Ranking teams’ 25-and-under players

Many Pistons fans take comfort in looking a few years into the future, when Detroit’s bad contracts come off the books  and its young players have developed. But that type of analysis ignores that other teams have young players too. Where do the Pistons youngsters rank? Ryan Pravato attempts to determine that by answering a simple question.

-Dan

If you had to start an NBA team comprised of just the players on the roster 25 years old and younger (by November 2011), whom would you choose?

No. 1 Oklahoma City Thunder

  • Kevin Durant
  • Russell Westbrook
  • Serge Ibaka
  • James Harden
  • Eric Maynor
  • Daequan Cook
  • Cole Aldrich
  • Byron Mullens
  • Reggie Jackson (rookie)

The Thunder lead because of what these players have already become. Even if Durant and Russell don’t improve a lick from here on out, they’re still premier players. Plus, Harden and Ibaka are already two very dangerous role players. So, knowing full well that these four will continue to improve, there’s no other unit close to having as lethal of a foundation in place with so much obscene potential unfulfilled.

And Aldrich is by no means a lost cause yet.

No. 2 Los Angeles Clippers

  • Blake Griffin
  • Eric Gordon
  • Eric Bledsoe
  • DeAndre Jordan
  • Al-Farouq Aminu
  • Willie Warren
  • Trey Thompkins (rookie)
  • Travis Leslie (rookie)

Bledsoe is a tough, flashy, athletic point guard, but he must improve his perimeter game. If he does, he’ll join Griffin and Gordon as eventual top-5 players at their positions. Aminu is the question mark. I think it’ll be feast or famine with him, and this group will heavily depend on him if Jordan fails to develop offensively.

Leslie, a phenomenal athlete and capable shooter, was a sneaky late-round pick.

No. 3 Utah Jazz

  • Derrick Favors
  • C.J. Miles
  • Gordon Hayward
  • Kyrylo Fesenko
  • Jeremy Evans
  • Enes Kanter (rookie)
  • Alec Burks (rookie)

The Jazz possess a ridiculous amount of upside, but the problem with the ridiculousness is that the upside will really never live up to its tease on paper. However, there are, at worst, a lot of future high-quality starters in this group, that will allow a perennial playoff team to form. But are there any eventual superstars here? Not likely. Maybe not the sexiest team, but these players certainly each bring a little something different to the table that help the Jazz become a consistent winner.

And watching Jeremy Evans do things like this is really entertaining.

No. 4 Minnesota Timberwolves

  • Kevin Love
  • Michael Beasley
  • Wesley Johnson
  • Martell Webster
  • Wayne Ellington
  • Anthony Randolph
  • Lazar Hayward
  • Nikola Pekovic
  • Derrick Williams (rookie)
  • Malcolm Lee (rookie)
  • Ricky Rubio (rookie)

Williams and Rubio really make this group tantalizing, but are we really confident Williams avoids falling into the Beasley category of mediocrity? Are we even confident Rubio will suit up? What do we make of Johnson’s lackluster rookie campaign or the pulse that showed in Randolph late last season?

In all this uncertainty, Love is a fine piece to have in your back pocket, but if Williams and Rubio pan out … watch out.

No. 5 Sacramento Kings

  • Tyreke Evans
  • DeMarcus Cousins
  • J.J. Hickson
  • Jason Thompson
  • Marcus Thornton
  • Donte Green,
  • Darnell Jackson
  • Hassan Whiteside
  • Jimmer Fredette (rookie)
  • Tyler Honeycutt (rookie)
  • Isaiah Thomas (rookie)

Who will do the dirty work on this unit? Can Evans stay healthy? Will Cousins stay on the floor? Can Hickson be consistently consistent? With Jimmer’s shot-making ability, it’s tough to imagine him not achieving at least a mid-teens scoring average for his career, but can he stay in front of anybody?

This group is obviously talented, but maybe not the right blend of demeanors and styles.

