If there is one thing that we have learned about the NBA over the last year or so, it is that the youthful, high-level talent across the league is at an all-time high.
So many players either on rookie-scale contracts or freshly on a new contracts have made a name for themselves not only as the leaders of their respective teams, but as superstars across the NBA.
From college to international basketball to new avenues being created via new leagues and opportunities in the G-League, the expansion of basketball globally has become vast and as a result, the talent and new faces entering the NBA continues to grow.
While the stars of the past decade in LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and others still reign supreme, the top of the league is beginning to change with plenty of young talents submitting their name as the new faces of the NBA.
Before we dive into the best-of-the-best 24-years-old or younger, it is worth giving honorable mentions to Evan Mobley (Cleveland Cavaliers), Cade Cunningham (Detroit Pistons), De’Aaron Fox (Sacramento Kings), Deandre Ayton (Phoenix Suns), R.J. Barrett (New York Knicks), Tyrese Haliburton (Indiana Pacers) and Tyrese Maxey (Philadelphia 76ers), all of which are very worthy of being named to the list to come and all of which have very bright futures ahead of them.
Right now is such a fantastic time to be a fan of the NBA and these are the Top-10 players in the league right now that are 24-years-old or younger.
#10 Jordan Poole - Golden State Warriors
Early on in the season, you would have called me crazy for saying that Jordan Poole is a Top-10 player in the league under the age of 24. Now, you may call me crazy for not having him higher than No. 10!
The strides Jordan Poole has made in just his third NBA season have been incredible and his story is quite remarkable. Poole went from a former first-round pick in the G-League and on his way out the league last season to being a core member of the Golden State Warriors this season and a player that could very much be the reason they win a title in 2022 or beyond.
Possessing star-like potential, general manager Bob Myers and the Warriors’ front-office really struck gold with Poole at the end of the first-round in the 2019 NBA Draft, as the 6’4” guard averaged 18.5 points, 4.0 assists and shot 36.4% from three-point range in 76 games for the Warriors during the 2021-22 regular season. The perfect blend of being aggressive and unselfish at the same time, Jordan Poole has become the third “splash brother” in Golden State, forming the “Super Splash Brothers."
In the offseason, Poole will be entering the final year of his rookie contract, meaning that he could very well see a nine-figure contract extension to remain with the Warriors for many years to come.
#9 Anthony Edwards - Minnesota Timberwolves
The No. 1 overall pick in 2020, Anthony Edwards has continued to prove why he is a future All-Star in this league and why he was the first overall selection last season.
With the Minnesota Timberwolves this year, Edwards averaged 21.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and shot 35.7% from the floor. Along with Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell, the second-year wing helped elevate Minnesota back to the playoffs for the first-time since 2018.
An elite-level athlete on the wing, Anthony Edwards is a complete mismatch for smaller guards that draw him as their assignment defensively in this league. He plays well above the rim and Edwards took a massive leap in terms of his shooting numbers this season, increasing his three-point shooting percentage from 32.9% in 2020-21 to 35.7% this year.
Scoring over 30 points eight different times this season, including a career-high 49 points against the San Antonio Spurs on April 7, Anthony Edwards has all the tools to be a first-time All-Star during the 2022-23 season.
#8 Zion Williamson - New Orleans Pelicans
Okay, I know you are going to roll your eyes seeing Zion Williamson on this list after sitting out the entire 2021-22 season due to a foot injury, but everything seems to be trending in the right direction for him to be 100% for the start of next season.
When healthy, Zion is a freak athlete that really does not have a set position and he is built like an NFL linebacker. Very few players in this league are as strong as Williamson and when he gets in the paint, you might as well put two points on the scoreboard for the New Orleans Pelicans!
How Zion Williamson looks after his foot injury and sitting out this entire year is a major question mark entering the offseason, but in terms of sheer talent, the 21-year-old forward has a chance to become the best player in the league one day.
#7 Darius Garland - Cleveland Cavaliers
If you had Darius Garland having a breakout, All-Star season this year on your NBA BINGO card, then give yourself a big pat on the back!
Injuries to Collin Sexton, Ricky Rubio and others on the Cleveland Cavaliers really allowed Garland to come into his own this season and the 22-year-old guard quickly became a household name. Averaging 21.7 points, 8.6 assists and shooting 38.3% from three-point range this year, the former Vanderbilt Commodore took the Cavaliers to the Play-In Tournament and had them one win away from making the playoffs without LeBron James for the first-time since 1998.
Arguably the most improved player in the league this season, Darius Garland has multi-time All-Star written all over him because of his playmaking and scoring abilities off-the-dribble at the point guard position.
Cleveland, you got a good one in Garland!
#6 Shai Gilgeous-Alexander - Oklahoma City Thunder
He may have led the Oklahoma City Thunder to only 46 combined wins as their best player the last two seasons, but Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is on the verge of becoming an NBA All-Star and creating the league's next best dynasty in Oklahoma City.
This year, Gilgeous-Alexander’s season was cut short due to injuries, but in 56 games, he recorded career-highs in points (24.5), rebounds (5.0), assists (5.9) and field goals made per game (8.5). He would have ranked 12th in the league in scoring if he met the minimum game qualifications and his 8.5 shots made per game would have ranked 15th in the NBA.
A lengthy combo-guard that is not afraid to play in isolation, it would not be surprising to see Shai Gilgeous-Alexander make the All-Star Game during the 2022-23 season and he is the face of a rebuilding Oklahoma City Thunder franchise that is trending upwards very quickly.
Hop on the Sam Presti train while you can because he and the Thunder's front-office are building something very, very special with Gilgeous-Alexander at the center of it all.
