NBA Top 25-Under 25
Ranking the L’s youngest players who go hard.
Welcome to the Top 25-Under 25! I could not be more thrilled for the opportunity to bring the Top 25-Under 25 to SLAMonline. Patrick Crawley and I created the concept in October of 2007 and, with the help of my brother, Joshua Fischman, the concept developed in to a tangible list by December of the same year. The list aims to rank the 25 best NBA players who are under the age of 25. The goal seems simple enough, but before I present the new list, you must be aware of my criteria for determining “the best.”
Because it is very subjective to rank the 25 best players under the age of 25 (or really to rank the 25 best of anything), we decided that we (the three of us) would each make individual rankings (1-35) and then average those to come up with our top 25. The five players who finished 26-30, are be classified as “On the cusp” below the list. Here’s how that first edition turned out.
Since the first edition, some things have changed. First of all, LeBron James placed first in every single edition, while he was still eligible. Once he turned 25 on December 30 this past season, the first position became vacant, which sets the stage for a new young baller to be crowned King of this list. Secondly, I will be the only voter on this edition, so I will have to make do without the help of my trusty sidekicks. Last but definitely not least (and probably most important), I have decided to tweak the criteria for making this version of the list.
Potential has become very minimal in considering a player’s position and even presence on this list. I say ‘minimal’ rather than ‘non-existent,’ because for players who have very similar professional credentials, I will err on the side of advancing the younger player. While potential is not explicitly ranked on this list, it will be invoked, indirectly, in that I care a lot about a player’s progression. For example, Russell Westbrook and Andrea Bargnani have shown huge improvements over the years, whereas the progression of Marvin Williams and JR Smith has essentially stalled. Daequan Cook and Thaddeus Young, for instance, have regressed and consequently, do not even place on this list. In other words, this list is more interested in assessing the “what have you done for me lately” factor (but not too recently…more like over a period of multiple months or years) rather than projecting where players will be in the future. Projecting potential is always fun, but avoiding potential makes this list slightly less subjective even though it is still, admittedly, very subjective.
I also should point out that winning is heavily weighted in determining if and where players appear on this list. More specifically, this is a valuable combination for a player in terms of placing high on this list: playing for a winning team and the player in question making a positive impact for that team. Playoff performance can also help or hurt a player’s stock. There will obviously be some exceptions. For instance, Monta Ellis and Tyreke Evans are the only two players in the top 10 who play for non-Playoff teams. Winning is non-essential. It just helps. Ellis and Evans are too talented to be pushed out of the top 10 simply because they played for sub-par teams. Brook Lopez is another good example. Although he plays for lowly Nets, his contributions were too impressive to discount. Fair or not, it does hurt a player’s stock if he is a member of a poor team. It can also hurt a player if he is on too good of a team. For instance, I suspect Jordan Farmar and Glen Davis would have logged far more minutes (and played decently well) if either were on a less talented roster. Unfortunately for those guys, they didn’t play enough to prove their spot on this list.
It’s tough for rookies to place on the list, but if a guy has consistently done big things during his rookie season, then he can and will appear. On this edition, three rookies cracked the top 25 and one even placed in the top 6. Two additional rookies finished “on the cusp” in the 26-30 positions. It’s so tough for rookies to make this list, because consistency is not typically a word used to describe rookies. Rookies who score 55 points in a single game, but can’t find their shooting stroke for weeks at a time, don’t exactly scream out ‘consistency.’ Someone like Brandon Jennings is very high on potential and will very likely finish a lot higher on this list in the future, but for now, he is clearly not ready to move up. The same goes for rookies and non-rookies who haven’t played enough like Bill Walker, Rodrigue Beaubois, Glen Davis, Goran Dragic, Greg Oden (injuries), DeJuan Blair, Reggie Williams and others.
Only players who are under 25 years old (24 or younger) as of July 1, 2010, are eligible to make this edition.
I honestly wish this was The Top 50-Under 25 because there were so many deserving guys who had to be left off. Still, the Top 50-Under 25 doesn’t have that ring to it, plus limiting the amount of honorees makes the list mean a whole lot more. So in the interest of giving you a more meaningful, and at the same time, digestible list, without further ado, here it is: