NBA's Top Young Players: 10 More Under 25
Part 3: These 10 up-and-coming players just missed our Top 25 Under 25 list.
Last week, I updated my ranking of the top 25 players in the NBA under the age of 25.
There was, understandably, a lot of disagreement. It’s impossible on rankings like these to reach complete consensus, especially when we are projecting the futures of NBA rookies and sophomores against the current production of 23- and 24-year-olds.
“What about Player X?” was a common question. Yes, a number of very good young players just didn’t make the list. There were only 25 spots.
But to give those players and their supporters their due, I’m going to dive a little deeper today to look at 10 more up-and-coming prospects.
How we get our rankings
To qualify, players have to be in the NBA — while we love covering Scoot Henderson, Jabari Smith, Chet Holmgren and other top prospects outside the NBA extensively, they don’t qualify here. And we’re looking only at players who will be under the age of 25 at the resumption of the NBA regular season (February 24).
To get an accurate ranking, I combined two sources of information:
First, I used three analytics models (DARKO, LEBRON, and RAPTOR) to rate each player. Next to each player’s name, you can see his scores via the three models (D for DARKO, L for LEBRON and R for RAPTOR). Each system estimates how many points (positive or negative) the player contributes per 100 possessions.
Second, I asked a handful of NBA GMs and scouts to rate each player under 25. In particular, I asked them to think about the impact the players would have in the league by the time they are 24.
This is especially important to understand for younger players like Franz Wagner and Jalen Green (both age 20). In some cases, they are not yet better than some of the 23- and 24-year-old players below them on the list. But they are projected to be.
Using that methodology, here’s a countdown from players 35 to 26:
35. Herbert Jones
New Orleans Pelicans | 23 | L: 1.13 | D: 0.4 | R: 1.7
Previous Rank: NA
Lost in the Evan Mobley-Cade Cunningham-Scottie Barnes hype is the fact that the advanced stats suggest that Jones is the clear Rookie of the Year. He’s got a significant advantage over Mobley, Barnes and especially Cunningham in both LEBRON and RAPTOR and is a close second to Mobley in DARKO.
Why isn’t he getting the same love? First, Jones is significantly older, having turned 23 in early October, so he’s much closer to his ceiling already. Second, his counting stats look meh (9.5 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.5 spg and 34% from 3). Third, Jones’ dominance has come on defense, which doesn’t generate the same excitement.
In any case, Jones is a real find, the only player on this list taken in the second round, and exactly the sort of switchable wing who can defend multiple positions without being a liability on offense.
If the Pelicans make the play-in tournament, he’ll be a big reason.