Ranking the Top 10 NBA players under 25

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson is one of the top 10 NBA players under 25
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Rusty Costanza

This past season many young players have started to make their mark in the NBA. With players like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and James Harden all getting older, many people are wondering who are the next players to take over the league. Jayson Tatum and Luka Doncic are currently showing their skill in the conference finals, but there are plenty of players under 25 that are looking to get there soon. So, where do they all rank? Who deserves to be in the conversation of top 10 NBA players under 25? This is my list of the top 10 NBA players under 25.

Honorable Mentions: DeAndre Ayton (Phoenix Suns), Darius Garland (Cleveland Cavaliers), Tyler Herro (Miami Heat), Anthony Edwards (Minnesota Timberwolves)

10. Zion Williamson

The former first overall pick in 2019, Zion Williamson has had a rough start to his career. In his first three seasons in the NBA, he’s only played in 85 games. This includes missing all of this past season, and part of being great in the NBA is being able to stay on the floor. The nagging foot injury has made it tough for people to put him in the conversation as the next young player to take over the NBA. However, when Williamson has played, he’s looked outstanding.

Over the 85 games he has played, Zion averaged 25.7 points per game, 7.0 rebounds per game, and shot 60% from the field. In his second season, he took a nice jump, increasing his points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals per game. He is a big body that can cause havoc in the paint, but the inability to stay on the court lands him at ten on this list.

9. Bam Adebayo

The former All-Star and two-time All-Defensive big man, Bam Adebayo has improved his offensive game every year since entering the league in 2017. Now in his fifth season, Bam has high expectations, as shown in this current playoff run. He has proven that he is a key player on a Miami Heat team that is looking to make their second finals in three years.

Coming off a season averaging 19.1 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 1.4 steals per game, fans were excited to see what Adebayo would do this playoffs. However, many have been disappointed in his overall play this postseason as he is averaging a quiet 14.9 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game. In the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals this year, he had a total of 16 points, 13 rebounds, and didn’t record a single steal.

After receiving a lot of criticism for his play, he erupted for 31 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 steals. It is uncertain which Bam we will see in the future, and that uncertainty lands him at 9 on this list.

8. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

The 11th overall selection out of Kentucky, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander started his career with the Los Angeles Clippers. After being dealt to the Thunder in the Paul George trade, he took a huge jump increasing his points per game from 10.8 to 19.0 and over doubled his rebounds per game. Being on a struggling Thunder team, he has become the face of the franchise.

This past season, Shai averaged 24.8 points, 5.9 assists, and 5.0 rebounds per game. He also had a career year defensively with 1.3 steals and 0.8 blocks per game. As he continues to get to the free throw line more and more, defenses are noticing his unique skill set on the floor as a 6’6″ point guard. The Thunder will be looking to get SGA some more help in this upcoming draft with the second overall pick. Will that selection help Shai take another jump? Only time will tell, but regardless the Thunder have their point guard for the future.

7. Jarrett Allen

The former Brooklyn Net only had one season where he was the full-time starter at center, struggling to prove himself as a long-term big man for the team. Early in the 2020-21 season, Allen was a part of the three-team trade that sent James Harden to Brooklyn. This landed him in Cleveland. Through the rest of that season, we saw almost the same Jarrett Allen as we did in Brooklyn. The next season, we saw Allen show why Cleveland may have won that trade.

The 2021-22 NBA season started off great for Allen having a career best in points (16.1) and rebounds per game (10.8). His improvement earned him his first all-star game honors. After fracturing his finger in March, Allen missed the rest of the regular season. This proved to be vital for the Cavs as they went 9-17 without Allen falling to 8th in the Eastern Conference.

He did return for the play-in games, but it did not matter. The Cavaliers lost back-to-back games against the Hawks and Nets to miss the playoffs. Allen will be looking to prove his worth again next season as one of the best young big men in the league.

6. Brandon Ingram

The second overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, Brandon Ingram has had an interesting start to his career. He spent the first three seasons of his career with the Los Angeles Lakers and struggled to please the Laker faithful. Prior to the 2019-20 season, Ingram was dealt to the New Orleans Pelicans as part of a three-team trade. Over the next three seasons, Ingram found his home becoming a crucial part of the Pelicans future.

The 2021-22 season has been a big one for Ingram as he helped the Pelicans make the playoffs. In the first round against the Phoenix Suns, he showed he can be a star in this league. In the six game series, he averaged an impressive 27.0 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 6.2 assists per game. Those numbers were all improvements from his regular season numbers. The sixth-year forward is only 24 years old and will be looking to make another jump next season.

5. LaMelo Ball

The 2020-21 rookie of the year entered his second NBA season this year with high expectations. While his team did not perform to the standards many would have liked, LaMelo was the player leading them all season. They finished 10th in the East and lost in their only play-in game to the Hawks, 132-103. LaMelo struggled in that game shooting 28% from the field with five fouls in the game. Even though he struggled in that game, it was still a successful season for LaMelo.

