling the pace of the game, especially in the pick-and-roll.

(Scoot twitter clip)

More impressive than Henderson's scoring was his six assists. He managed to control the game for the Blazers in his summer league debut. Henderson has good size at 6'4" to get into the lane and get his shot off. There will be ups and downs with him this season as he acclimates to the NBA level, but he has shown he has the pedigree for success.

Henderson is not Dame as the way they both operate is entirely different, but he can step into the role as the face of the franchise as early as this season once the Lillard trade demand saga is resolved.

Sacramento Kings: Keegan Murray

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Keegan Murray is a special talent, and the Kings' top pick in the 2022 draft showed it by making the All-Rookie team last season. Right now he is more of a role player for the Kings, behind De'Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis. Sacramento is missing a third scorer and that is what the Kings need Murray to become.

Is it a bit unfair to ask a second year player to graduate to being a third option full time? Yes, but this is not the business of being fair. The Kings need Murray to reach his ceiling quicker than most second year players.

Murray produced well as a rookie, averaging 12.2 points a game, shooting 41.1 percent from three and grabbing 4.6 rebounds. He will need to keep these numbers up while ramping up his usage from 15.5 percent to the low 20s.

The good news for the Kings is that Murray got a little taste of the playoffs, and, after struggling early, he found his footing during game four. From game four and on, he averaged 14.5 points on 51.1 percent shooting, including 45.8 percent from three.

Murray has the necessary skills to become the Kings' third option on floor, but he needs to take that step forward.

San Antonio Spurs: Victor Wembanyama

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This one is pretty obvious. Victor Wembanyama was not only the number one pick in the draft, but he was the most hyped draft prospect since LeBron James. It's been common to hear experts refer to Wembanyama as possibly "the greatest prospect in all of team sports," like ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski did on draft night.

Wembanyama has some incredibly lofty expectations to live up.

There is a good reason for the hype. Standing at 7'6," Wembanyama is a force to be reckoned with on both ends of the floor. He brings incredible defensive instincts as he averaged four blocks in his two summer league games. Even as he struggled offensively in his summer league debut, he blocked five shots.

It was Wembanyama's second summer league game where he showed his offensive prowess. He dropped 27 points on 9-14 shooting, including going 2-4 from three. His aggression got him to the foul line 12 times. He has the ability to hit shots at all three levels, and as he gets stronger his post up game will evolve.

This clip below just shows off a portion of the skills Wembanyama has.

Wemby clip

Wembanyama has all the makings of the next great center for the Spurs, following in the steps of David Robinson and Tim Duncan before him.

Toronto Raptors: Scottie Barnes

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There is no way to slice it, last season was a disappointment for the Toronto Raptors. One of the biggest concerns all season was the regression of Scottie Barnes. It was not regression so much as stagnation, but diving deeper there was a bright spot in his sophomore season.

Barnes was asked to take on a larger role as a playmaker. His usage went up slightly but his assist percentage went up from 15 percent to 19.5, and his assist to turnover ratio went from 1.88 to 2.41. That was an area of true growth for Barnes.

There is a lot to like about Barnes' game. He is capable of defending multiple positions and playing several different roles on offense. As stated above, Barnes improved as a playmaker, but he needs to lift up his shooting numbers. His field goal percentage dipped to 45.6 and his three-point numbers dropped to 28.1 percent, despite having the same number of attempts.

None of this is a reason to give up on Barnes, the Raptors last year were an awkward fit, with a lot of role duplication across the roster. I don't believe Barnes can be the straw that stirs the drink for a team, but he is capable of being a high level playmaker who can attack the paint off the dribble and become an all-defensive player.

Utah Jazz: Walker Kessler

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When Minnesota traded for Rudy Gobert, Walker Kessler felt more like a mere throw in. After his rookie season, it feels like a massive mistake. His numbers as a rookie compare favorably with Gobert's second season in the NBA. As a result, the Jazz are getting early Gobert production at a fraction of the cost.

Kessler has the makings of a defensive anchor similar to what Gobert provided for all those years. He finished fourth in blocks per game at 2.3, and the Jazz's defense was four points worse when he was off the floor.

Offensively, Kessler profiles very much like Gobert, a massive screener who is tough to stop when he gets downhill. He is also a strong offensive rebounder, averaging 3.1 boards that turned into a 3.3 second chance points on average.

Showing early on in his career his defensive ability, it's clear that it will not be long until he is a defensive anchor in the mold of Gobert.

Washington Wizards: Deni Avdija

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The Wizards are not loaded with young talent. They have not drafted well over the past few years. In the 2022 draft, they reached for Johnny Davis with the 10th pick, passing up on players like Jalen Williams, Jalen Duren and Walker Kessler. Washington might have reached again this year, selecting Bilal Coulibaly with the seventh pick—another project that the Wizards hope they can turn into a player.

Their most promising prospect is Deni Avdija. He stands at 6'9" and has shown flashes over his three years in the NBA, but the Wizards need him to find more consistency. Avdija might be miscast as a small forward, but he should play more of a Dario Saric role for the Wizards. The problem is he is not quite the passer Saric is.

The past draft mistakes have the Wizards in a bit of a difficult position, and it will be interesting to see how they develop their young talent going further.


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