25-under-25

Kevin Huerter doesn’t seem destined for NBA stardom. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t incredibly important to the present and future of the Atlanta Hawks. The act would be incredibly corny, but it would be fitting. You could give Kevin Huerter a nickname like the Hold Steady and you would have summed up his career
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After cashing in this summer, can Gary Trent Jr. cement himself as a fixture of the Toronto Raptors’ post-Kyle Lowry era? Gary Trent Jr. is waltzing into a golden opportunity in 2021-22. With Kyle Lowry now in Miami, the Toronto Raptors will be reinventing themselves. Fred VanVleet figures to take over as their full-time point
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Can Michael Porter Jr. cement himself as one of the NBA’s top up-and-coming scoring dynamos in 2021-22? Michael Porter Jr. is a walking bucket. During his first season as a full-time starter with the Denver Nuggets, he averaged 19.0 points on 54.2 percent shooting. He was one of only two players leaguewide who knocked down
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For the first part of this season, Jamal Murray will be an inanimate object for the Denver Nuggets. What happens when he comes back to life? These injury timetables are like forgettable Wyclef Jean songs. You’re gone until you’re not. Everyone is lucky if it’s only until November. But the Denver Nuggets’ Jamal Murray will
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Jarrett Allen has done everything you could ask from a young, athletic big man. But his place with the Cleveland Cavaliers still doesn’t feel secure. Jarrett Allen joined the Brooklyn Nets in the years when the team was still reeling from giving up all their first-round picks to the Boston Celtics in a 2013 trade.
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LaMelo Ball has endless talent, creativity and imagination. What can he do for the Charlotte Hornets now that he has experience too? In a May contest against the moribund Pistons, LaMelo Ball did one of the coolest things anyone has done on the basketball court in a long time. Detroit turned the ball over and
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John Collins has become one of the best offensive big men in the NBA. Is that enough to help take the Hawks to the next level? It would be unavailing to try and categorize John Collins within the broader positional category of big men. While he certainly possesses conventional qualities of both power forwards and
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De’Andre Hunter will be crucial to the short- and long-term success of the Atlanta Hawks, provided he stays healthy enough to remain on the court. Most NBA teams fall into one of two categories: those aggressively pursuing as many wins as possible and those stockpiling talent with the hope of eventually competing for a championship.
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How can OG Anunoby take the next step as an offensive threat, without sacrificing the defensive intensity that’s made him so essential to the Toronto Raptors? As he enters his fifth season, OG Anunoby is trying to become something that may or may not actually exist. The idea of a two-way wing holds an outsized
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If you think a Scottie Pippen comparison is hyperbolic for Tyrese Haliburton, maybe you need to watch more of Tyrese Haliburton. Scottie Pippen has become the archetypal second-best guy. That’s kind of what happens when you win six championships as the wingman for arguably the greatest player in basketball history. But the legacy that’s been
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De’Aaron Fox is fast. But is he fast enough to outrun the chaotic legacy of the Sacramento Kings, and strong enough to carry his team with him? Plastic bullets fill the air. Bone claws slowly protrude from skinned knuckles. Jim Croce’s voice offers sad reservations about time and bottles. And there is De’Aaron Fox, at
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Will the Phoenix Suns’ run to the 2021 NBA Finals help propel Deandre Ayton into having a career year? Heading into the 2021 NBA playoffs, Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton was one of the league’s biggest wild cards. Fresh off a run to the NBA Finals, he now appears poised to cement himself as one
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Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was an incredibly efficient creator despite carrying the entire load for the Oklahoma City Thunder. What if they put more talent around him? By the box score, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander already looks like a star for the Oklahoma City Thunder. He averaged 23.7 points, 5.9 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game last season on
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Mitchell Robinson has carved out a niche with the New York Knicks with insane highlights and absurd numbers. Now he’s ready for more. There can be beauty in simplicity. Catch ball. Dunk ball. Stand here. Jump. Swat ball. That’s not to call Mitchell Robinson’s basketball responsibilities simple. He is often playing as the defensive anchor