He improved in almost every aspect of his game averaging 20.1 points, 7.6 assists, and 6.7 rebounds per game. While his field goal percentage took a slight dip, he improved his 3-point percentage. He went from shooting 35% from deep to 39% this past season.

His flashy passing and ability to do it all led to his first All-Star appearance. It will be interesting to see if Ball can take another jump going into his third season. Fans will be watching closely to see if he can cement himself as a superstar in this league.

4. Trae Young

After losing in the Eastern Conference Finals last season, Trae Young became a villain of the NBA. Many expected another playoff run from Young and the Hawks, but this team did not look the same. After finishing as the 9th seed in the East, they beat the Hornets and Cavaliers in the play-in games to make the playoffs. Their season did not last much longer as they lost 4-1 in the first round to the Miami Heat.

While the team struggled, Young actually had an even better year than his 2020-21 season. He improved his shooting percentage in every way, while averaging more points, assists, and steals as the year prior. He averaged 28.4 points, 9.7 assists, and 3.7 rebounds per game. This earned him his second all-star appearance. This impressive play went away quickly in the playoffs. Trae struggled against the Heat averaging an abysmal 15.4 points, 6.0 assists, and 6.2 turnovers per game.

While he struggled in the playoffs, the league knows how dangerous Young can be and I fully expect him to bounce back next season with another terrific year.

3. Ja Morant

Ja Morant garnered the spotlight this year with his monstrous dunks and improvement in scoring. He led the Grizzlies to the second seed in the West with a record of 56-26. With the jump Morant made, expectations were high for the Grizzlies heading into the playoffs. After beating Minnesota in the first round in six games, they faced the challenge of the Golden State Warriors.

They ended up losing the series 4-2 after Morant did not play in the last three games due to an injury. During the three games he played that series, Morant played great, scoring 34, 47, and 34 points.

In the regular season, he averaged 27.4 points, 6.7 assists, and 5.7 rebounds per game. Those numbers earned Morant his first All-Star appearance and Most Improved Player Award honors. This improvement put Morant in the conversation to be the next player to take over the league.

With a disappointing end to the season, fans will be looking at Morant to see if he can continue that growth into the next great NBA superstar and become a top 10 player in the NBA.

2. Jayson Tatum

The former Duke Blue Devil fell into the Celtics lap at third overall in the 2017 NBA Draft. A pick that would soon be looked as a steal. In his rookie season, Tatum helped lead the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals, losing 4-1 to LeBron James and the Cavaliers. Since then, Tatum has led the Celtics to two more Eastern Conference Finals. One of those appearances is this season, as he looks to make his first NBA Finals.

Tatum earned his third straight All-Star game honor as he averaged 26.9 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game, all career highs. After a slow start to the season, he helped the Celtics dominate the second half of the season going 28-7. This made the Celtics finish 2nd in the Eastern Conference, two games behind the Miami Heat.

Tatum is looking to prove he is a top 10 player in the league and capture his first championship this season.

1. Luka Doncic

This shouldn’t be a surprise that Luka Doncic is #1 on this “NBA top 10 under 25” list. It is an understatement to say that Luka is on a different level than almost every one of these players. The 23-year old superstar has taken over this playoffs leading his team to the Western Conference Finals with one of the worst supporting casts in recent memory. The fourth-year pro has earned three All-Star appearances and two All-NBA honors already in his career. The craziest part of Doncic’s career is that he has never averaged below 21.2 points per game. He continues to get better every year, and even though the Mavericks will most likely lose the Western Conference Finals, Luka is still shining.

This past season he averaged 28.4 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 8.7 assists. That ranked first among all guards in points and rebounds, while ranking fifth in assists. During this postseason run, Doncic has stepped up even more averaging 32.1 points per game. His ability to find open teammates, rebound the ball, and score from anywhere on the floor has put him in the conversation of top 10 basketball players in the world. Doncic is just starting his dominance in the NBA, and he will soon be the face of the league.

The Real MVP: Is Luka Doncic Overlooked?

Superstar Luka Doncic drives to the basket against MVP candidate Nikola Jokic
Photo Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The MVP award candidates have been announced: Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. When I look at that list, I can’t help but notice a player missing. All year he has been overlooked as a real MVP award candidate. Now, he is left off the finalist list: Luka Doncic, the young superstar. He shouldn’t just be on the finalist list; I believe he should win the award. Doncic is the real MVP of the league this season.

This is not a discredit to the great seasons Jokic, Embiid, and Giannis had. The combination of individual and team stats show that Doncic should be leading the MVP conversation. Each finalist showed why they belong in this conversation and Doncic deserves to be in that conversation as well. Their statistics and team stories give us a better look at their MVP resume.

