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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Palmore

Who are the Best Young Stars in the NBA?

The NBA is loaded with young talent and one of the biggest talking points over the last few weeks has been debate over which young star will become the face of the NBA. With stars such as LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry all getting older, it is fair to wonder who will become league's next household name. Here, I will be ranking the 10 players at 25 years of age or younger in terms of who I would want to start a franchise with.

Before I get into the rankings, here are some honorable mentions that players I considered putting on here, but just missed the cut: LaMelo Ball, Zion Williamson, Darius Garland, Jaren Jackson Jr., Evan Mobley, Cade Cunningham, Jalen Williams, Tyrese Maxey

10: Scottie Barnes

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Starting off the list at number 10, I have Scottie Barnes. In his third year in the league, Barnes is averaging 20 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Barnes was the rookie of the year winner two years ago and made his first All-Star team this year. Although it has not resulted in much winning in Toronto, Barnes is a very gifted player who is lethal in transition and his half court skill set is also growing tremendously. Standing at 6'7 with a 7'3 inch wingspan, Barnes also makes plays on the defensive end averaging 1.5 blocks per game and 1.3 steals per game.

A lot of people questioned Toronto selecting Barnes with the fourth overall pick in the 2021 draft, but he has shown tremendous potential. This season, Barnes is the only player in the league leading his team in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals. If this holds, Barnes will join a list of Dave Cowens, Scottie Pippen, Kevin Garnett, LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo as the only players to lead their team in season average for every major statistical category. Once the Raptors turn into consistent winners again, more people will start to recognize the potential Barnes has to be one of the league's best players.

9: Chet Holmgren

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After missing his entire rookie season last year, Chet Holmgren is proving to be a great selection by the Oklahoma City Thunder at pick No. 2 in the 2022 NBA Draft. Holmgren was one of the most hyped up high school prospects in recent memory because of his rare combination of size and ball-handling skills. In his first true season as a pro, Holmgren is helping guide the Thunder to a potential top seed in the western conference. Holmgren is averaging 17 points per game, eight rebounds per game and 2.5 blocks on the defensive end.

This season, Holmgren became the first rookie in NBA history to have 100 blocks and 100 three pointers in the same season. Scottie Barnes may have Holmgren beat in most statistical categories right now, but if Holmgren stays healthy, he will ultimately prove to be the better of the two players.

8: Ja Morant

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Even though he has missed so many games this year, I could not leave Ja Morant off this list. This may seem like a low ranking for Morant, who has already accomplished a lot in this league in five seasons played. Because he has struggled to stay on the court due to injuries and off the court concerns, I have him ranked lower than I would if this were not the case. Still, Morant is easily one of the most athletic point guards we have ever seen and even has a half court skill set to go along with it.

In Morant's season debut this year, he put up 34 points and eight assists and made a buzzer beating floater to seal a comeback win for the Grizzlies against the Pelicans. Memphis has been able to become consistent winners with Morant leading the way as the Grizzlies were the No. 2 seed the previous two seasons. Morant has already been selected to two NBA All-Star teams and won the Most Improved Player award along with Rookie of the Year. Next season, Morant staying healthy and consistent will be critical as Memphis looks to turn back into a contender.

7: Trae Young

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Trae Young has become one of the league's most underrated playmakers and players in general. This season, he was only able to make the All-Star team as an injury replacement even though he has been putting up 26 points per game and nearly 11 assists per game. The Hawks have not been able to do much winning ever since making the eastern conference finals in 2021, but that does not mean Young is not one of the league's brightest young stars.

Young has been involved in trade rumors for quite a while now, so it seems like his future in Atlanta is not completely certain. Whether it is with the Hawks or another team, Young would be a great fundamental piece to build around due to his scoring and playmaking abilities. Issues with efficiency and struggles on the defensive end have people down on Young, but he deserves a spot on this list regardless.

6: Tyrese Haliburton

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The Tyrese Haliburton and Domantas Sabonis swap is viewed as one of the most even trades in league history. While both sides definitely got better, I believe the Pacers will be viewed as the long term winners of this trade. Haliburton is starting to become a household name this year and is averaging nearly 21 points per game and 11.3 assists. At 24 years of age, he may be the best pure point guard in the league and is building a winning culture in Indiana.

