Commentary

Writer roundtable: Who are the best players 23 and under?

Writer roundtable: Who are the best players 23 and under?

Originally Published: April 1, 2008
By   | ESPN.com

We asked our writers a simple question: Which 23-or-under player would you want as the foundation of your team?

Why 23? Ask MJ -- that was the age at which Michael Jordan scored 63 versus the Celtics in the playoffs and made the leap from star to Air.

THE VOTING BREAKDOWN
Click below to see our writers' ballots and comments:

• Henry Abbott's top five picks
• J.A. Adande's top five picks
• Jon Barry's top five picks
• Maurice Brooks' top five picks
• Chris Broussard's top five picks
• Ric Bucher's top five picks
• John Hollinger's top five picks
• Chad Ford's top five picks
• Chris Palmer's top five picks
• Jalen Rose's top five picks
• Chris Sheridan's top five picks
• Marc Stein's top five picks
• David Thorpe's top five picks

Ask LBJ -- the new No. 23 recently celebrated birthday No. 23.

Or Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, who turn 23 later this year.

It's no surprise who is the King of our survey, and LeBron James alone would be enough reason for the league to smile about its future. But then you add Paul, who appears to be pulling ahead of LeBron in this season's MVP race, and Howard, who ranks ahead of Paul in our voting, and suddenly you have the kind of building blocks the league hasn't seen in several generations.

But even beyond that, the great news for the NBA is that the list of potential franchise players age 23 or younger has about 23 (or so) legitimate names -- from All-Stars (LeBron, Dwight, CP3, B-Roy, Melo) to high-upside guys (Deron Williams, Monta Ellis, Al Jefferson, Rudy Gay, Josh Smith, LaMarcus Aldridge, Andrew Bynum) to hot rookies (Kevin Durant, Al Horford, Thaddeus Young) to possible competitors for next year's rookie of the year award (Michael Beasley, Derrick Rose, Greg Oden).

With that much talent in the mix, we asked our writers to pick a wild card, too: Who else has the greatest upside?

So, here they are, the 10 best players 23-and-under to build a dream on:

Top 10
Rank Player 2007-08 Stats Comment
 
LeBron James
Cleveland Cavaliers
Small Forward
Age: 23
Points per game: 30.4
Rebounds per game: 8.1
Assists per game: 7.3
Steals per game: 1.82
The unanimous first choice, LBJ is on track to put up perhaps the greatest stats in NBA history.
 
Dwight Howard
Orlando Magic
Center
Age: 22
Points per game: 21.2
Rebounds per game: 14.4
Blocks per game: 2.3
Field goal pct.: 59.7
The best young big in the game, Superman still has room to soar.
 
Chris Paul
New Orleans Hornets
Point Guard
Age: 22
Points per game: 21.5
Assists per game: 11.4
Rebounds per game: 3.9
Steals per game: 2.7
Arguably the best point guard in the game already, CP3 is a legit MVP candidate this season.
 
Deron Williams
Utah Jazz
Point Guard
Age: 23
Points per game: 19.3
Assists per game: 10.5
Rebounds per game: 3.0
Field goal pct.: 51.2
The D-Will/CP3 debate will go on for years. One thing's for sure: The point guard position is in good hands.
 
Carmelo Anthony
Denver Nuggets
Small Forward
Age: 23
Points per game: 25.5
Rebounds per game: 7.4
Assists per game: 3.5
Field goal pct.: 48.2
One of the league's best scorers, Melo is becoming more well-rounded as a rebounder and passer, too.
 
Kevin Durant
Seattle SuperSonics
Shooting Guard
Age: 19
Points per game: 19.9
Rebounds per game: 4.1
Assists per game: 2.2
Free-throw pct.: 87.6
Knock him all you want, but KD's putting up 20 ppg as a rookie while playing out of position.
 
Greg Oden
Portland Trail Blazers
Center
Age: 20
Injured all season Microfracture surgery is scary, but Oden's combination of size and athleticism is still scarier.
 
Andrew Bynum
Los Angeles Lakers
Center
Age: 20
Points per game: 13.1
Rebounds per game: 10.2
Blocks per game: 2.1
Field goal pct.: 63.6
Bynum has the size, length and post skills to make him dominant in the paint for years.
 
Brandon Roy
Portland Trail Blazers
Shooting Guard
Age: 23
Points per game: 19.3
Assists per game: 5.8
Rebounds per game: 4.9
Steals per game: 1.07
He has the leadership abilities and an already-impressive resume -- '07 ROY and '08 All-Star.
 
Monta Ellis
Golden State Warriors
Shooting Guard
Age: 22
Points per game: 19.9
Rebounds per game: 4.8
Assists per game: 3.8
Field goal pct.: 53.0
As far as scoring 2-guards go, not many come faster or more fearless.

Click on the names below to see our writers' ballots and comments:
Henry Abbott | J.A. Adande | Jon Barry | Maurice Brooks | Chris Broussard | John Hollinger
Ric Bucher | Chad Ford | Chris Palmer | Jalen Rose | Chris Sheridan | Marc Stein | David Thorpe

The Tally:
LeBron James: 65 points (13 first-place votes)
Dwight Howard: 48 points (9 second-place votes, 4 third-place votes)
Chris Paul: 40 points (4 second-place votes, 7 third-place, 1 fourth-place, 1 fifth-place)
Deron Williams: 10 points (1 third-place vote, 3 fourth-place, 1 fifth-place, plus 1 WC vote)
Carmelo Anthony: 10 points (1 third-place vote, 3 fourth place, 1 fifth place)
Kevin Durant: 8 points (3 fourth-place votes, 2 fifth-place votes, plus 3 WC votes)
Greg Oden: 3 points (3 fifth-place votes, plus 2 WC votes)
Andrew Bynum: 3 points (1 fourth-place vote, 1 fifth-place, plus 1 WC vote)
Brandon Roy: 3 points (1 fourth-place vote, 1 fifth-place vote)
Monta Ellis: 2 points (2 fifth-place votes)
Michael Beasley: 2 points (1 fourth-place vote)
Luol Deng: 1 point (1 fifth-place vote)

Others receiving wild-card votes: Thaddeus Young (2), Joakim Noah (1), Rajon Rondo (1), Derrick Rose (1), Josh Smith (1)