clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Ranking the top 25 NBA players under 25

While LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry get the bulk of the NBA headlines, there are plenty of young players waiting in the wings to taking over when the stars of today lose a step.

Some — like Anthony Davis and Kyrie Irving — are already household names, while others are on the cusp of stardom.

This list is the best-of-the-best of those young players, the ones who will carry the NBA to the next generation.

Just missed the cut: Rodney Hood, Utah Jazz; Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic

25. Clint Capela, Houston Rockets, 22

Capela is one of the best young rim protectors in the game and the perfect fit for the Rockets. He has stepped in for the departed Dwight Howard and has become the backbone of the Houston defense, averaging 1.4 blocks in just 23.4 minutes. He has also been a very serviceable finisher in the paint, averaging 12 points a night on 64.4 percent shooting from the field while adding 7.6 rebounds.

24. Julius Randle, Los Angeles Lakers, 22

Although his rebounding numbers are down — from 10.2 to 8.0 — Randle has become a more complete player in his third year in Los Angeles. He is averaging a career-high 13 points a game on 48.9 percent shooting while handing out 3.6 assists in 28.4 minutes.

23. Enes Kanter, Oklahoma City Thunder, 24

While his defense still isn't anything to write home about, Kanter is an offensive machine from 10 feet and in. He can score with his back to the basket or face up and consistently knock down short jumpers. Although he is playing just 21.6 minutes a game, he is averaging an impressive 14.4 points on 56.3 percent shooting with 6.7 rebounds.

22. Victor Oladipo, Oklahoma City Thunder, 24

Along with Russell Westbrook, Oladipo is part of the most athletic backcourt in the NBA. He is a solid defensive players who is one of the most exciting finishers in the league. While he is at his best getting to the rim, he is also a serviceable stroke in the midrange game. On the season, he is averaging 16.3 points on 44.5 percent shooting with 4.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.3 steals in 33.9 minutes.

21. Tobias Harris, Detroit Pistons, 24

Even though his 3-point shooting numbers have dipped, Harris is one of the most efficient wing scorers in the league. He has a great midrange game and is an elite free-throw shooter. On the season, he is averaging 16.5 points on 49 percent shooting from the floor and 88.8 percent from the foul line. He also chips in with 5.1 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 32 minutes.

20. Otto Porter, Washington Wizards, 23

Porter has improved every year since joining the Wizards. After a breakout season with the Wizards in 2015-16, Porter has taken another big step forward this season. His jump has come thanks to an improved outside shooting stroke where he has improved by nearly 10 percent from 3-point range. On the season, he is averaging 14.4 points on 53.2 percent shooting with 6.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.5 steals in 33.8 minutes.

19. D'Angelo Russell, Los Angeles Lakers, 20

While his shooting numbers are down, Russell has become a better facilitator in his second year with the Lakers. He has also improved his scoring and rebounding numbers. On the season, he is averaging 14.2 points, 4.8 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 26.5 minutes.

18. Dennis Schroder, Atlanta Hawks, 23

He was handed the keys to the offense in the offseason when the Hawks traded away Jeff Teague for a draft pick, and Schroder has taken full advantage. He is on pace to set new career highs in points, assists and rebounds while leading Atlanta to a 32-23 record. On the season, he is averaging 17.4 points on 46.2 percent shooting from the floor to go along with 6.3 assists and 2.9 rebounds in 30.7 minutes.

17. Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns, 20

Booker can just flat-out score the basketball. He has put up double figures in 52 of 54 games so far this year, including nine games with at least 30 points. On the season, he is averaging 21.1 points a game on 42.1 percent shooting from the floor. He also contributes 3.2 assists and 2.8 rebounds in 34.6 minutes.

16. Zach LaVine, Minnesota Timberwolves, 21

LaVine was in the middle of a breakout season before it abruptly ended when he tore the ACL in his left knee. Before the injury, he was producing a career-high 18.9 points a night on 45.9 percent shooting while adding 3.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists in 37.2 minutes.

15. Steven Adams, Oklahoma City Thunder, 23

Even though he has had to shoulder more minutes with the injury to Kanter, Adams is having his best season so far. Through 53 games, he is averaging 12.3 points on 57.9 percent shooting to go along with 7.9 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.1 blocks in 31 minutes.

14. Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers, 20

Turner is the definition of a stretch five — he shoots more shots from outside of 16 feet than he does at the rim. But there is no point to ask him to get on the block when he is such a solid shooter. On the season, he is averaging 15.5 points a night on 51.9 percent shooting from the floor. He also chips in with 7.2 rebounds, 2.2 blocks and 1.2 assists in 30.7 minutes.

