With the 2023-24 NBA season tipping off soon, let’s take a look at the top 50 players to start an NBA franchise with.
Top 50 Players To Start NBA Franchise With 2023-24
Oftentimes, we discuss the “best” players currently in the NBA or of all time; however, there are very few lists that cover the best players/assets to start a team with at that moment in time, which is what we strived to do here. While every list holds a certain level of subjectivity, we tried to base our ranking on a few different things: contract, injury history, upside, and age.
For example, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, Jaylen Brown, and multiple other stars (or even superstars) dropped down our list due to injuries and/or massive, unfavorable contracts.
A few assumptions had to be made here in order to make this list work, too. One such example was the idea that a player and the proposed “drafting team” would be in good standing for the duration of the player’s career, giving youth a substantial advantage. Would you rather have Steph Curry for four or five years or Luka Doncic for 12 or 13?
Further, contracts were only taken into account based on their current value today. It is nice to have a star locked up for the next four or five years, but at what cost? And how will that affect the construction of the rest of the team, assuming that the salary cap is the same? Players on rookie contracts often ranked much better than current superstars like Brown, Davis, and Damian Lillard on our list for that reason.
- Nikola Jokic
During Game 1 of the NBA Finals, commentator Mike Breen said the following about Jokic: “He passes like Magic, rebounds like Moses, and shoots like Dirk.” Jokic’s ability to control the game is truly unparalleled. Across the 2023 Playoffs, he averaged 30 points, 13.5 rebounds, and 9.5 assists on an otherworldly 54/46/79 shooting split. Jokic became the first player ever to lead the entire playoffs in total points, rebounds, and assists. There’s no doubt that the reigning Finals MVP holds the title of the best player to start your franchise with today.
- Giannis Antetokounmpo
The “Greek Freak” is entering his prime years at age 28 and already has two MVPs and an NBA Championship under his belt. Giannis has two years left on his contract, with a player option for an additional season. After averaging 31 points, 12 rebounds, and six assists with elite defense, it is clear that Antetokounmpo is not only amongst the most valuable players in the NBA today but on his path to being one of the greatest ever to play.
- Luka Doncic
The 24-year-old superstar is fresh off a season where he averaged 32.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, and eight assists. He’s unstoppable in isolation, but his ability to throw every pass in the book means defenses cannot send help. Doncic only rises in the playoffs, as he owns the second-highest postseason scoring average ever (behind Michael Jordan) at 32.54 PPG. If Doncic improves his defense and off-ball play, then it’s nearly certain that he will eventually claim the top spot.
- Jayson Tatum
Tatum just averaged 30.1 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 4.6 assists while playing excellent defense in his age-24 season. He’s arguably the best two-way wing in the league, and he hasn’t reached his prime yet. Tatum’s shot-making and playmaking skills translate perfectly to the playoffs; he has already notched 94 career playoff games and reached the Conference Finals four times. If Tatum reduces the inconsistent shooting nights, then a Finals MVP is likely in his future.
- Anthony Edwards
The former first-overall pick flexed his potential in Minnesota’s first-round matchup versus Denver by averaging 31.6 points, 5.2 assists, and five rebounds. The Timberwolves were 30.3 points per 100 possessions better with Edwards on versus off the court in that series – it’s difficult even to comprehend that figure! The 22-year-old shooting guard also thrives on the defensive end and frequently appears identical to a young Dwyane Wade. If he continues on this trajectory, then he should snatch an MVP in the near future. Factor in his rookie contract salary this season, and Edwards rounds out the top five.
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
SGA took a massive leap and earned All-NBA First Team honors. The old-school guard averaged 31.4 points, 5.5 assists, and 4.8 rebounds while shooting 51% from the field. He led the league in drives per game and free throws made, too. The 6’6” guard also ranked 3rd in deflections per game and 5th in steals per game. In terms of creating offensive advantages while wreaking havoc defensively, there are few players better than Gilgeous-Alexander, who just turned 25 and has a reasonable contract for the next four seasons.
- Devin Booker
It seems like he’s been in the league forever, but Booker only turns 27 in October. He emulated a flamethrower during the 2023 Playoffs through averages of 33.7 points, 7.2 assists, and 4.8 rebounds on an impossibly efficient 58/50/86 shooting split. His ability to thrive on or off-ball deems him one the most valuable offensive weapons in the league. Phoenix will test this versatility by making him the de facto point guard – a role he’s never filled before.
