4. Jared Sullinger, Celtics
There's the Big Three in this class, and then there's everyone else -- guys who can start and be good players for their teams, but are not yet stars in any way. As of today, Sullinger leads this second group, though he remains below the radar thanks to Boston's struggles as a team.
Sullinger isn't great at any one thing yet (he's just 21), but he's good or very good at a lot of things. He can hurt defenses in the post or out on the floor as a shooter. He is a beast on the offensive glass. And he plays with strength and a high basketball IQ. His potential would grow a great deal if he can change his body a la Kevin Love.
5. Terrence Jones, Rockets
A nonfactor last season and the first two weeks of this season, Jones has emerged as a strong player on a contending team in the West. The Omer Asik drama has helped Jones, who is now starting for Houston and playing as if he plans to be in that spot for a long time.
Houston wants a power forward who can help Dwight Howard rebound and who can make 3s so Howard has more space to operate in half-court sets. Jones is the answer. Not only can he rebound and shoot 3s, but he also brings athleticism and basketball savvy as a scorer, using scoops and hooks appropriately or adding subtle fakes and changes of pace.
6. John Henson, Bucks
Henson is probably the least-appreciated player in this class, perhaps even by his own team. He is a top-five shot-blocker in the league (per 48 minutes) and, even though he isn't rebounding as well as he did last season, is still solid on the glass. Plus, he finishes shots in the paint at a high rate and makes easy plays as a passer.
Henson is about to turn 23 but has the body of a 20-year-old, which makes it likely that he will improve a great deal and be a legit starter in the NBA for a decade-plus.
7. Bradley Beal, Wizards
As expected, Beal is learning how to be an excellent shooting guard. His long-range talent is his best tool, but he can also have a big impact moving without the ball, excelling in the transition game, and becoming a reliable scorer in the Wizards' pinch-post/handoff action.
He's not yet effective as a pick-and-roll player, or in isolation (two areas that John Wall handles for the team). But Beal is long, strong and just 20 years old, so we can expect plenty of improvement from him in those areas and on defense.
8. Patrick Beverley, Rockets
Beverley is ferocious, athletic and powerful. How many other point guards not named Russell Westbrook could you say that about? And Beverley, while not gifted as a passer, is a willing and careful distributor who makes few mistakes, so the ball still flows to Dwight Howard and James Harden all game long when Beverley is in charge of the offense.