The NBA has never been richer in young talent, and every season, it seems like that becomes more and more true after the latest loaded draft class joins the ranks. That might partially have to do with the explosion of overseas talent, but the domestic game is an extremely healthy place, too. So what we decided to do is, as a team at HoopsHype, vote on the Top 25 NBA players under the age of 25, and aggregate the total scores of each of our votes to find a consensus.
Below, you can find how the rankings turned out. Let’s jump right in.
25. KENDRICK NUNN, 24, MIAMI
An impressive find for the Miami Heat out of the G League, Kendrick Nunn has gone from undrafted minor league player to a legitimate candidate for Rookie of the Year from one season to the next.
On the campaign, Nunn ranks third among rookies in nightly scoring (15.5) and second in total three-pointers (125) while further contributing 3.4 assists per contest.
Apart from the addition of Jimmy Butler and the explosive improvements from a big man teammate coming up near the top of our list, one of the biggest reasons for Miami being so much better this season than in 2018-19 has been thanks to the Nunn pickup, who gives the team a tough bucket-getter and a high-effort player on both ends of the floor.
24. JONATHAN ISAAC, 22, ORLANDO
One of the league’s top defenders before going down with a knee injury this season, Jonathan Isaac seemed to take the next step in his development in 2019-20 for the Magic.
His offensive production might never be all that efficient (he had improved-but-still-shaky 46.3/33.0/76.7 shooting splits this year), but Isaac’s contributions on the defensive end were otherworldly, and would have certainly garnered him some Defensive Player of the Year consideration had he not gotten hurt.
In 2019-20, Isaac ranked fourth in nightly blocks (2.4) and ninth in steals (1.6) while Orlando boasted the NBA’s fifth-stingiest defense with their point-stopping monster on the floor.
23. LONZO BALL, 22, NEW ORLEANS
After a somewhat disappointing sophomore season, Lonzo Ball has gotten right back on track this campaign, his first as a New Orleans Pelican, averaging 12.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, 7.0 assists and 1.4 steals nightly to go with a noteworthy +3.1 swing rating.
The most impressive improvement Ball has made from last year to this one has been with his spot-up shooting. Not only is he making a career-best 38.3 percent of his three-pointers, but the UCLA product has also upped his spot-up efficiency from 0.80 points per possession in 2018-19 (PPP; 18th percentile) to 1.04 PPP this season (64th percentile), per Synergy Sports.
That’s a vast difference – and a more confident Ball in 2019-20 looks like a real building block for New Orleans to go with a certain big man coming up later on our list.
22. AARON GORDON, 24, ORLANDO
Best known for his high-flying dunks, Aaron Gordon has developed nicely into a small-ball power forward who can handle some playmaking duties and defend multiple positions on the less glamorous side of the floor.
Since the start of 2020, when Gordon was able to move to the 4-spot full-time following an injury to a player coming up on our list, the 24-year-old has averaged 15.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.1 steals nightly while helping the Orlando Magic stay firmly within the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
Gordon still badly needs to work on his shooting, as the athletic forward is converting just 30.4 percent of his threes this season and an even more worrisome 67.2 percent of his free throws, but outside of that, he’s become a pretty well-rounded modern-day wing/big man hybrid.
21. MYLES TURNER, 23, INDIANA
The Indiana Pacers’ front office and its fans alike probably hoped Myles Turner would merit a higher ranking on this list by this point in his career, but for whatever reason, it just hasn’t happened yet for Turner. And by it, we mean Turner hitting the level many thought he had coming out of college, that of a dominant floor-spacer/rim-protector.
This season, Turner’s ranking in the catch-all advanced metrics has taken quite a dip, including his Box Plus/Minus (BPM) falling from +3.3 to +0.2 – a pretty massive fall-off. Even more concerning than that? The Pacers are 2.0 points per 100 possessions worse with Turner on the floor this year.
Not what you want to hear if you’re Indiana, especially not when you consider Turner is currently in Year-1 of a four-year, $80 million deal.
20. JOHN COLLINS, 22, ATLANTA
There are major questions about John Collins’ defensive aptitude, even in spite of his 1.6-nightly-block average this season, as the Atlanta Hawks boast a bottom-three defense in 2019-20, one that isn’t much better statistically with Collins on the floor.
Even so, as a 22-year-old, Collins is averaging 21.6 points, 10.0 rebounds and 1.5 three-pointers per contest on the campaign while slashing outrageous 58.8/41.1/80.1 shooting splits, tidy marks that speak to the Wake Forest product’s efficiency as a scorer.
Now paired up with Clint Capela in Atlanta’s frontcourt, who should mask some of Collins’ defensive deficiencies, the floor-spacing, high-flying big man will be able to focus on doing what he does best, and that’s putting up big numbers.