- Victor Wembanyama
This may be too high, considering Wembanyama hasn’t played a single NBA game yet, but that’s how generational his scouting report was. The 7’4” forward/center sports an imposing 8’0” wingspan and boasts unfathomable defensive upside. Wembanyama has the fluidity to defend the perimeter and the size to stifle any center; he will compete for DPOY in his rookie season. Meanwhile, Wembanyama owns a decent handle, the ability to create off the dribble, and three-point range. It’s difficult to find noticeable flaws in this 19-year-old’s game besides injury concerns (which haven’t been proven to be valid).
- Paolo Banchero
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft already ranks exceptionally high on our list of best assets despite the fact that he has only played one season in the NBA. Banchero scored 20 points per game as a 20-year-old rookie and helped Orlando win 12 more games than it did the previous season. If Banchero ever develops a consistent three-point shot, he will eventually be an MVP-caliber talent.
- Tyrese Haliburton
Last season, Haliburton became the first player ever to average 20 points and ten assists on 40%+ shooting from behind the arc. Yes, that includes Steve Nash, Chris Paul, Steph Curry, and many other greats that reside on (or near) the Mount Rushmore of point guards. Haliburton also led the NBA in potential assists per game and, per ShotQuality, recorded the lowest bad possession rate among point guards, which measures possessions that result in the 33rd percentile or lower of shot quality or expected points. He boasts fantastic size (6-foot-5), speed, playmaking, vision, and basketball IQ; Haliburton is still just 23 years old and locked into a long-term contract.
- Jamal Murray
How great was Jamal Murray in the 2023 NBA Playoffs? The answer is “very.” Murray averaged 26 points, seven assists, and six rebounds on a 47/40/93 shooting split. As a matter of fact, there were several games where Murray stepped up and took the reins when Nikola Jokic was double-teamed. This elevation wasn’t a one-time occurrence either. Murray – who has registered 53 playoff games – is one of seven players in NBA history who own a career playoff average of 25+ points, 6+ assists, and 5+ rebounds (min. ten games). At just 26 years of age, Murray still has his best years in front of him.
- Ja Morant
Right now, Ja Morant is a bit of a risk as a franchise cornerstone. Is he going to mature, evolve, and eventually lead the Grizzlies to an NBA Championship? Only time will tell; however, his athletic ability and playmaking prowess are largely unmatched by the rest of the league and most players in the history of the NBA. Morant also rises in the playoffs; he’s one of the seven players in the Jamal Murray stat above. If Morant grows on and off the floor, then the 24-year-old will be an unstoppable force for the next decade.
- Stephen Curry
He is 35 years old, but Curry’s game should age like wine. He still has a few years left of being the number-one option on a championship team. Curry just averaged 30.5 points, 6.1 assists, and 5.2 rebounds during the postseason, and Golden State was 17.3 points per 100 possessions better with Curry on compared to off the court. He led all lead guards in pick and roll points per possession. In addition, he can seamlessly transition into a lesser off-ball role during his late 30s. It’s probably the last time Curry ranks this high, given his age, though.
- Jaren Jackson Jr
The reigning Defensive Player of the Year was the youngest to win the award since its inception. No one is surprised. Jackson has the upside to be a generational defender; he should realistically win a handful of DPOYs before his career is over. His defensive skills are especially essential in the modern game given the direction of NBA centers: over 7’0”, quick, and more perimeter-oriented. Further, “Triple J” has shown promise and improvement on the offensive side of the floor due to his solid touch around the rim, athleticism, and three-point shot. Pair all of that with a declining contract, which is arguably one of the best value contracts in the NBA, and you get an incredible franchise piece.
- Zion Williamson
Williamson would be higher on our list of best assets in the NBA, but an unfortunate history of injuries in just his first few seasons has dropped him quite a few spots. Zion’s strength and athleticism are unparalleled, quickly turning him into an elite, efficient scorer at a young age. As a matter of fact, Williamson averaged 27 points on 61% shooting at just 20 years old. If he can stay healthy, the sky’s the limit.