No. 6 Washington Wizards

  • John Wall
  • Jordan Crawford
  • Javale McGee
  • Andray Blatche
  • Yi
  • Trevor Booker
  • Kevin Seraphin
  • Jan Vesely (rookie)
  • Chris Singleton (rookie)
  • Shelvin Mack (rookie)

Wall, Crawford and McGee have proven themselves to be genuine NBA talents still with great potential. Vesely was a high-risk, high-reward selection, and the likelihood is slim that fellow rookies Shelvin Mack and Chris Singleton develop into starting caliber players. Talented enigma Andray Blatche is still 25 years old, so keep him in mind, too.

Really, we all know that this is a Wall production through and through. I’d buy a ticket.

No. 7 Orlando Magic

  • Dwight Howard
  • Ryan Anderson
  • Earl Clark
  • Justin Harper (rookie)
  • DeAndre Liggins (rookie)

To have one of the very few dominant centers in the league is reason enough to choose this group. Even scarier is just how demonstrably more he can improve offensively.

No. 8 Philadelphia 76ers

  • Jrue Holiday
  • Evan Turner
  • Thaddeus Young
  • Louis Williams
  • Spencer Hawes
  • Jodie Meeks
  • Marreese Speights
  • Craig Brackins
  • Nikola Vucevic (rookie)
  • Lavoy Allen (rookie)

We don’t really know how good Holiday and Turner will be (noticing a pattern?), but one heck of a versatile back court is a legitimate possibility. And that chance is too good to pass up. A Speights-Vucevic frontcourt works, as both are talented offensively. Young and Williams aren’t shabby support players, either.

No. 9 Detroit Pistons

Monroe’s flurry late last season really boosts this group’s value. Knight has All-Star talent and the work ethic to get there. He very well could be the best point guard in the 2011 draft, and that’s saying a lot, because Irving has franchise player written all over him. Will Stuckey flourish as the off guard now given the chance? Despite Daye’s shortcomings athletically and physically, you can’t give up on a near 7-footer with such smooth a stroke.

No. 10 Atlanta Hawks

  • Al Horford
  • Josh Smith
  • Jeff Teague
  • Marvin Williams
  • Keith Benson (rookie)

An intriguing unit especially with the emergence of Teague (bet Atlanta still wished they had Jordan Crawford, too). Both Horford and Smith are best at the four spot, which is a problem—a problem I wouldn’t mind having. And if you’re wondering: Williams is on this list because he just turned 25 in June and Smith won’t be 26 until December.

No. 11 Boston Celtics

  • Rajon Rondo
  • Jeff Green
  • Glen Davis
  • Avery Bradley
  • JaJuan Johnson (rookie)
  • E’Twaun Moore (rookie)

Let me know when Rondo warms up his jumper. It’s slowly improving but not good enough yet. Until then, he’s just a freak athlete with a high hoops IQ and uncanny creativity who largely benefited from playing with great players so far in his career.

Bradley is a nice scoring prospect, and Johnson definitely has the tools to be a dependable rotational NBA big. Otherwise, this group is a bit weak on upside, but not poor by any stretch.

No. 12 Chicago Bulls

  • Derrick Rose
  • Omer Asik
  • Nikola Mirotic (rookie)
  • Jimmy Butler (rookie)

I know the desire for a flashy, yet humble superstar guard is high, but do you sacrifice a deeper, younger unit for that one superstar on an island?

No. 13 Indiana Pacers

  • Darren Collison
  • Roy Hibbert
  • George Hill
  • Paul George
  • Josh McRoberts
  • A.J. Price
  • Lance Stephenson

This group’s depth matched with their versatility makes them dangerous, but maybe never dominant. Although, it’s very tough to tell yet whether Hibbert has already hit his ceiling or Collison will become that 35-minute-per-night guy. George has tools to be an impact player, maybe even an All-Star.

Stephenson may be the cherry on top of all this. Unfortunately, he’s a few cards short of a full deck.

