Friday, June 8, 2012

NBA Power Rankings: Top 10 NBA Players Under 25


With Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and the Big Three in Boston all in the twilight of their respective Hall of Fame careers, some may wonder if the NBA will lose popularity over the next few years.

When you look at this list of top players, you'll realize that the NBA's young guns are not only the best players under 25 (many even younger than that), but these players are also some of the best players in the game.

NBA fans have nothing to worry about—we are in good hands.

Honorable Mention

Stephen Curry, Golden State
Notable statistics (career): 44 percent three-point shooter, 90 percent free-throw shooter, 18 PPG
Ricky Rubio, Minnesota
Notable statistics (2012)11 PPG, 8 APG, 4 RPG, 2 SPG
John Wall, Washington
Notable statistics (2012)16 PPG, 8 APG, 1.4 SPG
Eric Gordon, New Orleans
Notable statistics (2011)22 PPG, 4 APG, 45 percent on field goals

10. Ty Lawson




The Nuggets point guard put on a very impressive show in 2012, leading the Nuggets to the playoffs without star Carmelo Anthony. He and the Nuggets put up a valiant fight against the playoff-experienced Los Angeles Lakers.

At 24 years old, the former North Carolina Tar Heel is known as one of the quickest players in the NBA.
If he continues playing at the level he was at during the 2012 regular season, the Nuggets can only improve.

Selected 2012 Statistics: 16 PPG / 7 APG / 4 RPG / 1.3 APG

9. James Harden





The third-best player on the talented OKC squad lands a well-earned spot in this top 10.

The 22-year-old was the Sixth Man of the Year in 2012 and would be a primary or secondary option on most other NBA teams. He is an all-around offensive threat with the ability to hit three-pointers, jump shots and shots around the basket.

Also, if you need a reminder about the clutch gene in Harden, here's a shot for you that sent the Spurs packing in a critical Game 5 of the Western Conference finals.

Selected 2012 Statistics: 17 PPG / 4 RPG / 4 APG / 1.0 SPG

8. Blake Griffin



The man is a dunking machine, we already know that. But many people fail to give him his due credit for his full capabilities as a basketball player.

His athletic ability has proven he can be a force in the paint both offensively and defensively. And he will only get better.

So even though the 23-year-old power forward may be the newest "Human Highlight Film," with hard work he may become a formidable all-around threat at 250-plus pounds. The success of the Los Angeles Clippers rides on the finishing half of what has become known as "Lob City."

The Clippers are in good hands.

Selected 2012 statistics: 21 PPG / 11 RPG / 3 APG

7. Kyrie Irving





Within the past 10 years, players like LeBron James, Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant and Chris Paul have won the NBA Rookie of the Year award.

The Cleveland point guard is now in the company of those players.

Replacing LeBron James hasn't been easy, but Kyrie Irving has done as good as you can ask a 20-year-old to do. If he can improve upon a stellar 2012 campaign, Irving could easily become a top point guard in the NBA.

Selected 2012 Statistics: 19 PPG / 5 APG / 4 RPG / 1.1 SPG

6. DeMarcus Cousins



In a league that has an unquenchable thirst for post players, Cousins has proven he will be a force.

As terrible as the Sacramento Kings were in 2012, Cousins (and his double-double average) was certainly a bright spot. His personality may not win him a popularity contest anytime soon, but numbers don't lie—and Cousins put up impressive statistics.

Although it may be unlikely the Kings improve much from their 22-win season, Cousins and Tyreke Evans provide solid, young centerpieces for this rebuilding organization.

Selected 2012 Statistics: 18 PPG / 11 RPG / 1.5 SPG / 1.2 BPG

5. Andrew Bynum





The Lakers center Andrew Bynum may not be the most mature player in the NBA, but he has performed well. Aside from sporadic disappearances in the playoffs this year, Bynum looks to be a major part of the Los Angeles Lakers organization moving forward.

With Kobe Bryant's career inevitably ending within the next couple of years, the 24-year-old, 280-pound center is certainly talented enough to take over the reigns.

Whether his lack of maturity leads to the Lakers choosing to deal him remains to be seen, but he is already a top center in the NBA.

Selected 2012 Statistics: 19 PPG / 12 RPG / 1.9 BPG

4. Kevin Love





The former UCLA Bruin is one of the best power forwards in the game, and he deserves some "love" at the No. 3 spot.

Love is an underrated monster in Minnesota and stuffs the stat sheet in ways very similar to the 2012 NBA MVP. He is able to score anywhere from the post to the three-point line.

The 6'10'' power forward won the three-point contest in 2012, showing a side of his game so unique for a big man. And he is a dominant defensive presence as well, averaging over 11 rebounds per game every year after his rookie year.

At 23 years old, Love was fifth in the league in PER (player efficiency rating), behind only James, Paul, Wade and Durant.

Selected 2012 Statistics: 26 PPG / 13 RPG / 2 APG / 45 percent on field goals

3. Russell Westbrook





Although I'm certainly not one of Westbrook's No. 1 fans, the man is an elite athlete and premiere offensive threat. Averaging 24 PPG with the three-time scoring champion on your team is an impressive feat.

His ability to drive to the basket and pull up for a 15-foot jump shot are second-to-none.

The 23-year-old already has six triple-doubles in his career (including a Game 7 playoff performance in 2011). He is a two-time All-Star and will be making his first NBA Finals appearance this year.

Selected 2012 Statistics: 24 PPG / 6 APG / 5 RPG / 1.7 SPG

2. Derrick Rose






Even though he is injured right now, 23-year-old Derrick Rose is indubitably one of the best players in the NBA. He won the NBA MVP award in his third season, two years after he had won Rookie of the Year award.

He is a three-time All-Star who has also been named to the All-NBA First Team.

In a city synonymous with the most famous basketball player of all time, Rose hasn't had small shoes to fill. Expect him to be as hungry as ever to win once he can get back on the basketball court.

Selected 2012 Statistics: (in 39 games played) 22 PPG / 8 APG / 3 RPG / 1 SPG

1. Kevin Durant





This was a no-brainer. There isn't an argument out there for Kevin Durant being anywhere other than the top of the list.

He was Rookie of the Year and also is a three-time scoring champion, three-time All-Star and three-time All-NBA First Team player.

Durant has come up clutch in the 2012 playoffs, adding that vital piece to his basketball resume. And let's not forget his defense.

He may not be a top defender just yet, but guarding Kobe Bryant—and shutting him down—in key possessions in the fourth quarter of the playoffs is something worth considering if you doubt this young star's defensive capabilities.

The 23-year-old superstar has already led his team to the NBA Finals. After leading the Thunder past the Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs, Durant looks to solidify himself as an NBA great by winning a title this year.

Yes, he's already this good at 23. Just imagine the scoring machine four or five years from now.

Selected 2012 statistics: 28 PPG / 8 RPG / 3.5 APG / 1.3 SPG / 1.2 BPG

This article is published on B/R, as well.

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