In this edition of the NBA Top 25 Under 25 countdown in 2021, we continue this five-part series by ranking players slotted from ten through six. As we break into the top ten and into the next tier of greatness in the everlasting youth movement of the NBA, we begin to see the top-tier names that’ll be at the forefront of the league for the next decade and beyond. With how these NBA playoffs are going, the next generation of NBA talent is already established and ready to carry out the NBA’s mantle now.
NBA Top 25 Under 25 In 2021 – #10-6
10. Brandon Ingram
In a rather disappointing season for New Orleans Pelicans fans, there is some silver lining to be found in the continued progression by Brandon Ingram in 2021. He matched his scoring averages to his 2020 average of 23.8 PPG on 46/38/87. Although he did not make a repeat appearance in the 2021 NBA All-Star Game, we’ve seen flashes of Ingram taking over the offense and playing like the best scorer on the floor, displaying why he was touted a copy of Kevin Durant coming out of Duke.
Ingram has plenty of potential in this league, which goes without stating since he falls in the top ten of the NBA Top 25 Under 25. At just 23 years old, he is bound to take another leap or two, which could bump the Pelicans into regular playoff contention year after year, with the young star talent on the roster and the abundance of draft potential at their disposal in the coming years. Ingram could very well climb the rankings of the NBA Top 25 Under 25 by the season’s end in 2021-22.
9. Ben Simmons
We’ve reached perhaps the most controversial name on the NBA Top 25 Under 25 rankings. In a perfect world, Ben Simmons should be a top-three name on this list. However, his inability to get out of his own head has become a hindrance to his progression, and his reputation around the league has suffered for it. His flaws were exposed in the 2021 NBA Playoffs, and after a season-long fight to secure the top seed in the East, his inability to put the ball in the basket cost his team.
Shooting a basketball is perhaps the absolute most fundamental and basic aspect of the game, and for an NBA All-Star caliber player to expect to coast by without being able to perform the most important task at the most basic level raises concerns. While we could continue breaking down Simmons’ flaws, let’s focus on what he does well, and that is on the defensive end.
Simmons is one of the best on-ball defenders in the league, with his explosiveness and size being a nightmare for opponents. That is where he still holds value in the NBA, but if that leaves or even fades, then that is where Simmons could start to fade into the background of the NBA limelight. For now, Simmons is number nine, but that has potential to take a dramatic dip with the rest of the league catching up.
8. Jaylen Brown
Arguably the most battle-tested name in this class is Jaylen Brown. In his fifth year, Brown saw tremendous growth at another level, continuing to round out his game into superstar territory. Brown has become a worthy running mate alongside Jayson Tatum in the Boston Celtics’ quest to reclaim NBA glory, and the two have more potential this coming season than perhaps any previous one they’ve had together, with the franchise in the midst of a retool to remain in contention.
Brown’s ability to dominant games from a mental standpoint speaks volumes as to how he has been able to come back each season with a newly added skill to his game. A born leader, Brown demonstrates how basketball is a mental game more than anything else. He is not shy in the big moments, he remains calm and collected in the most heated moments of competition and is a moral compass for his locker room. If Brown is due for another step forward next season, which cannot be counted out, then 2021-22 Jaylen Brown is gonna be a scary sight for the rest of the NBA.
7. Donovan Mitchell
The 2021 Utah Jazz were humming on all cylinders all season long. Despite falling short in the postseason, Jazz fans have more reason to be optimistic about their future more so than any year in recent memory, and that is largely due to Donovan Mitchell’s climb to stardom. Mitchell has grown into that Dwyane Wade prototype that scouts had him labeled coming out of Louisville. Mitchell showed star prowess since his rookie season, and he has only grown since then.
The two-time All-Star had his strongest season to date, logging over 26 points a night, despite being held off on All-NBA consideration. Whether he was deserving of recognition is another argument, but Mitchell helped lead the Jazz to the second seed in the top-heavy Western Conference. If Mitchell and the Jazz can build off this regular-season success, and find that next gear come the postseason that has eluded them for so long, then it will not be too long before Mitchell climbs the hierarchy of NBA superstardom.
6. Trae Young
Trae Young has made a believer out of the person writing this blog. For someone who was labeled a villain by the rest of the NBA, with little to no shot of reaching a deep postseason run, Ice Trae now finds himself on the cusp of an NBA Finals appearance. Nobody saw the kind of run that Trae is on currently coming, knocking off the New York Knicks is quick fashion, potentially killing The Process for the Philadelphia 76ers, and now going toe-to-toe with the former two-time NBA MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo.
It’s not too late to sell high on Trae Young’s ceiling in this league. He has begun to stray away from the Stephen Curry comparisons and is establishing himself as a separate commodity from Chef Curry. The counting numbers in assists per night favor Young, as does Young’s supporting cast rising to the occasion in the grandest spotlight, which point to Young potentially being a better playmaking and facilitator than Curry is even right now. His potential in the NBA is sky-high, and watching him continue to grow, he may end up in the conversation for best point guard in the NBA in due time.