In part two of this five-part blog series, we count down to NBA Top 25 Under 25 years of age. 25 players, under 25 years old. For criteria with a strict, and rather abrupt, limitation, there is still quite a handful of generational talent for such a raw sample size. In this countdown, we get into players ranked 20 through 16.
NBA Top 25 Under 25 In 2021 – #20-16
20. Jarrett Allen – 23 years old
First off, poor Jarrett Allen. Starting off the season on the juggernaut Brooklyn Nets team, who despite being without James Harden at the beginning, still looked like the championship favorite, now finds himself in the trenches of the lottery-stricken Cleveland Cavaliers organization. Nonetheless, Allen now has a platform to let his talents show, alongside a handful of other young talent.
Allen is one of the league’s most feared rim protectors, infamously going on a hot streak of sending back shots from the NBA’s best, including LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. 2021 was a very strong year for Allen, averaging a double-double for the first time in his career. Allen has a chance to shine in Cleveland on a team with zero expectations and plenty of young talent that needs a sense of direction. Allen has an opportunity to turn even more heads come 2022.
19. Jaren Jackson Jr – 21 years old
2021 was not too kind to Jaren Jackson Jr. He only suited up for 11 games, and started in just four of those games. Although just a small sample size, Jackson still managed to put up over 14 points a night with 5.6 rebounds to match. Nothing special, but Jackson showed tremendous upside in his first two seasons prior to a shortened 2021. That flash of potential is what has Jackson sitting at number 19 in the NBA Top 25 Under 25.
The second-generation big man can provide this youthful, hungry Memphis Grizzlies team with a powerful punch around the rim on both ends. He is big and athletic but still possesses a nice touch with some nuance to the game. Alongside Ja Morant, the two work a nice two-man game that allows the rest of the team to fulfill their roles nicely, taking advantage of the opportunities provided by the star duo. If Jackson is looking at a healthy 2022, then we could see the Grizzlies take an even bigger leap next season.
18. John Collins – 23 years old
What a rollercoaster year it was for John Collins and the Atlanta Hawks. While Collins had his share of ups and downs this year himself, it did not deter Atlanta from securing the fifth seed in the postseason and even advancing past the first round. While Collins’ future within the organization appears to be uncertain, it does not take away from the kind of year he had in 2021, and his career up to this date.
Collins emerged from the 2018 draft as a pure athletic big with little nuance to the game of basketball. As his career progressed, Collins adapted to the pro level at a steady pace. He developed a more consistent three-point shot, shooting a career 38% from beyond the arc, while also placing an emphasis on grabbing rebounds. Admittedly, 2021 was not as strong for Collins as 2020 was, it allowed for better team ball to be played in Atlanta and the team was able to sniff the smallest bit of season success that has eluded them for a long time. Not to mention, Collins now shares to front court with Clint Capela, so it’s no wonder his rebounding totals took a slight dip.
17. Collin Sexton – 22 years old
Collin Sexton has enjoyed a steady progression in each of his three seasons in the league. 2021 was a major step forward in Sexton’s continued development into becoming a star in today’s NBA. Sexton put up career numbers across the board in each department, and while it did not gain much traction for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the final standings, it certainly sparks hope and optimism for fans of Sexton and the Cavaliers. Or…maybe not?
Executives around the league believed the Cavs organization may be shopping Sexton this offseason so they do not have to pay the former ‘Bama Crimson Tide point guard. What an absolute fumble this would be for Cleveland, who has a handful of other young talent on the roster that they should be trying to build up with Sexton, including Jarrett Allen, Darius Garland, and Isaac Okoro. Should Sexton continue on this upward trajectory of his, then it’ll soon translate to many All-Star considerations as well as bringing Cleveland Cavalier basketball back to relevance.
16. DeAndre Ayton – 22 years old
Despite his season averages being slightly lower than his previous two seasons, DeAndre Ayton has looked a lot more comfortable in 2021, largely thanks to the services of Chris Paul and the attention that Devin Booker draws on a nightly basis. This big three has led the Phoenix Suns to the first seed in the Western Conference, in addition to Ayton dominating the first round to lead the Suns in eliminating the reigning champion Los Angeles Lakers.
Ayton had to share the floor with players like LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Chris Paul, and Devin Booker, but it is not a stretch to claim that Ayton played like the best player in the series, or at least the most impactful. While Booker was busy giving the Lakers buckets with reckless intent, Ayton was a nightly 15-10, giving the Lakers’ big men fits with a very hobbled and limited Anthony Davis mostly watching from the sidelines.
Ayton played more than a helping hand in establishing Phoenix as one of the premier teams in the Western Conference. His continued progression alongside Booker and company should translate to more success once the days of Chris Paul’s elite level playing pass by and they transition to the prime of the former Arizona Wildcat. Ayton wraps up part two of the NBA Top 25 Under 25, holding number 16 in the rankings.
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