The league is going through a very interesting phase at the minute.
The domination of the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers of late would suggest the last three years have been a two horse race. When you look at trends of champions gone by – only the 60’s Celtics and the 90’s Bulls have been able to sustain near decade dominations. At a certain point, teams who may have traded away draft picks for stars, succumbed to ageing rosters, eventually pass their peak.
The Golden State Warriors have not shown any signs to be regarded as such, but a notable slump from the Cleveland Cavaliers could be a result of having the oldest roster in the NBA, with an average age of 30.
Many teams have adopted to grow younger stars rather than acquire ageing stars, some effectively, some not so effectively. An example of a success story is the Boston Celtics – showcasing the talents of rookie Jayson Tatum and sophomore Jaylen Brown as starters, with a group of youthful rotation players. An example of a not so success story is the Los Angeles Lakers – at an average age of 24, a lot rides on the maturation of Point Guard Lonzo Ball.
Never the less, there is a wealth of young talent in the NBA currently. This is a list of 25 of the top 25-year-old or younger players in the NBA today.
IMAGE CREDIT – The J-Notes
25. Donovan Mitchell SG Utah Jazz
2017-2018 Stats – 19.7 PPG/ 3.4RPG/ 3.5 APG
Age – 21
The strength of the 2017/2018 draft class is reflective of the fact that there are four entrants on this list. Of all of this years rookies, Donovan Mitchell leads them in scoring.
Utah have handed him the reigns in terms of offensive output. 19.7 PPG ranks him at 27th in scoring in the NBA, which for a rook, is hugely impressive. His agility and vertical is what has captivated most that watch the NBA, leaping for alley oops and dunks like he’s six inches taller than 6″3.
Mitchell has the potential to be an offensive machine for the Jazz for years to come.
IMAGE CREDIT – The NY Mag
24. Enes Kanter C New York Knicks
2017-2018 Stats – 14.1 PPG/ 10.4 RPG/ 1.5 APG
Age – 25
Kanter moved to the NY Knicks from OKC as part of a trade package to make room for Carmelo Anthony. He has since established himself in New York as a starting centre once again.
An impressive 10.4 RPG puts him at 11th in the league. He is particularly aggressive on offensive rebounds – ranked at 4th in the league in that statistic. Kanter may never be an elite center like AD or KAT, but he will provide solid rim protection and decent scoring numbers for any team at center, which can be hard to come by.
IMAGE CREDIT – Celtics Blog
23. Jaylen Brown SG Boston Celtics
2017-2018 Stats – 14.2 PPG/ 5.4 RPG/ 1.5 APG
Age – 21
A big surprise this season is how the Boston Celtics have looked practically unaffected by the loss of star man Gordon Hayward. Hayward suffered an ankle fracture in Boston’s season opener vs the Cavs. It was almost a blessing in disguised for the youth in Boston, as two wings in particular were given an enhanced role in the starting lineup.
Jaylen Brown was one of those wings, and has looked tremendous in his sophomore year. His improvements from last year are more than encouraging. He has transformed in to a solid spot up shooter with a ferocity to attack the basket. Brown has a lot more upside in his second year than many imagined, and that will continue to grow under Brad Stevens.
IMAGE CREDIT – The Source
22. Kyle Kuzma PF Los Angeles Lakers
2017-2018 Stats – 16.0 PPG/ 5.8 RPG/ 1.9 APG
Age – 22
Not many would have predicted Kuzma as the leading Laker rookie heading in to February of this season. A further percentile might question Kuzma’s appearance in this list ahead of sophomore Brandon Ingram.
Kyle Kuzma leads the Lakers in points per game and field goal percentage outside of their big’s. At the 27th pick in this years draft class, he has been the steal of the season. While Ball and Ingram may have a high upside if they continue to grow, Kuzma looks like the most capable now of carrying the franchise on his shoulders. This was solidifed in the Lakers 108-107 win vs the Celtics last week, where Kuzma put up 31 points to lead LA to victory.
IMAGE CREDIT – CBS Boston
21. Jayson Tatum SF Boston Celtics
2017-2018 Stats – 13.8 PPG/ 5.4 RPG/ 1.4 APG
Age – 19
Jayson Tatum is 19. Think about that.
