Here is part two of our Top 25 Under 25 rankings, which includes players ranked from numbers 20 through 16. To see the first part of this list which has our methodology, some honorable mentions that just missed the cut and players ranked from 25 through 21 click here.
Top 25 Under 25
- Top 25 Under 25: 25-21
- Top 25 Under 25: 15-11 (Coming Soon)
- Top 25 Under 25: 10-6 (Coming Soon)
- Top 25 Under 25: 5-1 (Coming Soon)
20. Josh Jackson
Position: Small Forward | Age: 20
Chajkowski’s Rank: 22 | Romanello’s Rank: 22
Josh Jackson is one of the most intriguing rookies coming into the NBA this season after being the fourth overall pick in the draft this summer. I’ve already written a bit about Jackson in our mock, which you can read that here.
Jackson looks like he’s going to be a player that can make an impact on the defensive end immediately. Jackson gets after it on the defensive end of the floor and has good instincts as well. He looks like he’s going to fit well into the switch heavy defensive systems the league is trending towards as he has the potential to guard up to four positions. He’s good at jumping passing lanes and has good hands and is a good shot blocker for the position – he averaged over a steal and block per game in college (1.7 steals ans 1.1 blocks) as well as during Summer League (1.2 steals and 1.0 blocks) – thanks to his length and athleticism. He can be a little foul prone at times, however, as he averaged 3.0 fouls per game in college and 3.6 during Summer League. He’s also a good rebounder for his position as well.
Offensively, Jackson can get to the rim well and is a good finisher and can get creative at the rim to finish around defenders and has the athletic ability to finish above the rim as well. He’s also a good cutter and off ball mover. He is also a solid ball handler and good passer for the position, making him a nice playmaker and creator for others.
However, Jackson’s jump shot is a pretty big question mark at the moment. He shot a respectable percentage (37.8 percent) in college last season but only shot 3-of-16 from three during Summer League. He has funky shooting mechanics and release and has a kind of a hitch in his jumper. The funky form hurts his ability to get off his shot in off the dribble situations and over lengthier defenders. Jackson also can be a bit turnover prone and force some passes at times as he averaged 2.8 turnovers per game in both college and Summer League.
Jackson offers some nice versatility on both ends as a multi-positional defender and a solid player both on and off the ball on the offensive end. His ceiling as a player really depends on whether or not he can become a consistent jump shooter which would help open up his offensive game even more, making him an improved off-ball threat and help space out opposing defenses. – Tony Romanello
19. Dennis Smith Jr.
Position: Point Guard | Age: 19
Chajkowski’s Rank: 16 | Romanello’s Rank: 19
Dennis Smith Jr. is goddamn electric. I wrote a lot of stuff about him for our mock draft (check it, bitches) where I spent like four paragraphs gushing about his athleticism and ability to score. He was my third highest rated prospect in the draft, and I think he’s going to be the perfect point guard to run spread pick and roll in the NBA.
I watched him a lot in Summer League, and he was everything I hoped for. He hit 34% of his threes, a passable number given that most of them were off the dribble. He blew past defenders often and got to the hoop with ease. And that was without great spacing or an athletic big man. In the NBA, opposing lead guards are going to have a hard time staying in front of him; and in a modern offense like Dallas’s he’s going to be a problem. He likes his jumper a little too much, but he’s fearless when he goes to the hoop, and will draw a lot of fouls simply by blowing by guards who can’t keep up with him. His athletic tools are off the charts. He has great body control in the air, and his leaping ability makes it easy for him to fool defenders with double clutches and ball fakes. He’s even already showing off a nice counter move when he drives; he does a jump-stop, pivots, and shoots turnaround jumper from like 4-8 feet (much like the one IT does).
I still have concerns about his defense, and I think we’ll see it come and go. He’s going to be great at jumping passes though, and with his speed he’ll be able to turn those into easy layups. He’s also good at getting rebounds and pushing the ball, and he was devastating running in transition at Summer League.
