Top 5 players aged 23 and under to build an NBA franchise around

1st pick in the 2019 NBA Draft Zion Williamson
1st pick in the 2019 NBA Draft Zion Williamson
Arjun Julka

The NBA currently boasts a pool of exceptional young talent. It would be safe to say that the league is in great hands considering how these young lads are taking the game to the next level.

Despite only being a few years into the NBA, they have certainly made a unique identity of their own not only with their on-court performances, but also with their off-court lives which includes having their own signature shoes, media endorsements, and their social media.

Top 5 current generation players capable of carrying an NBA franchise on their shoulders

5. LaMelo Ball

Stat line: 15.9 PPG, 5.9 RPG, and 6.1 APG

LaMelo Ball of the Charlotte Hornets
LaMelo Ball of the Charlotte Hornets

The 3rd overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, LaMelo is the younger brother of New Orleans Pelicans point guard Lonzo Ball. It has not even been a year since LaMelo entered the league, but he has already impressed everyone with his play-making skills and clutch ability. He's also showcased immense chemistry with his Charlotte Hornets teammates.

There is no doubt that LaMelo can ball. He went scoreless on his debut but has certainly found his rhythm with time. LaMelo is the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double and has a career-high of 34 points, which he scored against the Utah Jazz.

LaMelo's injury in March certainly ruined his chances of being crowned rookie of the year. However, as per the latest reports, he has been cleared to resume basketball activities and will be making a return just in time for the playoffs.

4. Trae Young

Stat line: 25.4 PPG, 4.0 RPG, and 9.5 APG

Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks
Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks

The 5th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, Trae Young was selected by the Dallas Mavericks but was later traded to the Atlanta Hawks, along with a future first-round pick, for draft rights to Luka Doncic.

Trae has made a name in the league for being an exceptional marksman. His ability to shoot long-range 3's has had the media compare him to Stephen Curry.

The 22-year old made his first NBA All-Star selection as a backcourt starter in 2020. Only 3 years into the league, Trae has had a mind-boggling fifty-seven games with 30+ points.

He has certainly bought a ray of hope for the struggling Hawks franchise, who are currently sitting at the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference.

3. Jayson Tatum

Stat line: 25.8 PPG, 7.3 RPG, and 4.3 APG

Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics.
Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics.

Jayson Tatum was selected by the Boston Celtics as the 3rd overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft as they traded down after sending the no 1 pick to the Philidelphia 76ers. The 23-year old has exhibited veteran-like skills, especially during the playoffs, despite only being in the league 4 years.

The 2017-18 playoffs saw Tatum score 28 points in the semi-final against the 76ers becoming the first rookie to score 25+ points in a playoff game since Larry Bird. Tatum entered the conference finals for the second time in the 2019-20 bubble playoffs but unfortunately lost to the Miami Heat. He has averaged 20.6 PPGs in his three playoff appearances.

The 2x All-star signed a five-year extension of $195 million with the Celtics in 2020.

2. Zion Williamson

Stat line: 26.9 PPG, 7.2 APG, and 3.7 APG

Zion Williamson of the New Orleans Pelicans
Zion Williamson of the New Orleans Pelicans

Zion Williamson was the 1st overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and was selected by the New Orleans Pelicans. The 19-year old is clearly the most hyped high-school basketball player since LeBron James.

Zion is clearly a physical specimen, as never before have we seen a force dominate the game like that since Shaquille O'Neal. Though his durability has always been a question, he finished his debut season with 22.5 PPG, 6.3 RPG, and 2.1 APG despite playing only 24 games.

In the current 2020-21 season, Zion is putting up a staggering FG% of 61.7, he also made his debut in the 2021 NBA All-Star. He has had twenty-one games with 30+ points game till now which is great considering the number of games he has played. A superstar in the making, Zion is certainly the next big thing in the NBA.

1. Luka Doncic

Stat line: 28.6 PPG, 7.9 RPG, and 8.7 APG

Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks
Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks

Luka Doncic was the 3rd pick in the 2018 NBA draft, was to be selected by the Atlanta Hawks but was later sent to the Dallas Mavericks in a deal for Trae Young and a future first-round pick.

Luka has clearly established himself as the leader of his franchise as he solely carried his team last year to the playoffs in the bubble. Though they were eliminated in the first round, Luka averaged 31.0 PPG in six games, including an iconic game-winning buzzer-beater against the LA Clippers.

The 22-year old has certainly impressed the basketball world with his great ball-handling skills and play-making abilities. Just three years into the league, Luka has achieved some great feats that include 34 triple-doubles so far, an All-NBA first-team selection, a 2018 Rookie of the year, and 2x time NBA All-Star.

Edited by Prem Deshpande
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