The NBA has continued to get younger and younger since the end of the 90s. Players started coming out of high school, and now there are many one and done college athletes. You might be surprised at the players who aren’t even age 25 yet but playing at a very high level. I count down the 10 best players in the league age 25 and under.
Russell was the 2nd overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft taken by the Lakers. Russell had an up and down rookie campaign but showed a lot of potential in the talent he possesses. He started 48 of the 80 games he played in, averaging just over 28 minutes per game.
Russell posted 13.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game while shooting 41% from the field and 35% from long distance. In a win over the Nets on March 1st, Russell had 39 points and 8 three pointers, which was the most points put up by a rookie during the season. He became the youngest player to hit 130 threes in a season and ended up making the All-Rookie Second Team for his outstanding play. D’Angelo has shown a lot of promise on this young Lakers team and is poised to have a breakout season.
Drummond was taken with the 9th pick in the 2012 draft by the Pistons. He has played four full seasons in the league but is still just 23 years old. Drummond has averaged over 13 points and 13 rebounds in each of the last three seasons, and led the league in rebounding last season at 14.8 boards pulled in per game. Andre has consistently gotten better for the Pistons, and when the team moved on from Greg Monroe, more offense opened for Drummond and he took advantage of it.
After just six games into the season last year, Drummond had already recorded three 20/20 games, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain as the only players in NBA history to do so. With his great play on both ends of the floor last season, Drummond earned his first All-Star selection and made the All-NBA Third team to go along with the All-Rookie Second team award he already has. Drummond has looked great for the Pistons and is going to keep getting better for a team that loves to use his skills in the paint.
The Greek Freak was taken with the 15th pick in the 2013 draft. He is currently in his fourth year playing in the league, all of which have been with the Bucks. Giannis has quickly become one of the biggest young stars in the NBA over the past season. He put up 16.9 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game last year, and had a monster second half of the season when he was moved to the starting point guard role. Giannis has recently been compared to Russell Westbrook, with people saying that he is just a 6’11” version of the superstar.
Antetokounmpo obviously has some freakish athletic ability and a lot of potential as he is still only 21 years old. Giannis is poised to have another breakout season with the Bucks after improving so much last season.
Kristaps Porzingis was labeled “The Unicorn” by Kevin Durant. Dirk Nowitzki wants to work with the young player. Porzingis finished second in Rookie of the Year voting last season, behind Karl-Anthony Towns who had a monster season. Kristaps put up a just over 14 points and 7 rebounds per game as a rookie and was one of the few bright spots on the Knicks. Porzingis has only gotten better this season. He strengthened his lower body over the summer, and it has become evident after watching the first part of this season.
Porzingis is what every team in the league wants right now because of his ability to stretch the floor with his shooting ability. He is shooting almost 40% from long distance this season while hitting over 2 per game so far. “The Unicorn” is poised to continue having a great season, and become one of the best big men in the game.
Devin Booker has started to look like a steal in the 2015 draft after being taken 13th. Booker had a slow start to his rookie season, coming off the bench before Eric Bledsoe got hurt and then ended up starting 51 games. He put up 13.4 points per game but had a great second half of the season. Booker became the youngest player in Suns history to record a double-double in a game as well as the youngest player to score over 30 points in a game and finished the season with 6 games of 30+ points. Booker became the fourth youngest player in NBA history to score over 1000 points in a win over the Pelicans on April 9th.
Following his scoring surge to end the season, Booker was named to the All-Rookie First Team, and was the only guard to make the first team last year. Booker has become one of the best players on the young Suns team already this season, and broke his career high in consecutive games this season, putting up 38 against the Pelicans, and 39 against the Lakers in the next game. Booker can only get better from this point on and is becoming a star in this league already.
Wiggins was taken with the first draft pick in the 2014 draft by the Cavs then traded to Minnesota for Kevin Love. Wiggins has played very well in the two seasons he has been in the league, starting every game he has played and putting up over 20 points per game in his sophomore season. The young star for the Wolves also won rookie of the year after putting up almost 17 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists per game in his first season. Wiggins has continued to increase his scoring output this season, and recently scored a career high 47 points in a win over the Lakers.
Although his rebounding and assist numbers have been down since his rookie season, he has become a much-improved passer. The team just hasn’t needed him to pass the ball as much because he can score the ball so well. Wiggins has a bright future ahead of him in this league and will become one of the top scorers in the league in just a few short years.
Towns has become one of the most gifted big men in the league after just his rookie season. He averaged over 18 points and 10 rebounds in his first year in the league, earning him Rookie of the Year honors as well as First Team All-Rookie. Towns also participated in the All-Star Weekend Skills Challenge, where he defeated Isaiah Thomas in the final round to win it, becoming the tallest, heaviest, and youngest player to ever win the challenge. KAT broke the Timberwolves rookie rebounding and scoring records, and finished third in the NBA in double-doubles with 52.
While Towns rebounding numbers are slightly down at the start of this season, he is putting up almost 4 points more per game, and shooting over 4% better from long range, hitting 1.6 per game so far. Towns has already become the best player on the young Wolves team, and is continuing to get better. He will be dominating other big men for many years in this league.
It’s somewhat hard to believe that these next three players are 25 years old or younger, but Kyrie happens to be just 24 years old. Irving is already in his sixth season playing for the Cavs and has started every game he has played in. He has a career average of almost 21 points per game, and has been selected to 3 All-Star teams. Irving has won the Rookie of the Year, Rising Stars Challenge MVP, Three-Point Shootout, All-Star Game MVP, and has won an NBA Championship in his short time in the league. He is regarded as one of the best ball-handlers in the NBA right now, and one of the best one on one players in the league. Irving has elevated his scoring this season, putting up almost 24 points per game while playing beside stars Kevin Love and LeBron James.
It’s crazy to say that Irving can only get better from here on being how good he already is, but that is just the case. Irving will continue to be one of the best guards in the league for a long time and has a bright future at such a young age.
Kawhi Leonard came out of nowhere in 2014, leading the Spurs to a Finals victory over a loaded Miami Heat team, and taking home the Finals MVP trophy while he was at it. Leonard has increased his scoring output every year he has been in the league and has also become a knockdown shooter for the Spurs. Last season he shot over 50% from the field and 44% from long range. Kawhi has also become one of the most feared defenders in the league, and has won the Defensive Player of the Year the last two seasons. In addition to Defensive Player of the Year and his Finals MVP, Leonard has lead the NBA in steals, made the All-Rookie First Team, All-Defensive Second Team once and First Team twice, the All-NBA First Team, and been an All-Star.
He has quickly become the face of the Spurs franchise, and has been playing very well already this season. Leonard is pouring in a career high 25.5 points per game with a 28.2 player efficiency rating. Leonard is likely to continue his great play for many seasons, keeping his team in championship contention while he does.
Davis has played very well in his 4 seasons in the NBA. He has already made 3 All-Star teams and has been in the MVP conversation in each of the past three seasons. Davis made the All-Rookie First team in his first season and has also made the All-Defensive Second Team and the All-NBA First team while leading the league in blocks twice. Davis has quickly become one of the most promising players in the league, and has definitely lived up to his hype this season.
He is putting up a career-high 30 points and 11 rebounds per game so far this season, and has score 30+ points in 4 of his last 5 games. The Pelicans have a great young star on their team. Davis will only get better from this point one, improving his shooting and rebounding like he has in years past. The Brow has a very promising career ahead of him, especially if he can stay away from injuries.