As the NBA season steadily progresses towards All-Star Weekend, each team has a chance to examine and reevaluate their young talent on the roster. While the NBA’s rising stars continue to gain experience, it is also important to note that their game is still evolving.
Head coach Luke Walton and the Los Angeles Lakers have departed on this 2016-17 season with different expectations to fulfill, as the young core continues to demonstrate their growth with more experience under their belt. Although the ride hasn’t exactly been as smooth as planned, these bumps on the road only help build character for a young team attempting to compete in the Western conference.
General manager Mitch Kupchak and the organization have done a tremendous job with their draft picks over the past few seasons, finding hidden gems no one else saw, while also using their top picks to find future contributors.
ESPN.com is currently releasing their #NBArank rising stars this season, listing their rankings of top 50 brightest young stars in the NBA. Tuesday’s introduction into the list slated No. 50 through No. 41, with a key Lakers player making the cut:
48. Larry Nance Jr.
Los Angeles Lakers | PF
Age: 24 | @Larrydn22
Drafted No. 27 in 2015
Stats & Info: For the second straight season, Nance ranks among the top 25 power forwards in Defensive Real-Plus Minus. His 1.2 steals per game lead all frontcourt players who have not started any games this season.
Some notable names alongside Nance Jr. are Jahlil Okafor (No. 43), T.J. Warren (No. 47) and Bismack Biyombo (No. 49).
Nance Jr. has surely made a name for himself this season, whether it is his athletic ability creating highlight plays or his constant hustle and high basketball IQ. Nance Jr. is a clear catalyst for the Lakers, fulfilling whatever role Walton or the team needs him to do.
Although his second season his been filled with some minor injuries, the 24-year-old is steadily progressing towards a clean bill of health. Upon missing 16 games with a bone bruise in his knee, he had a slow, planned return to action.
However, his complete game against the Boston Celtics was his official return to what he thinks he is capable of. During that contest, Nance Jr. collected 18 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and three steals.
The second-year player has already declared he will not compete in the Slam Dunk contest at All-Star Weekend, as a preventative measure towards his knee. Although NBA fans desperately want Nance Jr. in the dunk contest, he understands his importance to the Lakers and their future.
This season, the Ohio native is averaging 6.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.2 steals in 22.2 minutes per game.