NBA

23 under 23: Ranking the NBA's next generation of players under 23 years old

23 under 23
(NBA Getty Images/DAZN)

The NBA season is just around the corner, and the next generation of stars have established themselves as the leaders of the new school.

From Luka Doncic's MVP-calibre performances to Jayson Tatum's playoff heroics, you don't have to look far to find the new faces of the league.

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With that in mind, we surveyed our NBA.com Global Staff to rank the best players in the NBA under 23 years old heading into the 2020-21 season.

Given the shortened offseason and quick turnaround between seasons, we've included a handful of players who turned 23 in recent months, including Bam Adebayo, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, OG Anunoby and Jonathan Isaac.

Let the arguments begin!

10. Jaren Jackson Jr. - 21 years old

2019-20 stats: 17.4 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.6 BPG

The Grizzlies rebuild is well ahead of schedule thanks to Ja Morant's electrifying play, but right there with him is Jaren Jackson Jr.

The third-year big man has everything you want in a modern NBA big with his ability to impact the game on both ends, especially with his efficient long-range shooting, connecting on 39.4 percent on 6.5 attempts from deep last season.

His rebounding isn't where you'd want it to be for a 6-foot-11 forward/centre, but if he can improve his work on the glass, is an All-Star berth out of the question this season?

9. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander - 22 years old

2019-20 stats: 19.0 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 3.3 APG

After a season playing alongside veteran point guard Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is ready to take the next step as the leader of OKC's next generation.

His improvement between his first and second season was impressive, but now with both Paul and Dennis Schröder leaving town, the ball will be in his hands even more as the team's primary offensive weapon and playmaker.

Given the freedom he'll be afforded this season, a Most Improved Player of the Year award could be on the horizon if he takes the next step.

8. De'Aaron Fox - 22 years old

2019-20 stats: 21.2 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 6.8 APG

Playing in Sacramento, Fox may not get the same attention as his peers, but there's no denying the speedster is on his way to being an elite point guard.

Already a devastating force in transition, Fox is a strong playmaker, passer and finisher at the rim, and is just a reliable 3-point shot away from taking that next step.

7. Zion Williamson - 20 years old

2019-20 stats: 22.5 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 2.1 APG

Williamson played just 24 games in his rookie season, but he couldn't have left a bigger impression in those limited outings.

The 20-year-old's knack for scoring in the post, hauling in offensive rebounds and punishing teams in transition with his otherworldly athleticism is already at an elite level.

With an NBA offseason under his belt and his minutes restrictions lifted, the sky is literally the limit for Zion.

6. Brandon Ingram - 23 years old

2019-20 stats: 23.8 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 4.2 APG

Ingram enjoyed a breakout campaign in New Orleans last season, earning his first All-Star selection, Most Improved Player of the Year and a $158 million contract extension.

The wirey swingman is still scratching the surface of his offensive potential as he continues to expand his game. He shot 39.1% from the 3-point line last season on 6.2 attempts, up from the 1.8 per game a season prior in LA.

As he continues to grow in New Orleans, the 1-2 punch alongside Zion Williamson is going to be a nightmare for opposing defences for many years to come.

5. Ja Morant - 21 years old

2019-20 stats: 17.8 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 7.3 APG

Is there a more exciting young player in the league than Ja Morant?

The reigning Rookie of the Year makes the Grizzlies appointment viewing, whether it's his high-flying dunks, dizzying dribble moves or the swagger of a kid who can and will posterize anyone.

For Morant, it's not just flash. He very nearly led the Grizzlies into the playoffs in the bubble, falling to the Portland Trail Blazers in the play-in tournament. While the road to the postseason will be even tougher in the Western Conference this season, Morant and the Grizzlies will be a team to keep an eye on.

4. Bam Adebayo - 23 years old

2019-20 stats: 15.9 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 5.1 APG

Adebayo earned a $163 million extension from the Heat this offseason after helping lead them to the NBA Finals, and for good reason.

In the age of positional versatility, Adebayo ticks every box with his ability to score and defend, but what sets him apart is his playmaking. Outside of Nikola Jokic, no centre averaged more assists per game last season than Adebayo, who established himself as the cog that makes everything work for the Heat.

