NBA 25 under 25: The best young stars, ranked by future potential

Where do Scottie Barnes, left, and Victor Wembanyama check in among the top 25 NBA players under 25? Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Which NBA stars are the best young players in the league?

Of course, Victor Wembanyama made the cut, and it won't be too long until the San Antonio Spurs' rookie sensation becomes a staple atop this list. Where does Zion Williamson, who has played just 120 games during his four-plus-year career with the New Orleans Pelicans, land this season? Did Luka Doncic, fresh off his fourth consecutive All-NBA first-team appearance, top our list once again?

ESPN NBA Insiders Tim Bontemps, Bobby Marks, Kevin Pelton and André Snellings are ranking their top 25 under 25 based on future potential, including where stars such as Wembanyama, Williamson, Doncic, Ja Morant and LaMelo Ball check in right now -- and what could be next.

Note: Stats for 2023-24 through Monday's games.

2024 NBA draft rankings: Top 25 prospects

25. Alperen Sengun | C | Houston Rockets

Age: 21 years, 105 days
2023-24 stats: 18.4 PPG | 8.6 RPG | 6.0 APG

Sengun is a new-age big man in the mold of Nikola Jokic and Domantas Sabonis, capable of generating a triple-double on a nightly basis. Sengun has struggled from the line this season but shot over 71% in both of his first two seasons, so he has the potential to bounce back. Sengun is not a big defensive presence in the paint, but the Rockets can run their entire offense through him in either the low or high post, which opens things up for their perimeter players to get high-percentage looks. This makes Sengun a potent playmaker in today's NBA, where scoring is king. -- Snellings

24. Keegan Murray | SF | Sacramento Kings

Age: 23 years, 80 days
2023-24 stats: 13.0 PPG | 6.2 RPG | 2.2 APG

Murray's 27.7 minutes per game in the 2023 playoffs were more than double any other rookie, as he adapted quickly to the crucible of a matchup against the then-defending champion Warriors. Murray has proven capable of defending either forward spot and stretching the floor with 41% 3-point shooting. Despite a slow start to 2023-24, Murray has the ability to eventually add more shot creation after averaging 23.5 points per game in his final season at Iowa. -- Pelton

23. Scoot Henderson | PG | Portland Trail Blazers

Age: 19 years, 277 days
2023-24 stats: 8.8 PPG | 4.6 APG | 34.6 FG%

Henderson's ranking is based on the future and not the present. In a small sample of games this season, Henderson has struggled. The guard has committed 4.0 turnovers per game, ranking in the top 10. In addition, he has shot 2-for-21 on 3-pointers this season, ranking last in 3-point field goal percentage among players with at least 20 3-point attempts. A positive is that in the past two games before injuring his ankle, Henderson handed out 14 assists. -- Marks

22. Tyler Herro | PG | Miami Heat

Age: 23 years, 291 days
2023-24 stats: 25.8 PPG | 5.0 APG | 45.1 3P%

Herro has shown flashes of brilliance in his first four seasons, but after being heavily discussed in trade rumors all offseason, he appears to be in the midst of a breakout performance this season. After averaging just over 20 points per game the past two campaigns, Herro is posting what would be career-best marks across the board. He has stepped up to help carry the Heat through the regular season, taking more of the load off Jimmy Butler's shoulders, and if he continues at this pace could contend for his first All-Star nod. -- Snellings

21. Jalen Duren | C | Detroit Pistons

Age: 19 years, 354 days
2023-24 stats: 14.3 PPG | 11.5 RPG | 1.3 BPG

After a promising rookie season as a part-time starter, Duren has been one of the league's most improved players so far this season. Duren is one of 12 players averaging a double-double, and he is shooting the highest percentage (67%) of any of them, thanks to a league-leading dunk total. Duren's vision might separate him from other high-percentage finishers -- he has more than doubled his assist average to nearly three per game. -- Pelton

20. Walker Kessler | C | Utah Jazz

Age: 22 years, 104 days
2023-24 stats: 7.3 PPG | 6.9 RPG | 1.9 BPG

When Kessler stepped into the starting lineup last season, he quickly established himself as one of the league's better defensive centers. The Jazz were a full 6.5 points worse per 100 possessions with Kessler on the bench as a rookie, and he is a perfect long-term building block next to Lauri Markkanen in Utah's frontcourt. If he's ever able to add a reliable 3-point shot, he could jump way up this list. Even if he doesn't, Kessler is a worthy heir to Rudy Gobert as the anchor of Utah's defense.