As mentioned above, Gordon Hayward’s injury has emphasised the roles of players like Tatum in the starting lineup. His maturation in the league already is incredible. He has a 48.8% field goal percentage, a statistic Paul Pierce only bested in one season in his career.
While it may be way too early to compare Tatum to a Celtic legend like Paul Pierce, his ability to be a reliable two way scorer is encouraging so early in to his NBA stint. There is no doubt that he can became a great, great player. So far, he is a top 25 player under the age of 25. He will continue to climb that list learning under Celtics coach Brad Stevens.
IMAGE CREDIT – Sporting News
20. Aaron Gordon PF Orlando Magic
2017-2018 Stats – 18.4 PPG/ 8.3 RPG/ 2.2 APG
Age – 22
It has been a breakout season for Aaron Gordon, and with good timing too. His contract will be up for negotiation this year, which could earn him a near max deal, leading the Magic in points per game.
He has now grown in to a standout player – remembered for more than just the Dunk contest. Gordon has improved both offensively and defensively, averaging almost 10 more points per game than last year and ranking in the Top 20 in defensive rebounds per game. Injuries haven’t been kind to the number 4 pick from 2014, but given a healthy stretch he has turned things around positively.
IMAGE CREDIT – The Indy Channel
19. Myles Turner C Indiana Pacers
2017-2018 Stats – 14.0 PPG/ 6.6 RPG/ 1.65APG
Age – 21
Trading Paul George wasn’t as drastic as many expected for the Indiana Pacers. The acquisition of Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis has boosted the Pacers roster, with both exceeding expectations in their new roles.
Many expected Myles Turner to play an elevated role following George’s departure, but he has slot in quite well in the new Pacers setup. Turner is third in the league in blocks per game, and has attempted more threes this season. His ability as a dynamic stretch big is promising at the tender age of 21, which is an asset the Pacers can look forward to seeing grow.
IMAGE CREDIT – NBA.com
18. Gary Harris SG Denver Nuggets
2017-2018 Stats – 17.4 PPG/ 2.7 RPG/ 3.2 APG
Age – 23
The Millsap-less Denver Nuggets stand at 8th in the Western Conference with a .520 record. The Nuggets have a relatively young core in the likes of Jamal Murray, Harris, Trey Lyles and Nikola Jokic. Right now, they stand out as a team to watch for the future.
Gary Harris is an important piece of the Nuggets offense. This year, he has increased his offensive output to 17.4 points per game. He has steadily scored more every year he has been in the NBA. With doubts over the stability of their PG position, they have found a fit at SG that has plenty of potential to drive the offense for future years.
IMAGE CREDIT – Youtube
17. Clint Capela C Houston Rockets
2017-2018 Stats – 14.2 PPG/ 10.8 RPG/ 1.1 APG
Age – 23
Chris Paul, James Harden and Clint Capela are quietly forming a ‘Big Three’ in Houston. There were doubts over Paul’s fit with the Rockets given his high usage rate in LA and Houston’s Harden led offense. It has since been as good as ever imagined, with Paul, Harden and Capela going undefeated for almost 20 games when all three have been on the court.
Capela has really stepped it up a gear this season, increasing his rim work and offensive output. He has settled in well with the new ‘Lob City’ mentality in Houston, although turned down a notch. Capela may not claim the individual acclaim an Anthony Davis or Nikola Jokic has, but he forms an important piece of what has been the second best team in the league this year.
IMAGE CREDIT – SB Nation
16. Tobias Harris PF Los Angeles Clippers
2017-2018 Stats – 18.1 PPG/ 5.1 APG/ 2.0 APG
Age – 25
Now an LA Clipper, Tobias Harris will inevitably take Blake Griffin’s position on the starting lineup. He may not have the name of a Blake Griffin, but Harris should not overlooked as a positive acquisition for the Clippers.
The Pistons had put together a nice run pre Christmas with All Star calibre Drummond. leading the charge. Harris was a clear #2 in terms of impact and he was even touted as putting together a fringe All-Star season. His career high PPG/FG% year is not going unnoticed. The Clippers have an asset in Harris, who has considerable experience in the NBA since 2011 despite being relatively young at 25 years of age.
