NBA’s Top 25 Under 25 – #25-18

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NBA's Top 25 Under 25 - DeAndre Ayton
BROOKLYN, NY - JUNE 18: Deandre Ayton attends the PUMA Hoops HQ kickoff where Walt "Clyde" Frazier signs the first ever life long contract with PUMA on June 18, 2018 in Brooklyn. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for PUMA)

Starting today, we will be evaluating and ranking the NBA’s Top 25 Under 25. 25 players, all of the age of 25 or younger. This list will be broken into a three-part series, with this specific piece ranking players 25-18, followed by 17-10, and then concluding with the top 10.

In today’s NBA, players are seemingly hitting the prime of their careers even earlier and playing at that level for an even longer amount of time than we’ve seen in years past. The game has grown into a more athletic and versatile product. This season, maybe more than any other the last few years, we’ve seen the next wave of NBA stars arrive on the scene and make their presence felt.

Keep in mind, many of these players are still on rookie deals, while some have seemingly been in the league for what feels like forever, and they still have plenty of miles left to give. These rankings are based on what these players have done, and where I believe they project.

Without further ado, here are the players listed 25-18 of the NBA’s Top 25 Under 25.

NBA’s Top 25 Under 25 – #25-18

  1. Kendrick Nunn

Nunn’s underdog story made him a diamond in the rough player for Miami this season.

Starting off the list of the NBA’s Top 25 Under 25 is Kendrick Nunn. The Miami Heat possess a healthy mix of grizzled veterans and young talent that few other teams can match. They hit on both their draft and free agency this year, but one of their notable acquisitions came when they signed Kendrick Nunn to their G-League affiliate. They may not have known what they were getting with Nunn, but what they did find was a diamond in the rough kind of player.

Nunn pulled down the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month in November, December, and January, and made a strong push for Rookie of the Year, despite being likely to fall behind Ja Morant and Zion Williamson. The 24-year-old rookie became a prominent figure in Miami’s offensive attack, as he averaged just under 16 points a night while shooting 44% from the field and 36% from three. Still, with plenty of room to develop, Nunn produced a nice showing for a rookie on a team that is on the rise.

  1. Lonzo Ball

The oldest Ball brother brought the Big Baller Brand to the Big Easy.

LaVar Ball might argue that Lonzo Ball belongs at the top of the Top 25 Under 25, but we also haven’t heard much from the outspoken father of the Ball brothers and the mastermind behind the Big Baller Brand.

The seemingly “match made in heaven” between Lonzo Ball and the Los Angeles Lakers was not to be. It became clear that Ball was not gonna be able to play to his strong suits while sharing the floor with LeBron James, so a change was necessary, and he fell into perhaps the best fit possible.

Despite spending a small chunk of time on the bench at the midpoint of the season, Ball shook off the struggles and began putting up strong numbers, showing flashes of what he can do alongside players like Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram. Ball’s fit in New Orleans allows him to play to his strengths as a facilitator who doesn’t need to do too much on offense as he has teammates who excel in that aspect of the game.

Ball’s defensive capabilities matched with Jrue Holiday’s makes for a nightmare of a backcourt for any team to go up against. If Ball can continue to make these small leaps to round out his game, then he can only strengthen the Pelican’s young core and make their future even more bright.

  1. Jonathan Isaac

Height, length, and athleticism make Isaac a defensive nightmare.

Before going down with a knee injury, Jonathan Isaac was enjoying a strong Defensive Player of the Year campaign. Only playing 32 games this year, Isaac snatched away 1.6 steals a game and sent back 2.4 blocks a night. At 6’11 with a 7’1″ wingspan, Isaac is one of the league’s longest wings who can defend a multitude of positions.

Isaac’s game isn’t just limited to defense. He’s proven to be a reliable three-point shooter as he shoots 33% from beyond the arc and puts up 12 points a night with 7 boards to go with it. It may not seem like much, but on a team like the Orlando Magic, with a crowded frontcourt of Isaac, Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon, and Mohamed Bamba, Isaac is still finding ways to contribute.

For some, maybe Isaac is a surprise to see in this NBA’s Top 25 Under 25 list, but the truth is, Isaac doesn’t get anywhere near the attention he deserves, mostly due to how mediocre the Orlando Magic have been.

