Karl Anthony Towns, Center (5th Season)

(via StarTribune)

Karl Anthony Towns was the #1 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft and has been productive for the Minnesota Timberwolves since day one, however, the Timberwolves have seldom been competitive in the West. KAT is putting up monster numbers to start the season, 27 points per game with a field goal percentage of 54%, 4 assists,11 rebounds and is the most efficient player in the league according to NBA.com/stats. According to pro basketball reference, KAT is also leading the league in value over replacement. The NBA suspended Towns 2 games for his on court altercation with Joel Embiid in Wednesday nights game. Towns let his emotions get the best of him and while this situation does show poor judgement in some ways, simultaneously it shows a competitive fire and desire to win. With that being said, he needs to embrace the leadership role all franchise players must embrace to create a winning culture in Minnesota. The next step for KAT this season is about developing the intangibilities and leadership qualities to pair with his forceful presence down low. If Towns can keep playing at this level and develop the necessary leadership qualities needed to create a winning culture, Towns could quickly become an MVP caliber player.

Pascal Siakam, Forward (4th Season)

(Frank Gunn/CP)

Pascal Siakam showed the world what he was capable of last year. Offensively and defensively Siakam showed massive improvement from his first three seasons and took the league by surprise. He was the second best player on the Toronto Raptors championship squad led by Kawhi Leonard, but this is his team now. He has been flourishing as the teams #1 option on offense and has posted an impressive stat line through the Raptors first 5 games of the season averaging, 28 points per game on 51% shooting along with 9 boards and 4 assists. Although he’s started off hot on offense, defensively he is averaging less than one block and one steal per game, a step backward from last season. The Siakam led Raptors sit in a comfortable position in the Eastern Conference with a record of 4-1; their only loss being dealt to them by the Boston Celtics. If Saikam can continue to post impressive numbers, begin racking up steals and blocks as he did last season and lead the Raptors to the playoffs as the team’s main man, he will finally get the praise he deserves and be considered one of the best players in the league. 

Jayson Tatum, Forward (3rd Season)

(David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)

Jayson Tatum plateaued in his sophomore season, showing little improvement and averaging a stat line very similar to his rookie season. Through the first 5 games of the young season, Tatum is averaging 22 points per game along with 8 boards. Although he is shooting the lights out from the three point line and averaging a career high in points, he needs to improve on his finishing ability around the rim. Jayson Tatum showed flashes of greatness in his rookie season, leading the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2018, where he posterized LeBron James and hit a side step three to put the Celtics up late in the fourth quarter of Game 7. Ultimately, the Celtics were defeated by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers due to poor shooting performances from multiple Celtics players. During that immaculate playoff run, Tatum scored the second most points by a rookie in NBA playoff history, 1 point shy of tying the record held by the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. On Friday nights game vs the New York Knicks, Tatum hit a game winner to give the Celtics a 104-102 lead with 1 second remaining keeping the Celtics win streak alive. The next step in Tatum’s career is getting back to the version of him we saw in the 2018 playoffs. Kyrie Irving’s departure should benefit Tatum and allow him to step into a leadership role on the Celtics and prove that he has the potential to be as consistently great as he was in that remarkable 2018 playoff run. The sky is the limit for Jayson Tatum.

Brandon Ingram, Forward (4th Season)

(via CBS Sports)

Recently traded to the New Orleans Pelicans along with Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart, the 2nd overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft is playing really well in coach Alvin Gentry’s system. Coming into the league scouts compared him to Kevin Durant and while he hasn’t exactly lived up to that comparison, he showed signs of improvement towards the end of last season with the Lakers posting multiple 20 point games. Through 5 games this season Ingram is averaging 28 points per game, 8 rebounds and 5 assists. He’s averaging career highs in nearly every statistical category and is showing the critics what he is capable of. The Pelicans young core is fast and exciting. The next step in Brandon Ingram’s career is finding where he fits in that system over the next few seasons and improving on his game. If #1 overall pick Zion Williamson lives up to the hype, the Pelicans young core could wreak havoc on the NBA for years to come at some point in the future, but that is largely dependent on if Brandon Ingram can continue to sharpen his skills and improve his game. Through this point in the season he’s on pace to do just that.

Luka Doncic, PG, SG, SF (2nd Season)

(Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY Sports)

Needless to say, the product of Slovenia, Luka Doncic has picked up right where left off last season. The 3rd pick in the 2018 NBA Draft and reigning rookie of the year is averaging 25 points per game on 45% shooting along with 9 rebounds and 7 assists per game. Through his first 76 career games he is averaging more points, assists, and rebounds than LeBron James did through his first 76 career games. Although the Dallas Mavericks roster is relatively weak aside from Doncic himself and Kristaps Porzingis, this team is still capable of winning some games and could possibly squeak into the playoffs. The next step in Doncic’s career is making the Dallas Mavericks a formidable team again. Nobody is expecting Luka to lead this team to a championship right now but, if Luka can somehow lead this team to the playoffs in the loaded Western Conference it would be a great way to make the Dallas Mavericks relevant and competitive again. If Luka keeps playing at this level by the end of the season, Luka Doncic will be regarded as a generational talent and quite possibly the heir to LeBron James throne at some point in the near future.

Trae Young, Point Guard (2nd Season)

(Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

Trae Young solidified himself as a scorer last season but he wasn’t entirely efficient in carrying the load of the mediocre Atlanta Hawks offense. This season Trae Young has showed signs of improvement averaging 27 points per game on 50% shooting. In addition to being a top 10 points per game scorer through the first five games he has facilitated the ball as well averaging 7 assists per game. Trae Young suffered a high ankle sprain in Tuesday nights game vs. the Miami Heat. The injury is a minor set back and he is expected to miss only a few games. Upon returning within the next few weeks, Trae’s goal should be to remain efficient and keep ballin out the way he has. Nobody is expecting the Hawks to accomplish anything special this season but they do have a special young core that has a ton of potential. Eventually the pieces will come together in Atlanta, as long as Trae Young continues to ball out and get everybody involved. Trae Young is on pace to solidify himself as one of the better point guards in the game in just his sophomore season.