New York Knicks have a sensation on their hands. Undrafted point guard Jeremy Lin was a standout at Stanford, where he earned a degree and played basketball for the Cardinals. Despite his all star performances throughout his college career, Lin went undrafted in the 2010 NBA Draft. He was signed by the Golden State Warriors and then the Houston Rockets. After being released earlier this season by Houston, New York claimed him off waivers when their point guards Mike Bibby, Baron Davis and Iman Shumpert went down with injuries. Since then he has played 7 games and New York has won all of them. The 23-year-old has become a phenomenon. Earning nicknames like “Lintastic” and causing “Linsanity”, he is representing a youth movement in the NBA.
The NBA is in a transition time. They are trying to recover from the strike and lock out that affected the beginning of the 2011-12 season. Out of necessity the season was shortened to a compacted schedule of 66 games. More than ever the NBA needs its stars to breathe some life into it. The NBA is different from other major North American sports because with its small rosters and the fact that the rules do not allow for the tackling and mugging that goes on in other sports, the best players can rise above the others and make the game over into their image and abilities.
There’s a changing of the guard going on in the NBA in that there is a youth movement afloat. I have created a list of the top NBA players under the age of 25. I ranked them in order based on skill, upside and importance to their teams. Here is my list of the top 10 NBA stars under the age of 25:
1) Derrick Rose: Team: Chicago Bulls. Age: 22. Position: Guard. Size: 6’2”, 190lbs. Rose took over from Lebron James last season as the reigning MVP and became the youngest player in NBA history to win the award. He was the first overall pick of the 2008 draft. In all honesty there is nothing he cannot do on the court. Rose possesses blazing speed, an explosive first step and an unparalleled raw athleticism. Couple those skills with the fact that he is a tenacious competitor and you have a great player. Rose has gotten steadily better each season. Pretty much singlehandedly he has brought the Bulls back into being relevant for the first time since the Michael Jordan days.
2) Kevin Durant: Team: Oklahoma City Thunder. Age: 23. Position: Forward. Size: 6’9”, 230 lbs. Has made a strong case to be considered the best player of any age in the NBA. Durant has won back-to-back NBA scoring titles at his tender age. A perfect marketing tool in that on the court he is a fierce competitor while off he has a choirboy reputation. Unstoppable due to the deadly combination of speed, skill and power, he was second only to Dwight Howard in free throws attempted last season. Making those who foul him pay he converted 88% of those free throws. With him in the line up the Thunder will be considered challengers for the NBA title for many years to come. Durant already brought his team to the Western Conference Finals last season before losing to Dallas in five games.
Rajon Rondo: Team: Boston Celtics. Age: 25. Position: Guard. Size: 6’1”, 186 lbs. Becoming one of the biggest stars on a Boston team filled with them. As the Celtic roster is an aging one they need all the youth they can get their hands on. Rondo provides them with leadership, resiliency and speed. He has great vision of the court and distributes the ball well. Has grown a lot under the tutelage of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.
Blake Griffin: Team: Los Angeles Clippers. Age: 22. Position: Forward. Size: 6’10”, 251 lbs. Griffin recorded one of the most dominant debut seasons, after an injury setback, ever. With him it is not just about numbers, it is how he gets them. Flying around the court grabbing rebounds and dunking thunderously he looks like a wrecking ball. He doesn’t seem to care who is in the way as he will get there come hell or high water. Beginning to demonstrate a more well-rounded game as flashes of a post game and a dangerous bank shot are being developed. Still very much a raw product. Singlehandedly he has made the Clippers must see television and he draws large crowds to whichever arena the Clippers travel to.
Stephen Curry: Team: Golden State Warriors. Age: 23. Position: Guard. Size: 6’3”. 185 lbs. He was selected 7th overall in 2009 by the Warriors. Finished second to Tyreke Evans for Rookie of the Year. Showing his adaptability and intelligence, Curry has begun to shift his game to what fits the needs of his team. Since the son of former NBAer Dell Curry’s arrival the Warriors’ backcourt it has become one of the highest scoring in the league. When he is locked in, Curry is one of the best pure shooters in the NBA.
Russell Westbrook: Team: Oklahoma City Thunder. Age: 23. Position: Guard. Size: 6’3”, 187 lbs. No matter whom the defender is this guy can take it to the bucket. One of the new breed of guards that can break through defences and possesses plenty of athletic power. Is a great athlete and an even better basketball player. Westbrook was drafted 4th overall in 2008. His offensive numbers went up a lot last season as he was ranked 14th overall in league scoring. Has provided some highlight reel dunks. His number one attribute might be his incredible speed. With all this he is not perfect in that he led the league in turnovers last year. Has some maturing to do as there are still too many selfish moments and they often lead to those mistakes.
John Wall: Team: Washington Wizards. Age: 21. Position: Guard. Size: 6’4”, 195 lbs. Might be the NBA player presently with one of the highest ceilings. Wall became a team leader last season. He is aggressive and has plenty of spunk. No one since Jason Kidd has been able to start the fast break like him. Has the ability to match any of his opponents in any facet of the game.
Kevin Love: Team: Minnesota Timberwolves. Age: 22. Position: Forward. Size: 6’10”, 260 lbs. Last season was one filled with double-doubles for Love. He won the Most Improved Player Award. The only weakness he has is his defence. He is a big offensive talent and has the ability to come up with huge boards. Was the first player to finish a season averaging 20 points and 15 rebounds a game since Moses Malone in 1983. Also had the first 30-30 game since 1996. At 53 games he had the longest double-double streak since the NBA-ABA merger.
Demar Derozan: Team: Toronto Raptors. Age: 22. Position: Guard. Size: 6’7”, 220 lbs. Drafted 9th overall in the 2009 draft. Originally he was mainly known for his ability to dunk. The former USC Trojan is a hard worker and has become a leader in Toronto. The fact that he has become the leader of the team at such a young age speaks volumes about his maturity level. He is already arguably the best player on his team. The Raptors have a lot to look forward to. Doesn’t get all the credit he deserves as he plays for a weak team.
Tyreke Evans: Team: Sacramento Kings. Age: 22. Position: Guard. Size: 6’6”, 220 lbs. Unfortunately was hit by an injury last season. The sky is the limit with this former Rookie of the Year. The center core of a young and getting better team. In 2009 he averaged 20 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds per game. The only other rookies with those types of numbers are Michael Jordan, Lebron James and Oscar Robertson.