For the second consecutive season, we have compiled a list of the top 25 players in the NBA under the age of 25. It offers a strong glimpse into not only who some of the top players are today, but who will be starring in this league for another 5-10 years.
(For last season's list, click here.)
To be clear: This is a ranking of how we would order these players if we were starting a franchise and would have them for the next several years, not just this season.
In order to be eligible for this list, a player must be 24 years or younger as of today (born on or after Jan. 22, 1988).
Comments on each player are broken down into two sections -- one on the player's "current" value by David Thorpe and one on his "future" value, by Kevin Pelton who offers a three-year projection using wins above replacement player (WARP). He formulated his projections using his own system, SCHOENE.
Note: Statistics are as of Jan. 20. "NR" indicates a player was not ranked in 2011-12.
One look at this list and it is clear the NBA is very much a young man's league. All but two of the 25 players are starters, and this list is littered with individuals who are currently ranked as the league's best scorer, rebounder, shooter, ball handler, shot blocker, dunker or top defender. It might not necessarily be a "golden age" of basketball, but the overall athleticism is elite and widespread.
3-YR WARP: 45.1
Current: He's the clear choice for the world's second best player, having already proven he's the league's top pure scorer. Durant was remarkable in getting OKC to the NBA Finals last season, and he is a better all-around player now, adding crisper ball movement and defensive playmaking. He also has learned how to score best in crunch time, by using his ball handling and size to create great shots. He's a reluctant superstar and a consummate team player, perhaps behind only Tim Duncan as the best teammate in the NBA. -- David Thorpe
Future: Can Durant actually get better? A 50-40-90 season while using nearly 30 percent of his team's plays is probably the upper bound on his scoring, but Durant also continues to round out the rest of his game. His improved defense and rebounding mean, like LeBron James, Durant might end up as a matchup nightmare at power forward on a regular basis as he ages. -- Kevin Pelton
LAST TIME: 1 | PLAYER CARD
3-YR WARP: 34.2
Current: Had Rose been healthy, it would have made for a fun debate. And Westbrook might still have ranked No. 2. His will to win is almost unmatched, and no player has a bigger advantage than Westbrook does as an athlete at his position. He still takes too many jumpers early in possessions, but no one can question his commitment to winning because of how many astounding plays he makes to accomplish that goal. Improved ball handling and patience have made him a better set-up man. -- Thorpe
Future: Though Westbrook is just 24, his WARP projections show he's near his peak. Shoot-first point guards tend to top out earlier than players at other positions. To avoid that fate, Westbrook will have to find more balance in his shoot/pass ratios as he relies less on otherworldly athleticism to finish around the rim. This season's improvement to league average from beyond the arc also is encouraging. -- Pelton
LAST TIME: 6 | PLAYER CARD
3-YR WARP: 34.2
Current: Ignore those spectacular dunks, and Griffin still remains one of the league's best "bucket-getters," with explosive inside moves and counters of which he makes more than 70 percent. He is an underrated ball handler and passer, which makes him even more difficult to defend. Griffin is much better as a positional defender now, and one of the top defensive rebounders in the game. He has improved his perimeter shooting, and is a reliable free throw stroke away from being a complete player in all phases. -- Thorpe
Future: Griffin has made steady improvement to his outside game. Hoopdata.com shows Griffin's accuracy from 16-23 feet improving from 33 percent as a rookie to 37 percent last season and 39 percent so far in 2012-13, which is better than average. Griffin's increasing versatility will give the Clippers more options on offense and make him more difficult to defend. -- Pelton
LAST TIME: 5 | PLAYER CARD