Standing out in the NBA isn’t exactly an easy thing to do. If anything, just a handful of players manage to have long and successful careers, and most role players are out of the league after just a couple of years.
That’s even harder for young players. They need to adapt their bodies to a tougher, more physical competition, and be mature enough not to be tempted by the perks of being rich and famous at a ripe age.
Even so, some young hoopers prove to be special from day one, either winning Rookie of the Year honors or helping their teams to the playoffs. That’s why today, we’re going to honor the 5 best young players in the NBA for this season and give you a bit of an edge for next years’ MVP candidates, so you can make the most of the best betting bonuses and odds and get a jump start over everybody else.
Note: We’ll focus on players 22 or younger and exclude rookies from this ranking.
RJ Barrett - 21 Years Old
Even though RJ Barrett has struggled with injuries, inconsistency, and COVID-19 this season, he’s still one of the best young players in the league. He just happens to be living in the shadow of Zion Williamson and Ja Morant.
Barrett has improved in nearly every aspect of his game since entering the league. He was criticized for ball-hogging and his poor shot selection, yet he’s become a willing passer and shot nearly 45% from the floor in his second year in the league.
Tom Thibodeau’s defensive-oriented system may not be ideal to unleash Barrett’s offensive potential but he’s still turning out to be a pretty solid player, holding career averages of 15.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game.
5. Tyler Herro - 21 Years Old
Tyler Herro vowed to bounce back after his regression last year and he’s lived up to that promise. How that he’s fully healthy, the Kentucky product is showing once again why he was considered one of the biggest steals of the Draft.
While naturally more comfortable at the shooting guard spot, Herro has been comfortable running the offense and has had some success playing at the three as well. And, even though he’s not yet a plus-defender, he’s also made strides in that regard.
Thus far, Herro has been the most consistent contributor for the injury-riddled Miami Heat, averaging 20.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and 2.7 three-pointers per game on 44/40/86 shooting splits.
4. Darius Garland - 21 Years Old
Plenty of people doubted Darius Garland when he first entered the league. He barely had any college experience and went through some growing pains early in his career but he’s finally blossomed into one of the NBA’s most promising scorers.
Garland has played a huge part in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ breakout this season, leading the way with and without Collin Sexton and showing impressive ability to play on and off the ball thanks to his improved playmaking.
Darius Garland should be one of the leading candidates to win Most Improved Player this season. Thus far, he’s averaged 19.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.4 steals, and 2.6 three-pointers per game on nearly 48% from the floor.
3. LaMelo Ball - 20 Years Old
Just like Garland, people also questioned LaMelo Ball’s ability to dominate in the league. They called him out for taking Stephen Curry kind of shots despite not being much of a shooter and claimed his defense was going to be a major issue.
It didn’t take long before the younger brother of the Ball household put those critics behind him. He’s the flashiest passer in the league and his top-notch basketball IQ makes him one of the most entertaining players to watch.
The Charlotte Hornets are turning out pretty well and that’s mostly thanks to Melo. This year, he’s averaging 19.7 points, 7.4 rebounds, 8.0 assists, 1.9 steals, and 2.8 triples per game on nearly 40% shooting from beyond the arc.
2. Ja Morant - 22 Years Old
Ja Morant beat all the odds to be where he is nowadays. He wasn’t scouted before wowing a scout from Murray State, nor he was the first overall pick. Even so, he’s played like the best player in his class and it’s not even close.
Morant plays with a chip on his shoulder night in and night out. He’s a competitor and will never hesitate or shy away in the big moment. He’s got all the intangibles that make a great leader and a relentless work ethic that has made him get better with every game.
Once deemed a bad scorer, Morant is now averaging a career-high 23.7 points to go along with 5.5 rebounds, 6.8 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.5 three-pointers per game. And he’s just getting started.
1. Luka Doncic - 22 Years Old
And last but not least, we find Luka Doncic, who’s far more experienced than most of the players we’ve mentioned here. From a young age, Doncic was in charge of leading his team’s offense and has embraced a leadership role from day one.
That showed during his transition to the NBA. He was already a master at controlling the tempo of the game, and albeit not exactly athletic, he already knew how to get to his spots and get ahead of every single play.
Doncic is a generational talent and one of the most unique players to ever lace them up. Often compared to Larry Bird, he continues to make great strides with averages of 25.6 points, 8.0 rebounds, 8.5 assists, 1.0 steals, and 2.7 three-pointers per game.