- Joel Embiid
The reigning MVP has paced the league in scoring for the past two seasons now, and he raised his efficiency to a career-high 65.5 TS%. When Embiid gets to his spots in the post, opponents can only hope that he misses. With Harden in town, Embiid increased his high pick and roll usage, too, which resulted in superior shot quality for the big man. When Embiid is on his game, he’s virtually unstoppable. Why is his ranking so low, then? The 29-year-old possesses a scary injury history, and he hasn’t stepped up in the playoffs when it mattered most. Embiid has faced elimination eight times in his career. In those games, he averaged 21 points, 11.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 4.6 turnovers on a dreadful 38.1 FG%. He can still turn it around with a stellar postseason campaign, but the clock is ticking.
- Kevin Durant
Durant is 34 years old with a torn Achilles in his past…and he just produced 29.1 PPG, 6.7 RPG, and 5 APG on a historic 56/40/91 shooting split. Durant is the ultimate isolation weapon because he can shoot over anyone, but his willingness to play off-ball only enhances his impact. If you desperately need points against a tough playoff defense, Durant is your guy. Is he a true number one on a championship team? At this point, it’s debatable; however, he’s a “1B” at a minimum. Like Curry, Durant’s game should age well, too, assuming he holds off injuries. That’s not a given, though, as he’s played in just 58% of regular season games since the 2019 torn Achilles.
- Chet Holmgren
Holmgren is a unicorn at 7’1”; he can handle, shoot, pass, and defend every area of the court due to his impressive mobility. The Gonzaga product will fight for an All-Defensive spot this season and should be a block machine. His exceptional defense, along with a reasonably high offensive ceiling, label him one of the best young players in the league. The 21-year-old did miss his entire rookie season with a foot injury, but he’s fortunately not at an increased risk for further injury. Holmgren is on a rookie contract for three more seasons, too.
- Franz Wagner
The 6’10” 22-year-old forward is a dominant driver and impressive playmaker. His patience and ability to manipulate the defense allow him to create advantages for himself and others consistently. Wagner’s defense is disruptive, too, as he’s able to guard numerous positions at a high level. In addition, Wagner has two years remaining on his rookie contract. For a full breakdown of Wagner’s massive potential, check out this article.
- Jalen Williams
Across 43 games starting January 1st, Williams averaged 16.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.9 steals on a 52/39/84 shooting split. That’s phenomenal production for a rookie, and JDub made it look easy. Despite standing 6’5”, Williams has the strength to guard bigger forwards and the quickness to handle point guards. His future as an elite two-way wing that can initiate offense is tantalizing, and the 22-year-old still has three years left on his bargain rookie contract.
- De’Aaron Fox
Sacramento recorded the highest Offensive Rating ever last season, and Fox was a huge reason behind their success. The lightning-quick point guard averaged 25 points and 6.1 assists while winning the inaugural Clutch Player of the Year award. Because he thrives in both transition and half-court settings, Fox can take over games as the primary option. The 25-year-old has three remaining years on a reasonable salary, too.
- Scoot Henderson
Scoot marks the second rookie to breach the list. He’s an explosive athlete who can bend gravity on his way to the hoop, and Henderson’s midrange pull-up jumper remains a reliable option, too. His pick-and-roll IQ and passing ability should immediately translate to the NBA, so Henderson has the makings of a star point guard. If the 19-year-old develops a solid three-point shot, then he will shoot up these rankings. Factor in tenacious defense and four years of a rookie contract, and Henderson manages to breach the top 25 of this list.
- LaMelo Ball
Ball is one of the most dynamic transition wizards in the league, and his positional size allows him to see more angles than most point guards. His efficient three-point shot and off-ball skills grant him elite role versatility, too. With Ball at the helm, the offense can create a spark against any defense. If he’s going to take the next step, he must improve his defense and finishing, as a 59.8 FG% within three feet of the basket is unacceptably low. However, the 22-year-old has plenty of time to improve his game.
- Donovan Mitchell
Mitchell took a sizable efficiency leap last season for Cleveland. The 6’1” combo guard averaged 28.3 points, 4.4 assists, and 4.3 rebounds while producing an excellent 48/38/86 shooting split. To understand his scoring prowess, look no further than his 71-point game in January – he was a jaw-dropping 22/34 from the field and 7/15 from three. He’s 27-years-old, so Mitchell has entered his prime years.
- Jimmy Butler
Since joining the Heat, Butler has dragged them to two Finals appearances and three Conference Finals. During that postseason span, he averaged 24.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.7 assists, and 1.9 steals on a 47/34/83 shooting split. Overall, few wings are more impactful on both ends of the court than “Playoff Jimmy.” With the right team around him, Butler could lead a team to a championship, which elevates him to 25th despite being 34 years old by Opening Night.