Haliburton is an amazing distributor and even had a 20 assists to 0 turnovers game earlier this season. It has been a bit of a rocky second half of the season for the Pacers, who are still adjusting to having Pascal Siakam on the team, but if Indiana is able to get into the postseason, they should be able to make some noise in the first round.

5: Paolo Banchero

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The Orlando Magic have finally found their next face of the franchise. At just 21 years old, Paolo Banchero is already demonstrating why a lot of people were very high on him as the potential number one overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. Standing at 6'10 and nearly 250 pounds, Banchero has been compared to the likes of LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony because of his size and gifts on the offensive side of the ball. He can bully his way to the paint like LeBron James, but can also be deadly operating in the post and mid range, just like Carmelo Anthony.

Unless something unforseen happens, the Magic will be in the postseason this year and Banchero will have a chance to showcase his tremendous skill set. This season, he was named an All-Star and is averaging 23 points per game, seven rebounds and five assists. Look out for Banchero to be one of the faces of the league within the next few years.

4: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

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Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, or as many NBA fans call him "SGA", was once viewed as one of the league's most underrated players. Now in his sixth season, SGA is averaging 31 points per game, 5.5 rebounds and six assists. He is the primary reason the Oklahoma City Thunder are the top seed in the western conference, which is why he will be a finalist for league MVP this year.

When fans watch him play, the number one thing that stands out is that in a league where the pace is as high as it has ever been, nobody really speeds up or slows SGA down. Gilgeous-Alexnader is in complete control of the game at all times, which is something that works in OKC's favor come playoff time when the game slows down tremendously. Two Thunder players definitely deserved to be on this list after Oklahoma City has been able to dominate during this regular season.

3: Anthony Edwards

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This may be one of the more controversial rankings on this list. Some people might prefer SGA over Anthony Edwards, but I believe long term, "Ant Man" as he's called, will be the better player going forward. His game on the court is special, but his intangibles speak volumes and he seems to have great leadership skills on the basketball court. When Minnesota drafted Karl Anthony-Towns with first overall pick in the 2015 draft, they were expecting him to lift them to the heights that Edwards has. No shade on KAT, who is an amazing player, but the Timberwolves did not have any success remotely close to what they have now before Edwards arrived.

Currently, the Wolves hold the third seed in the western conference, but still have plenty of time to chase the top spot as they are only one game out. It will be difficult without KAT, who will most likely miss the remainder of the regular season. If anyone can keep Minnesota afloat, it is Edwards who is willing to do just about anything on the court to win basketball games. If you need an example, just search up his recent game-saving block against the Indiana Pacers.

2: Luka Dončić

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Out of anybody on this list, Luka Dončić not only has an argument to be considered the best young star player in the league, but he could also be considered the flat out best player in the NBA. Dončić has been playing professional basketball since his early teenage years and made the transition to the NBA look effortless.

Throughout his young career, Dončić has been in the MVP conversation in multiple seasons and has averaged 29 points per game, nine rebounds and eight assists in six seasons. The Dallas Mavericks have also made a conference finals appearance in that span and Dončić has already become a player that people are expecting to one day capture a championship. It has been somewhat of a rocky season for Dallas as the team is currently battling to avoid the Play-In Tournament. Dončić is one of the most lethal scorers in the league and if he makes just marginal improvements on the defensive end, he will become even more unstoppable than he already is.

1: Victor Wembanyama

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This should not really come as a surprise to anybody, but if I had to build a roster and I get to pick any player that is 25 years old or younger, I am picking Victor Wembanyama before anyone else. It seems like Wemby is improving in every game he plays in this year and in his rookie season, he is putting up a statline of 21 points per game, 10 rebounds and per game and a league-leading 3.4 blocks per game. A different measurement is given for his height nearly every time he is talked about, but he is somewhere between 7'3 and 7'5 with an incredible skill set on both ends of the court.

The wins will eventually start to rack up for the San Antonio Spurs once Wemby gets more comfortable, but Spurs fans have to love what they are seeing from the first year pro from France. Wemby has said multiple times that he grew up idolizing players like Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo and if you watch his games, you can see the potential that is there. His offensive skill set mirrors a guy like Durant and the defensive instincts/shot blocking ability mirrors Giannis. If Wemby is able to stay healthy and potentially put on a little more size as his career progresses, he will without a doubt be the league's best player in short order and the next face of the NBA as well.

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