In the NBA, youth is essentially a synonym for hope. Coaches love veteran guile, but, aside from the lucky few who are employed by title contenders, they know that fans are much more focused on the future. Their bosses often are, too — every time a draft-night steal changes a team’s trajectory, every time a second- or third-year player “pops,” a world of possibility opens up.
Here, then, are the top 25 players under 25 years old, Justise Winslow in and Marvin Bagley out — but different in terms of the order.), with an emphasis on how they can improve. (Full disclosure: These are not my personal rankings, which would have been almost identical in terms of the players included — I had
A few takeaways from this list:
The first four players on the list — Antetokounmpo, Jokic, Towns and Simmons — are huge, powerful and would have looked like aliens playing the way they do in the early 2000s. Scroll past them and you’ll see a bunch of other rising stars who might have been pigeonholed as post-up guys had they been born a generation earlier. It’s awesome that tall kids who grow up watching these guys won’t have to deal with coaches who park them in the post and tell them they’re soft if they want to work on their ballhandling and shooting. Jokic and Williamson are going to make the term “point-center” mainstream soon.
The mighty Mavs
It was big news when the Mavs paired Doncic and Porzingis, but the story was put on hold because we couldn’t actually watch the two of them play until now. Seeing them near the top of this list and on the floor together, I can’t help but think Dallas deserves more attention. The playoff race in the West is going to be a bloodbath yet again, but my only real hot take about this season is that the Mavs are capable of fighting their way in. (And if they don’t, then whatever — the front office traded for both of them thinking of the next decade, not the short term.)
Friday is the two-year anniversary of Andrew Wiggins signing a five-year contract extension worth about $150 million. He was 22 then, and while the deal was seen as risky at the time, the idea that he wouldn’t even make a list like this seemed like a stretch. That he has fallen this far is a real bummer, especially because if you catch him on the right night you can see why he was picked first overall and won Rookie of the Year. At media day, Wiggins acknowledged that “people are going to doubt you” and “people are going to think that you lost a step,” saying that he would use it as motivation and he knows he has to add to his game. He’ll be out of contention for the 25 under 25 next season, but it would be nice to see him back in the top 100.
- Missed the cut but still on our top 100 list: Justise Winslow, Julius Randle, Deandre Ayton. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jonathan Isaac, Bam Adebayo, Jarrett Allen
- Just missed the list: Dejounte Murray ( !), Kyle Kuzma, Mitchell Robinson, Kevon Looney
- Other notable names: O.G. Anunoby, Kevin Huerter, Miles Bridges, Markelle Fultz, Zach Collins, Landry Shamet, Kelly Oubre, Miles Bridges, Ja Morant, R.J. Barrett