4 Players Who Are Changing the NBA As We Know It

What's so unique about these four young studs? And how are they doing it?

If you haven't been paying attention, the NBA is slowly making a general shift toward younger players.

No, I'm not saying that the top teams are all full of rookies and second-year players. They're not.

The NBA's best squads -- the Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors, and San Antonio Spurs of the world -- are home to veteran players and superstars of today rather than tomorrow.

All the same, the average age of the NBA has leveled off at 26.7 years old -- the same as it was the last two seasons. And it's actually increased from 26.5 in 2013-14. However, since the 2003-04 season, the average age has been below 27 years old. Prior to that, the last time it dipped below 27 was in 1988-89, when the average age was 26.9.

In the last three years or so, the distribution is even more relevant in the conversation. In that span of time, there have been a total of 30 players, at 22 years old or younger, with at least .110 win shares per 48 minutes. This year, that count is at eight, and four of those players have a player efficiency rating (PER) of 23.0 or better: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Nikola Jokic.

Both Antetokounmpo and Embiid are 22 years old, while Towns and Jokic are younger still, at 21 years old. They, among others, are the future of the NBA. Each one of them is grouped within the family of "seven-footers" while maintaining elite efficiency. They're physical anomalies and, at the same time, are churning out one-of-a-kind figures.

Antetokounmpo, the Greek Freak, has been a revelation over the last few years. Towns and Jokic showed flashes of brilliance last year and have grown into young stars in their second seasons. And, this year, we have gotten to throw Embiid into the same classification. He, like the others, has quickly become a different kind of freak, and with that, the NBA future is here.