- Anthony Davis
A laundry list of injuries and a massive three-year, $186 million extension that pigeonholes the Lakers through 2028 results in Anthony Davis plummeting on our list of best assets in the NBA. While Davis is an outstanding interior defender and multi-level scorer on the other end of the floor, his lack of availability and offensive passivity is concerning enough for him to fall here. Hopefully, he can revitalize his career by staying healthy, so we can see what he can do when available for months at a time.
- Damian Lillard
The same could be said of Lillard, who could be the top option on a championship team with the optimal supporting cast. Lillard was better than ever in his age-32 season; he averaged 32.2 points, 7.3 assists, and 4.8 rebounds while owning a 46/37/91 shooting split. Outside of Stephen Curry, no player can get hotter from deep than Lillard. He’s also a fantastic finisher despite his size, so Lillard remains a threat from all areas of the court. Defensive issues will always plague him, and he hasn’t been too durable lately. However, Lillard remains an offensive superstar and should hold this status for a few more years. Like Curry, Lillard’s game can easily scale down into a smaller role once he leaves his prime.
- Brandon Ingram
Due to the lofty expectations that were placed on him at the beginning of his rookie season, Brandon Ingram consistently flies under the radar as one of the best forwards in the NBA. Ingram is fresh off averaging 25 points, six rebounds, and six assists on a 48/39/88 shooting split. Ingram will be 26 years old this season, with (hopefully) close to a decade of solid basketball left, especially considering his play style; he relies on talent and skill above athleticism. Unfortunately, the only time we have seen Ingram in the playoffs was the 2021-22 season, where he averaged 27 points, 6.2 assists, and 6.2 rebounds on a stellar 47/40/83 shooting split.
- Jalen Brunson
The New York Knicks enticed Brunson enough to pull him away from the Dallas Mavericks in the summer of 2022 with what seemed like a massive contract for a player who still had to prove that not only could he be a full-time starter, but also an All-Star-caliber point guard. Brunson did just that, averaging roughly 28 points, six assists, and five rebounds in the playoffs. Now, the Knicks have an incredible point guard and contract (roughly $26 million per year.)
- Mikal Bridges
Bridges shed his 3&D role and became the primary option for a semi-rebuilding Brooklyn squad. In 27 regular season games after the trade, Bridges posted 26.1 PPG on an elite 47/37/89 shooting split. He displayed tantalizing self-created scoring while maintaining the ability to lock down opponents. His playmaking is starting to develop, too, which would catapult the 27-year-old’s offensive impact into the next tier. The Nets have him under contract for the next three years at an average annual value of only $23.3 million per year – a complete steal.
- Lauri Markkanen
In his first season with Utah, Markkanen won Most Improved Player and was an All-Star starter. He averaged 25.6 points and 8.6 rebounds while shooting an incredible 49/39/87 shooting split. Markkanen led the NBA in points per touch, and the Jazz were 10 points per 100 possessions better with Markkanen on versus off the court – good for 13th across the entire league. The 7’0” forward possesses impressive positional and role versatility, so he provides lineup flexibility to the highest degree. Plus, Markkanen is only 26 years old with two years left of an extremely cheap contract.
- Bam Adebayo
Adebayo is one of the most versatile defenders in the league. He can anchor a championship defense and perfectly fits the mold of the ideal modern defensive center. Meanwhile, Adebayo averaged 20.4 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 3.2 assists – the only players to match or exceed all three marks were Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, and Julius Randle. Adebayo just turned 26 years old and has three years left of a fairly priced contract. Why is he this low, then? Because he possesses no range outside of the free throw line. Opponents were leaving him open and daring him to shoot (especially Denver), which significantly clogged the lane and crippled spacing. If Adebayo develops even a somewhat reliable jumper, then he immediately shoots up this list.
- Jaylen Brown
Even though Jaylen Brown boasts superb talent (he was an All-NBA Second Team selection for a reason), we struggle getting behind paying $304 million to a player who has issues penetrating the lane with his left hand and taking care of the ball. Brown belongs on our list simply because he is one of the best two-way shooting guards in the league; however, his absurd contract and recent playoff dropoff caused him to tumble.
