We ranked the 25 best NBA players under the age of 25 last year. Anthony Davis was #1, but last month he turned 25. So we crown a new #1.
25. Clint Capela, 23, Houston Rockets
In his 4th year, he’s on the cusp of being an All-Star, going from being a rim-runner to a factor inside. He led the NBA in field goal shooting (65%), and in just 27 minutes a game, put up 13.9 ppg, 10.8 rpg and 1.9 bpg. Next year he’s playing for a big contract, so expect those numbers to soar.
24. Julius Randle, 23, LA Lakers
Maybe it was because he’s looking for a big contract, but Randle was a force for the Lakers in his 4th season: 16.3 ppg, 8.0 rpg and shooting 55 percent. He overwhelmed so many defenders, it almost makes you wonder if the Lakers have a difficult decision to make. Ultimately, you have to take LeBron and Paul George, but Randle has proven somebody’s gonna pay him.
23. Aaron Gordon, 22, Orlando
He’s had four different coaches in four years with the Magic, and they’re not even sure what they want to do with him. His 3-point shooting made a leap (112 made; 119 made the previous two years combined) and averaged a robust 17.7 ppg and 8.0 rpg on a dumpster fire of a team.
22. Andre Drummond, 24, Detroit Pistons
He’s only played six years in the NBA, but has now led the league in rebounding twice. He finally got his FT shooting above 50 percent (60.5%), so there’s that. His numbers after the Blake Griffin trade didn’t go down significantly, except his assists were chopped in half. There could be a new regime in Detroit.
21. Zach LaVine, 23, Chicago Bulls
If only he could stay healthy. He’s played in just 71 games out of 1164 the last two years. Aggressive scorer (16.7 ppg); 3-point shooting (34 percent) took a step back this year playing for the tanking Bulls. Still haven’t seen nearly his best.
20. Otto Porter, 24, Washington Wizards
Career highs in points (14.8), assists (2.0) and 3-point shooting (43%) after getting a $106 million contract. Fourth in PER (18.32) among SFs, significantly ahead of Tatum (16), Ingram (24), Wiggins (30).
19. Gary Harris, 23, Denver Nuggets
Broke out in his 4th year, scoring 17.7 ppg while shooting 39% on 3-pointers. His PER (16.61) topped shooting guards like Klay Thompson (16.29), Eric Gordon (15.36), and Jaylen Brown (13.55).
18. Lonzo Ball, 20, LA Lakers
He only played 52 games, and he didn’t shoot well – 36% FG, 30% 3FG, 45% FTs – but those are all things that can be improved. He wasn’t signed to be a scorer; his feel for the game (7.2 apg) and intangibles (5.6 rpg, 1.7 spg) can’t be coached.
17. Jamal Murray, 21, Denver Nuggets
Because the West is so loaded, this 2nd year player is averaging 16.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg and 3.4 apg and nobody’s noticed. He shot 38 percent from deep. It took Victor Oladipo five years to pop; CJ McCollum put up over 20 points in his 3rd year; Murray could be there next year.
16. Jaylen Brown, 21, Boston Celtics
Hit 38 percent of his 3-pointers this year while scoring 14.3 ppg, and that’s as maybe a 4th option on what amounts to a brand new Celtics team. Without Kyrie Irving in the playoffs, expect big things from the 2nd year small forward from Cal.