NBA Top 40 At 25
A Ranking of Players 25 and Under
Mike Elworth (Hoopstuff Publisher)
NBA fans and media alike have the good fortune to be able to watch and cover the league at this time, as the talent level may be as high as it has ever been. It is in fact so good, that this list was supposed to be a list of the top 25 players, 25 years old and under, but the talent forced me to make the list, the top 40 young players in the NBA. This is of course just my opinion, so feel free to leave comments below, if you agree, disagree or have an opinion yourself. As always thanks for reading.
1. Kevin Durant: Oklahoma City Thunder –23- 2nd Pick 2007
The two-time scoring champion gets the top spot for one simple reason, he is the most gifted and unstoppable offensive force in the league. His mixture of ball handling, distribution, shooting, driving, size and length has turned him into a player with no equal on the offensive end. Add in his leadership, intangibles and effort and he is the epitome of what superstardom should be.
2. Derrick Rose: Chicago Bulls- 23- 1st Pick 2008
The defending MVP just missed out at number one after serious deliberation, but will have to settle for second place. The top point guard in the NBA is an elite athlete and has an extraordinary work ethic and has been able to improve in every area of his game since entering the NBA. He has improved his shot, defense and passing and has become a true superstar. His leadership, humility and intangibles, along with his talent and skill make him one of the league’s best players.
3. Kevin Love: Minnesota Timberwolves- 23- 5th Pick 2008
- Love is now arguably the top power forward in the NBA and is a player whose type has rarely been seen in the league. He is a top-two NBA rebounder and has a complete offensive game. He is an elite shooter, has a brilliant set of low-post moves and is a willing and talented distributor. He has the best inside-outside offensive game of any big man in the entire league and will only get better. Few if any big men in NBA history can shoot over 40% from three and average 13 rebounds per game.
4. Blake Griffin: Los Angeles Clippers- 22- 1st Pick 2009
- It did not take long for Griffin to become one of the most popular players in the league. He was the first rookie to make the All-Star team since Penny Hardaway in 1994 and is already a dominant low post threat. He is also one of the most athletic players in the league and has become the most electrifying dunker in the entire NBA. He does have weaknesses, mainly shooting, free throws and defense, but is too talented not to become a better player over the years.
5. Andrew Bynum: Los Angeles Lakers- 25- 10th Pick 2006
- Fresh off his first All-Star appearance, Bynum has finally seemed to put all of his talent together. Being healthy for the first time in years has had to help and he has showed on a nightly basis that he is a legitimate two-way player in the NBA. He is an elite rebounder, has an excellent low-post game and has proven to be an All-NBA talent on the defensive end. It seems the only thing that can hold him back is his health and if his body holds up, he should be considered the second best center in the NBA for years to come.
6. Russell Westbrook- Oklahoma City Thunder- 23- 4th Pick 2008
- Russell Westbrook can be a bit of an enigma, but he is supremely talented and one of the most talented and explosive players in the NBA. Other than Rose, no other guard can get to the hoop easier and few players are faster than Westbrook. He has also improved his shooting and point guard skills and although he looks to score too much, has become a real point guard. He does have a few lapses to his game, mainly, ball-hogging tendencies, falling in love with shooting now and again and poor decision-making. If he and Durant can solve their alpha dog situation for good, then no NBA duo will be more potent and effective as the two Thunder superstars.
7. Al Horford- Atlanta Hawks- 25- 3rd Pick 2007
- Horford has been out for almost the entire season, so many have forgotten just how good he is. He is a legitimate 20-10 threat and a great defender down low. He has a beautiful offensive game, a great midrange shot and a stable of low post moves. He is the Hawks’ best player and if healthy could win them a playoff series or two.
8. Greg Monroe- Detroit Pistons- 23- 7th Pick 2010
- Monroe is arguably the most underrated player in the NBA, which is a product of playing on a lowly Detroit Pistons team. He has quietly become one of the best big men in the league and is the Pistons’ best player and is the centerpiece to their future. He is an elite passer from the post and has a terrific set of offensive moves and an effective jump shot. There were questions about his motor and effort coming out of college, but he has proven his critics wrong and has become an All-Star caliber player.
9. Stephen Curry- Golden State Warriors- 24- 7th Pick 2009
- Saying that he is this generation’s Steve Nash is going a tad overboard, but should in no way take away from how great a player Curry is and how much better he could become if his injury problems would go away. He has become a true floor leader and is a fantastic passer. Of course the staple of his game is his jump shot, which is truly a work of art and one day soon he should crack the elite, 50-40-90 club. He must work on his defense, which is quite simply atrocious and needs to stop turning the ball over as often, but he has what it takes to become a perennial All-Star and one of the best guards in the NBA.