- Domantas Sabonis
Like Fox, Sabonis helped Sacramento notch the largest Offensive Rating ever. His elite passing, court vision, and anticipation allow Sabonis to thrive as an offensive hub. Whether it’s a dribble handoff or post-up, Sabonis can orchestrate the offense to perfection. He also led the league in rebounds per game while chipping in 19.1 PPG on a hyper-efficient 61.5 FG%. However, his lackluster defense and poor outside shot represent glaring flaws that noticeably impair his team. Until he improves one or both areas, it will be difficult for the 27-year-old big man to raise his ranking.
- Desmond Bane
Once the 30th pick in the NBA Draft, 25-year-old Desmond Bane has quickly dispelled all concerns over his “minus wingspan” by shooting the lights out of the ball and developing an impressive off-the-dribble game, including fast, downhill penetrating ability. Bane, Stephen Curry, and Kevin Durant were the only players in the NBA last season to average at least 20 points, five rebounds, and four assists while shooting a 40 3PT%. An argument could be made that Bane is currently the third-best overall three-point shooter in the NBA right now, and he still has his prime years ahead of him.
- Josh Giddey
The only 20-year-olds to ever average at least 16 points, seven rebounds, and six assists are Magic Johnson, LeBron James, Luka Doncic…and Josh Giddey. The Thunder guard is a superb playmaker with the size (6’8”) to pass over defenders and drive to the hoop. Playing with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has caused Giddey’s off-ball game to grow, and legendary shooting coach Chip Engelland is stimulating efficiency growth – he significantly increased his FG%, 3PT%, and FT% from year one to two (although there’s still plenty of improvement to be made). Giddey appears poised to make a major leap this season based on his current FIBA World Cup play. The 21-year-old (by Opening Night) also has two years remaining on his rookie contract.
- Cade Cunningham
A shin injury robbed Cunningham of all but 12 games in his sophomore season, but he posted an impactful 19.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, and six assists before the injury. Cunningham possesses legitimate potential as a jumbo lead playmaker with the size to defend numerous positions. In addition, Cunningham has two remaining years of his rookie contract. However, Cunningham must radically boost his efficiency in order to be a true offensive leader. There were 270 players who attempted at least 300 FGA last season; Cunningham’s career 50.19 TS% would have ranked 263rd.
- Alperen Sengun
Sengun isn’t nicknamed “Baby Jokic” for no reason; he has unbelievable court vision and passing chops while owning a variety of crafty post moves. Despite playing for a dysfunctional Rockets squad, Sengun averaged 14.8 points, nine rebounds, and 3.9 assists in his age-20 season. If Sengun can improve his defensive positioning and lateral mobility, then he will put to rest any concerns about playoff offenses exploiting him. Given that the future of the league resides with playmaking stretch bigs, Sengun is in a perfect position to exert his will. He has two cheap years left to hone his skills before his rookie contract runs out.
- Trae Young
Despite shooting struggles last season, Trae Young remains one of the most talented points guards in the NBA; he posted 26 points and ten assists per game during the 2022-23 campaign for the Atlanta Hawks. Young’s biggest weakness is his horrific defense, which has been exploitable over the years and has, to some degree, held the Hawks back from ever boasting a top-tier defense. Still, Trae’s offensive ability has already taken Atlanta to an Eastern Conference Finals in 2021, and he will only be 25 years old in September (although the contract isn’t ideal).
- Darius Garland
Players that averaged at least 21 points, seven assists, and shot a 40 3PT%: Darius Garland….end of the list. Garland is a fascinating player because he’s essentially an All-Star caliber player, both on and off-ball. His ability to create as the primary option while also excelling as a scaled-down passer and catch-and-shoot weapon makes him one of the more intriguing weapons in the NBA. Garland won’t be a number one option, but it’s feasible he wins a ring as the second option.
- Shaedon Sharpe
It took a little while for Shaedon Sharpe to take off in his rookie season, but in the last ten games, he posted 24 points, six rebounds, and four assists per game on a 46/38/77 shooting split. With Damian Lillard likely departing before the start of the 2023 season, Sharpe should see a substantial increase in usage. Shaedon might have the highest vertical in the league and already possesses impressive isolation scoring. Not to mention, he is on a rookie contract!
- Amen Thompson
“Shades of Penny Hardaway” is one way that we described Amen Thompson and his superb combination of burst, speed, vertical athleticism, and flashy playmaking at 6-foot-7. Thompson is another member of the elite 2023 NBA Draft class that makes this list due to his exceptional two-way upside. Amen is on a rookie contract and should quickly turn into a crucial piece for a growing Rockets team.