Perhaps the biggest indicator of his star status is the way he elevated his play in the playoffs.

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3. Trae Young - 22 years old

2019-20 stats: 29.6 PPG, 9.3 APG

Is there anywhere on the floor Young can't score from?

The diminutive point guard has limitless range and the confidence to go with it, regularly pulling up from the carpark with the threat of his long-range bombs warping defences.

But there's more to his game. In just his second season, Young established himself as one of the league's best playmakers, finishing second in assists behind only LeBron James. Sure, his defence has a long way to go, but his ability on the offensive end more than makes up for it.

The knock on Young has been that his performances rarely lead to victories, but with a new-look roster in Atlanta, the postseason is on the horizon for the first time in his NBA career.

2. Jayson Tatum - 22 years old

2019-20 stats: 23.4 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 3.0 APG

The Celtics are officially Jayson Tatum's team after his breakout campaign in 2019-20, firmly establishing himself as the franchise's cornerstone.

Coming off of a season that saw him earn his first All-Star selection and a spot on the All-NBA Third Team, the Duke product has proved he can match up with the best offensive players in the league.

Tatum is going to be a problem for the next 10-plus years and he's already a handful for opposing defences right now.

1. Luka Doncic - 21 years old

2019-20 stats: 28.8 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 8.8 APG​

Doncic enters the 2020-21 season as the favourite to win Most Valuable Player alongside back-to-back MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

At just 21 years old, the Slovenian is a walking triple-double and after his impressive playoff debut against the LA Clippers last season, which included a game-winning buzzer-beater, the stage is set for Doncic to solidify his place as not just one of the best young players in the NBA, but the best young player in the NBA, period.

The rest of the pack

11. John Collins - 23 years old

2019-20 stats: 21.6 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 1.6 BPG

12. Michael Porter Jr. - 22 years old

2019-20 stats: 9.3 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 42.2 3P%

Porter Jr. displayed just how great he can be when averaged 22.0 points and 8.6 rebounds per game on his way to All-Bubble First Team honours during the NBA restart. In what should be an expanded role this upcoming season, you can expect to see MPJ's name on the rise on this list next year.

13. Deandre Ayton - 22 years old

2019-20 stats: 18.2 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 1.5 BPG

14. OG Anunoby - 23 years old

2019-20 stats: 10.6 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 1.6 APG

15. Tyler Herro - 20 years old

2019-20 stats: 13.5 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.2 APG

Herro burst onto the scene in the NBA Playoffs, most notably with his 37-point Game 4 in the Eastern Conference Finals to give the Heat a 3-1 lead over the Celtics. With high expectations this upcoming season, we'll see if Herro can maintain that level of play for a full 72 games.

16. Collin Sexton - 21 years old

2019-20 stats: 20.8 PPG, 3.0 APG, 3.1 RPG

17. Jarrett Allen - 22 years old

2019-20 stats: 11.1 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 1.3 BPG

18. Jonathan Isaac - 23 years old

2019-20 stats: 11.9 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 2.3 BPG, 1.6 SPG

19. Lonzo Ball - 23 years old

2019-20 stats: 11.8 PPG, 7.0 APG, 6.1 RPG

Ball has had an up-and-down start to his career since being selected No. 2 overall in 2017. With the Pelicans expected to be at full strength this season, we should see Ball step up to try and get New Orleans into the playoffs. The 2020-21 season will be a major year for the future of his career.

20. Mitchell Robinson - 22 years old

2019-20 stats: 9.7 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 2.0 BPG, 74.2 FG%

21. RJ Barrett - 20 years old

2019-20 stats: 14.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 2.6 APG

22. Rui Hachimura - 22 years old

2019-20 stats: 13.5 PPG, 6.1 RPG

23. Markelle Fultz - 22 years old

2019-20 stats: 12.1 PPG, 5.1 APG, 1.3 SPG

Honourable Mentions

Players who received multiple votes but just missed the cut include: LaMelo Ball, Coby White, Anthony Edwards and PJ Washington

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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