Allen Moll is an avid NBA and College Basketball fan who watches and studies games religiously and coaches youth basketball in his native Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania. Allen is a regular columnist for TheHoopDoctors.com, Bleacherreport.com, Fanhuddle.com as a NY Knicks correspondent, hoopsworld4.wordpress.com, and Helium.com.
The NBA is becoming a young man’s game. Even though the NBA changed the age eligibility rules a few years ago, many of the game’s best players are coming to the professional ranks after only a year or two of NCAA or European experience. I have compiled a list of the most talented players and future stars in the league under age 23. Why twenty three? Most of the NBA’s current crop of superstars like Lebron, Kobe, and Wade are in the mid 20’s to early 30’s. We all remember back in the 80’s when Magic and Bird passed the torch on to MJ. This is the list of players that our current stars will, or already have started to pass that torch onto, within the next 5 years. Players who haven’t yet played an NBA game(like this years draft class) were not included. If you think that I missed someone or have an opinion, please leave a comment.
10) Anthony Randolph, Golden State Warriors – Age 20
If the NBA Summer League means anything, the Warriors will witness Randolph’s future potential sooner than they anticipated. He dominated this Summer averaging more than 26 points while shooting over 60% from the field. With only one NBA season under his belt after being drafted #14 out of LSU in ’08, Randolph has been impressive averaging 8 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks while playing only 18 minutes a game. He should be one of Golden State’s go to scorers this season as long as Coach Don Nelson gives him the minutes.
9) Thaddeus Young, Philadelphia 76ers – 21
Many fans in Philadelphia were disappointed when the 76ers drafted a freshman from Georgia Tech and former Mcdonald’s All-American, as their first round draft pick in the ’07 NBA Draft, passing over players like Glenn”Big Baby”Davis and Ramon Sessions who could have helped immediately. Young quickly became a fan favorite by improving his scoring average his first two seasons from 8 points to 15.3 along with 5 rebounds in ’09 and quickly becoming Philadelphia’s second scoring option after “The Other A.I”, Andre Iguodala. A healthy Elton Brand back at power forward and Iggy playing mostly shooting guard should give Young more time at his natural small forward position. Young could challenge for an Eastern Conference All-Star spot in only his 3rd season.
8 ) Andrew Bynum, LA Lakers – 21
Bynum became the youngest player to ever play in an NBA game at age 18 after the Lakers selected him #10 overall in the ’05 draft straight from High School. Despite a dislocated kneecap in ’08 and a torn MCL in ’09 he has increased his production in each of his 4 seasons finishing last season averaging 14.3 points, 8 rebounds, 1.8 blocks in only 28 minutes per game. He has all the tools to be a dominating big man for the next decade, if he can avoid injuries. The Lakers agree since they have him locked up until after the 2012 season. If healthy, he could be the starting center for the Western Conference in next season’s All-Star Game.
7) Rudy Gay, Memphis Grizzlies – 22
The Memphis Grizzlies got the better of the trade that sent Stromile Swift and Shane Battier to the Rockets for the promising #8 draft pick in 2005 from UCONN. Known for playing above the rim, he is a regular participant in the Slam Dunk Competition at All-Star weekend. In the next year or two he should be playing in the actual All-Star Game on Sunday. At 6’8 and 230 lbs, he is a prototypical small forward. He has averaged double figures in scoring in each of his three seasons in Memphis topping out at 20.1 in ’08. He has even impressed the coaching staff at the recent USA Basketball team trials by being one of their leading scorers. He should be a future 20+ point and 6+ rebound All-Star for the foreseeable future.
6) OJ Mayo, Memphis Grizzlies – 21
The Grizzlies acquired swingman OJ Mayo from USC, in a draft day trade with Minnesota who selected the former Mcdonald’s HS All American #3 in the ’08 draft. The former high school star regularly graced the cover of Sports Illustrated and would have gone straight to the pros if not for the NBA rule change on age limits. After leaving USC amid recruiting violations and playing for the ’08 US Select Team, Mayo has impressed in the NBA by averaging 18.5 points and finishing runner up to Derrick Rose for Rookie of the Year in just his first season. Time may prove that Mayo may be better suited to play point guard in the pros. The pairing of Gay and Mayo gives Memphis two top 20 talents in the league to build for the future.
Be sure to tune back in for the Top 5 coming to The Hoop Doctors shortly….