The NBA is a star driven league and every year we see new players raise their games and succeed at a high level. This article highlights players that I predict will make the jump to becoming first time all stars.
C Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz):
When it comes to selecting all star teams, it’s hard for people to envision Gobert as an all star, but he is incredibly impactful for the Jazz and what they do. Last season, the Utah Jazz’s defensive rating was 105.7, which was good for 2nd place in the NBA. No one in the NBA changes a defense like Rudy Gobert as he uses his ridiculous 7’9 wingspan to contest anything in his vicinity. His presence allows for his teammates to run shooters off the 3 point line, which is why the Jazz ranked first in the NBA in opponent 3 pointers attempted per 100 positions. Additionally, the Jazz have improved this offseason and will become relevant and have more prime time games. This should increase his chances, because no one really talks about Utah, so when it comes for the time to vote, Rudy Gobert is not the name that comes to mind. Furthermore, Gobert is limited to dunks, lobs, and second chance points, but even with those limitations he still managed to produce offensively and averaged 15.9 ppg last season. This offseason, Gobert has posted videos of him working on his 3 point shot. I can’t confirm or deny how much effort he has put into his shot, but if he can become respectable from there, he would be the best center in the NBA. For teams contending for titles, it’s hard to be the best when you have to play through a center; it just doesn’t work in today’s game. With Gobert though, he finds ways to be productive and fit within a system. If the Jazz are a top 4 or 5 seed in the west by February, someone would have to make the all star team and expect Gobert to be that person.
SG Zach Lavine (Chicago Bulls):
In the offseason of 2018, Lavine signed a 4 year $78 million deal. At the time, it looked like a deal that the Bulls had to do, but didn’t love it. Now, it looks like a bargain. Zach had a career year averaging 23.7 ppg, 4.5 apg, and 4.7 rpg and showed qualities of a star in the making. First of all, the all star game is in Chicago. I’m not going to pretend that that’s not extra motivation. Last year, Kemba Walker was playing the best basketball in his career in the 1st half of the season. Their is no doubt in my mind that their was extra motivation for him to become a starter, because it was in Charlotte. Furthermore, Zach has shown he’s a hard worker and always wants to improve. In an interview with the Chicago Sun Times, Tom Thibodeau (a coach who has a reputation for running players into the ground) had high praise for LaVine after he traded him; “[The Bulls] are getting a high-character guy, a great worker and a guy that has improved each year he’s been in the league.” LaVine most certainly has the physical tools to dominate at an all star level as he can jump out of the gym, and is quick as his first step allows him to drive and beat his man consistently off the catch. The Bulls will now have Otto Porter and Tomas Satoransky to start the season, which will help the spacing and open up the floor. LaVine has struggled shooting efficiently, but that was largely due to the fact defenses only focused on him. If some of the Bulls core pieces stay healthy as well having the role players they added, expect him to increase his point total to around 26 ppg. It definitely helps LaVine is in the eastern conference.
PG De’Aaron Fox (Sacramento Kings):
Coming into the NBA, I thought Fox was a solid prospect, but I have a theory that score first point guards who aren’t great 3 point shooters could never lead a team at a high level. Well, Fox has clearly put a lot of work into his game and had a very impressive sophomore season averaging 17.3 ppg, 7.3 apg, and 1.6 spg. The most impressive part was that he shot 37.1% from 3 improving from his rookie season clip of 30.7%. One of the greatest traits in life is self awareness and your ability to adapt. De’Aaron knew that if you want to win in this league, you have to shoot and make 3s as a guard. Additionally, in Fox’s rookie year, the Kings were last in the NBA in pace of play. This past season, they moved up to 5th and that was largely due to Fox. He was the engine that made this team go and would lead by example and never take plays off. The Kings just missed the playoffs last year, but they took a major step in the right direction. This offseason, they are clearly building a team around Fox in hopes of making a jump into the playoffs. The Kings added Trevor Ariza, someone who’s been a part of successful teams and should be a “glue guy” who will help space the floor. Point guard Cory Joseph is another veteran who has championship experience and will serve as a mentor to Fox. Then they went out and got Dewayne Dedmon who should fit with De’Aaron very well. Dedmon has totally changed his game and became a stretch 5. Imagine trying to scheme a defense to defeat Fox vs a 5 out. The kings are going to be in a fight for one of the last playoff spots in the conference, and expect him to be rewarded for leading his team in such a talented western conference.
PF Pascal Siakam (Toronto Raptors):
Pascal Siakam, last season’s most improved player, should be on verge of making another jump. With Kawaii Leonard gone, there will be a lot of opportunity for him to make his name and become more of a focal point for this team. The Raptors still have many veterans, so I expect them to be in the playoff race. This will help Siakim’s all star case, because the coaches try to award winning to some extent when they select the bench. Additionally, the Raptors do not have any wings that can score and create their own shot, except maybe Norman Powel to a smaller degree. Pascal is going to be relied on heavily since he is virtually a mismatch waiting to happen with how long and fast he is. Siakam is still fairly raw as a player, but showed he has the physical tools and motor to be productive in the playoffs last year. Pascal is going to be a very good player in this league, and I expect him to get the recognition for it in February.
Article written by Bradley Patten
All salaries found on Spotrac (https://www.spotrac.com/)
All NBA team and player stats found on Basketball Reference (https://www.basketball-reference.com/)
All rosters found on NBA Media Ventures (https://www.nba.com/teams/)
Rudy Gobert photo taken by Rick Bowmer (https://www.standard.net/sports/utah-jazz/rudy-gobert-is-indeed-utah-jazz-million-man/article_3ccefb74-d121-5380-b15d-65ef119dfcc0.html)