Athlon pinpoints the best young athletes in every major sport.
From 1980 to 1989, the average NBA rookie class produced two Hall of Famers per year. In fact, 14 future Hall of Famers entered the NBA over a four-year period (1984-87) in the mid-80s.
To suggest that any player in any sport after just a few seasons is a lock to make the Hall of Fame is ridiculous. But it is always fun to look at athletes who have had instant success and try to extrapolate long-term potential. Limiting the scope to the last three rookie classes, here are the most likely future NBA Hall of Famers:
Class of 2012:
Anthony Davis, F/C, New Orleans
The 6-foot-10, 220-pounder entered the NBA as the consensus can’t-miss No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. After posting the No. 3-rated freshman season in the history of college basketball, Davis and his trademarked unibrow debuted for the Hornets in style. He posted 21 points and seven rebounds in his rookie debut against Sacramento. Through eight career games, Davis is shooting 48.9-percent from the floor, 85.0-percent from the free throw line, averaging 15.0 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. He has missed seven games already and his wiry frame and potential for injury might be the only thing that prevent him from putting together a Hall of Fame career.
Damian Lillard, PG, Portland
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound floor leader from Oakland, Calif., was a proven commodity the second he stepped on a college court. He led Weber State to a conference title as a freshman before earning Big Sky Player of the Year honors twice in his career. It led to the Trail Blazers selecting him with the sixth pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. He promptly posted a double-double (23 pts, 11 asts) in his rookie debut and he has been excellent ever since. He is averaging 19.4 points, 6.4 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game. Once he learns to limit his turnovers, he should become one of the league’s premiere point guards.
Other name to consider:
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF, Charlotte
He isn’t a great shooter and he isn’t a point guard or a center. But MKG can flat out hoop. He is a tough leader who stuffs the stat sheet across the board. He has been a winner at every stop and has elite athletic talents.
Class of 2011:
Kyrie Irving, PG, Cleveland
Coming out of St. Patrick High School in Elizabeth, N.J., the 6-foot-3, 195-pounder was one of the nation’s top five prospects. He was electric in the first eight games of his Duke career, leading the team in scoring, before hurting his right foot. Irving returned for the NCAA Tournament, scoring 28 points in his final game against Arizona. He left Duke after 11 career games to be the first overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft on a LeBron-less Cavaliers team. After averaging 18.5 points on 46.8 percent shooting to go with 5.4 assists and 3.7 rebounds in 51 games, Irving claimed 2012 NBA Rookie of the Year honors. Irving appears to only be getting better, scoring over 20 points in seven of his first nine games this season while maintaining his efficient percentages and distributing the ball. His explosiveness, athletic ability and scoring touch have the Melbourne, Australia native poised for NBA greatness.
Ricky Rubio, PG, Minnesota
The 2011 season was the Barcelona, Spain native’s first season in the NBA, but it was far from his first professional tour. He played five years for DKV Joventut Badalona (Spain) before getting drafted fifth overall by the Timberwolves in the 2009 NBA Draft when he was only 18 years old. He then played two more seasons for FC Barcelona Basquet (Spain). His 6-foot-4, 190-pound frame and flashy passing skills have made Rubio the most heralded European prospect in the history of the game. So it should come as no surprise that he averaged 10.6 points, 8.2 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game in 41 games as a rookie last season. His year was cut short with an ACL tear in March but Minnesota is targeting a late December return for their star point guard.
Others names to Consider:
Kenneth Faried, PF, Denver
Few players are more difficult to box out on rebounds than the Morehead State product. He is averaging 12.4 points on 55 percent shooting and 10.0 rebounds per game in only his second year.
Kemba Walker, PG, Charlotte
This kid is a winner. He is a championship point guard on the college level who is using his quickness, basketball IQ and a killer jump shot to try and improve the Bobcats.
Class of 2010:
Blake Griffin, PF, LA Clippers
It took the Oklahoma Sooner an extra year to get to the NBA court after sitting out his first season with a knee injury, but he has quickly become one of the most dominant forces in the league. His athletic ability is second to none as massive dunks and demoralizing blocks are a part of his regular routine. He averaged a double-double in his first two seasons — 22.5 ppg, 12.1 rpg and 20.7 ppg, 10.9 rbg — and helped lead the Clippers to their first postseason berth since 2005 and only the franchise's second playoff run since 1996. As long as he stays healthy, there is little doubt Griffin will make a run at the Hall of Fame.
Greg Monroe, F/C, Detroit
The No. 1 recruit in the nation from New Orleans, La., signed with Georgetown and eventually was drafted with the seventh pick in the 2010 NBA Draft by the Pistons. Detroit has a rich history and tradition of producing elite players and the 6-foot-11, 250-pound center appears to be the next star. Though early in his third season, Monroe has increased his scoring, assists, steals and blocks per game averages every year of his professional career. He has averaged 8.6 rebounds per game and is a 51.8 percent shooter for his two-and-a-half season career.
Other name to consider:
DeMarcus Cousins, F/C, Sacramento
Elite upside and talents appear to be rounding into form. But will he stay focused and dedicated long enough to earn elite respect and credentials? Remains to be seen.
Just Missed the Cut:
John Wall, PG, Washington (2010)
Harrison Barnes, SF, Golden State (2012)
Chandler Parsons, SF, Houston (2011)
Klay Thompson, SG, Golden State (2011)
Dion Waiters, SG, Cleveland (2012)