His passing was a little erratic but still much better than what he showed at NC State. I have a feeling putting him with an elite rim runner and some average or better shooters (both of which Dallas has) will be very good for him to showcase the full range of his passing. I think he’ll probably top out as a second tier passer, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If you’re athletic enough you don’t have to make a ton of difficult reads, as evidenced by guys like John Wall and Russell Westbrook, who average a ton of assists while not being the most nuanced passers. If you’re athletic enough and can force a lot of help your way, you will have a ton of open passes and won’t have to heavily rely on fitting the ball into tight places or creating passing lanes, and I think that’s very attainable for Smith, as long as he’s a good enough jump shooter you can’t go under all of the screens set for him.
Beyond that, we’ll have to wait and see on his jumper but I think it’s going to be at least average. His ballhandling is pretty good, and he’ll make opposing guards pay for reaching in. As for his off ball movement, he actually did it sometimes at Summer League, which is encouraging. If he continues to move off the ball he could develop into a dangerous force coming off a pindown, Iverson cut, or a dribble hand-off.
Here are his full highlights from the Summer League if you aren’t sold yet. – Mark Chajkowski
18. Jamal Murray
Position: Guard | Age: 20
Chajkowski’s Rank: 18 | Romanello’s Rank: 17
Jamal Murray had a bit of an up and down but overall solid rookie year for the Denver Nuggets this past season. Murray came into the NBA as a shooting guard, as that’s where he played most of his time at in college, but he saw a good chunk of his playing time (41 percent according to basketball-reference.com) at the point during his rookie season.
Murray looks to have potential to develop into a really nice offensive player at the NBA level. He averaged 9.9 points per game while posting a 48.3 percent effective field goal percentage. And while his shooting percentages don’t look great at the moment, he does have a nice jumper and finished the season shooting 88.3 percent from the foul line which is encouraging for the rest of his shooting numbers. He was also a 37.7 percent three point shooter in catch and shoot situations and has a good feel of when to cut to the hoop, making him a solid off-ball player. He also showed some ability with the ball in his hands, scoring 0.94 points per possession in isolation situations which was good for the 73rd percentile in the NBA last season and finished in the 62nd percentile in pick-and-roll play types as the ball handler, which is encouraging for a rookie.
Murray does struggle on the defensive end a bit. He’s pretty bad in one-on-one situations defensively, as he gives up 1.15 points per possesion in such situations which put him in just the 7.7th percentile of the league. His average athleticism hinders his ability to stay in front of opposing players and his overall ability on this end of the floor. Murray’s assist and assist to turnover ratio’s both have to improve if Murray is to become a lead ball handler and playmaker at the NBA level.
Murray has one of the more intriguing offensive skill sets of the current set of prospects in the NBA at the moment and could be a very nice, versatile weapon on the offensive end in the future. He will need to develop his playmaking ability and improve on the defensive end but he did have a promising rookie season and showed flashes of having the ability to be a nice player in this league. – Tony Romanello
17. Devin Booker
Position: Shooting Guard | Age: 20
Chajkowski’s Rank: 20 | Romanello’s Rank: 14
While I don’t think Devin Booker is as good of a player right now as some others do, I still do think that Booker will be a really good player down the line. Booker’s still extremely young, as he won’t turn 21 until about 2 weeks into this upcoming season and will already have 2 full NBA seasons under his belt entering this upcoming season.
Booker can get buckets, plain and simple. Last season, he became just the fifth player in NBA history to average 22 or more points per game for a full season while being 20 years old or younger in that season with the other four being LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Shaquille O’Neal and Kyrie Irving , according to basketball-reference.com. Booker is a good scorer in isolation, scoring 0.94 points per possession in iso as well as being a good spot up shooter, scoring 1.07 points per possession in such situations. And while Booker has been just about an average three point shooter over his first two seasons (35.4 percent), I believe we’ll see this number continue to rise over his career as he gains more experience and continues to develop.
However, Booker doesn’t really bring a whole bunch to the table outside of his ability to score the basketball. He’s pretty bad defensively and hasn’t been much of a creator for others or much of a rebounder. And I’m not really sure how much he can really come around in those areas. He’s not an elite athlete so staying in front of more athletic players on defense will always be a bit of a challenge for him. He’s not a great ball handler or passer so becoming a high level creator for others will be difficult for him as well.