IMAGE CREDIT – Uproxx
15. Ben Simmons PG Philadelphia 76ers
2017-2018 Stats – 16.8 PPG/ 7.7 RPG/ 7.3 APG
Age – 21
Ben Simmons is finally getting to prove why he was chosen #1 in the 2016 NBA draft. Originally touted as a forward, his maturation and impeccable ball handling has led him to start in the Point Guard position for the Sixers, which has proved to be a huge success.
The Sixers have transformed in to a very pass-heavy team, ranking at third in the league in terms of assists per game. They are also first in rebounds, likely an asset of having Embiid healthy, but for a PG, Simmons is putting mid-level centre numbers on the board. Having featured in 48 of Philadelphia’s 49 games this season, Simmons will likely be a warranted selection for ROTY given his all-round success this year.
IMAGE CREDIT – Slam Online
14. Steven Adams C Oklahoma City Thunder
2017-2018 Stats – 13.9 PPG/ 9.1 RPG/ 1.0 APG
Age – 24
Steven Adams may have had the hardest job of a centre in the NBA at the start of the season – adapting to the ‘Big Three’ of Westbrook, PG and Carmelo. Adams has not only adapted well but managed to put together a career season in the background for the Thunder.
While 9.1 RPG may be average for most centres in the NBA, for OKC that’s a pretty good number. They tend to let Russell Westbrook catch and drive, as funnily enough, he averages a higher RPG than any other Thunder player. The big asset for Adams is his rebounds offensively, as he averages 5.3 a game – the highest in the NBA. Adams continued growth will solidify him as a top centre for years to come.
IMAGE CREDIT – SportsNet
13. Otto Porter Jr SF Washington Wizard
2017-2018 Stats – 13.9 PPG/ 6.3 RPG/ 1.9 APG
Age – 24
Everyone is waiting for the Washington Wizards to break out. They have fallen at the semi finals of the Eastern Conference in three of the last five seasons. Alongside a healthy John Wall, they may be relying on the likes of Otto Porter Jr and Bradley Beal to step up to the plate to make the move.
Porter is proving he was probably worth his near-max contract this season as one of the league’s most consistent wings. At just 24, there is still room for him to grow in to a more important role in Washington. The Wizards have suffered from a lack of squad depth over the last year or two which is of no fault to Washington’s starters. Holding a combined player efficiency rating of 38, the ‘Big Three’ of Porter, Wall and Beal have yet to show their best.
IMAGE CREDIT – Air Alamo
12. Devin Booker SG Devin Booker
2017-2018 Stats – 24.3 PPG/ 4.4 RPG/ 4.8 APG
Age – 21
What if I said Devin Booker averages more PPG than DeRozan, Oladipo, Porzingis, Lou Williams and Kemba Walker? And he’s just 21? That’s how good Booker is offensively this season.
The unfortunate reality is that with offense comes defence, and Booker does lack on that side of things. At 21 though, there is still lots of room for improvement. This season Booker has proven he will in time be regarded as an elite offensive PG, which is more than the Suns could have hoped for. The Suns just have to work on decreasing their defense, as they average 30th in points conceded per game. However, they should look to build defensive assets around Booker, as 24.3 PPG doesn’t come by often.
IMAGE CREDIT – uproxx.com
11. Rudy Gobert C Utah Jazz
2017-2018 Stats – 12.2 PPG/ 9.6 RPG/ 1.2 APG
Age – 25
Rudy Gobert is an elite defensive centre. Having made the All-NBA Defensive First Team last year, he also led the league in blocks – a stat he has replicated this year.
The reason Gobert is not higher in the list above other centres is probably due to the injury he sustained last year. This season he has seen some of his numbers drop, which may be as a result of Gobert building back to his peak or regarding his support network. Donovan Mitchell provides the anchor for the Jazz’ offense this year, so it may not have been a partnership solved overnight. None the less, at just 25, Gobert plays with the maturity of a 10 year veteran on defense, a huge asset for any team in the league.
IMAGE CREDIT – Clutch Points
9. Andre Drummond C Detroit Pistons
2017-2018 Stats – 14.8 PPG/ 15.3 RPG/ 3.9 APG
Age – 24
The newly crowned All-Star has been putting up career numbers. Drummond leads the NBA in rebounds per game and ranks in the top 3 in offensive and defensive rebounds. He provides a dangerous threat for any team around the rim, both offensively and defensively.
