In the final part of the NBA Top 25 Under 25 In 2021 blog series, we rank the five best players under 25 years of age that are primed to carry the NBA into the next generation. When the league transitions away from the greats of the 2010s such as Kevin Durant and LeBron James, these names are going to be in the conversation for best players of this generation, along with the continuing trend of high-profile rookies being added to the fold year after year. Watching these five names grow is going to be a sight to behold.
NBA Top 25 Under 25 In 2021 – #5-1
5. Bam Adebayo
Bam Adebayo may fly under the radar for being one of the most unique players in the NBA. He can play around the paint on both ends of the floor, while also facilitating your offense, often by taking the ball up the floor. His growth over the last four seasons has been exponential, as he finally established himself as a force to be reckoned with in the NBA in the infamous 2020 NBA Playoff Bubble, providing more than a helping hand to push the Miami Heat to the NBA Finals.
Going back to Adebayo’s versatility, the only aspect of his game that truly lacks as a modern-day center is his ability to stretch the floor beyond the paint. He is an above average perimeter defender for a man his size, but he is no shooting threat outside of the paint. Bumping up his shooting numbers to moderately average could make defenders bite more and could open up more opportunities inside.
Adebayo is a special player that can absolutely be an anchor for a championship pursuit right now, as clearly shown in last year’s playoffs. If he is able to build off an even more impressive 2021 season, then he could etch his name into the top tier of NBA centers in short time.
4. Devin Booker
The rise to superstardom for Devin Booker has officially been legitimized in this year’s NBA Playoffs. When most believed the 2021 Phoenix Suns were a regular season success story, Booker and the Suns silenced the haters as they are now four wins away from an NBA Championship. Year after year, All-Star snub after All-Star snub, this run that Booker is on should put away any doubt about Booker’s capabilities as a superstar in this league.
A true shooting guard in every sense in the word, Booker’s ability to put the ball in the basket is at an elite level, with few players on that kind of level with him, aside from players like Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, and James Harden. He is a three-level scoring threat each time he touches the ball, and his spectacular 70-point game four years ago highlighted that, especially at the age of 20. Booker’s game is only going to grow, and if he is going to continue on this upward trend he is on, then we are witnessing one of the future greats to ever shoot the basketball. He may already be well on the track today.
3. Zion Williamson
There is no player in the NBA like Zion Williamson. Whether we talk about his physical appearance, his athletic ability, or his game on the court, Williamson embodies the word “unique” by every stretch of the definition. He is one of the most marketable players in the league, on one of the least marketable franchises, and shines in the NBA social media spotlight with each highlight that posts on the timeline.
Zion is the future face of the NBA. His game, mystique, and persona are perfectly fit for the big stage, or in other words, anywhere else but the New Orleans Pelicans. Zion is going to be the center of NBA media attention for the next 10 to 15 seasons, with several highlights and accolades to come his way.
It is highly likely that Zion climbs these ranks of the NBA Top 25 Under 25 and see himself at number one in due time, but the other two candidates have simply been doing more for their respective teams for a longer time, and at a much higher volume than Zion, who will be entering his third season in 2021-22. There is still plenty of time to do so, but Zion, along with players ranked one and two, are set to carry the league into the next generation of NBA greatness.
2. Jayson Tatum
To say it was tempting to bump Jayson Tatum up to number one is an understatement, especially after he was placed there in the 2020 edition of these rankings, but I could not discredit the work done by the current top placeholder. Nonetheless, Tatum more than established himself as a franchise building block in 2021. Despite being an obvious snub from all three 2021 All-NBA teams, it should not be a detriment to his tremendous performance for an injury-ridden Boston Celtics team.
Tatum was one of the few faces to consistently suit up night in and night out for the Celtics, and because of that, much of the scoring load had to come through him, and he delivered. Tatum is arguably the most battle-tested young player on this list, having already been put through the ringer of four deep postseason runs.
This year was especially impressive, despite falling 4-1 to the juggernaut Brooklyn Nets. The Celtics were without Jaylen Brown, and also Robert Williams III and Kemba Walker for the last two games, and Tatum took over. His dominant 50 point game against the Durant, Harden, and Irving trio should make fans excited for what the former Duke star is capable of come next season.
The 2021-22 Celtics are primed to look very different. We spoke earlier about the strides Jaylen Brown has made, but if Tatum is able to build off his postseason run and follow up with an even more impressive 2022, then the Boston Celtics could return to the championship picture in due time.
1. Luka Doncic
Luka Doncic is one of the most unguardable players in the NBA. Nowhere near the fastest, or strongest, or most athletic, but Doncic has one of the best basketball IQs in the game. He wastes no movements on the floor, with each dribble, pass, jab step, step back, and anything in between, done with intent. That is what has elevated him to one of the league’s best already at the age of 22.
Much like Zion, Luka’s game may be better suited for the bigger stage. Doncic may be able to turn the Dallas Mavericks into a free agent destination should he continue to play at this level, while also elevating his teammates play as well, but the franchise is not there yet. Not only does Doncic belong in the NBA Top 25 Under 25, but he is for sure in the conversation for one of the top players in the NBA as a whole entering the 2021-22 season.