The NBA is already in wonderful hands, with the next generation
of young stars ready to take the baton very soon. Each year, so
many incredible talents join the Association and various franchises
help develop them into full-fledged gems. At this point, who are
the top-10 players under 25 years old?
Below is a ranking of players under age-25 based on their
current standing in the league. This list doesn't factor in their
upside or long-term potential, just their current contributions. If
you’re wondering where players like Devin Booker, Jamal Murray and
Donovan Mitchell are, I excluded players who will turn 25 years old
during the upcoming NBA campaign.
Without further ado, let’s dive into the list of
LUKA DONCIC, DALLAS MAVERICKS
Doncic is the favorite to win this season's NBA MVP award for
good reason. He’s already established himself as one of the best
players in the league with an effortless, beautiful brand of
basketball that allows him to fill the stat sheet. Each year,
Doncic has significantly improved various aspects of his game. We
haven’t seen a prospect get off to this kind of start in the NBA
since LeBron James, which puts Doncic on a generational path.
Doncic has already reached a level where he can carry his Dallas
Mavericks to a playoff berth, and potentially to a top-four seed in
2021-22 with another leap. Next, he'll try to help the Mavs win
their first playoff series since their championship run in 2011.
The Slovenian phenom has next, and he certainly seems poised to
take over the league. And while this ranking is solely based on
each player's current contributions, it's wild to think that Doncic
is still only 22 years old (meaning he's younger than some of the
incoming rookies, including Davion Mitchell and Chris Duarte).
TRAE YOUNG, ATLANTA HAWKS
After an Eastern Conference Finals appearance, Young has reached
league-wide superstardom. Everything clicked together for the Hawks
when Nate McMillan took over for Lloyd Pierce as head coach.
Atlanta rode this momentum while Young took a leap and became one
of the best point guards in the Association.
Young can go off for 30-to-40 points whenever he pleases, and
his playmaking ability is reminiscent of a young Steve Nash.
Young’s trajectory is to the moon, and Atlanta gaining postseason
experience with last year's deep playoff run should only help
Young. This season, it'll be interesting to see how Young adjusts
to the NBA's new rules against unnatural
foul-baiting (which were added in large part due to him).
JAYSON TATUM, BOSTON CELTICS
Tatum is one of my favorite NBA betting dark-horse options to win MVP.
Boston has built a team around Tatum that allows him to
continuously produce buckets. Once the calendar hit March, Tatum
averaged nearly 30 points per game with an impressive efficiency
clip. Alongside Jaylen Brown, who turns 25 years old next month,
Boston’s dynamic wing duo could vault the Celtics into the Eastern
Conference's second tier of contenders.
Among the young wings in the league, I’m riding with Tatum to be
the most valuable in 2021-22 and beyond. He’s just now realizing
how special of a scorer he can become in Boston.
ZION WILLIAMSON, NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
Williamson has already seen immense organizational turnover
around him in the Bayou State. Through it all, he’s still
showcasing superstar potential on a nightly basis. Williamson just
averaged 27.0 points in his age-20 season. And with the Pelicans
building a more competent rotation to space
the floor, Williamson could average 30-plus points per game in
Williamson is a titan in the paint, and he should continue to
establish his dominance throughout his career. Soon enough, New
Orleans is going to become a force to be reckoned with thanks to
Williamson and the rest of their young core.
BAM ADEBAYO, MIAMI HEAT
It’s hard to name an NBA big man who's more versatile than
Adebayo. Not only can Bam score effectively around the rim with an
improving range, he can also run the offense and protect the rim
with the best of ‘em. Adebayo already plays such a pivotal role for
the Heat, and he’s going to be a critical piece this season as they
hope to make an NBA Finals run.
If Adebayo continues to develop into a more well-rounded scorer
throughout his prime, he will quickly become one of the best
overall bigs in the NBA. Having Kyle Lowry as his point guard will
do wonders for him immediately as well.
