The word “star” is such a vague term in basketball language. Everyone has their own definition. Many people don’t consider a player to be a star until their first All-Star selection, which is unfair. Guys like Stephen Curry, Monta Ellis and Josh Smith have been stars on their respective teams without yet being selected to an All-Star Game. In my opinion, being a star player is about popularity. To gain that popularity you obviously have to play well, but there needs to be a bit of luck involved as well. Opportunity is half the battle for most guys.
The NBA Draft is more important for the players than it is for the teams. Sure, teams feel the pressure to select the right guy as opposed to selecting a bust, but at the end of the day, the future of that team doesn’t always depend on that one selection. The draft is a low-risk, high-reward situation for many NBA teams. It’s just another chance for them to improve. They get the same chance year after year.
For the players, their futures depend on being selected into the right situation. Sometimes, they don’t matchup with the needs of the team and end up shuffling from city to city in their first few seasons. Just ask Thomas Robinson.
When picking which players from this year’s draft will end up as future “stars,” it’s important to factor in the situation everyone is going into. Now that the chips have fallen into place, it’s a bit easier to distinguish the players that have a chance at becoming stars from the players that have the deck stacked against them. Here are the five players from this year’s draft that have the best chance at NBA stardom.
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5. TIM HARDAWAY JR.
Hardaway Jr. has fallen into the perfect situation. With the return of J.R. Smith looking unlikely in New York, Hardaway Jr. has the perfect opportunity to come in and fill the void. The Knicks needed a young, exciting talent and that’s exactly what he brings to the table. Offensively, he has the complete package. He’s a balanced scorer and a strong player. At 6-6, he has the perfect stature of an NBA two-guard, and despite what many analysts will say, nearly as much potential as any other prospect in the draft because of his all-around game.
What gives Hardaway Jr. more star potential than Oladipo, Bennett or Muhammad is the situation he’s going into. In New York City, Knick fans fall in love with just about any player that gives a solid contribution. Hardaway Jr.’s popularity will be through the roof if he comes in and plays well. Also, the Knicks are already a contender with a superstar player in place. Hardaway Jr. doesn’t have to face the pressure of carrying the load like some of the other prospects and the fact that the Knicks will be a contending team will give Hardaway Jr. more time in the spotlight. He’ll be on national television more often than just about any other prospect and if he comes in and contributes right away, he’ll surprise a lot of people.
Some say you can’t be a star as a role player, but I believe that’s untrue. NBA stardom isn’t about being the best player on your team. In my opinion, it’s about popularity. With his new situation, Tim Hardaway Jr. has a chance to be one of the most popular rookies in the league next season. From there, who knows what he can accomplish?
4. TREY BURKE
Had Trey Burke not been traded to Utah, I wouldn’t have included him on this list. The Timberwolves have a bad reputation when it comes to indecisiveness between point guards. Now that they finally found their point guard of the future in Ricky Rubio, Burke would’ve been limited as a rookie and could’ve even spent a portion of his first season in the D-League. However, in Salt Lake City it’s a completely different situation.
Burke is going to fill the shoes left by Deron Williams. Since D-Will’s departure, the Jazz hasn’t had anything close to a franchise point guard. Burke fills that void for them. For the past few years, the Jazz focused on building their frontcourt with guys like Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. What they needed coming into this year’s draft was to improve the backcourt. With Trey Burke, they couldn’t have addressed that need any better. Burke has a chance to be the face of that franchise now and if he stays on track, it won’t be long before he’s in the conversation with guys like John Wall and Ty Lawson.