The Playgrounder’s Top 25 Under 25

(Image by Tomek Kordylewski)

By Matt Esposito and Zach Wilson

You know you’re a media genius when you schedule a “Top 25 Players Under 25” content drop during the most anticipated basketball resumption ever. It’s only a matter of time until Zach and I become moguls. After all, why discuss our current basketball frenzy when you can discuss something entirely different?

Alas, here we stand, in full glory and ready to be humiliated. How did we rank our guys? I had the first pick. Zach then chose what he believed to be the second best player on his Under 25 big board. We switched back and forth after that. Stick around to read us roast each other. More importantly. click HERE to listen to Zach, myself and Bleacher Report’s Dan Favale draft our own Under 25 teams!

Rankings

1. Luka Doncic

Matt’s rationale – The flair, the shot-creation, the next level passing. What isn’t to like? And Zach, if you disagree with me, I’m going to steal your phone and text to an ex, “Hey, so…I just had a dream about you,” and watch you live with the consequences.

Zach’s response – I agree with this 100%, and that’s not because I got dumped less than a month ago…

2. Jayson Tatum

Zach’s rationale – The beard connected and the hair got chopped. He also has fantastic shot creation ability and is playing near an All-Defense level. Long hair Tatum would definitely drop out of the top 20 though.

Matt’s response – One time in 5th grade my Dad brought me to a lazy-eyed barber to get the Macaulay Culkin look from Richie Rich. My mom made us turn around immediately and get it shaved. I never felt so powerless. I’m basically Tatum, is what I’m saying.

3. Zion Williamson

Matt’s rationale – Dude’s nickname is Zanos. There has literally never been a basketball player with his athletic profile. What’re the odds that Zion is one of those freaks who forces the NBA to make a rule change?

Zach’s response – If we were ranking prospects, Zion would definitely be second or third, but for a guy who struggles to play more than 15 minutes per game, it’s difficult to place him as the third best player in this loaded group.

4. Nikola Jokic

Zach’s rationale – I would’ve put Jokic second, if it were completely up to me. Between his passing, shooting, post-game, and rebounding, he is definitely a top-ten player in the league. Matt said he would take KAT over him, but I guess Matt’s used to not making the playoffs.

Matt’s response – Zach’s extra sassy today. I’d take KAT over Jokic depending on what the rest of my roster looks like. Also, FWIW, I’m not sold on Jokic being able to be the best player on a championship team.

5. KAT

Matt’s rationale – I could have spelled his name out but for the sake of brevity, right? KAT is literally the most efficient big in modern history and no big deal but I have two degrees in History so…Now watch Zach make up for his KAT slander in 3…2…1…

Zach’s response – I’ve always said that he’s the most versatile offensive big in NBA history. Not the best, but most versatile; dog can play.

6. Ben Simmons

Zach’s rationale – Spoiler alert: He wasn’t taken by any of the three teams in the podcast draft, and I’m honestly not quite sure why. He has elite skills in every way, except for his jumper. It sometimes seems like my mom could out-shoot him.

Matt’s response – I like dudes who can hit jump shots. Turns out, NBA History tends to agree with me. Simmons is an awesome player but at some point his lack of shooting is going to make or break his career.

7. Devin Booker

Matt’s rationale – I’m already tired of typing “rationale.” I’m not tired of stanning DB, though. Did you know that Booker jumped from the 46th to the 87th percentile for assist to usage ratio this year?

Zach’s response – He may be the best player in the league to never make the playoffs… I don’t think I’m missing anyone, right?

8. Donovan Mitchell

Zach’s rationale – He is most definitely in his rightful place, right behind Book. However, go compare his 2019-2020 stats to Collin Sexton’s… That’s all I’m going to say.

Matt’s response – We had a better of chance seeing the name “Keyon Dooling” in this blog than “Collin Sexton” but alas, here we are. Very 2020 of you, Zach.

9. Brandon Ingram

Matt’s rationale – I was always decent at backing into a parking spot but never great at it. Then one day it just clicked. I feel like this is what happened to BI’s shooting mechanics? Zach, did my analogy land with you or no?

Zach’s response – If you improved in the same way BI did, then you would win the Most Improved Driver Award, and sometimes I feel like you have trouble walking.

10. Ja Morant

Zach’s rationale – Is he the most exciting player to watch in the league? He has to be one of them! Hopefully he learns to land on two feet, because I feel like watching him is taking years off my life.

Matt’s response – Ja Morant can’t land properly and apparently I can’t walk properly. I feel like I’m somehow losing this and I’m not even sure it’s a competition…

11. Jaylen Brown

Matt’s rationale – A blossoming 3-level scorer who plays defense and took grad classes at Cal as a freshman…need I say more or should I just show you his Christmas Day highlights?