10. Eric Gordon- New Orleans Hornets- 23- 7th Pick 2008
- Without a doubt, Gordon was the hardest player to place on this list. He has been injured almost the entire season, but over the second half of last season, became one of the best shooting guards in the entire league. In a league with a lack of quality shooting guards, Gordon has the talent to become the third best two-guard after Bryant and Wade. He may be on the short side, but is an elite shooter and a surprisingly good athlete and defender. He can drive to the lain and is an excellent passer. Easily his team’s best player, even after playing just two games, he should be considered the centerpiece of the Hornets rebuilding plans. He should be back on the court soon and will be playing for a new contract, so look out. The Hornets should without a doubt do whatever it takes to keep him in New Orleans for years to come.
11. Kyle Lowry- Houston Rockets- 25- 24th Pick 2007
- Another ridiculously underrated player, Lowry may be the best two-way point guard in the NBA. He is big and long and smothers people on defense and on offense, runs the team beautifully, is a gifted passer and a great shooter. He should only get better in time and is an All-Star caliber talent.
12. Rudy Gay- Memphis Grizzlies- 24- 9th Pick 2006
- One of the most athletically gifted players in the NBA, Gay has become one of the best offensive players in the entire league. He drives to the hoop with ease and has developed a very good jump shot. He has lapses in judgment and could work harder on defense, but he is just a very special player and is capable of being a team’s first option on offense.
13. Roy Hibbert- Indiana Pacers- 25- 17th Pick 2008
- Deserving or not, Hibbert was an All-Star this season and has become one of the better centers in the league and arguably the second best center in the East. The league’s tallest player has an arsenal of moves down low, a reliable jump shot and is one of the league’s best rebounders. He is also a load on defense, using his size to give players problems on that end. His lack of athleticism may limit his potential, but his skill set should keep him in the upper class of centers for years to come and additional All-Star appearances are definitely in his future.
14. Kyrie Irving- Cleveland Cavaliers- 19- 1st Pick 2011
- This may be too low for the eventual Rookie of the Year, but a half season of work is not enough to bump down any of the other more accomplished players above him. Easily the top player in his draft class, Irving has been better than anyone expected. After only playing a handful of college games due to injury, Irving has burst onto the scene and has lead the surprisingly good Cavaliers back to respectability. He has taken the role of franchise player to heart and will only get better. For a rookie, he is an excellent distributor and shooter and despite elite athleticism, can pick his spots on the floor and move wherever he wants. It is great to see the Cavaliers get back on track after losing Lebron and Irving is the main reason for their recovery.
15. John Wall- Washington Wizards- 21- 1st Pick 2010
- Many are pegging John Wall as a disappointment, but his problems have been based on his circumstances and not on his own talent. Wall does have his weaknesses, mainly a horrendous shot and a problem with turnovers, but his team has done him no favors. Until the Nene trade, which is a fantastic move in the right direction, he was surrounded by head cases and ball hogs and he had to carry the team on his back. He may be the fastest player in the NBA, is an elite athlete, an excellent distributor and great ball handler. If he can discover how to shoot the ball with consistency, he can easily become one of the best players in the league.
16. Tyreke Evans- Sacramento Kings- 22- 4th Pick 2009
- For one reason or another, Evans has not been able to replicate the success from his outstanding 2010 Rookie of the Year season, but is still one of the best young players in the NBA. He is an elite athlete and is unstoppable driving to the hoop, but he turns the ball over far too often and is not a great shooter. It seems that the team has finally realized that he is not a true point guard and have wisely placed him in a Lebronesque point-forward role. He is an excellent distributor, but just does not have the mindset to be a point guard and actually lead a team.
17. Demarcus Cousins- Sacramento Kings- 20- 5th Pick 2010
- The talent of Cousins is unmistakable, but his maturity issues and attitude have held him back. He could easily become a top-five NBA center, but he has proven to be a massive head case. To be fair he has seemed to have improved in this area since the team fired coach Paul Westphal, but it just seems to be an inevitability that he will have another episode sometime soon. When it comes to talent, not many players can compete with Cousins, who is already an elite low-post scorer and rebounder. If he can finally put everything together, he can become a superstar in this league.
18. Ty Lawson- Denver Nuggets- 23- 18th Pick 2009
- Lawson is another completely underrated player. He may be short, but is as quick as they come and has a very high basketball IQ. He is great at getting to the rim, setting up his teammates and runs the Nuggets high flying offense to a T. He is the perfect point guard for George Karl’s high scoring squad and although he may not have the upside of most players on this list, should be a great player for many years to come.
19. James Harden- Oklahoma City Thunder- 22- 3rd Pick 2009
- Besides having easily the greatest beard in the game, Harden has more than made up for his disappointing rookie season and has become the best backup in the league. He could easily become the starter, but his game suggests the role of the ideal sixth man on a contending team. He is simply a player without a weakness, as he is a great shooter, passer, ball-handler and a willing defender and although a shooting guard, can run a team like a point guard. He is also a fantastic teammate and his willingness to come off the bench and in doing so sacrificing his own stats, says a lot about his character.