13. Harrison Barnes, Dallas Mavericks, 24

After he spent his first four seasons playing in the shadow of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, Barnes is thriving in his role as the go-to guy in his first year with the Dallas Mavericks. On the season, he is averaging 20.1 points a game on 47.6 percent shooting from the floor while adding 5.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 54 games.

12. Jabari Parker, Milwaukee Bucks, 21

Before his season was cut short by another ACL injury, Parker was showing why the Bucks used a No. 2 overall pick to land him. On the season, he averaged 20.1 points a game on 49 percent shooting with 6.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.0 steals in 33.9 minutes.

11. Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves, 21

While his athleticism sets him apart, an improved outside shooting stroke has made him a much more dangerous offensive weapon. On the season, he is averaging 22.6 points a night on 45.7 percent shooting from the floor. He also contributes 4.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 37.1 minutes.

10. Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons, 23

Drummond is a beast on the backboards and an effective finishers in the paint. On the season, he is averaging 14.6 points a contest on 52.9 percent shooting from the floor to go along with 13.9 rebounds, 1.7 steals, 1.3 blocks and 1.0 assists in 30.6 minutes.

9. Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards, 23

Beal is a sweet-shooting two-guard who is off to the best start of his young career. He is on pass to crush his all-time high in scoring and assists and is a big reason the Wizards have made a run to near the top of the Eastern Conference. On the season, he is averaging 22.3 points a game on 46.9 percent shooting from the floor with 3.7 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 1.0 steals in 34.7 minutes.

8. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets, 21

Jokic is one of those special big men who can score from the inside, step outside and knock down the 3-point shot or create for his teammates thanks to some exceptional court vision. All you have to do is look at his line from Monday night's win over the Golden State Warriors to see just how impressive he is as he totaled 17 points, 21 rebounds and 12 assists. On the season, he is averaging 16.3 points on 59.1 percent shooting with 8.6 rebounds and 4.2 assists in 26.6 minutes.

7. Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz, 24

Gobert is one of the least polished offensive players on this list, but is a great finisher around the basket. He is also a huge presence on defense thanks to his ability to protect the rim and clean the glass. On the season, he is averaging 13 points a night on 64.7 percent shooting from the floor with 12.6 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in 33.7 minutes.

6. Kristaps Porzingis, New York Knicks, 21

There just aren't very many players in the history of the game who can match the skill-set of Porzingis. He is a 7-3 forward who can protect the paint on one end and knock down 25-foot 3-pointers on the other. After a strong rookie campaign, he has stepped up his game offensive thanks to more consistent touch from beyond the arc. On the season, he is averaging 18.5 points a contest on 45.1 percent shooting with 7.1 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and 1.3 assists in 33.1 minutes.

5. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers, 22

It took two long years to see what the third pick in the 2014 draft could do, and it was worth the wait. Embiid is an elite-level rim protector who has 3-point shooting range and a handle that even some guards don't possess. On the season, he is averaging 20.2 points a game on 46.6 percent shooting from the floor to go along with 7.8 rebounds, 2.5 blocks and 2.1 assists in 25.4 minutes.

4. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves, 21

After a terrific rookie season, Towns has only gotten better. He has expanded his offensive game to become a better passer and a very effective corner 3-point shooter. On the season, he is averaging 23.7 points a game on 51.7 percent shooting with 11.8 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.5 blocks in 36.2 minutes.

3. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers, 24

Irving has been in the league so long that it's hard to believe he isn't even 25 yet. He is one of the top scoring point guards and one of the biggest clutch shooters in the NBA. On the season, he is averaging 24.4 points a contest on 46.6 percent shooting from the floor with 5.9 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 35.2 minutes.

2. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks, 22

The "Greek Freak" is just that — a freak. He is a 6-11 wing who can handle the ball and distribute like a point guard. He is also a fantastic shot blocker and a great finisher. On the season, he is averaging 23.5 points a game on 52.8 percent shooting with 8.7 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.7 steals in 35.3 minutes.

1. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans, 23

Davis isn't just the best young player in the game, he is one of top 10 players in the entire league. He is a double-double machine who is also a special rim protector and a solid passer. On the season, he is averaging 28 points a night on 50.4 percent shooting with 12.1 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, 2.2 assists and 1.3 steals in 36.2 minutes.