Many felt Drummond was snubbed for the first selection of this year’s NBA All-Stars. With an injury to Washington Wizards John Wall, Drummond received the nod from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. The Pistons newly acquired big man Blake Griffin will provide an interesting dynamic for Drummond moving forward. Previously the unofficial face of the franchise, Drummond will have to fit in with being #2, without his strengths being restricted on the court. It will be interesting to see if the match fits well.
IMAGE CREDIT – Give Me Sport
8. Victor Oladipo SG Indiana Pacers
2017-2018 Stats – 24.1 PPG/ 5.2 RPG/ 4.1 APG
Age – 25
Anyone say Most Improved Player? Very few predicted Victor Oladipo would mould in to a star player for the Pacers this year. He has proved his doubters wrong emphatically.
What has been the key to Oladipo’s success this season? An enhanced role is definitely one of the reasons. He attempts four more field goals per game than last year. But with that, Oladipo’s shooting numbers have dramatically improved. He is putting up 8 more points per game than last year, with just over a 4% increase in field goal percentage. Oladipo has been putting up several 40+ point games for the Pacers and at the age of 25, has the potential to be a perennial All-Star for years to come.
IMAGE CREDIT – Uncoached
8. Kristaps Porzingis PF New York Knicks
2017-2018 Stats – 23.0 PPG/ 6.7 RPG/ 1.2 APG
Age – 22
The best 7 foot shooter outside of Dirk Nowitzki, and he’s still only 22. Kristaps Porzingis has settled in nicely in an enhanced role since the departure of Carmelo Anthony. He is averaging 5 more points per game this season while his 3 point percentage has risen by almost 5% from last year.
What makes Porzingis a huge asset at such a young age is his two way ability. He was the first NBA player to reach 100 blocks this season. The Knicks sit in 10th in the Eastern Conference, battling it out with Detroit and Philly to make the last playoff spot. The Latvian is making his first All-Star game this year and will likely be a first of many if his form in the East continues.
IMAGE CREDIT – Getty Images
7. Bradley Beal SG Washington Wizards
2017-2018 Stats – 23.9 PPG/ 4.5 RPG/ 4.0 APG
Age – 24
This has been a breakout season for Bradley Beal. As with the general trend with some list getters, the departure of ball dominant stars have led to the rise of others. In the case of the Washington Wizards, John Wall’s injury plagued season has given a new shine to shooting guard Beal.
Would you believe it, Beal hasn’t seen a dramatic increase in his numbers from last season. He has been the glue that has kept the Wizards afloat throughout the season and that has earned him his first All-Star appearance. Throughout the playoffs last season, where Washington fell at the Eastern Conference Semis to the Celtics, Beal performed immensely. Sitting at fifth in conference standings, the Wizards will likely make another run this year. Expect Bradley Beal to shine again.
IMAGE CREDIT – Mile High Sports
6. Nikola Jokic C Denver Nuggets
2017-2018 Stats – 16.5 PPG/ 10.5 RPG/ 5.5 APG
Age – 22
Jokic is only one of two centres in the top 25 in assists per game, alongside DeMarcus Cousins. Only one other centre, Al Horford, makes the Top 50. Jokic’s distributive ability separates himself from others, providing highlight behind the back passes and no-lookers. At just 22, he is as exciting a talent as any in the NBA.
After a breakout season last year, lofty expectations were placed on the Serbian, but in a league of a wealth of young, developing centres, Jokic is getting lost in the shuffle. The Denver Nuggets have been solid this season, but nothing to get excited about. This in a way is a perfect description of Nikola Jokic this season. But at 22, his maturation at this point is a sizeable achievement. Increasing his defensive ability would help it even further. Having said that, his rim protection is solid. Jokic’s time will come in due course.
IMAGE CREDIT – GiveMeSport
5. Karl Anthony Towns C Minnesota Timberwolves
2017-2018 Stats – 19.9 PPG/ 12.1 RPG/ 2.3 APG
Age – 22
Expectations are always high when you are drafted with the #1 pick. From Day 1, Towns was putting up starting minutes and offensively, he was putting up the numbers. But with the Timberwolves acquisition of Jimmy Butler, offensive importance has lessened for Towns. In ways, it’s almost the perfect storm to help develop his two way game.