- Brandon Miller
The fourth rookie to come off the board. Miller averaged 18.8 points and 8.2 rebounds for Alabama while shooting 38.4% on 7.5 three-point attempts per game. He can score from anywhere on the court and create every shot for himself. Plus, his versatile defensive tape was impressive for someone his size. “Shades of Paul George” was the draft comp, and Miller has every chance of living up to the hype. Four years on a rookie contract is a major selling point, too.
- Kawhi Leonard
Without a doubt, Leonard is the most frustrating player to rank. The Good: Across 26 postseason games since joining the Clippers, Leonard has averaged an absurd 29.6 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 5.1 assists on a deadly 52/37/87 shooting split. His defense has dropped from his Spurs days, but Leonard remains a disruptive defender with the size and quickness to guard numerous positions. When healthy, he’s a top option on a championship team, which only a handful of players can truly say. The Bad: “When healthy” is a phrase that has plagued Leonard. He suffered a significant injury in the 2017 Playoffs, tore his ACL in the 2021 Playoffs, and tore his meniscus in the 2023 Playoffs. His knee is completely unreliable and seems like a ticking time bomb. It’s impossible to trust that Leonard can make it an entire season. The Ugly: He probably only has a few more years before his knee completely gives out. He’s under contract this season and owns a player option for next season. If the 32-year-old opts out and demands a sizable extension, I wouldn’t want to be in the front office to deal with that dilemma.
- Scottie Barnes
Barnes won Rookie of the Year in 2022 but stagnated last year. Through two seasons, he owns career averages of 15.3 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 4.2 assists on a 47/29/75 shooting split. The 6’9” forward certainly has upside as an offensive initiator and defensive stopper, but he needs to find a three-point shot and be more consistent defensively in order to take a leap. Given that he just turned 22 years old (and has two years left on his rookie contract), there’s an abundance of time for Barnes to figure it out.
- Evan Mobley
Mobley is a defensive monster at 6’11” who can snuff out ball handlers and roam like a free safety. He’s a highly coveted defensive piece that can anchor a top defense. His offense, though…needs work. Badly. The shooting percentages are ugly outside of three feet. Of the 257 players with at least 100 Spot Up possessions, Mobley ranked dead last in Spot Up points per possession. If he develops a reliable jumper, then Mobley will fly up the rankings.
- Tyrese Maxey
In just his third NBA season, Tyrese Maxey posted 20 points per game on 48% shooting from the field and 43% from deep. Maxey’s elite shooting helped give the Sixers the highest 3P% in the league. Tyrese also boasts incredible straight-line speed that helps him blow past defenders, particularly in transition. If Harden departs before the season starts, Maxey will be thrust into a bigger role; it will be interesting to see if he maintains that efficiency.
- Jalen Green
Jalen Green is a score-first guard with a deep bag of tricks to shake defenders. He possesses advanced dribble combinations that help him create separation with ease, and he already understands how to get to the charity stripe too – Green ranked 13th among guards in Free Throw Attempt Rate. The efficiency has to improve, but it’s common for scorers to start their careers inefficiently before blossoming. Green ranks this low due to defensive and playmaking questions. Can he consistently facilitate in a playoff setting? Will opponents relentlessly hunt him? Should Green answer these questions, then he has a blazing future.
- Jabari Smith Jr
Even after an underwhelming rookie season, Jabari Smith Jr. is still a no-brainer to make our “best asset” list; he’s a 6-foot-11 stretch forward who has not even really found out how good he can be at the NBA level. Smith has proven that he can be a two-way force that can hit tough shots over defenders.
- Jaden McDaniels
The on-ball defense is special. Per BBall Index’s metrics, McDaniels led the league in Perimeter Isolation Defense and Ball Screen Navigation while ranking fourth in Matchup Difficulty. In addition, McDaniels paced all non-bigs in their metric Rim Protection. The 6’9” wing (although there are reliable reports that say he grew to 6’11” this off-season) can effortlessly guard 1-4 at an extremely high level. His offense is taking form, too; he’s fresh off a season averaging 12.1 points on a quality 51/39/73 shooting split. McDaniels flashed a pull-up jumper and self-creation tools last season, which would considerably expand his ceiling. The 23-year-old is in the final year of his rookie contract. For a full breakdown of Jaden McDaniels’ potential, check out this article.