19. JAREN JACKSON JR, 20, MEMPHIS
Filling one of the most important modern-day archetypes, that of a floor-spacing rim-protector, Jaren Jackson Jr. has all the makings of a destructive two-way force for the Memphis Grizzlies.
Jackson is more than just a frontcourt floor-spacer, though, as the 20-year-old ranks as a “very good” point producer out of the pick-and-roll roll, as well as a “very good” isolation scorer, per Synergy Sports. On the season, Jackson is averaging 16.9 points, 1.6 blocks and 2.5 three-pointers per game while knocking down an impressive 39.7 percent of his outside looks.
Considering his age and already-nasty production, Jackson’s upside is legitimately scary. The Grizzlies are knocking their current rebuild out of the park, and landing Jackson fourth overall in the 2018 draft is just part of the reason why.
18. DE’AARON FOX, 22, SACRAMENTO
He may have not made the jump many thought he would in his third season, but De’Aaron Fox still remains one of the league’s top young point guards.
In 2019-20, Fox is averaging 20.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 1.4 steals per game, overall marks that can only be matched by very few other players.
So although his jump shot – particularly from three-point range, where he’s making just 30.7 percent of his looks as opposed to 37.1 percent last year –has somewhat abandoned him, Fox still does a great job of using his explosiveness and touch around the basket to give the Sacramento Kings huge production at the lead-guard spot.
17. JAMAL MURRAY, 23, DENVER
Another young point guard with high expectations heading into 2019-20, Jamal Murray likewise hasn’t taken a huge step forward this season but has done enough for his fourth campaign not to be considered a disappointment.
On the year, Murray is posting an 18.7/3.9/4.8 stat line while hitting a mediocre 34.8 of his threes and 89.1 percent of his free throws. The problem is, Murray is averaging just 3.2 free-throw attempts to 5.4 three-point attempts nightly, so his ridiculous efficiency from the foul stripe isn’t as impactful as it should be.
Even so, the 23-year-old Canadian has been good enough as a starter to help the Denver Nuggets boast a 43-21 record this season and sit No. 3 in the West, so overall, his play has been a huge positive for his team. His +7.0 swing rating only further solidifies that belief.
16. SHAI GILGEOUS-ALEXANDER, 21, OKLAHOMA CITY
Question marks around Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s game forced him to fall to the 11th overall pick in the 2018 draft and the Los Angeles Clippers, the team who selected him, couldn’t have been happier about that. But it’s now the Oklahoma City Thunder who are reaping the rewards of the crafty ball-handler’s draft-day slide, following the Paul George trade.
This season, Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging 19.3 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game while shooting over five free-throws nightly and sinking them at an 80.1 percent rate. Playing alongside Chris Paul has done a lot to help the Canadian guard take the next step in his development, though, to be fair, he was pretty impressive as a rookie anyway.
As Gilgeous-Alexander’s jumper continues to develop (he’s making just 35.1 percent of his outside looks this year), he’s only going to continue getting better; his upside is ridiculous.
15. D’ANGELO RUSSELL, 24, MINNESOTA
Somehow already on his fourth team since reaching the NBA, D’Angelo Russell has finally landed on what should be his long-term home in Minnesota.
Considering he was already close with Karl-Anthony Towns before the trade and how badly the Wolves needed help in the backcourt, Russell is set up for a lot of success and stability on his new team.
Russell, a creative scorer and decent enough long-distance shooter, is averaging a career-high 23.0 points this year, to go along with 3.9 rebounds and 6.4 assists nightly.
14. JAYLEN BROWN, 23, BOSTON
One of the NBA’s top two-way wing players, Jaylen Brown’s explosion as a scorer this year has helped tell turn him a borderline All-Star player for the Boston Celtics.
On the campaign, Brown is pouring in 20.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game while hitting a healthy 38.1 percent of his three-point opportunities. Also, often tasked with guarding the opposing team’s best wing player, Brown is always up to the task.
Brown’s emergence this year has the Celtics playing awesome basketball, as evidenced by their 42-21 record and No. 3 ranking in the East.
13. DOMANTAS SABONIS, 23, INDIANA
A first-time All-Star in 2019-20, Domantas Sabonis has met his ceiling and then some with the Pacers this year.
The southpaw big man is putting up 18.3 points, 12.5 rebounds (No. 6 league-wide) and 5.0 assists per game this season, helping keep the Pacers among the Eastern Conference’s elite despite being without Victor Oladipo for the entire first half of the season. What’s more, Sabonis ranks 16th in VORP and 27th in BPM in 2019-20, which goes to show just how productive and effective he’s been in comparison to some of his counterparts.
Sabonis’ blend of tidy finishing, tenacity on the glass and underrated playmaking have made him one of the most well-rounded bigs in basketball this year.