No. 14 Memphis Grizzlies

  • Rudy Gay
  • Mike Conley
  • Darrell Arthur
  • O.J. Mayo
  • Greivis Vasquez
  • Xavier Henry
  • Ishmael Smith
  • Josh Selby (rookie)

Conley showed he’s more than an adequate point guard with pieces around him. Arthur looks like a dangerous sixth man at the very least. I’m very curious to see what the ceiling could be for Vasquez.

Henry oozes potential with his shooting ability, athleticism and defensive mentality. He’ll definitely be an impact player next to Conley and Gay in a few years.

No. 15 Denver Nuggets

  • Danilo Gallinari
  • Ty Lawson
  • Wilson Chandler
  • Timofey Mozgov
  • Kosta Koufus
  • Kenneth Faried (rookie)
  • Jordan Hamilton (rookie)
  • Chukwudiebere Maduabum (rookie)

Gallinari and Lawson are exciting, talented players, but certainly not All-Star caliber. So what? Jason Terry and Tyson Chandler never made an All-Star team.

As for the intriguing rookies, Faried will surely have ample opportunities to clean up many of the misses by the extremely talented, but chuck-happy, Hamilton.

No. 16 Los Angeles Lakers

  • Andrew Bynum
  • Shannon Brown
  • Devin Ebanks
  • Derrick Caracter
  • Darius Morris (rookie)
  • Andrew Goudelock (rookie)
  • Ater Majok (rookie)

Bynum’s track record of injuries incredibly sours this group that otherwise includes intriguing, yet flawed, projects. Morris will be well worth the wait, as he’s about as natural of a point guard as you will see at age 20.

No. 17 Toronto Raptors

  • DeMar DeRozan
  • Jerryd Bayless
  • Ed Davis
  • Amir Johnson
  • Sonny Weems
  • James Johnson
  • Alexis Ajinca
  • Julian Wright
  • Jonas Valanciunas (rookie)

DeRozan and Bayless have done enough to make me think they will pan out as nice starting-caliber players. The upside of Davis and Valancuinas is monstrous.

Then you have Julian Wright.

No. 18 Golden State Warriors

  • Stephen Curry
  • Dorell Wright
  • Ekpe Udoh
  • Reggie Williams
  • Andris Biedrins
  • Jeremy Lin
  • Klay Thompson (rookie)
  • Jeremy Tyler (rookie)
  • Charles Jenkins (rookie)

Udoh might not develop into a starting center, but his jump shot and shot-blocking skills keep me believing. This group certainly has plenty of pure shooting, but it lacks playmaking ability sans Curry. Thompson might be just what the doctor ordered.

No. 19 Portland Trail Blazers

  • Wesley Matthews
  • Nicolas Batum
  • Greg Oden
  • Patty Mills
  • Armon Johnson
  • Elliot Williams
  • Luke Babbit
  • Nolan Smith (rookie)
  • Jon Diebler (rookie)
  • Tanguy Ngombo (rookie)

Safe and reliable, above-average players in Mathews and Batum here – though, I’m looking for Batum to make that next giant leap in this his fourth year. Nolan Smith is a rock-solid point guard. If Diebler could cover a cupboard, I’d feel much better about his chances at sticking.

No. 20 Cleveland Cavaliers

  • Ramon Sessions
  • Daniel Gibson
  • Omri Casspi
  • Manny Harris
  • Christian Eyenga
  • Luke Harangody
  • Samardo Samuels
  • Alonzo Gee
  • Semih Erden
  • Kyrie Irving (rookie)
  • Tristian Thompson (rookie)
  • Milan Macvan (rookie)

Irving has the skills to quickly become a facilitator and scoring point guard. Thompson needs to add a ton of polish offensively, but making some All-Star teams shouldn’t be too lofty of an expectation for a fourth pick, you know? Eyenga and Harris aren’t bad wing prospects, but probably not starting caliber.

