The NBA is always growing and expanding and the same goes with the talent. As those brand name stars get older, the younger generation looks to fill those shoes, but some have made their mark already, influencing fans.
Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns (23): Booker wasn’t a hot talent coming out of Kentucky in 2015, but these past few years he’s become a staple in Phoenix. The Suns franchise has been a dying one for years after Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, and vets like Grant Hill left. Booker turned this franchise around and now this year we are seeing his hard work pay off.
Among being a huge influence the 23-year old has accomplished a lot already, making an impressive resume. Booker became the 8th-youngest player in NBA history to notch 6,000 career points, joining LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, Andrew Wiggins and Shaquille O’Neal (via nba.com- Cody Cunningham). On the contrary, he’s recorded the 10th highest points scored among all players with 70 against the Boston Celtics.
This season, Booker is averaging 25 points, 5.8 assists at a 54% (career high) clip after 12 games. With the way he’s been able to perform the Suns sit 7-5 in a grueling western conference where they currently are 7th. Can they maintain this level or play throughout the whole season? That’s the question everyone is asking.
Lastly, we can all learn a little something from Devin Booker. He’s donated $2.5m to Suns charity for the next five years as he labels it his “favorite accomplishment”. He’s spent five years on the Suns and hopefully he can stick it out and play his whole career there. Bring back that player loyalty Book.
Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks (21): Just a year ago in 2018, Young was involved in a deal with Luka Dončić that sent him to Atlanta. Now, some of us were a bit skeptical on why Young went so high, but the ultimatum is that the Hawks were very high on him. In fact, they were so high on him that he changed the culture of Atlanta before he even stepped foot on the court for them.
In Atlanta, it’s a very prominent music city and is home to a lot of artists like Quavo, TI, Andre 3000, and 21 Savage. Young gained the attention of Quavo in a matter of a day and when we think of the Hawks, Trae Young is now the first name that comes to mind.
A huge reason why the Hawks are performing so well is due to Young. His offensive arsenal, and elite IQ is tough to contain at times. Averaging an impressive 27 points and 8.7 assists, Young has seen improvements in mainly every statistical category:
Needless to say Young has been getting into a healthy rhythm on both sides of the ball when last season the problem was inconsistency. It’s expected of a rookie to lack at times, but in my opinion I don’t think we have ever seen a player bounce back as quick as young has. Coach Lloyld Pierce is playing him 33.8 minutes a night and running the offense through the 6’1″ guard as he takes roughly 20 shots a night.
His impact dives deeper than just performance. As I look at the fan base from afar, the morale and hope for improvement is high. Even when the Hawks has Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Al Hordord, and Jamal Crawford the fans didn’t make nearly as much noise as Trae has been.
From a community standpoint, Young is seen throughout the Atlanta landscape participating in charity events, being a social media guru, and working on his craft everyday. More importantly Young wants to be in Atlanta and that’s rare to find nowadays.
Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz (23): Mitchell to me was the most NBA ready coming out of the 2017 draft. From a performance standpoint the first thing you noticed when watching is his athleticism and ability to murder the rim. He’s listed at 6’1 (who knows if that’s true or not) but plays like he’s 6’5. A true shooting guard, Mitchell is consistently averaging 24.9 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.9 assists on 44% from the field (career best), and 38% from deep which is all a career best.
From an off the court perspective people have grown to like Mitchell. His greatest influence has always been his mother and we saw this first hand as he is determined to complete his degree at Louisville. “I’m the type of person that if I put it off, I’ll forget about it,” he says. “But I really am just focused on that and determined to get it. It’s a good thing to have, especially as a basketball player.” (AJN)
Being a professional athlete is a huge accomplishment, but if you have nothing to back that up once your playing career is all said and done, then it’s hard to recover from. Mitchell demonstrates an athlete with a life plan. Just by his actions he will do right by the community and Utah; hopefully for years to come.
Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls (24): The biggest question heading into this season was if LaVine can carry a franchise over the hump. Coming off of a career year last season, Young Hollywood is putting up ‘ok’ numbers in 19.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 4.1 assists.
So let me guess you’re probably wondering why LaVine is so influential if his numbers have been on a downhill slope. His influence comes from giving the city of Chicago hope. They haven’t felt like this since Derrick Rose and that alone is what drives his influence for a franchise.
The rebuild might be a failure, but the LaVine still has time to turn things around. With a 5-10 record there is still time to improve. With Lauri Markannen by his side, posing as one of the upcoming young tandems, LaVine has his work cut out for him. Just because things aren’t working out the way we would all like them to doesn’t mean he isn’t beneficial and influential to the Bulls franchise and the league around him.
Luke Dončić, Dallas Mavericks (20): Luka magic has been proving himself on a nightly basis and why some might hate him you have to tip your hat off to the guy. In just 14 games, Dončić has posted an impressive 29.9 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 9.4 assists on 34.4 minutes a night. Dončić is nearly averaging a 30-point triple-double on the season, and his back-to-back triple-doubles this week have made him the youngest NBA player to accomplish such a feat.
Needless to say this kid is breaking record after record and we haven’t seen someone this talented since LeBron James. Don’t believe me? It’s all in the accomplishments and numbers.
List of player that have averaged 25, 7.5 and 7.5 over a single season looks like this:
- Oscar Robertson (six times)
- Russell Westbrook (twice)
- Larry Bird
- James Harden
- Michael Jordan.
None of those legends was as young as Dončić. (via FiveThirtyEight). I’ve went on record stating that he’s had 12 years of professional experience and that we are expecting him to play at this level, but the past month I’ve been eating my words. Nobody predicted Dončić being this good this early in his career.
Dončić is becoming a household name, commentators are falling in love with him, and fans are mirroring their game after his. I did a survey with around 100 people asking them to name a young player who you keep hearing about in the league. More than half of the people I asked don’t follow basketball, but the analysis doesn’t lie:
- 50%: Luka Dončić
- 30% Zion Williamson
- 10% Trae Young
- 10% Tacko Fall
A 20 year old gaining this much attention this early is something special and we can’t help but sit back and watch history before our eyes. Mark Cuban picked a diamond in the rough for sure. RIP Hawks.