NBA Futures: Ranking NBA Teams by Their Young Talent

By Ryan Finklestein - April 16, 2019

All professional sports teams are always searching for young talent, as they are the only thing that can promise a bright future for the organization.

NBA teams that are constantly in contention have a much more difficult time to cultivate young players, which makes it even harder to have a sustained run of success.

So, this is not a power ranking of teams and their current chances to win in the 2018-19 season but instead we are ranking the young cores that each team features.

Without any further ado, here’s our list of the most promising young NBA cores, ranked from last to first.  

30. Golden State Warriors

You do not really need to collect young talent when you feature a roster that includes five all-stars. The Golden State Warriors have to get creative to keep adding youth to their roster but as long as they keep their core together, the Warriors future is very bright.  

29. Houston Rockets

Similar to the Warriors, the Rockets are a win-now team led by 29-year-old James Harden and 33-year-old Chris Paul. Clint Capela is a nice young piece that just signed a contract extension at just 24 years old, but overall the Rockets are a veteran team.  

28. Oklahoma City Thunder

Dennis Schroeder and Steven Adams are both 25 years old and are solid NBA players, but neither has a ceiling much higher then being quality NBA starters. The team is led by Paul George and Russell Westbrook, who are each closer to the tail end of their prime then the start of it.  

27. Detroit Pistons

Andre Drummond is just 25 years old and has already proven to be an all-star performer at the center position. The Pistons also have a pair of 22-year-old players in Stanley Johnson and Luke Kennard who have shown promise, but likely do not have very high ceilings.  

26. Memphis Grizzlies

The Memphis Grizzlies really only have one young prospect worth mentioning and that is Jaren Jackson Jr. Jackson is just 19 years old and is already averaging 13.9 points and 4.5 rebounds on a Grizzlies team that is sitting four games over .500.  

25. Portland Trailblazers

Jusuf Nurkic is the Trailblazers only solid contributor that is under the age of 25. Nurkic is averaging 15 points and 10 rebounds this season and is a solid big to build around. Portland is led by an excellent back court of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum but the duo is closer to 30 years old then 20.  

24. Washington Wizards

John Wall is no longer considered a young player but his backcourt partner Bradley Beal is, as the all-star shooting guard is just 25 years old. Beal is averaging nearly 22 points a game and has proven that he can carry a team for long stretches. The Wizards also have two double-digit scorers in Kelly Oubre Jr. and Otto Porter that are 25 years old or younger.  

23. San Antonio Spurs

This year’s San Antonio Spurs team does not feature much youth, but as one of the best developmental teams in the NBA, the Spurs always find gems. This year they have unearthed guard Bryn Forbes, who is averaging 12 points per game. Last year, 22-year-old point guard Dejounte Murray showed a lot of promise, although he will miss this season with a torn ACL. The Spurs also have this years first round pick Lonnie Walker IV as another exciting prospect that is just a teenager.  

22. Cleveland Cavaliers

Colin Sexton is really the lone prospect to talk about on the Cavaliers roster, as the rookie point guard as flashed potential that indicates he can be a real building block moving forward. Cedi Osman is another player to watch, as he is coming into his own in his second season but his ceiling is not much higher then being a quality NBA starter.  

21. Toronto Raptors

The Toronto Raptors own an NBA-best 20-4 record in large part due to the play of new superstar Kawhi Leonard and incumbent star Kyle Lowry. Still, the Raptors have fostered an impressive young core, which includes this years breakout player Pascal Siakam. Siakam is just 24 years old and is averaging 14.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. The Raptors also have rotation pieces of Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby that are both under 25 and are combining to average nearly 20 points off the bench.  

20. Los Angeles Clippers

This year’s first round pick Shai Gilgeous-Alexander gives the L.A. Clippers a young player to build around, as the rookie guard is just 20 years old. Montrezl Harrell is another prospect that Clippers have on their roster as the fourth-year big man is in the midst of a breakout campaign in which he is averaging 16 points and 7 rebounds per game.  

19. New Orleans Pelicans

The New Orleans Pelicans have one of the best and accomplished young players in the NBA in their superstar Anthony Davis. The issue is that Davis may not be part of the Pelicans long-term as trade rumors have begun to emerge as he nears free agency. Julius Randle was a great offseason acquisition, as he is averaging 17 points per game in his first season in New Orleans and is just 24 years old. If the Pelicans can keep Davis long-term, their future is bright and puts them much higher on this list. Since we do not know if he will stay, the Pelicans are stuck somewhere in the middle.  


17. Brooklyn Nets

Caris LeVert was well on his way to becoming the Nets franchise player and maybe even winning the Most Improved Player Award before a scary injury put him on the shelf. The injury looked career-threatening when it happened, so the fact that LeVert could potentially return this year is great news for the Nets. D’Angelo Russell is another young player that the Nets have on their roster that could one day be an all-star. Along with LeVert and Russell, the Nets have two other solid young players in center Jarrett Allen and guard Spencer Dinwiddie.  

16. Miami Heat

The Miami Heat’s roster is overpaid and generally filled with veterans, which leaves them far from real championship contention. If there is one thing that can bail the Heat out of this difficult situation, it is their development system which has produced countless diamonds in the rough in recent years. Currently we are seeing former second round pick Josh Richardson, 25, become somewhat of a star player as the Heat’s featured scorer. Richardson is leading the team in scoring with 20 points per game and is a great defensive player as well. Bam Adebayo is a wildly athletic player on the Heat’s roster that looks to be the perfect modern day center and he is just 21 years old. Miami also has former lottery pick Justise Winslow, who is a stout defender and has room to grow at just 22 years old.  