So while Booker is essentially just a volume scorer at the moment (and not the most efficient right now), he is just 20 years old still and I think if he can continue to become more efficient, he’s a really valuable player to have on your team. And I do think he will become more efficient as he continues to develop as a player and grows into the role he’s playing for the Suns already. – Tony Romanello
. . .
So I’m not entirely sold on Devin Booker. He’s an above average isolation and spot up shooter, and a solid post scorer on limited touches, but I just don’t see it beyond that. He’s not great at getting to the line, and he’ll need to get to the line more to be an efficient scorer. But since he isn’t an elite athlete, and doesn’t have a great handle, I’m not sure how he does that.
This season he got to the hoop more, but his field goal percentage at the rim plummeted. He actually shot really bad coming off screens, and if he can’t score coming off of screens or on the move he becomes a lot easier to guard. He also isn’t a good pick and roll ball handler, which is a concern for anyone who’s going to be a high level scorer. He traded in some threes for long twos this year, which is normal when you get a higher volume, but not great when you’re shooting 38.1% from 10-16 feet and 16ft to 3. He’s also been around an average three point shooter his first two years, and while I expect that to improve there’s no guarantee he becomes a knockdown shooter.
And besides scoring, what else does he do? He has a solid frame but has been a terrible defender his first two years in the league. His assist to turnover ratio has been terrible his first two years, and I’m not sure he’ll ever be the type of guy who creates for others at a high level. While it’s encouraging he’s averaging 22 a game, his advanced numbers are terrible, which says to me his usage rate is way too high (I don’t think it means he’s a bad player, just doing way too much for how talented he actually is). He doesn’t rebound, and I don’t think he’ll ever be a guy who can generate a ton of easy buckets. I don’t think he’s Klay Thompson, or even Bradley Beal for that matter. Maybe he becomes an elite shooter and becomes passable at defense, ball handling or playmaking, but he’s still pretty far away from that right now and I want to see it before I buy in. For now he’s just a high volume scorer who doesn’t do it very efficiently. – Mark Chajkowski
16. D’Angelo Russell
Position: Point Guard | Age: 21
Chajkowski’s Rank: 15 | Romanello’s Rank: 16
I know some people are out on D’Angelo Russell, and that’s fair. He’s been kinda underwhelming his first two years in the league, and despite being bigger than most point guards his defense has been horrid. His athleticism isn’t great, and he’s struggled to finish at the hoop. The flashy passing he showed at OSU hasn’t translated into him being a great creator for his teammates.
But I don’t think he’s meant to be the primary creator he was cast as. I think he would be best as a secondary guy; someone who can run some pick and roll, spot up, attack closeouts and mismatches, and do some, but not a ton of passing. I was thinking of comparisons, and I think I found a pretty good one. I compared Manu Ginobili’s second season to D’Angelo’s, and here’s what I found:
Obviously the stats attached to winning Manu outpaced him in, but besides that they are very similar. And D’Angelo is six years younger. Him turning into a better, albeit less athletic version of Manu offensively (minus the free throw rate) could be in the cards. D’Angelo is also great at finishing from the 3-10 foot range, shots consisting of bunnies, runners, floaters and other odd shots. While these are normally not efficient shots, D’Angelo converts them much better than most players.
He’s pretty good with tough/odd finishes like the one above, and he’s getting craftier. Despite his lack of athleticism, he’s a very good ballhandler and one of the few guards in the league that can post up. He has a quick release on his jumper, and is comfortable shooting off of the dribble. He hit 33% of his off the dribble threes, and 37% of his catch and shoots, which are both above the league. If not asked to run an offense, I think he could do a lot as a second or third option. And there’s still an outside chance he develops into that first option. Point guards usually make a big leap in year three or four, so these two upcoming years will be pivotal in us finding out if Russell is actually going to become a top tier guard or not. – Mark Chajkowski