-- Bontemps

19. Jalen Green | SG | Houston Rockets

Age: 21 years, 271 days
2023-24 stats: 17.2 PPG | 4.2 RPG | 2.6 APG

Green averaged a career-high 22.1 points last season and moves up a modest two slots from the previous ranking. Why not a bigger jump? Defense and Green's play last season in clutch-time games. Green shot 3-of-13 on 3-pointers in the clutch (last five minutes, score within five points). In addition, Green had eight assists to 10 turnovers and was a minus-55, tied for sixth worst in the NBA. With new coach Ime Udoka and an improved roster, expect his numbers in close games to improve. -- Marks

18. Josh Giddey | SG | Oklahoma City Thunder

Age: 21 years, 28 days
2023-24 stats: 13.5 PPG | 5.8 RPG | 4.3 APG

Giddey is a 6-foot-8 point forward, capable of starting full time at any position from point guard to power forward. He has established himself next to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander as one of the cornerstones of the up-and-coming Thunder, often as the floor general and one of the best rebounders on the court simultaneously. Giddey notched eight triple-doubles in his first two NBA seasons, and when he has it working he's a nightly threat to drop another. Giddey still needs to work on his shooting, both range and consistency, but that is the only weakness in what could otherwise be an All-Star-caliber game. -- Snellings

17. Jalen Williams | SF | Oklahoma City Thunder

Age: 22 years, 207 days
2023-24 stats: 16.3 PPG | 4.8 APG | 4.8 RPG

Williams finished second in Rookie of the Year voting in 2023, was named first-team All-Rookie and is part of an Oklahoma City Thunder roster that is the only team with three players on the 25-under-25 list. Last season, Williams averaged 18.6 points on 55/43/88 shooting splits after the All-Star break and had nine 20-point games in March. -- Marks

16. Franz Wagner | SF | Orlando Magic

Age: 22 years, 72 days
2023-24 stats: 19.8 PPG | 5.7 RPG | 3.2 APG

Wagner, who helped lead Germany to a gold medal in the FIBA World Cup this offseason, continues to show promising year-over-year development as a versatile, two-way combo forward, making him a perfect complement to last year's No. 1 overall pick, Paolo Banchero, in Orlando's frontcourt. The next step? Developing a consistent 3-point shot after league-average marks so far in his career. If that happens, All-Star appearances will be in the near future. -- Bontemps

15. Scottie Barnes | SF | Toronto Raptors

Age: 22 years, 98 days
2023-24 stats: 22.6 PPG | 9.9 RPG | 5.9 APG

After a step back from his Rookie of the Year campaign in 2021-22, Barnes is off to a strong start to his third season that could vault him up future lists. Handling the ball more after Fred VanVleet's offseason departure, Barnes scored 20-plus points in six of his first seven games, including his second career triple-double. Barnes has increased both his volume and accuracy as a 3-point shooter, addressing his single biggest weakness. -- Pelton

14. Paolo Banchero | PF | Orlando Magic

Age: 20 years, 360 days
2023-24 stats: 17.5 PPG | 6.2 RPG | 5.5 APG

Fresh off winning Rookie of the Year in 2023, Banchero joins the 25-under-25 list. The forward averaged 20.0 points last season, the most by a rookie since Luka Doncic in 2018-19. He and Franz Wagner are the third pair of teammates 21 or younger to average 18 points per game in the same season. In a recent win at Utah, Banchero recorded his seventh career 30-point game, second most by a player before turning 21 in Magic history, trailing Shaquille O'Neal (eight). -- Marks