15. Utah Jazz

While the Utah Jazz   do not necessarily have a young core that is the envy of the league, they have the young superstar that every team is dying to find. Donovan Mitchell is only 22 years old and is already showing he has the chops for being the go-to scoring option on a good team. Mitchell can lead the Jazz to a championship one day, he just needs a little help. The problem is that outside of Rudy Goebert, there is not a whole lot of young help on the current roster.  

14. Orlando Magic

Aaron Gordon is starting to prove that he can be an all-star in the NBA and is clearly the Magic’s franchise player at this point. Along with Gordon, the Magic have two raw prospects that likely have bright futures in the league. Jonathan Isaac is in his second season and looks like he could became a solid starter down the road. The one player that the Magic are really counting on his Mo Bamba. Bamba is a monster-sized center with a wingspan that spans nearly eight feet. Bamba needs to grow into his body more, but is already showing that he has star potential to be a factor on both ends of the floor.  

13. New York Knicks

The New York Knicks future is tied up in one player, Kristaps Porzingis. Porzingis has flashed MVP-potential but is currently rehabbing from a knee injury. The Knicks drafted another potential star this year when they selected the youngest player in the draft Kevin Knox. The Knicks only have one player on their roster that is over 26 years old, so they are trying to unlock as much young talent as they can.  

12. Sacramento Kings

De’Aaron Fox, 21, is clearly the point guard of the future for the Sacramento Kings and is averaging 17.3 points and 7.5 assists per game this year. The Kings also have promising prospects in Buddy Hield,Willy Cauley-Stein and Marvin Bagley III, all of which are 25 or under.  

11. Los Angeles Lakers

Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart are all promising young players on the Lakers roster but who knows how many will stay in L.A. Now that the Lakers have LeBron James, no player is safe from being traded as James will need a few more star players to be able to compete with the likes of the Golden State Warriors.  

10. Indiana Pacers

Victor Oladipo has proven to be a bona fide star ever since coming to the Indiana Pacers last year. The Pacers also have two talented 22-year old bigs in Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner that can be built around. Finally the Pacers have a raw prospect in guard Aaron Holiday, who has a very high ceiling.  

9. Atlanta Hawks

Trae Young may not be the next Steph Curry but he can sure shoot the basketball and led an offense with assists. The Hawks have three players in Young, Taurean Waller-Price and John Collins that are under 25 and averaging 15 points per game this year.  

8. Chicago Bulls

The Chicago Bulls have a great collection of young talent, with Zach LaVine being the team’s leading scorer at just 23 years old. Jabari Parker has dealt with plenty of injuries in his career but is still just 23 years old. The Bulls also have Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter, Kris Dunn and Bobby Portis all of which are contributing rotation players under 25 years old.  

7. Dallas Mavericks

Luka Doncic is looking like the best player in a talented 2018 NBA Draft and may just be the heir apparent to Dirk Nowitzki. Doncic is averaging 18.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game and looks like an all-around excellent player. The Mavericks also have high-flying scorer Dennis Smith Jr. to pair with Doncic in the backcourt. Dallas also drafted Jalen Brunson, who won two National Championship in college and could become an excellent backup point guard for years to come.  

6.Minnesota Timberwolves

While there has been some questions regarding the Timberwolves young star players and their hustle, you cannot deny their talent as some of the best young players in the league. Karl-Anthony Towns is the perfect modern day center offensively and if he just committed himself more on the defensive end he can be a great player. Andrew Wiggins is a gifted scorer as well and is just 23 years old. The Timberwolves just traded Jimmy Butler and part of the return was Dario Saric. Saric has shown to be a quality NBA starter in his career and is also under 25 years old.

5. Milwaukee Bucks

The Milwaukee Bucks have the best young player in the NBA in Giannis Antetokounmpo and he alone promises a bright future for the Bucks. Khris Middleton and Malcom Brogden are both relatively young and can be counted on to be quality starters in the NBA for the foreseeable future.  

4. Denver Nuggets

Nikola Jokic is the Denver Nuggets most-talked about star, as the big man is a threat to record a triple-double every night, but the Nuggets also feature a promising young backcourt. Gary Harris, 24, and Jamal Murray, 21, are both averaging 17 points a game this year. The X-factor for the Nuggets is this year’s first round draft pick Michael Porter Jr. When Porter was coming out of high school, he was getting Kevin Durant comparisons for his talents as a scorer. Porter is recovering from a back injury, which forced him to fall to the Nuggets in the draft, but if he can reach his potential the Nuggets will have the best young talent in the NBA.  

3. Phoenix Suns

The Phoenix Suns have been tanking for awhile now and they are starting to develop some really nice players. Devin Booker is already a star, having once scored 70 points in a single game, and they just added first overall pick DeAndre Ayton. Ayton is averaging a double-double as a rookie and looks like a future all-star. Throw in Mikal Bridgers, Josh Jackson and Ellie Okobo and the Suns roster has a lot of talent to be hopeful about. They also have a proven commodity in fifth-year forward T.J. Warren who is only 25 years old. If a star player comes to Phoenix in free agency, they could become a real contender.  

2. Boston Celtics

Jayson Tatum showed last year that he has talent to be the featured player on a championship-caliber team. Kyrie Irving is still just 26 years old and they have a roster full of talented young players such as Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier. The Celtics can even improve their future as they own plenty of draft capital in the next couple of years.  

1. Philadelphia 76ers

With the addition of Jimmy Butler, “The Process” is complete as the Philadelphia 76ers have a great Big Three to build around and they now just need to address the depth on their roster. The Sixers get the top spot on this list because they already have two Top-20 players in the NBA in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons that are young and ready to lead them to a bright future.