Last Word On Basketball

The Best Young Cores in the NBA

The NBA best young cores

DENVER, CO - MAY 7: Nikola Jokic (15) of the Denver Nuggets gets hyped after a Gary Harris (14) score against the Portland Trail Blazers to really push the momentum in their favor during the second quarter on Tuesday, May 7, 2019. The Denver Nuggets versus the Portland Trail Blazers in game five of the teams' second round NBA playoff series at the Pepsi Center in Denver. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

The NBA Draft has come and gone, and the NBA has gotten a new batch of young talent. Many of the picks were to be expected, like Zion Williamson going number one overall to the New Orleans Pelicans. Others were not, like Cameron Johnson going number 11 overall to the Phoenix Suns. A lot of teams added good, young players to their cores, and there has been a lot of debate as to which core is the best, and the debate may never end either.

The NBA’s Top Young Cores

Young Cores Defined

This is a much-argued topic in the NBA world, as the term young can be interpreted in a lot of different ways. For this list, the classification for young will be 25 years old or younger. If the player is over 25, then they can still be young if they are in their sophomore year or under. Anthony Davis is a player who won’t be included in this list even though he is still young because he doesn’t fit the requirements. Kyrie Irving is also a player who won’t be included in this list for the same reasons.

#5: Dallas Mavericks

The Dallas Mavericks are on this list for two very simple reasons: Luka Doncic, and Kristaps Porzingis. Doncic recently won the NBA Rookie of the Year award after becoming the fifth rookie in NBA history to average 20-5-5. Porzingis, when last healthy, was one of the best big men in the game. He averaged 22.7 points and 6.6 rebounds per game while shooting 39.5 percent from three. Unfortunately, Porzingis tore his ACL, missing the last 34 games of the 2017-18 season.

With both Doncic and Porzingis having superstar potential and already having shown they belong, this team has a good base to build around. With their other young pieces (Jalen Brunson, Dorian Finney-Smith, Maxi Kleber) the Mavs are in a good position to become a great team again.

#4: Sacramento Kings

The Sacramento Kings were a surprise team this season. They finished the season 39-43 and the nine seed in the tough Western Conference. Much of this was due to the rapid improvement of second-year guard De’Aaron Fox. After a good but not great rookie year, Fox exploded in his sophomore season. He averaged 17.3 PPG, 7.3 APG, and 3.8 RPG on much improved three-point efficiency. The Kings also have center Willie Cauley-Stein and have a very solid bench. Number two overall pick from the 2018 NBA Draft Marvin Bagley struggled with injuries this year but showed the potential to be a double-double machine.

The Kings would be higher on this list if it weren’t for the age of shooting guard Buddy Hield. He just finished an impressive third season, averaging 20.7 PPG, 5 RPG, and 2.5 APG, on almost 43 percent shooting from three-point range. However, Hield is already 26 and will be turning 27 next season, so he isn’t included in this young core. So the only way to evaluate them is to look at their other young players. This includes Caleb Swanigan, Frank Mason, and Bogdan Bogdanovic, which added to Fox, Bagley, and Stein equals a great young core.

#3: New Orleans Pelicans

David Griffin and the New Orleans Pelicans front office have already had themselves a whale of an offseason. First, they won the draft lottery. Then, they were able to acquire nearly everything the Los Angeles Lakers had to offer in exchange for Anthony Davis. The Pelicans received Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and three first rounders, including the fourth overall pick. They then traded the fourth overall pick to the Atlanta Hawks for the 8, 17, and 35 overall picks to secure quite the haul. With those picks, they were able to get Zion Williamson, Jaxson Hayes, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, and Marcos Louzada Silva.

The Pelicans are in a great position. They have a bunch of young talent available to develop, with enough good veterans to remain competitive. They essentially inherited the Lakers young core and added three other players of their own. That Lakers young core was once thought of as one of the best in the league, and now it’s the Pelicans. This team has a very high ceiling and could be in for a fun next few years in the Big Easy.

#2: Atlanta Hawks

The Atlanta Hawks are in a great position. They have the Rookie of the Year runner up in Trae Young, double-double machine John Collins, and sharpshooter Kevin Huerter. Also on the squad is big man Omari Spellman, number four overall pick Deandre Hunter, and the number 10 overall pick, Cam Reddish. With the potential that Young and Collins portrayed last season, the Hawks have a very solid foundation.

Hunter brings a phenomenal shooting ability (44 percent on threes at Virginia), and a great defensive presence for a team that struggled on defense last year. Young and Collins have All-Star potential, and if they can reach it, then Atlanta can be a contender for years to come.

#1: Denver Nuggets

This should be a no brainer. The Denver Nuggets have an All-NBA First Teamer in Nikola Jokic, they have two players that, when healthy, have the potential to be All-Stars in Jamal Murray and Gary Harris. Their bench is full of good, young role players who on other teams would likely start. Monte MorrisMalik Beasley, and Juan Hernangomez are those types of players and that goes without mentioning their two “rookies”; Michael Porter Jr. and Jarred Vanderbilt. Both were once considered top prospects before injuries derailed their college seasons.

If Porter can become the player he was supposed to be before his injury, Denver is set for the next five years. Even without him, Denver has the foundation for a potential dynasty. And, they just drafted another top prospect, Bol Bol. Another player whose college career wasn’t fulfilled due to injury. That’s been executive Tim Connelly’s strategy in the draft. Taking flyers on top players with injuries late in the draft and letting them heal up. The potential for this team with those players goes through the roof.

But even without them, Denver is the top young core. The other teams on this list are here because of their potential. But the Nuggets are here because of how good they are right now. Denver was the youngest team in the playoffs this year, and they were the two seed. With Murray being 22, and both Jokic and Harris being 24, Denver has the best foundation right now, and with their redshirt players, there is a great chance for them to be contenders and a possible dynasty.

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