Zach’s salty response – I’m good on the highlights, Christmas 2019 was already ruined for me once. People need to stop acting like he’s multiple levels below Tatum, he’s only one floor down.

12. Trae “Forever” Young

Zach’s rationale – One of the best offensive guards, but probably the worst defensively. I could argue he should be well below 12, but I’ll sip my tea on that one.

Matt’s response – Not even gonna say anything about the nickname I just inserted for Trae? Boy, byeeeee.

13. SGA

Matt’s rationale – My guy had a 20/20/10 game this year. Shai is learning from one of the GOATs and will get even better. Quick question: Can you be one of the GOATs? Doesn’t GOAT imply there is only one?

Zach’s response – Not quite sure how your brain functions, and quite honestly, I don’t think it does sometimes. SGA is my second favorite player in the league, and by next year will be within the top seven on this list. Mark my words!

14. Bam Adebayo

Zach’s rationale – Hot take: He’s been the best player on the Miami Heat this season. End of discussion

Matt’s response – You can’t say “Hot take” when discussing the Heat and refuse to address the pun. Lazy and quite frankly, immature of you.

15. De’Aaron Fox

Matt’s rationale – Fox is the most appropriate name for this dude. Quickest player in the league DO NOT try and disagree with me.

Zach’s response – Easily the fastest, and has top-five point guard in the league capability. I really wish their front office was competent, because Fox and Luka could be on the same team right now.

16. Domantas Sabonis

Zach’s rationale – He really should be higher. Received a well-deserving all star selection this year. His game is effective, but boring. Kind of like the Pacers as a whole without Victor Oladipo.

Matt’s response – Hotter take: Sabonis could be a better passer than Bam. Pun adressed.

17. Kristaps Porzingis

Matt’s rationale – KP just turned 25 and technically this was his age 24 season, so it counts. Are there any other bigs you would want to be teaming up as Luka’s sidekick?

Zach’s response – Yes, all the ones above him on this list.

18. Jonathan Isaac

Zach’s rationale – I almost shed a tear to the recent news of his torn ACL. Defensive Player of the Year capability, and a fluid offensive game. I’m praying he finds a way out of Orlando.

Matt’s response – There were too many Twitter losers saying, “Karma moves quick” after Isaac went down. Be respectful and move out of your Mom’s basement, she needs the storage space for her aerobics videos, meanies.

19. Jaren Jackson Jr

Matt’s rationale – Has JJJ reached the defensive heights we once projected him to get to? No. Will he? Yes. I’m excited for the JJJ vs. Deandre Ayton debate that’ll play out for the next decade. Hoping he comes back strong from injury.

Zach’s response – I may like the young core of the Grizzlies more than the Pelicans, and JJJ plays a big role in that.

20. Deandre Ayton

Zach’s rationale – The Suns have finally done something right! Well… They could’ve paired Booker up with Luka, but who’s keeping track.

Matt’s response -Ayton made some serious strides. I also made some strides in implementing the Twitter feature into WordPress.

21. OG Anunoby

Matt’s rationale – The best on ball defender in the NBA please tweet this and do it now.

Zach’s response – Why don’t we take it one step further? Best defender in the NBA! But once again, I’ll go back to sipping my tea.

22. Jamal Murray

Zach’s rationale – Shooting arrows all over the place. He’s the point guard for one of the best young cores in the league, and fits really nicely next to Jokic and MPJ.

Matt’s response – Hold up, you really like tea, don’t you? Like, in real life? And oh yeah, this Murray kid is good but the fluff piece by Jackie Mac came suspiciously too soon.

23. John Collins

Matt’s rationale – An almost perfect fit next to Trae Young offensively. Collins has progressed mightily as a floor spacer and still is a lob threat. I’m happy his potential “John the Baptist” nickname is dead and buried.

Zach’s response – It’ll be interesting to see his fit next to Capela. I’m a little skeptical on this one.

24. D’Angelo Russell

Zach’s rationale – Another guy who should probably be higher on this list, but isn’t because of his down year. Luckily he stopped recording his conversations with his friends, now the Wolves just need him to play defense.

Matt’s response – 3:1 odds that Russell never makes an All-Star game ever again.

25. Lonzo Ball

Matt’s rationale – Will I use this space to plug that The Playgrounder is going to be dropping a Zion/Lonzo related piece? Maybe yes, maybe no. I will, however, mention that New Orleans has three players on this list…

Zach’s response – His own brother will be higher on this list next year.

BONUS! Check out the draft podcast with Bleacher Report’s Dan Favale

Published by Zach Wilson

A writer who is passionate about sports. @zachwilson50 on both twitter and instagram.

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