13. Chet Holmgren | PF | Oklahoma City Thunder

Age: 21 years, 190 days
2023-24 stats: 17.2 PPG | 7.3 RPG | 2.3 BPG

Holmgren came into this season as a bit of a mystery after missing all of last season because of a foot injury. But he has immediately established himself as Oklahoma City's second star alongside Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, providing the Thunder a massive boost at both ends by playing center full time. His lack of bulk will be an issue at times, such as during an early-season matchup with Nikola Jokic, but even in that game, Holmgren's shooting and ballhandling gave Denver fits. Holmgren is now making more than two 3s and blocking more than two shots per game -- a clear sign of his versatility at both ends of the floor. -- Bontemps

12. Evan Mobley | PF | Cleveland Cavaliers

Age: 22 years, 142 days
2023-24 stats: 14.9 PPG | 11.6 RPG | 3.4 APG

In Year 2, Mobley began to realize his potential as a game-wrecking defender who can both protect the rim and switch on any opponent. After finishing third in Defensive Player of the Year voting, Mobley must add offensive skill in order to thrive alongside center Jarrett Allen. Mobley shot just 22% on 3s as a sophomore, though his scoring average still improved thanks to 60% accuracy inside the arc. -- Pelton

11. Tyrese Maxey | PG | Philadelphia 76ers

Age: 23 years, 3 days
2023-24 stats: 26.2 PPG | 6.6 APG | 47.1 3P%

With James Harden traded to the LA Clippers, Philadelphia has officially handed the keys to its offense to Maxey, who has already established himself as one of the most explosive young guards in the league. The question is whether Maxey can improve his playmaking to leap into All-Star consideration. His growth as a shooter has been remarkable -- he is shooting over 40% from deep for the third straight season on almost seven attempts per game. -- Bontemps

10. Jaren Jackson Jr. | PF | Memphis Grizzlies

Age: 24 years, 53 days
2023-24 stats: 21.6 PPG | 7.6 RPG | 2.3 BPG

Jackson has been the leading shot-blocker in the NBA for two consecutive seasons and is the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year. The next step in his evolution was to establish dominance on offense, and this season he is showing promising signs on that side of the court as well. Jackson has stepped up offensively with Ja Morant suspended, averaging almost 22 points with an inside-out game featuring a 70.4 field goal percentage inside 3 feet and a 37.8 3-point percentage on more than five attempts per game. -- Snellings

9. LaMelo Ball | PG | Charlotte Hornets

Age: 22 years, 77 days
2023-24 stats: 17.2 PPG | 9.3 APG | 5.2 RPG

Last year was a lost one for Ball, who played in only 36 games during a dismal season in Charlotte. But as he showed in a recent head-to-head duel with Luka Doncic in Dallas, when Ball had a 30-point triple-double, Ball has the ability to create offense as well as anyone in the league. He needs to improve as a finisher -- he has consistently shot below 60% at the rim -- and as a defender to move further up this list. -- Bontemps

8. Darius Garland | PG | Cleveland Cavaliers

Age: 23 years, 285 days
2023-24 stats: 17.7 PPG | 6.0 APG | 1.7 RPG

Sharing the backcourt with newcomer Donovan Mitchell, Garland demonstrated he could still play at an All-Star level in 2022-23, seeing no decline in his scoring average thanks to career-best 41% accuracy from 3-point range. Postseason success is the next step for Garland, who had 32 points and seven assists in Cleveland's first playoff victory since 2018 but shot just 44% overall in the Cavaliers' first-round loss to the New York Knicks. -- Pelton

7. Zion Williamson | PF | New Orleans Pelicans

Age: 23 years, 124 days
2023-24 stats: 22.2 PPG | 6.4 RPG | 3.8 APG

A lengthy injury history has kept Williamson out of the top five for a second consecutive ranking. In his first four seasons (including the 2021-22 season, which he did not play), Williamson played in 114 total games, playing fewer than 30 games in both his rookie and third seasons. When healthy, Williamson is an MVP candidate. Before injuring his right hamstring last January, Williamson was averaging 26 points, 7.0 rebounds, 4.6 assists on 60.8% shooting from the field. -- Marks