BRANDON INGRAM, NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
Ingram is flying under the radar right now, and he shouldn’t
anymore. After his first All-Star appearance in 2019-20, Ingram
still flashed jaw-dropping scoring capabilities as a perfect
sidekick alongside Zion Williamson.
Ingram can score from all three levels while also drawing fouls
at a star-like rate. Once everything clicks together – and he if
shows improved defensive acumen – he could crack the top-five of
this list next season.
SHAI GILGEOUS-ALEXANDER, OKLAHOMA CITY
Oklahoma City nabbing SGA in the Paul George trade was a
franchise-altering moment for the organization. Sure, the Thunder
are continuing their tanking efforts by stockpiling copious amounts
of draft picks throughout the 2020s, but Gilgeous-Alexander has
quickly emerged as one of the most promising young players in the
Somehow, the Thunder were floating around .500 near last year's
All-Star break thanks in large part to Gilgeous-Alexander’s
brilliance. Last season, SGA averaged 23.7 points, 5.9 assists and
4.7 rebounds while posting a 62.3 True Shooting percentage.
Gilgeous-Alexander plays a unique brand of basketball and he
should only continue to improve as the Thunder’s No. 1 option
moving forward. SGA has earned his place as the face of the
franchise in Oklahoma City. Now, let’s hope the Thunder can use
their draft picks and assets to surround him with talent during his
JA MORANT, MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES
Morant is so much fun to watch. The modern-day version of prime
Derrick Rose, Morant’s explosive scoring components bring endless
amounts of energy to this new era of Memphis Grizzlies basketball.
In his second season, Morant helped push Memphis to the No. 8 seed
in the Western Conference and gave their young core some
much-needed playoff experience. He can already create endless
match-up problems in transition and isolation situations, and he
should continue to improve as a perimeter scorer.
Morant has yet to average at least 20.0 points per game in his
career, but that leap should happen in 2021-22. If the Grizzlies
improve upon their impressive finish to last season, it will be in
large part due to Morant taking the next step in his
DE’AARON FOX, SACRAMENTO KINGS
It’s a shame the Kings have yet to make real progress throughout
Fox’s career, because he continues to add more tricks to his bag.
Last season, Fox averaged a career-high 25.2 points on a 56.5 True
Shooting percentage. With some impressive draft picks in the last
two years (Tyrese Haliburton and Davion Mitchell), maybe we'll
finally see the Kings break their 15-year long playoff drought
Fox will climb this list if he works on his three-point shooting
and free-throw efficiency. Thus far, Fox has shot a pedestrian
32.6% on three-pointers plus 71.8% on free throw attempts over the
course of his four-year career. Even if those percentages don’t
significantly improve, Fox is already a blur in transition who
continues to put up impressive outings on a nightly basis.
DEANDRE AYTON, PHOENIX SUNS
If Ayton could create for himself as a scorer, he would be much
higher on this list. Although Ayton won’t pop as a
20-plus-point-per-game big just yet, his career development is
taking an interesting turn following the Suns’ improbable NBA
Finals run. Playing the No. 3 role behind Devin Booker and Chris
Paul, Ayton embraced doing all the dirty work — hard screens,
dominating the glass, protecting the rim while staying out of foul
Ayton is becoming a more valuable big in playoff situations than
Rudy Gobert. Yes, that might seem like a hot take right now, but
the exponential growth we saw from Ayton as a defensive anchor has
changed his trajectory entirely. As one of the most efficient paint
scorers to go along with elite-level defense with versatility to
guard ball-handlers on switches, Ayton is the perfect center for
Ayton should eventually jump back into the primary No. 2 role
alongside Booker as Paul ages gracefully into his new four-year,
$120 million extension. In the meantime, Ayton has already thrived
on the biggest stage, proving how valuable his skill set is in
today's NBA. This season, Ayton will be one of the most intriguing
players to follow for this very reason. And if takes a step forward
with his self-creation, that would change the game again for the