Oct. 18 represented not only the start of the 2022-2023 NBA season, but a new era of basketball. The 2021-2022 season saw 22-year-old point guard and shooting guard Luka Doncic lead the Dallas Mavericks to the Conference Finals, only to lose to the unmatched depth of the Golden State Warriors. Just a round later, fans were treated to veteran-like poise from Boston Celtics forward-guard Jayson Tatum, who confidently led his team to victory in a historically competitive Eastern Conference. The prowess of these young players is beginning to overshadow the legacies of greats like Kevin Durant and Lebron James. Despite their notoriety and reign of dominance, it is time for new stars to shine. The McGill Tribune presents our picks for three potential players to fill the shoes of Durant and James this upcoming season.
The Slovenian sniper has the deep arsenal and pure dominance it takes to be the next man up. At 23 years old, Luka Doncic became the youngest Mavericks player to reach 5,000 points and is the only NBA player in history to record 30 points, 12 rebounds, and 15 assists in under 30 minutes. With a remarkable 27-point first half in game six of last year’s Western Conference Semi-Final, Doncic gave his team the opportunity they needed for a game seven win against the defending Western champs, the Phoenix Suns.
Despite all signs pointing to a promising career, the absence of Jalen Brunson, who equalized the Mavericks’ offence with an average 21.6 points per game in the playoffs, could be a barrier to the Mavs’ development of a consistent rhythm. This year will be a true test of whether or not Doncic has the leadership qualities to lead a middling Mavs offence on a deep playoff run.
‘Ja’-dropping highlights, dynamism, and an unstoppable combination of energy and youth—these are the qualities that best describe Ja Morant. Last season, the young point guard earned his first All-Star and All-NBA selection. Morant was able to prove his clear prowess with the impressive feat of joining Kobe Bryant and Lebron James as one of the only players to record multiple 45-point games before the age of 23. But Morant’s success did not end with the regular season as he carried the Memphis Grizzlies to their first series win in eight years.
Morant’s most encouraging honour last year was his Most Improved Player award. Morant upgraded his field goal percentage from 44.9 to 49.3, along with his points per game from 19.1 to 27.4 in 2020-21. If Morant can continue to refine his game, a run for the title could be in order for the Grizzlies.
Tatum has developed into one of the game’s most dangerous and prolific shot creators. The Duke Blue Devils alumnus made the greatest statement of his young career with a trip to the 2022 NBA finals. Tatum was the definition of a torch carrier for last season’s Celtics team, proven by his All-NBA honours and ranking as sixth in an extremely competitive MVP race. With the acquisition of Malcolm Brogdon, the Celtics are in a prime position to make another run at the title, as Brogdon’s shooting and playmaking should provide the much-needed offensive aid for Tatum.
Tatum’s got the skill, size, and ability it takes to ascend in the modern NBA. Perhaps his only potential setback is his performance in clutch scenarios—Tatum was held to only 13 points in 40 minutes during game six of last year’s NBA Finals. If Tatum wants to rise to greatness, he’s going to need to do better than 21.5 points per game in the NBA finals and learn to embrace the spotlight.