The Top 5 NBA Players Under 25
The NBA is in safe hands for the future. Young and exciting players across the league are stealing our attention with an array of dazzling dunks, stylish passes, jaw-dropping buzzer beaters, and just a hint of swagger. And, entertain us they must. For as celebrated as previous stars have been to fans for years, the NBA needs to progress and look to the future.
Thankfully, the league is brimming with incredible talent and these new, fresh stars have shown they can carry the torch passed down to them from older generations. Here are five of the best NBA players below 25.
5. Zion Williamson – 21 years old
When healthy, Zion Williamson is an absolute force of nature. His giant frame – all 6” 6’ and 284lb of it – is borderline impossible to stop once he gets going. He might look like The Hulk on the court, but his graceful footwork, bursts of speed, and ability to finish at the rim through rough contact all present a player who can push his body to limits never seen before. A somewhat unreliable jump shot aside, his sheer size dominates the boards, particularly when he dunks his own misses. Plus, Zion is a top NBA player with great handles when taking the ball from the perimeter to the paint and driving inside.
But, we do stress the point, when he’s healthy. Zion hasn’t played a game for the Pelicans in the 2021-22 season and is currently rehabbing a foot injury. He’s played only 85 games out of two seasons so far and has a long injury list that would make team’s GM tremble. When Zion returns from injury, however, we know that he’s itching to build upon his already stellar career averages of 25.7 points, 7 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game, not to mention adding to his one All-Star appearance.
Zion is still ridiculously young and has time to improve his player ranking (a scary thought for opponents) and also shake off the injury bug. We’re all keen to once again witness his pure dominance in the post and formidable dunks for years to come.
4. Trae Young – 23 years old
The Atlanta Hawks were only two wins away from the NBA Finals in 2021. Although beaten by the Bucks 4-2 in the East Conference Finals, the Hawks put up a solid fight on the back of Trae Young’s stupendous performance in the playoffs. Knocking off the Sixers and Knicks and very nearly beating the Bucks before injuries derailed Young’s incredible play is no mean feat.
For any guard at 6’ 1” and 180lb, life on the basketball court can be tough, but Young is one of the best NBA players at making the game look easy and fun as well. The long threes from ridiculous spots on the floor, the nifty little floater, and his deft skill at getting to the free throw line make Young an offensive menace at all times. Young doesn’t just score, however, but also sets up his teammates for easy threes and alley-oops. With one All-Star appearance and career averages of 24.2 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 8.9 assists per game, Young is continually improving and makes any game a joy to watch.
Of course, the defense is often a problem, but the Hawks have built a solid defensive core around him to help cover up the issues caused by his size. Atlanta looks great and Young is the main reason for it. Then there’s his epic “shush” moment against the Knicks in Game 1 of the first round of the 2021 playoffs at MSG, when he sealed the victory with a graceful floater to make the score 107-105. Brash, bold, but very, very cool.
3. Ja Morant – 22 years old
Ja Morant undoubtedly takes the next spot in our list of the greatest NBA players under 25. The Memphis Grizzlies should be thrilled that Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks won the 2021 Finals. Why? Because it proves that an elite player doesn’t have to necessarily leave a small-market organization to take home a title. So far, all indications suggest the young superstar is happy to stay in Memphis and build a championship team there.
Simply put, Morant is the best NBA player to ever wear a Grizzlies uniform (sorry Marc Gasol). The unequivocal leader of a young and exciting Memphis team with high hopes, Morant is an explosive scorer with slick passing, tight handles, and spin moves that would impress a Ferris wheel. But seriously, it’s his ability to get to the rim and either throw it down with force or twist and turn his way for a smooth layup that electrifies us the most.
Morant has giant hops reminiscent to Bulls-era Derrick Rose, and boy can he dunk with authority at 6’ 3”. Multiple clips online show him performing epic jams from all angles on the court, but even his missed dunks are something to be marveled at, as Kevin Love found out in 2019. Morant attempted to literally jump over Love and rip the rim off, only for the ball to ricochet out and bounce away. “I knew he was athletic, but damn,” Love explained after the game. “He legit jumped over me. I was so glad he missed.”
Morant has career averages of 19.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 7.3 assists per game, but is certainly exceeding player ranking expectations this year and a lock for his first All-Star game. He needs a reliable three-point shot and some more trustworthy teammates, but if those happen, playoff wins are on the way and maybe a championship one day.
2. Jayson Tatum – 23 years old
Do you want to be beaten off the dribble for an easy two points, have a step-back three scored in your face, or feel helpless after being dunked on? Because you’re going to get all that and more with Jayson Tatum. One of the top NBA players at pure scoring that the league has seen since perhaps the late, great Kobe Bryant, Tatum’s career averages of 19.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game might not jump off the page but when you see him in action… damn, the guy can score from anywhere.
Living up to Celtics greatness is no easy task, especially when you’re playing under retired jerseys like Larry Bird, Paul Pierce, and Bill Russell, not to mention trying to win the team’s first championship since 2008. Nonetheless, Tatum is out to prove he’s worthy of the famous green and white uniform. With one All-NBA nod and two All-Star appearances, Tatum’s power and quickness make him a complete offensive threat on any given day.
Sure, some critics have slated his love of contested jumpers and a hesitance to play his way to the free throw line, but Tatum’s offensive arsenal is still the envy across the league. Plus, Jayson’s defensive prowess has skyrocketed since his debut in 2017, with a ferocious tenacity both on-ball and off that makes him incredibly useful especially when the defense switches.
We’ll see how Tatum develops his player ranking in the playoffs in years to come, but with two Conference Finals appearances and an equally talented co-star in Jaylen Brown, the Celtics assuredly have something special on their hands. Most notable is Tatum’s astonishing performance against San Antonio on May 1st, 2021, when he scored a career-high 60 points and overcame a 32-point deficit to help Boston beat the Spurs 143-140.
1. Luka Doncic – 22 years old
The best NBA player under 25 is straightforward – guys like Luka Doncic don’t come around very often. In his fourth season with the Mavericks, Luka has career averages of 25.7 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 7.7 assists per game. To put that in perspective, the last player to average at least 25, 7, and 7 was Oscar Robertson back in the 60s.
Owning a deadly step-back jumper that has ruined many opposing fans’ nights, as well as a deceptive speed and craftiness when driving to the bucket, Doncic is a head coach’s nightmare to prepare against. Luka’s size and strength are matched only by his IQ for the game of basketball – he reads the play stunningly well for a 22-year-old and is only getter better as one of the top NBA players right now.
Given his transcendent skills on the court, Doncic is unsurprisingly already a two-time All-Star, two-time All-NBA First Team honors, and Rookie of the Year. Luka is quickly becoming known for his outstanding game-ending buzzer beaters and is proving that his clutch play is reliable and efficient – just ask the Clippers about Game 4 of the 2020 playoffs.
Doncic can more or less take any shot or pass he wants, but how far he can carry the Mavs will depend on his co-stars. With only two playoff appearances to his name, Luka will feel pressure to match his star status to playoff wins. However, this one-man army may well raise an NBA championship trophy regardless of who’s around him.
Author: Joe Garland