A new dawn of the NBA has dawned, filled with players that are now quickly becoming the face of the NBA. It seems like just yesterday that LeBron James was the youngest face of the NBA, ready to take the torch from Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan as the best player in the NBA. But believe it or not, the balding LeBron will now be turning 30-years-old on December 30th. In fact, this year it is becoming evident that LeBron does not have the same kind of lift on his dunks that he used to have when he was younger. But twelve years in the NBA, in addition to long playoff seasons, and summers playing for the USA team, can do that to you. LeBron has flat out played a ton of basketball.
Every basketball player has a limited amount of jumps on their knees. After that, age, attrition, and simple wear and tear begin to take a toll on everyone. Father Time wins every single time as Kobe Bryant is now beginning to realize. Sure, Kobe is still getting his numbers, but it is coming at the cost of the Lakers being 1-9. The numbers are there, but the way he gets those numbers and the amount of influence that he has on the game, have less of an impact in the win column.
But the NBA is in good hands with a new crop of up and coming players 25-years-old and younger. In fact, this is the golden age of point guards. The 90’s had a golden age of big men, but a new era of little men have taken over the game and they have taken it to new heights with rule changes that now favor perimeter oriented players who like to penetrate. This is a list of the top-25 up and coming players today that are 25-years-old and younger.
25. Nerlens Noel – 20-Years-Old
Although Nerlens Noel was drafted last year, he missed the entire season due to injury, so, technically speaking, this is Noel’s rookie season. Less than 10 games into the NBA season, Noel has only averaged 7.0 points per game, 5.9 rebounds per game, 1.6 steals per game, and 1.6 blocks per game. The difficulty for Noel is that he plays on a team that does not really have NBA caliber players. The good news is that he will have plenty of opportunity to make mistakes with little scrutiny.
24. Andrew Wiggins – 19-Years-Old
The number one pick of this year’s draft was traded before he played a single regular season game. Wiggins moved from Cleveland to Minnesota in a trade that sent Kevin Love to the Cavs. The high flying shooting guard is NBA ready in terms of defense, but he still has a little bit to go before he can become a bonafide NBA scorer. This season he is only averaging 10.6 points per game and 3.3 rebounds per game.
23. Giannis Antetokounmpo – 19-Years-Old
This season the Greek Freak has averaged 11.7 points per game, 5.5 rebounds per game, and 1.4 assists per game. Those numbers might not leap off the charts, but by the end of this season, those numbers will climb much higher. Giannis entered the starting line-up for the first time last week, and he will only continue to see playing time. And oh yeah, he is somehow still growing.
22. Jabari Parker – 19-Years-Old
Jabari Parker was declared the most NBA ready out of any of the rookies in the draft, but it seems as though he has already hit the rookie wall. However, if Parker can persevere through his trials and errors, it is only a matter of time before he gets used to the pace of the game. So far, Parker is averaging 10.6 points per game, 5.6 rebounds per game, and 1.0 assist per game, but he is too good to stay at this level.
21. Michael Carter-Williams – 23-Years-Old
As of right now, MCW has only played in 2 game this seasons, however, he’s averaging a solid 16 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 5.0 assists. MCW was a stat filler last season, but he still needs to learn how to shoot better from the outside and become a better floor manager. He may go through the sophomore slump, but you wouldn’t be able to tell, on this terrible Sixers team. Carter-Williams was the NBA Rookie of the Year for 2014.
20. Victor Oladipo – 22-Years-Old
Last year’s second overall pick did not fail to live up to the hype. The combo guard averaged 13.8 points per game, 4.1 rebounds per game, and 4.1 assists per game in his rookie season. This year, Oladipo missed the first two weeks of the season with a facial fracture, but he’s back now and ready to make a statement. In his two games played, he’s already averaging 15.5 points per games, 5.0 rebounds per game, and 4.5 assists per game. On a team devoid of talent, Oladipo will have plenty of space to grow.