Expect Isaac to make another great leap next season when he returns from injury because when he is healthy on the floor, he is one of the league’s most underrated talents that doesn’t get nearly enough recognition.

  1. DeAndre Ayton

Ayton’s playstyle is a revival of old school basketball.

When he isn’t suspended for 25 games out of the year for using banned substances, DeAndre Ayton is one of the league’s best offensive centers. A nightly double-double at 19 points and 12 boards a game this year, Ayton can hang with just about any big in the league. Not a stretch big in any sense, Ayton possesses an old-school back to the basket play style that has become almost outdated in today’s NBA.

While the Phoenix Suns have been swimming at the bottom of the standings for quite some time now, there was a glimmer of hope for them at the start of the season as they were able to hold a playoff standing for a bit before falling back down to Earth. With a little patience and some steady progression from Ayton and company, it shouldn’t be too long before Phoenix returns to the playoff picture.

  1. Myles Turner

One of the league’s best shot-blocking bigs still with plenty of time to grow.

Myles Turner is a player that NBA fans always expect to take that next big leap in his progression. Soon enough, it’s gonna come time when this is just the type of player he is. Which is not a knock at all. Turner is one of the league’s best rim protectors as he sent back 2.2 shots a night this year. He averaged 2.7 blocks last season.

Despite only scoring 11.8 PPG, his lowest since his rookie year at 10.3, Turner kept that defensive prowess about him. He is a very strong complementary piece alongside teammate Domantas Sabonis. Time will tell if the fit will last long term, as the double-big lineup has become a little outdated today. But in the meantime, it has kept Indiana in a position to compete with the East’s top teams. It’ll be fascinating to see Turner’s progression in the future.

  1. Jaren Jackson Jr.

Triple J’s two-way ability make him one of the league’s best young power forwards.

Jaren Jackson Jr., “Triple J”, alongside rookie point guard Ja Morant, has catapulted the Memphis Grizzlies‘ rebuild from the ‘Grit ‘n Grind’ era. He now sits as the big man is at the forefront of their new wave of young talent that has proven to be able to compete with some of the league’s best teams. The Grizzlies currently hold the eighth seed as the season renews July 31st. Jackson and the Grizzlies have an opportunity to put the league on notice with a strong playoff showing. Even if they do get bumped in the first round, a playoff appearance will make them known around the league.

Jackson is an underrated two-way big who can put up points in a hurry and can defend the rim better than most at just 20 years old. An all-star in the making, Jackson showed flashes of what he could do this year. He now has an equally young and hungry player in Morant, forming one of the best one-two punches in the league. Pair that with a young core that continues to develop year after year, and Memphis should become a prominent bunch in the league in just a few short years.

  1. De’Aaron Fox

Fox’s Speed, quickness, and athleticism draw lots of Russell Westbrook, John Wall, and Ja Morant comparables.

Despite being on one of the more hopeless teams in the league, De’Aaron Fox continues to develop into one of the top young point guards in the league. Fox enjoyed a career-high 20.4 PPG this year coupled with just under seven assists a night. What makes Fox such a joy to watch is his speed and athleticism. His physical abilities on the floor are something fans marvel. It allows him to become a human highlight reel.

Fox definitely has a bright future ahead of him. It’s a crime that the Sacramento Kings can’t figure out how to put together a roster that is strong enough to support his efforts. A hybrid of Russell Westbrook and John Wall, in terms of his physical abilities and his on-court playstyle. Those are comparables that should put Fox in good standing within the league’s point guard rankings.

  1. John Collins

Born a dunker, grown into an NBA star.

Concluding part 1 of 3 in the NBA’s Top 25 Under 25 series is John Collins. In just three short years, John Collins has evolved into a multi-dimensional scorer and not just a pure athletic dunker. Collins had a breakout year with 21.6 PPG and 10.1 RPG on 58.3% from the field and 40.1% from three. Don’t forget, Collins only played 41 games as he was suspended 20 games for banned substance use. 

The Atlanta Hawks could look very different next year. A playoff sleeper team, now with Clint Capela in tow, along with their 2020 draft lottery pick, Atlanta clearly has a plan. Collins is at the forefront of that, alongside Trae Young. The two have already formed one of the better combos in the league and both are still so young. If Collins continues to progress as he has, then he is surely gonna see many future all-star considerations in his career.

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