No. 21 Charlotte Bobcats

  • D.J. Augustin
  • Tyrus Thomas
  • Gerald Henderson
  • Dante Cunningham
  • D.J. White
  • Bismack Biyombo (rookie)
  • Kemba Walker (rookie)

This group, obviously extremely dependent on the rookies, could be fantastic or utterly pedestrian. Walker will be at worst a decent NBA player, but really, how high is his ceiling? Will Biyombo be any good at all? (Deng Gai, anyone?) Also, after what seems like a decade in the league, Thomas can’t yet be labeled a bad or good basketball player.

No. 22 Houston Rockets

  • Kyle Lowry
  • Chase Budinger
  • Patrick Patterson
  • Goran Dragic
  • Jordan Hill
  • Jonny Flynn
  • Marcus Morris (rookie)
  • Donatas Motiejunas (rookie)
  • Chandler Parsons (rookie)

Lowry played starting-point guard minutes last season and performed like he belonged. Dragic and Budinger are sound backups, but nothing more.

Between Hill, Patterson and Morris, one of them is bound to develop into an above average big, right? I think it’s safe to assume it won’t be Hill, though.

No. 23 New York Knicks

  • Toney Douglas
  • Landry Fields
  • Shawne Williams
  • Bill Walker
  • Derrick Brown
  • Andy Rautins
  • Iman Shumpert (rookie)
  • Josh Harrellson (rookie)

Not an untalented bunch, but they lack versatility. Still waiting for the real Bill Walker to stand up. Shumpert’s the guy to watch here – a 6-foot-6 ball hawk with a Billups-like body and the potential to be a fine shooter.

No. 24 New Jersey Nets

  • Brook Lopez
  • Jordan Farmar
  • Damion James
  • Ben Uzoh
  • Brandan Wright
  • Johan Petro
  • MarShon Brooks (rookie)
  • Bojan Bogdanovic (rookie)
  • Jordan Williams (rookie)

A rather ragtag bunch sans Lopez, but both Brooks and Bogdanovic should become steady, dependable scorers. Ultimately, there’s not enough upside here.

No. 25 San Antonio Spurs

  • DeJuan Blair
  • James Anderson
  • Da’Sean Butler
  • Kawhi Leonard (rookie)
  • Cory Joseph (rookie)
  • Davis Bertans (rookie)
  • Adam Hanga (rookie)

The Spurs have nice upside with their draft selections and an under-the-radar pickup of Butler late last season. You just know a couple of these players will turn into solid pros.

No. 26 Milwaukee Bucks

  • Brandon Jennings
  • Ersan Ilyasova
  • Luc Mbah a Moute
  • Chris Douglas-Roberts
  • Jon Brockman
  • Larry Sanders
  • Tobias Harris (rookie)
  • Jon Leuer (rookie)

The opinions vary quite drastically on Jennings’ star status. Quite simply, he’s not an elite point guard, and I don’t think he has it in him to be one. Ilyasova, Mbah a Moute and Brockman are consummate role players — too bad these aren’t role-player rankings.

No. 27 Dallas Mavericks

  • Rodrigue Beaubois
  • Ian Mahinmi
  • Corey Brewer
  • Dominique James

The Frenchmen are impressive when they see the floor. Mahinmi may never develop into much more than a bit player, but those two jumpers of his in the Finals had to give him confidence. Beaubois will be a sniper for years to come.

No. 28 Miami Heat

  • Mario Chalmers
  • Dexter Pittman
  • Norris Cole (rookie)

Chalmers showed during last season’s playoffs that he’s a gamer ready to take on a larger role.

No. 29 Phoenix Suns

  • Robin Lopez
  • Gani Lawal
  • Garret Siler
  • Markieff Morris (rookie)

You’d think Lopez’s averages of 5.9 points per game and 3.3 rebounds in his first three seasons will increase significantly going forward. But that might depend your definition of significantly.

No. 30 New Orleans Hornets

  • Marco Belinelli
  • Quincy Pondexter
  • Jason Smith

This is the only ranking where I’m 100 percent certain.

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Tags: Austin Daye Brandon Knight Greg Monroe Jonas Jerebko Kyle Singler Rodney Stuckey Terrico White Vernon Macklin

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