May 3, 2022, 8:55 pm
The future of the NBA is clearly in great hands, with the old guard of superstars battling an energetic bunch of young talent who have confidence that can be felt while watching them on a TV screen at home. Whether you were keeping up with the high-flying Ja Morant leading the Grizzlies to a No. 2 seed out west, watching Tyrese Haliburton begin to unlock his full potential with a new Pacers squad, or even arriving to Herb Jones’s lockdown defense party — there are absolute difference makers across the board in a pool of players under 25 years of age.
Why take a look at specifically the best young talents heading into next season? The answer lies in the famed word of “potential” and in how likely these young players are to break out for even more awesome production. This list was compiled after the conclusion of the 2021-22 regular season, and this under-25 (U25) ranking will only be evaluating these players based on standard re-draft, 9-category formats for the upcoming 2022-23 season. This means, the list will not be diving into any dynasty implications and will not be based necessarily on how the player will help his actual team’s success.
For example, Desmond Bane was ranked in the top-35 in per-game value and top-20 in totals. However, I think it is fair to say that his contributions can be deemed less valuable by a significant margin compared to Luka Doncic, who was actually outside of the top-30 in total value. While Bane will likely continue to be a solid shooting guard out in Memphis, his one top-35 season at nearly his ceiling as a player should not outweigh the potential output of some other potential assets who have barely even come to know what their ceiling may be.
Moreover, keep in mind that here we are trying to navigate looming offseason transactions and the inevitable injuries that may derail a breakout star. This article a year ago would have likely put Zion Williamson as one of the leading candidates to continue being a 21-year-old All-Star fantasy stud that had the type of season to shut down a lot of his known injury risk. On the same note, the potential game is a slippery one to try and keep up with as No. 2 pick Jalen Green was nearly outside the top-200 in 9-cat formats per game, thanks to his one-sided play style.
Many of these players have their 25th birthday coming up this summer, but this list is based on players who have not turned 25 as of May 1st, 2022. These are our top-25 U25 NBA players for 9-cat next season.
With that out of the way, we’ll begin with a few honorable mentions worth bringing up. The rest of our Top-25 list, like the rest of our top analysis, will be available to FantasyPass members.
Honorable Mention: Tyler Herro, 22, G, Heat
Season Rankings: Total #86, Per Game #94
Herro took home the Sixth Man of the Year trophy this season, despite playing over 32 minutes each game and having 10 fill-in starts. However, Boy Wonder from Kentucky broke out to average 20-5-4 and has been playing more backup point guard than he ever had before. His P&R improvements to score and dish, solid downtown contributions, and favorable free-throw numbers are all working for Herro to step further into solid consistent fantasy production. Efficiency holds Herro back, with a field-goal clip of 44.7% and 2.6 turnovers while only collecting a combined 0.8 defensive stats. If he develops on defense or begins to take care of the ball better with improved shot selection, then there may be top-70 value with Herro as the veteran Kyle Lowry is not getting any younger.
Honorable Mention: Franz Wagner, 20, F, Magic
Season Rankings: Total #61, Per Game #104
The No. 8 pick in the 2021 Draft turned heads with his surprising play as a starter all season for the Magic. The 6’9” German forward put up 15.2 points and 4.5 rebounds with 1.3 defensive stats each night. One huge part of Wagner’s value is his durability, helping him with his totals ranking this season. If he can raise his scoring towards 18 points per game and collect a few more rebounds, then it is really his facilitating skills that will be left for him to improve in an effort to rise into top-60 production for a season.
Honorable Mention: John Collins, 24, F/C, Hawks
Season Rankings: Total #92, Per Game #54
After a torrid start that had him in the top-25 for 9-cat during the first month of the season, he slowed down as he averaged 16.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. This offseason will be huge for Collins as Clint Capela and Onyeka Okongwu stand in the way of returning to 20 & 10 averages for an entire season. While he can fill up a highlight reel with ease, his lack of playmaking or true rim-protecting ability caps his 9-cat value to that of more of a big man specialist.
Honorable Mention: Gary Trent Jr., 23, G/F, Raptors
Season Rankings: Total #35, Per Game #46
Trent was a very underrated player coming into fantasy drafts this season, but he held an incredible steal rate to begin the season that was league-leading for quite some time. However, he still maintained some great value, despite a slight steals decrease, thanks to his shooting prowess and ability to play in 70 games for the injury-riddled Raptors. Hitting 3.0 triples per game with 1.7 steals provides for a fantastic, low-key fantasy asset that may not necessarily be a household name. There may be some regression from his ball-hawking ability, but if he can keep that up then there is some real value for Trent as an underrated shooting guard in this league.
Honorable Mention: Jordan Poole, 22, G, Warriors
Season Rankings: Total #34, Per Game #59
The reason Poole is not already solidified in the U25 Top 25 is that he gained a lot this season from Klay Thompson’s initial absence and Stephen Curry’s late-season injury troubles. However, his first-round outbreak against the Nuggets with both Thompson and Curry healthy is something that is helping his fantasy stock ahead of next season. Throughout the season Poole went from a must-roster 9-cat player who can go off from outside at certain times, to a droppable player in some 12-team leagues when he slowed down coming off the bench. He will surely stabilize into a set role when the Warriors’ injuries slow down, but the intrigue he provides on the offensive side cannot be doubted.