This top 10 list includes all current NBA players age 20 or less who have played in at least one NBA game, which means players such as Bol Bol who haven’t played in a game yet are excluded from the list.
10. Jaxson Hayes
Despite not having obvious numbers, Hayes already screams potential and efficiency. Not only does he fit the traditional mold of high potential, being a 6’11” 20-year-old with a 7’4” wingspan, but he has already put up solid numbers in limited minutes. As a 19-year-old rookie this past season, in 17 minutes of action he’s averaged 7.5 points, 4 rebounds, and 0.9 blocks per game while shooting a phenomenal 66% from the field.
Again, not phenomenal numbers at face value, but with his age and minutes played taken into account it is clear to see that he could blossom into a borderline all-star in the future, and an elite rim protector at the worst.
9. Kevin Knox II
Knox is another player with numbers that aren’t super impressive, especially in his recent sophomore season, but he has shown so many flashes of his upside. In his rookie season he was a pretty key component to the New York Knicks offense, but it was clear this past season that he didn’t fit well with the pieces around him since his playtime, stats, and efficiency all decreased.
Despite the drops, it is still pretty clear that he is a young, decently sized forward with good shooting touch. To me, it seems that confidence and aggressiveness could be the major hurdle for him. I think he could really blossom in the proper environment.
8. Cam Reddish
Reddish had a solid rookie season, averaging 10.5 points per game while shooting 38.4% from the field and 33.2% from 3. Those aren’t the most impressive shooting splits and in all honesty I see most of his future impact being on the defensive end. He averaged 1.1 steals and 0.5 blocks per game this year, which is already a solid impact defensively for a rookie. In addition, he stands at 6’8” with a 7’1” wingspan which comes in handy for blocks and steals.
I also think that he could find an additional scoring role if he crashed the boards a bit harder. Playing with young prolific shooters such as Trae Young and Kevin Huerter, there should be plenty of chances to chase down long rebounds. Again, I think he has great potential overall and is in a good situation to grow in Atlanta.
7. Darius Garland
Garland is a bit tougher to evaluate than others due to only playing five college games after being injured and being drafted to the Cleveland Cavaliers who currently sit last in the Eastern Conference. However, from what I’ve seen of him, he has a reliable jumper with solid range, explosive quickness, and craftiness near the rim. All of those attributes bode well for a 6’1” point guard in today’s NBA. The numbers support this claim as well, as his 12.3 points per game this season came off a 35.5% 3-point shooting effort.
6. Tyler Herro
Perhaps one of the best selections of the 2019 NBA Draft was the selection of Herro, going 13th overall to the Miami Heat. He likely won’t ever be a superstar in the league, but he is a shooting assassin both off the catch and the dribble. Dropping 12.9 points per game and shooting 39.1% from downtown helped the Heat record 41 wins and only 24 losses this season. Continuing to develop his playmaking skills and being a member of a well-run organization in Miami will only help him continue to develop into a very good NBA player.
5. Coby White
Coby White proved why he deserved to be the 7th overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft by being a strong third scoring option for the Chicago Bulls, despite only starting one game for the team. He proved his explosive scoring ability late in the season as he scored 30+ points in three consecutive games in February. He shot a decent 35.4% from 3, and he showed tremendous mid-season improvement. Before the all-star break he averaged 11.1 points per game, while after the all-star break he averaged 24.7 points per game in the ten games played. This is the kind of improvement I expect to see from him in the future.
4. RJ Barrett
Despite struggling a bit this year compared to his expectations, Barrett didn’t really have a bad season. He put up 14.3 points per game while shooting 40.2% from the field and 32% from 3 as a 19-year-old rookie, which is actually quite impressive. The only reason there is a negative connotation around the impact he had this season is that his expectations were astronomically high. If anything, this season should leave fans with optimism since he is so young and was able to handle himself well in a dysfunctional organization. Look for his stat line to improve steadily over the next few seasons.
3. Jaren Jackson Jr.
Playing in Memphis, Jaren Jackson might be one of the best young players that flies under the radar. He really looks like the prototypical big man in today’s NBA game to me. He stands at 6’11” with a 7’4” wingspan, which has resulted in a cumulative 0.8 steals and 1.5 blocks per game in his first two seasons. He also brings major value offensively as he’s only averaged 27 minutes per game but has managed to drop a cumulative 15.3 points per game while shooting 48.5% from the floor and 38.6% from the 3-point line. The only downside is that he’s only averaged 4.7 rebounds to this point in his career, and quite honestly that is the only flaw I can see in his game right now.
2. Ja Morant
Ja was seen as a no-brainer prospect for obvious reasons, as he’s proven analysts correct. As a 20-year-old rookie he put up a stat line of 17.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, 6.9 assists, and 0.9 steals per game on an efficient overall shooting percentage of 49.1% and 36.7% from 3. He is extremely athletic, is capable of shooting off the dribble, and is super crafty with the ball, creating easy baskets for teammates, such as Jaren Jackson. I see him as a future NBA all-star as he took the league by storm his rookie season, even calling out established star players.
- Zion Williamson
I think this one is pretty obvious to anybody who follows basketball. Despite being injured early and only coming back to play in 19 NBA games, Zion averaged 23.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, 0.8 steals, and 0.5 blocks per game this season while shooting an incredible 58.9% from the field. I don’t count his 46.2% 3-point shooting since he only attempted 13 3’s and went 4-4 in his first game, meaning the other 18 games saw him go 2-9. With shooting being his clear weakness, there really aren’t any flaws in his game. He is too quick if you match him up with a defender strong enough to guard him, but he is too strong if you match him up with a defender quick enough to keep up with him. His unique athletic talent is going to cause matchup nightmares for decades to come.
As always let me know where I’m wrong and what I overlooked in my analysis.