We are currently experiencing somewhat of a changing of the guard in the NBA and in the eastern conference especially.
While there are still the established superstars performing at a high level as per usual, many of the players leading the league in many categories are young stars on the cusp of entering their prime years.
Here are all of the superstar players in the NBA under 25:
Those are six of the best 20 or 25 players in the NBA right now, which shows how good of hands the NBA is in when the banana boat generation starts fading out of the league.
There are two other young stars who were omitted from this list that are starring for playoff caliber teams in the eastern conference and filling up the stat sheet on a nightly basis: Aaron Gordon and Ben Simmons.
The wait was well worth it for the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft to make his debut and Ben Simmons is living up to every bit of the hype and more through 10 games.
Here are his stats:
PPG: 17.8 REB: 10.1 AST: 8.0 FG: 48%
Simmons still can’t shoot the ball at all and essentially refuses to shoot a shot outside of 15 feet, but his ability to see the floor and set up his teammates in positions to score and lead the break is transformative.
The 76ers are currently over 500. for the first time in four seasons at 6-4 and Simmons and Embiid look to be the super duo (sorry Markelle) to lead the 76ers back to eastern conference contention in the near future.
Few players compile the sort of numbers Simmons has thus far this season and virtually none are close to averaging a triple-double as a rookie not named LeBron James.
Maybe even more surprising, Aaron Gordon has progressed dramatically on the offensive end this season and is leading the Orlando Magic to a 6-4 record to start the season and appears to be a player worth building around moving forward.
Here Gordon’s stats thus far this season:
PPG: 19.1 REB: 8.9 AST: 2.3 FG% 53.3% 3P% 55.9%
Yes you read that right, Aaron Gordon is shooting 55% from three-point range this season. That obviously is a mirage, but Gordon can easily finish the season shooting around 40% from three for the season which is a pretty incredible compliment to his top-notch athleticism and underrated ball-handling ability to create his own shot and get to the rim.
He looks like he is morphing into some amalgamation of Blake Griffin and Shawn Marion that is built for the NBA in 2017, which may not be a superstar, but is still a damn good player.
When you look at the landscape of the eastern conference, it isn’t too hard to envision a scenario in which Simmons as a rookie and Gordon as a player who had never averaged more than 12.7 points per game in his NBA career could be eastern conference all-stars.
Here is the list of 100 percent certainties to be an all-star in the eastern conference this season:
Kristaps Porzingis (far too popular and playing far too well to be left out)
Here are guys in my opinion who are almost certain to be an all-star:
That leaves four spots for this following group of players to get an all-star berth:
Four of these players in theory will make an all-star team in the east this season, Kevin Love has struggled along with the rest of the Cavaliers not named LeBron James this season and may miss the cut. Hassan Whiteside has dealt with some injury issues and the Miami Heat are struggling thus far. Victor Oladipo has gotten off to an incredible start, but he and the Pacers are playing over their heads and above their talent level so far this season and I think both will take a step back.
Al Horford is having a great season and the Celtics massive success will likely lead to another all-star berth for him and Kemba Walker is an established player who can easily earn a spot if the Hornets are in a playoff position when the all-star break arrives. Then you have the three young guns, Embiid, Simmons and Gordon.
I may be going out on a small limb here, but I think Gordon and Simmons will continue to excel and their teams will continue to play playoff caliber basketball (at least by eastern conference standards) which will be enough to catapult them to first-time all-star berths along with Joel Embiid if he stays healthy enough.
Don’t expect captain LeBron or Durant to select them until the very end of the new all-star selection process this season though, this is still a veteran’s league after all and the young bloods will have to earn their respect on the big stage.