19. Jrue Holiday – 24-Years-Old
People forget this, but Jrue was on the All-Star team when he played for the Sixers. He is a little bit forgotten now that he has taken a back seat to Anthony Davis in New Orleans, but he is still averaging 16.3 points per game, 2.1 rebounds per game, and 6.9 assists per game. After an injury plagued ’13-’14, that saw him average a respectable 14.3 points per game and 7.9 assists per game, he’s hoping to help the Pelicans make the playoffs. If he does, Holiday will get the proper respect that he’s due.
18. Greg Monroe – 24-Years-Old
The former 7th overall pick in 2010 is a free agent this coming summer and is looking to prove to everyone this regular season that he a max contract type of player. I’m not sure if he is yet, but this season he is averaging a very efficient 16.8 points per game, 10.8 rebounds per game, and 2.8 assists per game. Over the course of his 5-year career, he’s averaged 14.0 points per game, 9.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists. Not quite max contract worthy, but still a valuable player.
17. Lance Stephenson – 24-Years-Old
Lance has changed sceneries from Indianapolis to Charlotte, but his game has remained pretty constant. He still flirts with a triple-double every game with an average of 9.6 points per game, 9.5 rebounds per game, and 5.1 assists per game. The Hornets have started out slowly out of the gate, but once Lance gets used to the new system, his numbers will only climb. As his numbers climb, he’ll hope to be known to casual fans as more than just the guy who blew in LeBron’s ear.
16. Ricky Rubio – 24-Years-Old
Ricky is still one of the best passers in the game. His perimeter defense is also fairly underrated. Rubio always averages over 1.0 steal per game and this season is no different with 1.2 steals per game. For his career, he averages 2.3 steals per game. He still can’t shoot or finish in the paint, but he does manage to make up for it with his other stats. This season Rubio is averaging 9.4 points per game, 5.6 rebounds per game, and 10.0 assists per game.
15. Nikola Vucevic – 24-Years-Old
Nobody thought Nikola would be this good in the NBA. Granted the Magic have a young and inexperienced roster, but you cannot blame Nikola for that. This season, he is averaging 18.2 points per game, 11.5 rebounds per game, and 1.3 blocks per game. His outside jumper continues to improve and he is becoming one of the best all-around centers in the game. If he can continue to improve, along with Victor Oladipo, then the Magic have a solid nucleus to build around.
14. Bradley Beal – 21-Years-Old
Bradley Beal has not played a single game this year due to injury, but last year the sharp shooting guard averaged 17.1 points per game, 3.7 rebounds per game, and 3.3 assists per game. Beal should be back in another 3-4 weeks and when he does, he should only pick up where he left off. When combined with John Wall, they gave the Wizards an elite backcourt. The future is bright in Washington.
13. Eric Bledsoe – 24-Years-Old
Bledsoe is proving to the Phoenix Suns and the rest of the NBA that he was worth the contract that he signed. This season he is averaging 13.3 points per game, 5.0 rebounds per game, and 5.4 assists per game. And despite not having a real position as a point guard or shooting guard, it doesn’t matter because he is just a good basketball player.
12. Andre Drummond – 21-Years-Old
The hope was that Drummond would build upon this past summer, but so far, Drummond has only averaged 8.4 points per game, 11.2 rebounds per game, and 1.6 blocks per game. A part of the reason for this is because Greg Monroe and Josh Smith are going after their own numbers so much this season. Once one of them leaves, Drummond will be back to his old self. On top of that, the season is still young and we expect Drummond’s talent to shine through.
11. Demar DeRozan – 25-Years-Old
Demar is proving all of his haters and critics wrong. He still can’t shoot 3-pointers, but that may be the only weakness to his game up to this point. This season, DeRozan has averaged 21.2 points per game, 4.2 rebounds per game, and 1.9 steals per game. But more than that, the Raptors may be one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. Expect to see DeRozan at the All-Star game for the second straight year.
10. Serge Ibaka – 25-Years-Old
Serge has always been known for his defense, but he continues to expand his offensive game every year. This year, he is shooting more 3-pointers than ever before, and for good reason. Without Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, the Thunder need more scoring from the starting line-up and Ibaka is providing some of that with averages of 15.8 points per game, 7.5 rebounds per game, and 1.9 blocks per game this season.