20. Brandon Jennings- Milwaukee Bucks- 21- 10th Pick 2009
- Jennings is another difficult player to peg. Some days he plays like a star and others he can single handedly shoot his team out of games. He has great strengths, his speed, ball-handling and penetration, but significant weaknesses as well, including ball-hogging tendencies, turnovers and defense. He still has a long way to go in becoming a complete basketball player, but he is one of the most talented guards in the league. One further point of note is Milwaukee’s acquisition of Monte Ellis, may hurt him as they are extremely similar players and both need the ball to be effective. This will be something to keep an eye on in the future.
21. Ricky Rubio- Minnesota Timberwolves- 22- 5th Pick 2009
- Rubio was a sensation and a revelation for the Timberwolves before tragically tearing his ACL. The good news is that the injury should not have lasting effects, as he has never relied on athleticism. Rubio is already one of the most gifted passers and ball-handlers in the NBA and has elite, Magic Johnson worthy court vision. He is also a much better shooter and defender than expected and should continue to amaze fans for years to come.
22. Danillo Galianari- Denver Nuggets- 23- 6th Pick 2008
- Galinari was a very good player for the Knicks, but since being traded in the Carmello Anthony trade, he has thrived in Denver. He is an elite shooter, a great athlete and a very efficient offensive player. He may not be a first option for a contending team but he can carry an offense if need be. He should only get better over the years and is in a great situation in the fast paced, Denver offense.
23. Jeremy Lin- New York Knicks- 23- Undrafted 2010
- By now everyone knows the story of Jeremy Lin, the first American born Chinese player to play in the NBA and a star at Harvard, who defied the odds to become the starting point guard for the Knicks. He was recently injured and will most likely be out for the remainder of the regular season, but has had a season to remember. He is an incredible ball-handler and passer and can run an offense beautifully, however he does have some glaring weaknesses. He is a turnover machine and a poor defender, but the good definitely outweighs the bad.
24. Nic Batum- Portland Trailblazers- 23- 25th Pick 2008
- Another fantastic young player who is extremely underrated, Batum has become one of the best two-way perimeter players in the NBA. He is an amazing defender and uses his length to cause problems on defense, but is also a skilled offensive player, who keeps getting better on a daily basis. A solid shooter and an elite athlete, Batum can get to the hoop with ease, in fact the only problem with Batum on offense, is that he can be too passive. Batum still has not come close to fulfilling his full potential and could become a star, but for now he is an elite defender, with an ever-improving offensive game.
25. Ryan Anderson- Orlando Magic- 24- 21st Pick 2008
- Anderson has had a breakout year and has become one of the best shooters in the NBA, leading the league in both 3-point attempts and makes. He can also find his own shot, which gets him extra open looks and is a very good rebounder. He is not the best defender, or athlete, but he is the perfect frontcourt mate for Dwight Howard, as he gives Howard space to do his thing and hits open shots when passed to. He may not have the potential of other players on this list, but plays up to his strengths and should be a great player for years.
26. Paul George- Indiana Pacers- 22- 10th Pick 2010
- Another player just scratching the surface of his potential, George is already an elite perimeter defender and has excellent size and length for a perimeter player. He may be playing out of position at shooting guard, but has thrived regardless. One of the better athletes in the league and a fantastic dunker, he has surprised many with a more than reliable three point shot. He has superstar potential and at the rate he is progressing, he could get there.
27. Serge Ibaka- Oklahoma City Thunder- 23- 23rd Pick 2008
- Ibaka came into the NBA as raw as they come, but has become better than most thought possible. Ridiculously athletic, with possibly the longest wingspan in the NBA, Ibaka has become one of the league’s top defenders and is leading the league in blocked shots. He is also a top-notch rebounder and although he is not a great offensive player and never will be. He mostly scores off of put backs and open shots made possible by teams double teaming Durant or Westbrook. He is on the perfect team that does not need him to be an offensive force and allows him to play to his strengths and he may one day challenge Orlando’s Dwight Howard as the best defensive big man in the league.
28. Ersan Iylasova- Milwaukee Bucks- 24- 36th Pick 2005
- Playing in Milwaukee, not many people know about him, but that should change soon, as he has become an offensive force. An elite shooter and able to create his own shot, Iylasova scores points in bunches and is one of the best rebounders in the league. He has had some amazing performances this season and has gone for 20/20 multiple times. A free agent this off-season, Ilyasova has been rumored to be pondering returning overseas, but if he stays he could become an All-Star.