12. KRISTAPS PORZINGIS, 24, DALLAS
Kristaps Porzingis’ first season back from a torn ACL injury has had its ups and downs, but overall and especially recently, the Latvian big man has made the Dallas Mavericks’ gamble on him look like an extremely wise decision.
Not only do Porzinigis’ raw numbers – 19.4 points, 9.4 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game, albeit on shaky 42.2/35.4/77.6 shooting splits – jump off the page, but it’s his impact beyond the box score that make his acquisition look genius. Even despite a player coming up later on our list missing a lot of time this year with injury, the Mavericks boast a 115.9 offensive rating on the campaign, easily the top mark in the league and one of the best in league history.
Porzingis’ presence, particularly the extreme floor-spacing he provides by credibly spotting up for three from so deep beyond the arc, has a lot to do with that.
11. ZION WILLIAMSON, 19, NEW ORLEANS
Possessing an otherworldly blend of obscene touch to go along with brute strength and absurd athleticism, Zion Williamson has been nothing short of fantastic since debuting for the New Orleans Pelicans in late January.
In that stretch, 2019’s No. 1 overall pick is averaging 23.6 points (the top mark among all rookies), 6.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game while shooting 58.9 percent from the floor and a surprising 46.2 percent from beyond the arc, albeit on a small sample size (Williamson is shooting fewer than one three per game).
Williamson has also given his team an enormous boost, as the Pelicans are 13.6 points per 100 possessions better (that’s not a typo) with their top prospect on the floor, an insane mark usually reserved for the likes of a LeBron James or Giannis Antetokounmpo.
If it weren’t for the player coming up next on our list, Williamson would be a shoo-in to win Rookie of the Year in 2019-20 even despite missing so much time, and if it weren’t for him missing the first few months of the season, Zion surely would have ranked far higher on our list.
10. JA MORANT, 20, MEMPHIS
The frontrunner for Rookie of the Year in 2019-20 and one of the most exciting first-year point guards dating back to at least Derrick Rose, Ja Morant has helped flipped Memphis’ fortunes in just one offseason, accelerating their rebuild in the process.
On the year, Morant is pouring in 17.6 points per game and leading all rookies in nightly assists (7.0) while slashing healthy 49.2/37.3/77.0 shooting splits. Not only is Morant freakishly explosive…
…he has incredible vision as a playmaker, routinely putting his teammates in positions to succeed, a trait that does not usually come so easy for first-year floor generals.
Between Jackson and Morant (and guys like Dillon Brooks and Justise Winslow, who didn’t make our list), the Grizzlies have the young talent to build a monster squad in Memphis, as evidenced by the fact that they’re already firmly in a playoff race, despite their overall youth.
9. BRANDON INGRAM, 22, NEW ORLEANS
Few players have made the jump between last season to this one that Brandon Ingram has, as the Pelicans wing has absolutely taken off in his first season in New Orleans.
On the year, Ingram is averaging 24.3 points nightly to go with 6.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. Ingram is part of an eight-player list, filled with elite talent, putting up at least a 24/6/4 stat line this year, and at 22, he’s the second-youngest player to be doing so.
By far the biggest improvement Ingram has made this year is with his three-point shooting, where he’s sinking 38.7 percent of his opportunities after coming into the campaign as a career 32.9 percent outside shooter.
Between Ingram and Williamson, the Pelicans have an insane frontcourt duo guiding them into the future.
8. DEVIN BOOKER, 23, PHOENIX
According to every advanced metric, Devin Booker is currently enjoying his best season as a professional. The raw statistics – 26.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game on 48.9/36.2/91.7 shooting splits – would agree with that, too.
That’s why those within the Phoenix Suns organizations and even those outside of it were so surprised – and some even angered – when Booker became this year’s biggest All-Star snub. With Booker on the floor this year, Phoenix is 5.8 points per 100 possessions better than when he’s on the bench, so it’s not like he producing empty statistics.
Of course, Booker wound up earning All-Star honors for the first time this season anyway after Damian Lillard had to pull out due to injury, a more-than-deserved honor for the Kentucky product.
7. BAM ADEBAYO, 22, MIAMI
If Ingram isn’t this year’s Most Improved Player (and he very well might be), then that means the award would go to Bam Adebayo, who is the only other young guy to make such an insane leap from 2018-19 to 2019-20.
After being a backup for the majority of last season, Adebayo is absolutely filling up the stat sheet every night now in his first campaign as a full-time starter, averaging 16.1 points, 10.6 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.3 blocks per game while shooting 56.5 percent from the floor. On the season as a whole, Adebayo ranks 13th in VORP, 21st in BPM and 10th in overall Win Shares, marks that prove he’s not just a great young player, but a borderline All-NBA candidate in just his third season.
So yes, the addition of Butler and emergence of Nunn has been a huge reason for the Miami Heat going from non-playoff team to a Top 4 seed in the East at the All-Star break, but Adebayo’s growth also merits a lot of credit for Miami’s leap.
