The NBA is the showground for the best basketball players in the world. And each year in the draft, the world gets to meet a new set of entertaining young talents who get a chance to create their individual legacies.
Michael Jordan, the No. 3 pick in the 1984 draft after helping North Carolina to the 1982 NCAA title, and LeBron James, the No. 1 pick in the 2003 draft coming fresh out of high school, have had some of the best rookie seasons in NBA history.
Not every rookie, of course, goes on to have their first seasons or careers unfold like two of the best of all time, but watching young talent sizzle early can always generate excitement about the tantalizing possibility of what could be in their futures.
Let’s take a look at the top five teams with the best young cores in the NBA in the 2021-22 season.
Top 5 exciting young cores in the NBA
No. 5: Charlotte Hornets
The Charlotte Hornets have one of the best young cores in the NBA, boasting stars like last season’s NBA Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball. Ball, the No. 3 pick in the 2020 draft, surpassed many expectations in his first season. Despite missing a month because of a broken bone in his wrist, Ball finished the season averaging 15.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game.
The point guard is surrounded by interesting players with much still to prove, like Miles Bridges and P.J. Washington, who add depth to a balanced roster. Bridges’ offensive prowess should come to the fore this season, while Washington’s versatility on the field should prove a handful to opponents. Bridges was the No. 12 pick in 2018, while Washington was the 12th pick a year later.
The Hornets also have one of the most promising shooting guards in the NBA in James Bouknight, while Kai Jones' rebounding abilities should give them a much-improved presence in the arc. With JT Thor providing the necessary inspiration from the bench in his first season in the league. All three were picked in 2021: Bouknight at No. 11, Jones at No. 19 and Thor at No. 37.
Core: Miles Bridges, LaMelo Ball, P.J. Washington, James Bouknight, Kai Jones, JT Thor
No. 4: Denver Nuggets
The Denver Nuggets are in a tricky position in the 2021-22 NBA season. They feature one of the best attacking young players in Michael Porter Jr. But they are without star Jamal Murray, who is expected to be sidelined for a long time. The point guard, picked seventh in 2016, continues to recover from a torn ACL injury suffered in August.
Both players are capable scorers and were ranked amongst the league's seven best under 25 players heading into the new season.
Porter Jr., who is a lot of fans' favorite for the 2022 NBA Most Improved Player award, averaged 19 points and 7.3 rebounds, while shooting 54.2% from the field and 44.5% from beyond the arc, last season.
The No. 14 pick in 2018, he was expected to start displaying his full potential this season, but his third season with the Nuggets has been marred by a back injury, something that has dogged him for years. A back injury lowered his draft stock and wiped out his 2018-19 season, after he played only three games as a freshman at Missouri, his only college season.
As the Nuggets chase a championship finals spot, last season's NBA MVP Nikola Jokic, the No. 11 pick in 2014, is at the forefront of that push.
The rest of the young core, in Zeke Nnaji (No. 22 in 2020) and Bones Hyland (No. 26 in 2021), have proven themselves to be talented players, and they have a big season ahead of them.
Core: Jamal Murray, Bones Hyland, Michael Porter Jr., Zeke Nnaji