Rising 'first four' players in 2013-14

Kemba Walker among NBA's emerging, affordable talents poised for breakout

Updated: October 14, 2013, 12:24 PM ET
By Amin Elhassan | ESPN Insider

Kemba/HarrisUSA TODAY SportsBoth Kemba Walker and Tobias Harris are examples of emerging stars on rookie-scale contracts.

The new economics of the NBA have emphasized several opportunities for value in talent acquisition. I wrote about how the max contract artificially subsidizes the game's elite talents, allowing teams to acquire multiple superstars on discount. The elite veteran superstar represents the surest bet in basketball at the highest price point: Everyone knows just how good they are, and thus they earn high wages.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, draft picks are inherently riskier but significantly less expensive; you're not sure whether they'll be able to adapt to the highest levels of competition, but the rookie scale ensures a highly favorable cost to the team.

Between the max-deal veterans and the fresh-out-of-the-box rookies are the guys I call the "First Fours" -- players who have some NBA experience (being in the first four years of experience) while still remaining on affordable rookie-scale deals. For teams looking for cheap sources of talent, maximizing the talents of First Four players on their rosters can be a gold mine.

Here are eight First Four players I expect to take a big step forward this year and provide high value at low cost for their teams:


Kemba Walker | Charlotte Bobcats
Draft class: 2011
2013-14 salary: $2.6 million


To read Amin Elhassan's complete list of the NBA's breakout "First Four" players heading into the 2013-14 season, become an ESPN Insider today.