Nikola Jokic

The reigning MVP came back this year looking just as good — if not better — than last year. Per game, Jokic averaged 27.1 points, 13.8 rebounds, and 7.9 assists. He added almost a block and over a steal per game on the defensive side. Those numbers led the Nuggets in each category. The flashy passes and triple-doubles have made Jokic a fan favorite.

Denver’s big man is cementing himself as the best passing center of all-time. He has broken records with his ability to do it all, notching the highest PER in history. He does everything on the court, all while having a 66% true shooting percentage. This season showed that he will be in the MVP conversation for years to come.

The Nuggets as a team had a difficult season. After losing Jamal Murray to a torn ACL last season, they knew it would already be a tough season. On top of losing Murray, Michael Porter Jr. left a game on November 6th with back tightness. He has not returned since and they are hoping he can return for this current playoff run. This left the Nuggets without two key players.

Without those two, Denver finished the regular season with five other double-digit scorers. Jokic led them to a 48-24 record, finishing sixth in the Western Conference.

Joel Embiid

The Process is still proving why he deserves that nickname, and this year Joel Embiid was trying to prove he is the real MVP. After leading the league this season in points per game with 30.6, he showed how dominant of a center he really is. While shooting 50% from the field and 37% from three, defenses have struggled all year to contain Embiid. Being able to take anyone in the paint and step back for three was key for his MVP candidacy.

On the boards, he averaged 11.7 rebounds per game. Embiid showed his complete skill set by taking the ball away once a game and sending 1.5 shots back. Embiid improved as a passer this year with a career-high 4.2 assists per game. It was a career year for Embiid, and his individual numbers are putting him in the MVP spotlight.

Philadelphia has been put on a rollercoaster this year. The Ben Simmons saga continued into this year. After Simmons’ struggles in the playoffs, he didn’t report to training camp, got kicked out of practice, and didn’t play the regular season, for reported mental health reasons.

On February 10th 2022, Simmons was traded to the Brooklyn Nets for James Harden. While others were in the trade, those were the two main stars involved. James Harden came to Philly, and they finished the season fourth in the Eastern Conference with a record of 51-31, tied with Boston and Milwaukee. Behind Harden and Embiid, there are three other double-digit scorers: Tyrese Maxey, Tobias Harris, and Seth Curry.

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Last year’s Finals MVP continued to cement his legacy by averaging 29.9 points, 5.8 assists, and 11.6 rebounds per game. His length helped him average just over a block and steal per game. Giannis shot 55% from the field and 29% from three. He added eight points from the line each night, as defenses struggled to keep him off the line this year. The Greek Freak made his sixth All-Star game this season, while also being named to the NBA 75th anniversary team. He is looking to add to his trophy case with a second MVP, to further his case as a legend.

The 2021 NBA champs are looking to repeat this year after finishing third in the Eastern Conference at 51-31. They have six double-digit scorers, if you count Pat Connaughton (9.9), and the capability of going back-to-back. The trio of Giannis, Jrue Holiday, and Khris Middleton hasn’t been as efficient this year, as all of their shooting percentages have taken a dip. Yet, the Bucks still rank tied for third in offensive efficiency.

On the defensive side, they rank 14th in efficiency and tied for fifth in rebound rate. They are the champs until they are dethroned, led by Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Luka Doncic

The 23-year-old superstar lit the league on fire again in his fourth season, averaging 28.4 points, 8.7 assists, and 8.3 rebounds (career-high) per game. With the ability to score in just about every way, he shot 46% from the field and 53% from three. On a per game basis, Doncic led all guards in points and rebounds, ranking fifth in assists. His play-making ability has forced him into the “next young superstar” conversation with Ja Morant. Doncic can take over games in a heartbeat.

On the defensive end, Luka has taken a huge leap. He set career highs in steals and blocks per game. While it might not look like big improvement on paper, he has become a very good on-ball defender, helping Dallas finish 6th in defensive efficiency.

Dallas got off to a slow start this season. So, they made a move before the trade deadline to move center Kristaps Porzingis and a 2022 protected 2nd round pick to Washington. In return, they received guard Spencer Dinwiddie and small forward Davis Bertans.

Many people were critical of the move, including myself, thinking they could have gotten more from Porzingis. However, the Mavericks finished fourth in the Western Conference with 52 wins and 30 losses, one game behind the Golden State Warriors. This team has been one of the more surprising and underrated teams in the NBA. The teams success is heavily credited to Luka Doncic, with only three other teammates averaging double digits, if you don’t count Tim Hardaway Jr. who has been hurt since January.

When you break it down, it becomes clear that Luka Doncic absolutely deserves to be in the NBA MVP discussion. Doncic may not be the front-runner for the award, but to leave him out of the MVP race all-together was a mistake.