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  Brandon Ingram is just five years into his NBA career but once again finds himself in the unfortunate position of being defined by his relationship to others. Brandon Ingram has established a healthy NBA resume. He’s averaged 23.8 points per game for two consecutive seasons. He’s made an All-Star team and won Most Improved
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After quieting critics by guiding his Atlanta Hawks to the Eastern Conference Finals, what does Trae Young have in store for an encore? Trae Young might be the NBA’s next great villain. Like any good wrestling heel, Young seems to revel in infuriating fans. After hitting a game-winning floater in Game 2 of the Atlanta
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Already a generational scoring talent, Zion Williamson may only be scratching the surface of his potential as a player. Even in an era when young stars take less time than ever to ascend, Zion Williamson’s rise is exceptional. With fewer than 100 NBA games under his belt, the 21-year-old has already established himself as one
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Bam Adebayo has quickly become one of the most dynamic centers in basketball, and the 24-year-old’s growth will be key to Miami’s pursuit of an NBA title. A full appreciation of Bam Adebayo begins with the understanding that he isn’t a first option. The Heat’s 24-year-old Swiss-Army knife center doesn’t singlehandedly lift his team into
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How can we measure Luka Doncic’s greatness against expectations when he just keeps smashing them each season? Much of an NBA player’s reputation rests on what is expected of them, and whether or not they meet those expectations. If fans assume a player will offer very little and they then display consistent competence, it may
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Memphis has always been a city of music. Here are three songs that sum up the city’s newest young star, Ja Morant. Great NBA players have a tell, some signature tic or stylistic element that makes them who they are. Observant viewers could see a silhouette of Kevin Durant’s jumper or of Chris Paul bringing
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Heading into a contract year, can Jaren Jackson Jr. re-establish himself as a core piece of the Memphis Grizzlies alongside Ja Morant? One year ago, Jaren Jackson Jr. appeared to be headed toward a max contract extension. He was fresh off a sophomore season in which he averaged 17.4 points while shooting 39.4 percent from
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Lonzo Ball hasn’t ascended to stardom, but the 24-year-old is one of the smartest players in the NBA and only getting better. Lonzo Ball is not a star, and each facet of his game is grounded in that fact. Where many NBA players stretch themselves beyond their limits, Ball seems to work under no delusions
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Cade Cunningham is a franchise-changing talent. But the Detroit Pistons will need to be patient with him as he grows into himself. The night Cade Cunningham went first in the draft to the Detroit Pistons, Kendrick Perkins called him the most complete draftee since LeBron James. Anthony Davis and Luka Dončić may disagree, but simply
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Is Jaren Jackson Jr. the NBA’s next great unicorn big man, or is he the second coming of Myles Turner? Every time a 3-point-shooting, shot-blocking big man comes into the NBA, he instantly gets slapped with the “unicorn” label. Memphis Grizzlies big man Jaren Jackson Jr. is among the latest examples. The No. 4 pick
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There aren’t many areas in which Boston Celtics wing Jaylen Brown is elite, but in having no real weaknesses, he reaches an equally rare class of players. In the current age of position-less, star-centric basketball, there may be no player type more coveted than a skilled, physically imposing wing who can create efficient offense for
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Devin Booker seized his moment the first chance he got in the NBA spotlight. After the 8-0 bubble run, what’s next for the star of the Phoenix Suns? Ever since he entered the 2015 NBA Draft pegged as a spot-up shooter, Devin Booker has spent the first five years of his career defying expectations. And
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Zion Williamson comes in at No. 10 on our list, but with his potential and skill set, his ceiling is limitless. If he stays healthy while diversifying his game, he could rise even higher. As far as hype and anticipation go in watching someone play basketball, Zion Williamson of the New Orleans Pelicans is at
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Brandon Ingram’s game has worked well with the New Orleans Pelicans, an environment that makes the most of who he is. The thing about Brandon Ingram is that I feel the vague connection us peons feel with famous people who grew up in areas we know really well. My parents retired quite a few years
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The Miami Heat have championship aspirations and the versatile excellence of Bam Adebayo is the foundation on which they rest. In the third quarter of a January game against the Raptors, Bam Adebayo brought the ball up the court to initiate the offense. It was not necessarily standard for Adebayo, the team’s center, to lead
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