9. Klay Thompson – 24-Years-Old
Klay is picking up from this year’s summer with stellar averages of 23.6 points per game, 3.2 rebounds per game, and 3.3 assists per game this season. Klay is proving to everyone in the NBA that he and Stephen Curry are the best shooting tandem in the NBA and rightfully own the trademark as the “Splash Brothers.” But what most people may not realize about Klay is that he is one of the better perimeter defenders in the NBA.
8. Kyrie Irving – 22-Years-Old
Chances are that Kyrie’s numbers are going to be all over the place this season with LeBron in the picture. So far, Kyrie is averaging 22.4 points per game, 3.0 rebounds per game, and 5.0 assists per game this season. As a point guard, you would like to see the assist numbers go up, but Kyrie has always been an offensive minded point guard, which is the new trend in the NBA today.
7. Kawhi Leonard – 23-Years-Old
As one of the youngest Finals MVP in NBA history, Kawhi Leonard has gained a lot more members in his fan club after last season. Leonard is off to a slow start this season because of an eye injury that kept him out of most of the preseason and the first two weeks of the regular season. However, once his vision gets a little bit less blurry, Kawhi will be back. Right now he is averaging 13.9 points per game, 7.3 rebounds per game, and 1.6 steals per game, but those numbers will only go up.
6. John Wall – 24-Years-Old
The former number one pick is ready to lead the Wizards even further into the playoffs this year. This season Wall is averaging 19.4 points per game, 3.9 rebounds per game, and 9.1 assists per game. His numbers are similar to last year, but this year, he looks like much more of a leader and veteran. As we mentioned earlier with Bradley Beal, the future is incredibly bright in Washington, especially with John Wall running the show.
5. Damian Lillard – 24-Years-Old
Damian Lillard has started to heat up again after a somewhat slow start. Lillard was cut from the USA team this past summer and now has something to prove. This season, Lillard is averaging 20.6 points per game, 5.2 rebounds per game, and 6.6 assists per game and those number will climb much more one month from now. Paired with LaMarcus Aldridge, expect to see the Blazers make some noise come playoff time.
4. DeMarcus Cousins – 24-Years-Old
DeMarcus looks like a new player this season. And as a result, it has led to a winning record for the Kings. It is still too early to say whether or not the Kings are for real, but we do know that Cousins is for real. This season he is averaging 22.4 points per game, 11.1 rebounds per game, and 1.4 blocks per game, and he is setting himself apart as one of the best big’s in the NBA. On top of that, he’s become a better teammate, which can only help the Kings’ continued growth.
3. Paul George – 24-Years-Old
Tragically, Paul George is out for the entire 2014-2015 season, but last year he averaged 21.7 points per game, 6.8 rebounds per game, and 3.5 assists per game. George is one of the best two-way players in the NBA. It is hard to say what he will look like when he comes back from his gruesome injury, but we do know that he is working out a lot and building upon his slender frame, which should make him even more LeBron-like when he comes back.
2. James Harden – 25-Years-Old
Harden is one of the most lethal offensive threats in the NBA. And despite all of the criticism about his defense, Harden has improved it a lot since last year. This season, Harden is averaging 25.5 points per game, 6.6 rebounds per game, and 7.2 assists per game. Right now, he is the best shooting guard in the league and it really is not inconceivable for him to lead this Rockets team to a NBA Championship. Especially if Dwight Howard continues to average a double-double throughout the season.
1. Anthony Davis – 21-Years-Old
Yes, this 21-year-old is the best player out of everyone 25-years-old and younger. Stretch Davis is only beginning to hit his prime with a season average of 24.5 points per game, 11.8 rebounds per game, and 4.1 blocks per game. He is without a doubt the best two-way player in the NBA right now. It is scary to think that the only thing missing from his game is a 3-pointer because he does pretty much everything else perfectly. The sky is truly the limit for this young superstar.
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