29. Deandre Jordan- Los Angeles Clippers- 23- 35th Pick 2008
- Crazy long and athletic, Jordan has become a dominant defender in the NBA, a top rebounder and shot-blocker, and an overall master at protecting the basket. His offense may be restricted to put backs and easy dunks and he may be a porous free-throw shooter, but Jordan knows his strengths and plays to them.
30. Demar Derozan- Toronto Raptors- 22- 9th Pick 2009
- Derozan is an elite talent, but his inconsistencies have made him extremely hard to peg. He is an incredible athlete and is able to create his own shot and get to the basket, but his shooting has been extremely hot and cold and he especially struggles from the outside. Derozan is also not the best of defenders and can be a bit of a ball-hog, but if he can play consistent basketball, he could become one of the best shooting guards in the NBA.
31. Brook Lopez- New Jersey Nets- 23- 10th Pick 2008
- Lopez has been hurt almost the entire season, but when he has actually been playing, he has played All-Star caliber basketball. It is well known that he is a dominant offensive player down-low with a great post skill-set and an excellent mid-range shot, but his horrible defense and rebounding numbers, have really hurt his value.
32. Lou Williams- Philadelphia 76ers- 25- 45th Pick 2005
- He may be a backup, but Williams is leading the playoff-bound 76ers in scoring, which is remarkable and rare for a sixth man. He is a very gifted offensive player, a great ball handler and shooter and a good passer when he wants to be. He may be a ball-hog at times and is a poor defender, but he is one of the best sixth men in the league and a top offensive guard. He could start for a number of teams and could get that chance next season, as he could become a free agent, if he declines his player option.
33. Mike Conley- Memphis Grizzlies- 24- 4th Pick 2007
- Conley came into the league with a lot of potential and has come a long way since entering the league. He is a great game manager and sets up the Grizzlies offense extremely well, which is difficult since the Grizzlies are a team with multiple players who need the ball to be effective. He is a top passer and ball-handler and a very good shooter and defender and should be the Grizzlies point guard for years to come. He is on a team that lets him play to his strengths, which has allowed him to thrive.
34. Thaddeus Young- Philadelphia 76ers- 23- 17th Pick 2007
- Young may not have a true position, but he is a nightmare on offense. His size makes it difficult for small forwards to match up and his athleticism makes it difficult for power forwards to guard him. He is also a very good rebounder and a solid defender. He has never been given a chance to be a starter, which has hurt his career, but he is still a very productive player regardless.
35. Gerald Henderson- Charlotte Bobcats- 12th Pick 2009
- Gerald Henderson is easily the Bobcats’ best player, which is not saying much, as they are a historically awful team this season. He is top perimeter defender and a more than reliable offensive player. On offense he is a good shooter, ball handler and has the athleticism to get the basket. He in no way should be a team’s first or even second option, but he is a very good player.
36. Evan Turner- Philadelphia 76ers- 23- 2nd Pick 2010
- Turner has really turned a corner since the All-Star break and has become the player the 76ers hoped for when they drafted him second overall two years ago. He is an elite ball handler, passer and rebounder for a shooting guard and is great at setting his teammates up and creating his own shot. He has a good mid-range shot, but should spend some time fixing his three-point shot, but after an extremely disappointing first year and half, Turner has truly broken out.
37. Jrue Holliday- Philadelphia 76ers- 21- 17th Pick 2009
- Yet another 76er, Holliday has become a capable starting point guard, but his talent suggests that he could become much better. He is already an elite defender at point guard and is a solid distributor and shooter, but he could improve in every area on offense. His defense is truly special, which is what puts him on this list.
38. Wilson Chandler- Denver Nuggets- 24- 21st Pick 2007
- Finally returning from China, Chandler has come into Denver looking to make a difference for the struggling Nuggets. He is a great athlete and a very good two-way player who can score in a variety of ways. He has great size for a perimeter player, which makes him a match up problem and if he comes close to reaching last season’s production, he could easily rise up this list.
39. Jeff Teague- Atlanta Hawks- 22- 19th Pick 2009
- Teague has slowly improved since being drafted, but has not shown the consistency to claim the starting position long term. He is extremely fast, but can be reckless and when not scoring, he often seems lost. He is filled with potential, but if he cannot gain game-to-game consistency, he will be replaced. However, he is a gifted scorer and has shown some signs of becoming a full time point guard, but for a team that is ready to compete now, they need him to produce on a daily basis.
40. Spencer Hawes- Philadelphia 76ers 24- 10th Pick 2007
- And yet another 76ers player makes the cut, which would make a total of five. It is no wonder the team is having such a great year. Hawes has been in and out of the lineup the entire season, but when playing, he has shown signs of becoming a very good starting NBA center. He can shoot, post up, is a top passer for a big man and is a solid defender. The way he is improving, he could become one of the better centers in the NBA.