Next one up: 4 NBA players who are on All-Star trajectories

SALT LAKE CITY — There will always be detractors or players who feel like they’re on the cusp of an All-Star game, even after so many injuries and substitutions this season. Here’s who has every chance of getting into the list of stars next season or in the very near future.

Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers

Is he a power forward or center forward? Who cares, it really doesn’t matter because he’s doing what Cleveland needs, especially defensively. Assumed to be an All-Star season, he seemed like the most likely sophomore to make the jump to Sunday’s presentation, perhaps even more so than Rookie of the Year Scotty Barnes and No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham. Mobley entered the second season with high expectations, and after starting off slowly – largely due to allowing Donovan Mitchell to take over more legitimate real estate – he was almost forgotten about.

“With Donovan, the dynamic has definitely changed, there has been little change overall,” Mobley told Sportzshala Sports Friday night. “But I felt like I did a good job of changing with him.”

Where was he going to take the ball? Will he be able to get the amount of touch that his talent seemed to require? He seemed content to be lost in the shuffling, but more than likely he found his way into his new surroundings.

However, after that disappointing start, a funny thing happened: after January, he was an undeniable force. Mitchell still gets his fair share of shots and opportunities, but Mobley looks much more comfortable on both sides.

Cleveland Cavaliers big man Evan Mobley, playing for Joaquim Noah's Rising Stars on Feb. 17, 2023 in Salt Lake City, is a player who could play in the All-Star Game next season.  (Kyle Terada / pool photo via AP)
Cleveland Cavaliers big man Evan Mobley, playing for Joaquim Noah’s Rising Stars on Feb. 17, 2023 in Salt Lake City, is a player who could play in the All-Star Game next season. (Kyle Terada / pool photo via AP)

In his last 23 games, he’s averaged 17.6 points and 8.9 rebounds on almost two blocks – you could say he’s easier than other freshmen or sophomores because he plays alongside veteran Jarrett Allen, but Allen is capitalizing. from the game. next to Mobley too.

He has figured out how to use his length and is not bullied, although he is still growing in his body.

“I wanted to be the best I can be, that’s always my goal. I will do the same next year. I hope I get it next year or soon,” Mobley told Sportzshala Sports. “In the beginning, I had some good games and some not. So I try to live up to that.”

The Cavaliers have the best defense per 100 possessions, and Mobley’s versatility allows the Cavaliers to do so many things. He covers for Mitchell and Darius Garland – two short guards – playing cat and mouse on screen and buying time.

Were there Tim Duncan comparisons a little premature? Perhaps, but not entirely. At this stage, Duncan was in his third year at Wake Forest, and there was no guarantee that if he had come out in 1996, he would have been selected as No. 1 ahead of Allen Iverson and Marcus Camby (believe it or not).

To be fair, it’s hard to say if Victor Wembanyama would definitely be ahead of Mobley if both were in the same draft, which says more about Wembanyama than Mobley.

In any case, it will be a real disappointment if he is not in Indianapolis next February.

Mikal Bridges, Brooklyn Nets

Bridges had a clear cover in recent playoff games, although as a prototype 3-and-D he was exceptionally solid: long enough and strong enough to defend everything from a deuce to a four and not be afraid to play on the perimeter against herks. – cool guards.

But his inability to be a minor playmaker kept him from moving to the next level. Bridges couldn’t agree on screenings and casts or a better reading, and this interfered with his natural growth. After the Suns’ surprise loss to Dallas in the second round, he returned to the lab.

He was already rewarded with a $90 million four-year extension before the start of last season, so he wasn’t playing with a contract in his head, or even the specter of being traded for Kevin Durant hung in his soul because it seemed to come and go over the summer before resurfacing. to the surface in the last couple of weeks.

With injuries to Devin Booker and Chris Paul, he’s shown the job of keeping the Suns afloat, and he’s completely liberated since being traded to Brooklyn. He averaged nearly 18 per game while maintaining his efficiency of 47-40-89 in 59 games, averaging nearly four assists, a significant jump from his first few seasons.

Being number four meant only showing a fraction of what Bridges is capable of, but after the Durant deal, he began to show his full potential in a small sample. And this did not go unnoticed even by the most sophisticated observers.

“The stars keep coming,” Jerry Colangelo told Sportzshala Sports on Friday following the announcement of Naismith’s Basketball Hall of Fame finalists. “Bridges, he goes to Brooklyn and gets [23] in his first game. And he gets 45 in [last] a game. He is a young, rising star. It’s new, you know. Lots of talent. And there are more stars ahead.

Anferny Simons, Portland Trail Blazers

Simons was supposed to be in the 3-point competition, but due to an injury on the eve of the All-Star Game, he pulled out, so he’ll have to wait a bit.

But he skillfully stepped into the role that C.J. McCollum had left vacant and placed himself alongside franchise mainstay Damian Lillard as the certified No. 2 option. McCollum hasn’t made an All-Star yet, so it won’t be easy for Simons to break through that Western Conference hardline defense. .

It is entirely possible that Simons will continue to grow and surpass his predecessor, especially with the trust and freedom he has from his coach and Lillard.

The information overload he used to feel is long gone, and he has attracted the attention of the opposing defense. He swerves into the lane and hits the floaters, but his bread and butter hits with a 3.

He takes nine balls per game and hits them with 38% accuracy, still throwing four assists and hitting 53% of the deuce.

“I used to warm up and keep shooting to see if I could stay hot,” Simons recently told Sportzshala Sports. “Perhaps it was not the best option for this. Now that I’ve thrown two shots in a row, let’s get the ball going side to side because everyone’s looking at me.”

Everyone is watching and waiting for more.

Paolo Bankero, Orlando Magic

Banchero sometimes looks like a man among boys, sometimes too fast for some opponents and too strong for others.

He’s halfway through the start of his rookie season, but he’s already set his sights on next year’s All-Star Game in Indianapolis.

“Yeah. Sure,” he said simply when asked if he was looking forward to an All-Star next season.

This rookie year was probably like several seasons in one for last year’s No. 1 pick. The Magic got off to a slow start but recovered and won 21 of their last 34 games.

Banchero was an expected part of that, hitting 19 per game with six rebounds and 3.5 assists.

“Playing all these games against the best players in the world, you just have to be strong, not just physically but mentally, that’s a lot,” Banchero said Friday night after Rising Stars. “It’s definitely something I’m learning and just trying to work through as the season goes on.”

There is a playoff bid in Orlando, though there are four games between the Magic and 10th-seeded Toronto for the last play-in spot.

“I mean, we feel really good. Anyone on this night [can lead]we are quite talented. We just have to bring the same mentality,” Banchero said. “We all want each other to win, so no one has a personal agenda. Everyone knows we’re just trying to do what’s best for the team. And I think when you have guys with the mindset and talent that we have, we will have some amazing victories.”


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