It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the NBA has a bright future thanks to an influx of bright young stars, with youthful hoopers like Luka Doncic, Zion Williamson, Jayson Tatum, De’Aaron Fox and Devin Booker to name a few of the league’s future kings.
While all the players listed above will likely rack up many NBA awards and All-Star appearances throughout the rest of the 2020’s, it’s a little difficult to estimate which one of the young stars will be the first to lift the Larry O’Brien trophy.
Most of the young, talented hoopers in the league like Trae Young and Ja Morant are on teams that do indeed show a good amount of upside, but they both lack enough supporting talent around them to make a deep postseason run.
In order to properly answer the question posed in the title of this article, the obvious two candidates to be the first young stars to win a ring are Doncic and Williamson.
Williamson makes a compelling title case for a few seasons from now, as he is surrounded by fellow young stars in Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram, savvy veterans like Jrue Holiday and J.J. Redick, and key role players like Nicolo Melli and Josh Hart.
While the majority of the pieces on the New Orleans Pelicans do have a lot of upside, they proved this season that they still need some time to gel together, as they may need a few seasons to gain more chemistry and develop as a team before they can compete for a title.
This is why Doncic seems like the most likely young superstar to win a title before the rest of his class. He has a perfect complementary piece in Kristaps Porzingis, who can be the ideal pick-and-pop partner and help Doncic with his woes on the defensive end.
Even when Porzingis is hurt, which is always a distinct possibility considering he’s a 7’3″ behemoth with a history of multiple leg injures, Dallas has built an incredible infrastructure around Doncic that suits his game nearly perfectly
The Mavericks depth chart features a slew of 3-and-D wings that Doncic can kick out to (Seth Curry, Tim Hardaway Jr., Dorian Finney-Smith), pass-first point guards who can help Doncic get open shots (Delon Wright, Jalen Brunson, J.J. Barea), and rim running bigs (Dwight Powell, Willie Cauley-Stein) who can step out and take a big three if needed (Maxi Kleber).
It also can not be understated that Doncic is one of the most fun players to watch and does so many things well that if you were to build a Frankenstein version of Doncic in a lab, you’d have to take parts from a dozen current and future NBA Hall-of-Famers, as Zach Buckley described in an August piece.
Compared to his contemporaries, he has Chris Paul’s floor command, LeBron James’ monstrous impact and James Harden’s step-back. Dig deeper into the memory books, and there’s Oscar Robertson’s overstuffed stats, Magic Johnson’s flair (and vision) and even Dirk Nowitzki’s ceiling-scraping shooting arc.
The scariest part about Doncic for his Western Conference opponents is that he certainly has a lot of room to improve. He has never shot higher than 32.7 percent from three in his young NBA career and still leaves a lot to be desired on the defensive end.
As Tyler Watts of ‘The Smoking Cuban’ mentioned, Doncic has a lot to take away from the recent ESPN docuseries centered around Michael Jordan when it comes to leadership, winning at all costs and overall determination. As soon as Doncic can pick up on those losses and improves upon his few weaknesses, he should be holding up the Larry O’Brien trophy within the next three seasons.