#5 LaMelo Ball - Charlotte Hornets
LaVar Ball is going to say that LaMelo deserves to be No. 1 on this list, but coming in at No. 5 through just two seasons says a lot about what kind of player LaMelo Ball is.
Making the All-Star Game for the first-time in his career this season, Ball took the Charlotte Hornets back to the Play-In Tournament for the second straight season and he has ascended to being the team's best talent.
Showing off his triple-double-like potential this season, LaMelo Ball is one of the best playmakers in the entire league. Ball ranked tied for 7th in triple-doubles this season (5) and has turned Charlotte into an enjoyable and electric team to watch.
With him as their leader, the Hornets look like a team that is on the verge of ending their playoff drought in the Eastern Conference.
#4 Trae Young - Atlanta Hawks
When he came into the league in 2018 out of Oklahoma, Trae Young was already an electric scorer on the offensive-end of the floor and over the last four seasons, he has morphed into one of the best playmakers and facilitators in the entire NBA.
This season, Young averaged 28.4 points per game (4th in NBA) and he became the first player to lead the league in both total points (2,155) and total assists (737) since Nate “Tiny” Archibald did so during the 1972-73 season. Taking the Atlanta Hawks to the Eastern Conference Finals a season ago, Trae Young is an elite-level offensive talent that has a chance to deliver a title to Atlanta one day.
In terms of being a “pure point guard,” Young checks off all the boxes and is almost like a younger version of Chris Paul given his ability to score and dish out assists at a high-level. The only difference is that the Hawks’ guard is a very strong three-point shooter that can extend his range way beyond the three-point line. Trae Young is a top point guard in the league right now and being just 23-years-old, he has yet to reach the prime of his career, which is a very scary thought!
#3 Ja Morant - Memphis Grizzlies
In an interview with HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto at the beginning of the 2021-22 season, Ja Morant claimed that he would rank himself as a Top-5 point guard in the NBA. Well, after the year he just had and currently in the midst of the playoffs, it is fair to say that Morant has lived up to the expectations he placed on himself!
Ja Morant is “must-see-TV” every single time the Memphis Grizzlies play and after averaging 27.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 6.7 assists in 57 regular season games this season, Morant was named the NBA’s Most Improved Player. A first-time All-Star this year, Morant continues to amaze due to his insane athletic abilities and extremely high basketball IQ.
Arguably the best athlete in the league right now, Morant is the only player in NBA history to have won the Rookie of the Year and the Most Improved Player awards. This season, the Grizzlies’ point guard also became the first guard to lead the league in paint scoring since the NBA tracked the stat in 1996-97. Since Shaquille O’Neal in 2005, only two players have scored inside more than Ja in a single season and those two players are Giannis Antetokounmpo and Zion Williamson, according to StatMuse.
In time as he develops a perimeter game in addition to what he already possesses on the offensive-end of the floor, Ja Morant will elevate himself into the conversation for league MVP and it is not crazy to believe he will win the award at least once in his career.
Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kevin Durant are just a few of the superstars in this league that people pay thousands of dollars just to be able to see. Ja Morant has added his name to this illustrious list given what he has done this season.
#2 Jayson Tatum - Boston Celtics
If you asked all 30 NBA general managers who they would want to start a franchise with right now, some of them may say Ja Morant and others may say who is #1 on this list, but a vast majority of executives would agree that Jayson Tatum has some of the most long-term, superstar-like potential out of any player in the league.
It is crazy to believe that Tatum is only 24-years-old, especially since he has been in the league since 2017! The Boston Celtics’ All-Star continues to develop into one of the best spot-up scorers in the entire NBA and while their games are completely different from one another, there are some comparisons between the mid-range dominance of Kevin Durant and that of Tatum.
Recording at least 30 points in a game 29 different times this season, Tatum ranked fifth in this category amongst all active players and he also recorded five games with at least 40 points. On March 6 against the Brooklyn Nets, Tatum scored 54 points, joining Hall of Famer Larry Bird for the most 50-point performances (4) in a single season in Celtics history.
From January 29 to the end of the 2021-22 regular season, Tatum led the Celtics to a 26-6 record and Boston went on to sweep Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets in the first-round of the playoffs. Whether or not they advance to the NBA Finals this season, Jayson Tatum has cemented himself as one of the best scorers in the league. Still being very young, Tatum is going to be a problem and an MVP candidate in this league for quite some time.
#1 Luka Doncic - Dallas Mavericks
You really cannot make an argument for anyone else to be #1 overall on this list other than Luka Doncic. Through just four seasons in the league, Doncic has not only turned himself into one of the greatest international players of all-time, but he is one of the faces of the NBA right now.
There is nothing that Luka Doncic cannot do and while he does have a slow style of play and is not the best athlete, the Mavericks’ guard is as talented and as skilled as anyone else in the NBA right now. A true MVP candidate what seems like every single year, Doncic is the epitome of a player you would want to start a new franchise with simply because he makes those around him better.
Not only can you count on Doncic to go for 30 points on any given night, but he is a true triple-double-like threat with the ball in his hands and some of the passes he makes finding his teammates are jaw-dropping.
This season, Luka Doncic played in a total of 65 regular season games and he averaged 28.4 points, 9.1 rebounds, 8.7 rebounds and shot 45.7% from the floor, 35.3% from three-point range on about 8.8 attempts from deep per game. Leading Dallas in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals, efficiency rating, win shares… You name it, Doncic probably leads the Mavericks in it!
He is a little too young to have been named to the NBA’s 75th Anniversary team this year, which is probably why he was left off of the list, but just a couple of years from now, we are going to be having some serious conversations about if Doncic is a Top-25 player, if not better, in NBA history.
Luka Doncic will win at least one MVP award in his career and much like Dirk Nowitzki did, Doncic has the ability to single-handedly lead the Dallas Mavericks to a title in the future.