A year after the previous NBA Top 25 Under 25 countdown, we are back with yet another edition. One of the most fascinating trends in the NBA in recent memory has been its youth movement as we continue to surge towards the new generation of NBA greats. As often stated, the league is getting younger and younger, with players tapping into their primes a bit longer and having much more successful careers beginning at such an early part of their campaign.
In this five-blog series, we count down the NBA’s top 25 under 25, beginning with players ranking from 25 through 21.
NBA Top 25 Under 25 in 2021 – #25-21
#25 – Mikal Bridges – 24 years old
Starting off the countdown of the NBA’s top 25 under 25 is Mikal Bridges. A two-time National Champion at Villanova, Bridges looked like a seasoned veteran from the get-go when he was drafted back in 2018. He was a solid rotational piece for the rebuilding Phoenix Suns the last couple of seasons, but he now looks primed for a larger role as the Suns have established themselves as one of the top-tier teams in the Western Conference.
The prototypical 3-And-D wing in today’s NBA, Bridges has expanded his repertoire of skills into becoming a well-rounded contributor on one of the better teams in the league. The former Wildcat saw his numbers take a major leap in 2021, shooting a 54/43/84 split while swiping away 1.1 steals and .9 blocks per contest. Bridges is on a nice upward trajectory, and he is bound to see his numbers take another jump come next season as he continues to progress into a key piece in the Suns core.
#24 – Tyler Herro – 21 years old
In today’s NBA, three-point shooting has become such a focal point and a necessity in order for team success. What makes a player like Tyler Herro so valuable is that he excels in this particular department, so much so that it masks his deficiencies in other areas of his game thanks to how he can shoot the basketball at such a high volume. Despite not putting together a great run in the 2021 NBA Playoffs, there is still value in Herro’s game that is critical to any hope in future Miami Heat success.
Herro was remarkable in the NBA bubble, shooting the lights out all postseason, which led to an NBA Finals appearance in just his rookie season. Herro saw his numbers take a leap in 2021 thanks to his steady shooting, but he kind of disappeared in this latest playoff run.
Herro just needs to prove that he is more than a one-trick pony in order to expand his skill set into a more well-rounded NBA player. He may be able to get by in his first few seasons in the league, thanks to his master ability to shoot from range, but he is going to need to learn to create his own shot more rather than rely others to put him in position to score.
#23 – Lonzo Ball – 23 years old
Next on the NBA’s Top 25 Under 25 is Lonzo Ball. Ball has been in the midst of a resurgent 2021 campaign. Coming out in 2018 as a rather weak three-point shooter, it is now one of Ball’s strongest aspects of his game. The oldest Ball brother also handles the ball and distributes at a high volume. The 2021 season did not go according to plan for Ball and the New Orleans Pelicans, but the young core that they are developing was allowed to gel for another season, with Ball leading the charge at the point.
Ball’s development alongside Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson is going to be exciting watch, especially as the team gets younger with the abundance of assets and picks coming their way after the Anthony Davis trade two years ago. It’ll be interesting to see if Ball sticks around with this young group with rumors swirling of a potential deal surrounding the former UCLA guard earlier before the trade deadline. NOLA should be looking to hold onto its point guard as he is likely their best bet on securing a sustainable lead guard to steer them into this next phase in their rebuild.
#22 – Michael Porter Jr – 22 years old
A high level of uncertainty surrounded Michael Porter Jr entering the 2018 NBA Draft, which is why he fell lower than expected to number 13 to the Denver Nuggets. After missing all of his first season, Porter came back the next season and showed flashes of his potential in spurts, but nothing really consistent. It wasn’t until 2021 that Nuggets fans and the NBA as a whole caught a glimpse of Porter Jr in a star role on the team. MPJ saw major improvement this season, bumping his scoring averages to a ten point increase from last season, while shooting 54/45/79 splits.
We are beginning to see the star potential that scouts believed Porter could be when he came out of high school and in college. He has eliminated just about all doubt that detractors had in him, and now he just needs to build upon this type of consistency. The sample size will need to grow in order to fully measure Porter against the rest of the pack in the top 25 under 25, but in the meantime, Porter finds himself on this particular ranking.
#21 – Anthony Edwards – 19 years old
The first pick of the 2020 NBA Draft certainly played up to that level in 2021, as Anthony Edwards looked like a pure scorer from the get-go. While the Minnesota Timberwolves disappointed as a whole in 2021, Edwards provided us with plenty of highlights, including his monstrous poster over Yuta Watanbe, as well as reason to be optimistic about the future of the Timberwolves, with Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell playing alongside Edwards.
The former Georgia Bulldog moved at a rapid pace since being drafted back in October. Less than two months removed from that coronation, and he plays his first NBA game. Edwards was quick to adapt to the new environment, as his game transitioned nicely from the collegiate level to the pros, becoming a finalist for the Rookie of the Year award in 2021. Edwards has All-Star potential written all over him. How soon that potential is reached is another story.