December 28, 2013

The Kids Are Alright: NBA's Top 25-and-Unders

By - Jaquan Murphy

It appears that the NBA is smack-dab in the middle of a youth movement, with budding young stars popping up all over the league. From California to New York, 25-and-unders are slowly but surely becoming the face of the Association.

So who are the best players out of this young crop of rising stars? Here are five under 25 guys that are sure to be the staples of their teams, and the NBA, for many years to come.

DeMarcus Cousins - Center, Sacramento Kings

Photo by: Getty Images
A bona fide 20-10 guy, DeMarcus Cousins kicks off the list. At 23, he has already established himself as one of the more consistent and productive big men in the game today. Standing 6'11, 270 pounds, Cousins is no easy cover. He can overpower a weaker defender in the block or use his solid post-game to score on craftier players. Cousins averaged a double-double each of the last two seasons, but he has taken his game to the next level in 2013, averaging over 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. With his current talent level and plenty of room to grow, Cousins can undoubtedly become a top 3 big man in the very near future.

Anthony Davis - Power Forward/Center, New Orleans Pelicans

This former Wildcat has scouts and executives around the league going crazy. At only 20, Anthony Davis has shown incredible growth in only his second season. Averaging slightly under 19 points, 10 boards and almost 4 blocks per, the sky's the limit for No. 23. In addition to the big numbers he puts up, at only 220 pounds, Davis can continue to grow into his 6'10 frame. Add in his freakish athletic abilities for his size, and it's pretty easy to see why every team in the NBA would love a player with the upside that Davis has.

Kyrie Irving - Point Guard, Cleveland Cavaliers

Not very often can you look at a point guard and say he has the potential to lead the league in either scoring or assists, but with Kyrie Irving, you can. At 21, the former Blue Devil already has an All-Star appearance under his belt. Although his numbers have been a bit down this year, not many young players can step in and have an immediate impact the way Irving has; especially at the point guard position. From day one, he had a solid feel for what it took to be a successful player at the NBA level. Now that he has become a household name, he must continue to learn and evolve into the superstar that many already see him as.

James Harden - Shooting Guard, Houston Rockets

"The Beard" checks in as the elder statesman of the list; at only 24 years of age. As a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder, people often wondered what would happen if Harden was the go-to guy on the team. We're now seeing it in Houston, and needless to say, he hasn't disappointed. Making the All-Star roster last season and averaging 26 points per, Harden was able to establish himself as a prominent enough player to help attract the likes of Dwight Howard to the team. Now in his second season in the Lone Star State, No. 13 is looking to turn the Rockets into legitimate contenders in the West.

Paul George - Small Forward/Shooting Guard, Indiana Pacers

It may already be time to start mentioning Paul George in the superstar category. How many 23-year-olds can go head-to-head with the best player in the game, LeBron James, and actually make an impact on both ends of the floor? The list is short. Real short. Last year's playoffs were a coming out party of sorts for George, and now he is making the 2013-14 season his statement campaign. Averaging almost 25 points per on 48% shooting, at 6'9, George can do just about anything he pleases on the offensive side of the ball. He can speed past a bigger defender, shoot over a smaller one, catch and shoot, or just create for himself. This season, George is on pace for career-highs in field goal percentage, three-point percentage and free throw percentage. Not to mention, he is a lockdown perimeter defender as well. As his all-around game continues to improve, one can only imagine how good George will be in the coming years. LBJ and KD may have some company atop the league totem pole in the not-so-distant future.

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