The next generation of NBA All-Stars will likely include De'Aaron Fox, Jayson Tatum and Donovan Mitchell, based on their productive starts and youth. But who among the slower career starters will eventually break through?
It takes some players longer. Khris Middleton just made his first All-Star team during his seventh NBA season at 27 years old. Some need their skills or bodies to improve. Others can benefit from a change of scenery.
During their first few seasons, the following players—all 26 years old or under—weren't All-Stars. Still, they each have the potential to become one during the primes.
We defined "role player" as anyone who didn't receive at least 10 All-Star votes from fellow players, except with a few of the "Obvious All-Stars" mentioned.
Note: Only players drafted in 2017 and earlier were considered.
The Obvious All-Stars
Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets
After averaging 18.2 points and 4.8 assists per game for the 54-win Nuggets last season, Murray still has plenty of room to improve his 47.6 two-point percentage and 36.7 percent three-point mark. The 22-year-old will have three more full seasons before he potentially enters his prime.
He will also earn valuable playoff experience in those seasons, assuming Denver's roster and health remain intact. With Murray, it seems like more of a question of when he'll crack an All-Star team than if he'll get there.
Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors
Siakam, 25, had a case for All-Star consideration last season before he helped the Raptors win a title. He averaged 19.8 points on 50.5 percent shooting in the Finals, and that was despite missing 16 of 21 threes. His shooting numbers have improved in each of his three seasons in Toronto, and yet it still seems like he has room to go from one made three per game to two.
With Kawhi Leonard gone, Siakam's usage could skyrocket from last year's 20.8 percent. He's a great bet to make his first All-Star team in 2019-20.
John Collins, Atlanta Hawks
Collins' production will become more appreciated when the Hawks inevitably win more games. His new floor looks like the 19.5 points and 9.8 rebounds per game he put up last season.
As Trae Young continues to develop and shooters Cam Reddish, Kevin Huerter and De'Andre Hunter build confidence, Collins could have an elite setup passer, space to operate and plenty of touches.
He also took a notable step forward around the perimeter, having made 0.9 threes per game at a 34.8 percent clip. Those numbers seem bound to rise for the 21-year-old budding star.
Lauri Markkanen, Chicago Bulls
Markkanen hasn't received the same recognition as fellow 2017 lottery standouts Fox, Tatum and Mitchell. He could be on a similar path, however, after he averaged 18.7 points during a sophomore year cut short by health issues.
His shooting has carried over from Arizona, resulting in at least 2.1 made threes per game in each season in Chicago. For a 7-footer, his success using the dribble and converting inside the arc has hinted at All-Star scoring potential. Markkanen, 22, has also been a good enough rebounder and defender to avoid questions about his overall two-way value.
Malcolm Brogdon, Indiana Pacers
The only player since Stephen Curry in 2015-16 (minimum 50 games) to shoot at least 50 percent, 40 percent from three and 90 percent from the free-throw line, Brogdon reached elite role-player status last year in Milwaukee. He's now in Indiana without a league MVP in the lineup and Victor Oladipo coming off a ruptured quad.
One of the NBA's most efficient starters, the 26-year-old Brogdon should have the chance to raise his production in a higher-usage role. Helping the Pacers and Oladipo return to a top seed in the East could elevate Brogdon's image to that of a star.
Buddy Hield, Sacramento Kings
After he raised his scoring average in each of his four seasons at Oklahoma, Buddy Hield has gone from averaging 10.6 points per game as a rookie and 13.5 points as a sophomore to 20.7 points in 2018-19.
That track record highlights his knack for returning from offseason workouts a sharper player.
Compared to other recent draftees, Hield appears to have a smaller window for success since he's already 26 years old. But he wouldn't be the first to take his game to an All-Star level this late. Nikola Vucevic, 28, just made his first All-Star team in his eighth season.
By ages 28 to 30, it seems possible 2016's No. 6 pick could have a scoring average in the mid-20s with a near 60.0 percent true shooting percentage. The numbers will be more meaningful if the Sacramento Kings can make a playoff run—something a core of Hield, Fox, Marvin Bagley III, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Trevor Ariza, Harrison Barnes and Dewayne Dedmon seem capable of pulling off, more likely in 2021.