6. JAYSON TATUM, 22, BOSTON
Although Boston is about as well-rounded a team as any contender this year, making it difficult to decide who their best player is, a strong case can be made for third-year forward Jayson Tatum, who has bounced back wonderfully after a semi-disappointing sophomore season.
Tatum’s shot-making and play-making abilities (which are much-improved this year) have helped elevate Boston to ranking as a Top 5 offense this year, according to offensive rating, after placing 10th in that metric last season. What’s more, per Synergy Sports, Tatum ranks as an excellent scorer when running the pick-and-roll, as a good one on spot-up and post-up opportunities, and a very good one in isolation and transition. Tatum is as efficient a high-volume scorer as they come.
Still just 22 years old, the sky is the limit for Tatum’s upside.
5. TRAE YOUNG, 21, ATLANTA
One of the most exciting offensive players in basketball, Trae Young ranks fourth league-wide in scoring this season at 29.4 points per game and second in assists at 9.3 nightly. Young is the only player 21 or younger in league history to average at least 29 points and nine assists per contest, an insane accomplishment for the diminutive floor general in just his second season.
Of course, over the coming seasons, Young will have to answer questions about his actual impact versus his raw production, considering his Hawks team boasts the third-worst record in basketball in 2019-20, but at the same time, it’s hard to fault the uber-talented point guard for that, considering how much he contributes to the score sheet on a nightly basis.
With an improved roster around him, Young will get the chance to prove his value as a winning player over the next few years.
4. BEN SIMMONS, 23, PHILADELPHIA
We all know Ben Simmons’ biggest flaw as a player: He doesn’t shoot three-pointers.
But what gets often ignored in the discourse surrounding the young Australian ball-handler is the fact that even despite that flaw, he’s still an extremely impactful player, one that is consistently a terror defensively and borderline unstoppable in transition, and one that has proven to be an elite playmaker.
Simmons’ numbers – 16.9 points, 7.8 rebounds, 8.2 assists and 2.1 steals (No. 1 in the league) – might be more impressive if he were asked to do more offensively, as was the case for a nine-game stretch back in January when Joel Embiid missed time with injury. In that time, Simmons put up 21.6 points, 9.3 boards and 7.9 assists nightly, leading the Philadephia 76ers to a 6-3 record.
Simmons isn’t perfect, but he still impacts games like an elite player.
3. DONOVAN MITCHELL, 23, UTAH
A first-time All-Star in 2019-20, Donovan Mitchell’s improved consistency has helped him take the next step in his development and aided the Utah Jazz in maintaining their status as one of the Western Conference’s best teams. On the campaign, Utah ranks ninth league-wide in net rating at +3.3, ahead of the likes of Philadelphia and Miami, and sit fourth in the West with a 41-23 record.
Mitchell playing like one of the best 2-guards in basketball and consistently taking over the scoring load late in gams has certainly been a factor behind that, along with Rudy Gobert’s brilliance as a two-way center.
2. KARL-ANTHONY TOWNS, 24, MINNESOTA
In a way, Karl-Anthony Towns resembles Young in that his production is absolutely absurd and can’t be questioned, but at the same time, it hasn’t led to much winning for Minnesota outside of the year that Butler was there. That could change going forward with Russell joining the team at the trade deadline, but it’s noteworthy nonetheless.
Regardless, Towns is putting up truly insane numbers for his career, averaging 22.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game in his five seasons while knocking down 53.4 percent of his field-goal attempts and 39.6 percent of his outside looks.
Towns has a fantastic face-up game, a knockdown spot-up jumper and mean post moves, making him one of the most well-rounded scoring bigs in basketball. His defense leaves a lot to be desired, though, and the next step in his development will have to come on that end of the floor.
1. LUKA DONCIC, 21, DALLAS
No. 6 in the league in scoring and No. 4 in assists, Luka Doncic has been nothing short of incredible since arriving to the NBA in 2018-19.
This season, Doncic is averaging 28.5 points, 9.4 rebounds, 8.7 assists and 1.0 steals nightly and ranks Top 7 in VORP, while placing Top 6 in BPM and PER. And he’s doing all of that as a 21-year-old.
In just one season, Doncic has taken his Mavericks from a non-playoff 14th seed to a strong No. 7 seed this year, which would likely be even higher had the Slovenian star not missed two separate stints with ankle injuries.
As long as Doncic continues on this absurd trajectory, there’s minuscule doubt he’ll one day be at the level of a potential league MVP award recipient.
He might already be there now.
You can follow Frank Urbina on Twitter: @FrankUrbina_.
Basketball, NBA, Ranking, Evergreen, Featured, Top, Ben Simmons, Donovan Mitchell, Karl-Anthony Towns, Luka Doncic, Nikola Jokic, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Philadelphia 76ers, Utah Jazz