Towns is settling in to his new role in Minnesota. While his PPG has dropped by almost six per game, his field goals attempted has also dropped by 4. The Timberwolves are less reliant on Towns’ drives to the rim and in ways it may be positive in the long run. Towns still provides good defensive numbers, ranking fifth in the league in rebounds per game and 12th in blocks. At 22, he could have more potential than anyone in this list, a scary prospect given how good he has been from the get go.
IMAGE CREDIT – Philly.com
4. Joel Embiid C Philadelphia 76ers
2017-2018 Stats – 23.8 PPG/ 11.0 RPG/ 3.3 APG
Age – 23
After this season it might be time to start to ‘trust the process’. Joel Embiid ranks in the Top 15 in points and rebounds per game in the league. After an injury plagued start to his Sixers run, Embiid is easing in to enduring a regular NBA schedule.
A popular player among fans, Embiid was selected to start his first All-Star game this season. Many argue that he should have been ROTY last season, despite having played only 31 games. With injuries hopefully behind him, Embiid is backing up his talk on the court. Embiid has helped the Sixers lead the league in rebounds per game and adapted to their quick passing game. The 76ers haven’t made the playoffs since 2011-2012. With Embiid in form this season, they are sitting in playoff contention.
We’ll just have to ‘trust the process’ and see what plans out for Philly.
IMAGE CREDIT – nesn.com
3. Anthony Davis PF/C New Orleans Pelicans
2017-2018 Stats – 26.8 PPG/ 10.6 RPG/ 2.5 APG
Age – 24
It’s very rare you get the combination of elite scorer and elite rim protector in the NBA. That’s why Anthony Davis was the #1 pick in the 2012 draft. From his second season onwards, Davis has averaged 20+ points per game and 10+ rebounds.
The New Orleans Pelicans boosted their starting lineup acquiring DeMarcus ‘Boogie’ Cousins from the Sacramento Kings during the summer. The Pelicans have operated a ‘Twin Towers’ type offence with Jrue Holiday at PG as an anchor. Both Davis and Cousins have been averaging over 25 points per game, but with Cousins now sidelined indefinitely a lot will fall on AD’s shoulders. The Pelicans are seventh in the Western Conference, and with AD at the helm, they can start getting used to playoff appearances.
IMAGE CREDIT – The Big Lead
2. Kyrie Irving PG Boston Celtics
2017-2018 Stats – 24.9 PPG/ 3.7 RPG/ 5.0 APG
Age – 25
It’s been almost a dream start for Kyrie in Boston. The Celtics sit at #1 in the Eastern Conference with the league’s third best record. He has dealt with a few injuries, which led him to bear infamous mask for a stretch of games, but it hasn’t dampened his or the Celtics spirits.
From watching the Boston Celtics quite closely this season, they are completely different teams with and without Kyrie Irivng. With Kyrie, they have offensive stability and a go-to man in isolation. Without Kyrie, they are a bit scattered offensively without that crutch that can create something out of nothing. That’s what separates playoff teams from championship teams. And this season, Kyrie Irving has brought a Championship mentality to the Boston Celtics. He is, simply put, the best guard in the league under the age of 25.
IMAGE CREDIT – Bleacher Report
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo PF Milwaukee Bucks
2017-2018 Stats – 28.3 PPG/ 10.4 RPG/ 4.7 APG
Age – 23
Nobody has more potential and talent in the NBA than ‘The Greek Freak’. Giannis became the league’s Most Improved Player last year, and seems to be constantly improving. Which is the scary thing.
Antetokounmpo averages second in scoring in the league per game, first in field goals made and second in free throws made. In terms of attacking the rim, stats aside, he’s the best in the league. While he still has work to do on an improving jumper, defensively Antetokounmpo has made strides. There really isn’t as terrifying a threat on the field as ‘The Greek Freak’. In due time, he could become a LeBron or a Kobe. We’ll just have to wait until the improvements come to a hault. At 23, his development is still ongoing. It will continue to be an excitement observation.
Thank you for reading my article. I have been writing for one month now. I appreciate all the feedback! Stay tuned to the Atlantic Sports Press for more NBA & MMA articles.