ESPN INSIDER: Ranking rooks and sophs: Top 20
As we head into the All-Star break, it seems an appropriate time to take a step back and evaluate the new talent that has entered the league in the past two seasons. No one can deny that each class, taken on its own merits, has been short on top-tier talent. But what about when we look at them combined?
When we consider that no fewer than nine different players are considered the likely faces of their team's future and another five play either pivotal or starting roles for playoff teams, we begin to see that the NBA has added plenty of strong players the last two summers.
Let's stack them up and rank them, not based on future performances or what they did last year, but strictly on how they have done so far this season.
1. Blake Griffin, Clippers
Did you expect to see anyone else here? We'd have to go back to the 2008 draft to find anyone who can compete with Griffin for the top spot. If we did, he'd be notched just below Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and probably Kevin Love as the fourth-best player to enter the NBA in the past three years. No one in the past two drafts comes close to matching the productivity or star power of Griffin.
2. Stephen Curry, Warriors
To my eye, he's the best player on an improving Golden State team. He can beat you with his long-range shooting, his passing and his ability to generate buckets against good defense. And none of those things are his best gift, which is his intelligence. He was terrific last season and has been even better this season, improving in almost every metric we keep track of. His defense isn't as bad you think either. Besides, Steve Nash, who isn't known for his defense, won two MVPs. This guy is Nash all over again.