By Hocine LOUKKAF on 1/27/2022

As much as Ball and Edwards were doubted, they already proved they were stars in the League. Behind them, Haliburton could join his two aforementioned classmates as future franchise players while Bane and Maxey are overachieved their draft positions.

Lamelo Ball, 6-7 PG, Charlotte
Stats : 19pts 7.6as 7.3rbds

Like many people, I was doubting his ability to handle the professionnal game because of the immaturity he displayed in HS and in Lithuania but he has proved doubters wrong as the Hornets have a positive record and may go to the playoffs for the first time since the 2015-16 season. Ball still needs to improve his shooting percentage and cut down his turnovers but he’s already lived up to the hype.

Anthony Edwards, 6-5 SG, Minnesota
Stats : 22.2pts 5.1rbds 3.6as

Like for Lamelo, a lot of people thought that Edwards could score but not necessarily bring wins to the table. Thanks to a great team alchemy, the Wolves are also posting a positive record and may see the playoffs for the first time since the 2017-18 season and the second since the 2004-05 (yeah you read it right). Edwards has improved his scoring while both his overall FG% and his 3pt % have risen (37.5% from three). Better defense and rebounding should help him become one of the top SGs in the NBA.

Tyrese Haliburton, 6-5 PG, Sacramento
Stats : 14pts 7.2as 1.6st 43% 3pt

Does a player’s evaluation depend mainly on his team’s results? To me the answer is not always, and that’s why Haliburton deserves credit for the year he’s having for a team that lacks talent compared to other Western Conference opponents. He’s improved his shooting, passing and a/to ratio despite playing for one of the top 10 worst 3pt shooting teams in the League.

Desmond Bane, 6-4 SG, Memphis
Stats : 17.7pts 42% 3pt

Bane benefits and suffers from playing for a good team. Contrary to the three aforementioned players, he’s not the leader of his team. Yet, his stats are impressive with 42% from three and half of his shots being three pointers. He’s the perfect piece in a roster full of talent and doesn’t have to force the issue. Another great pick for the Grizzlies at 30 (sic) who still has room to improve.

Tyrese Maxey, 6-3 PG/SG, Philadelphia
Stats : 16.7pts 4.5as 1.2to 41% 3pt

He’s still not a pure PG but he’s a helluva player. Maxey has entered the starting five and does a very nice job with a 40+% from three and a 3.8 a/to ratio. Maxey is so good at PG that he makes President Morey and his staff look like geniuses as it allows him to trade Simmons for any kind of player who could upgrade another spot.

Cole Anthony, 6-2 PG, Orlando
Stats : 18pts 6rbds 5.8as

His shooting still need refining (39% FG, 33% 3pt) but Anthony has displayed better IQ and had some great games that could be flashes of the player he can become. Yet, he’s struggled heavily since he came back from injury in January,  bad news for the Magic who are also looking to get some wins to validate their rebuilding and numerous draft picks or will once again pray to get the highest draft pick possible.

Isaac Okoro; 6-6 SF, Cleveland
Stats : 9.2pts 3.4rbds

Okoro has kept exactly the same role as he did last year despite still struggling outside the 3pt line (28%). Yet, the main difference is that the Cavs have become one of the most exciting teams of the Eastern Conference with a nucleus of young talented players like Garland, Mobley or Allen.

Immanuel Quickley, 6-3 PG/SG, New York
Stats : 10.1pts 2.9as

Despite playing a bit more than last year, Quickley is struggling adapting to his new role due to the arrival of Walker and Fournier at both guard spots (34% 3pt to 39% last year) . With Thibodeaux used to having a short rotation, Quickley needs to show more consistency if the Knicks ever reach the playoffs.

Deni Avdija, 6-8 SF/PF, Washington
Stats : 7.3pts 4.7rbds

A bit like Okoro, Avdija may never become a good shooter (30% 3pt), so he gives it all on defense and bringing his IQ to the fast-improving Wizards. He’s still very inconsistent on offense with many games below 40% FG.

Saddiq Bey/Isaiah Stewart, 6-7 SF/6-9 C, Detroit
Stats : 15.1pts 5.9rbds/8pts 7.9rbds 1.2bl

I decided to put them together not only because they are teammates but because, despite their professionalism, both of them would be better suited coming from the bench in playoffs-contending teams than as starters. Bey is shooting under 40% FG while hitting 33.6% from three while Stewart may lack length or elite athleticism a la Adebayo to be a real rim protector. They’re still young and will improve so let’s at least grant them the time to prove me wrong.

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