6. Cade Cunningham | PG | Detroit Pistons

Age: 22 years, 43 days
2023-24 stats: 23.1 PPG | 7.3 APG | 3.0 RPG

Cunningham was the No. 1 overall pick in a strong 2021 draft full of budding superstars, and he's playing like it after missing most of last season because of a stress fracture in his left leg. Cunningham is a do-everything guard in a small forward's body, and he takes advantage of the mismatches his size and skill create against opposing defenses. Cunningham still needs to work on limiting his turnovers, but he has improved his shooting range and accuracy from behind the arc and appears poised to vie for his first All-Star selection as soon as this season. -- Snellings

5. Ja Morant | PG | Memphis Grizzlies

Age: 24 years, 89 days
2023-24 stats: None (suspended)

Although Morant has continued to perform at an All-NBA level, off-court incidents affecting his availability caused him to drop two spots. After sitting out eight games because of a suspension in March, Morant was again suspended for the first 25 games of this season. If Morant can keep his focus on the court, development as a shooter is necessary to maximize his potential after hitting just 31% of his 3s in 2022-23. -- Pelton

4. Tyrese Haliburton | PG | Indiana Pacers

Age: 23 years, 251 days
2023-24 stats: 24.2 PPG | 12.4 APG | 4.0 RPG

Haliburton has developed into the best distributor in the NBA, currently leading the league in assists per game by more than two full assists over second place. Haliburton is on pace for his second consecutive 20-10 season, and is the engine behind a surprising Pacers offense that currently ranks sixth in the NBA in offensive rating. Already an All-Star, Haliburton appears poised to make his first All-NBA team this season and, if he continues at this level, will likely get some votes for MVP as well. -- Snellings

3. Victor Wembanyama | C | San Antonio Spurs

Age: 19 years, 307 days
2023-24 stats: 20.5 PPG | 8.2 RPG | 2.7 BPG

We are less than a month into the season and already running out of adjectives to describe the impact of Wembanyama. He became the first player to average 20 points and 2 blocks through five career games since Shaquille O'Neal in 1992. What has been the most impressive, however, is his play in the fourth quarter. In the first five games of the season, Wembanyama shot 15-for-19 in the fourth quarter and scored 21 clutch-time points. This is likely the last time Wembanyma will fall outside the top two, especially with Luka Doncic turning 25 in February. -- Marks

2. Anthony Edwards | PG | Minnesota Timberwolves

Age: 22 years, 94 days
2023-24 stats: 26.2 PPG | 6.2 RPG | 53.6 3P%

After being the face of Team USA in the FIBA World Cup this summer, signing a max contract extension and making steady statistical improvement across the board in his first three NBA seasons, Edwards will try to lead Minnesota out of the first round of the playoffs for just the second time in franchise history. The last thing left for Edwards to become an All-NBA guard? More consistent outside shooting. After hovering in the mid-30% range from behind the arc the past two years, that number has shot up dramatically in the early going this season. -- Bontemps

1. Luka Doncic | PG | Dallas Mavericks

Age: 24 years, 252 days
2023-24 stats: 32.0 PPG | 10.7 RPG | 9.3 APG

In his final appearance before turning 25 in February, Doncic tops the list for an unprecedented fourth consecutive year. (Anthony Davis, No. 1 three times, might have matched the feat had we not skipped 2016.) Already, we've seen Doncic lead Dallas to the conference finals. Although last season was a disappointment from a team standpoint -- the Mavericks faded down the stretch to finish outside the Western Conference play-in tournament -- Doncic still has the potential to win MVP as soon as this year, making him the safest bet for future success. -- Pelton

Also receiving votes: Devin Vassell, Jabari Smith Jr., Trey Murphy III, Nic Claxton, Wendell Carter Jr., RJ Barrett, Brandon Miller, Immanuel Quickley, Shaedon Sharpe.