Stein's Ballot: Best 23-and-under players

Originally Published: April 1, 2008
By   |

We asked our writers two questions:

Rank 1 to 5: Which players age 23 or under would you want as the foundation of your team?

Wild card: Who else has the greatest upside?

Here are NBA senior writer Marc Stein's picks:

Stein's Ballot
Rank Player Comment
LeBron James
Cleveland Cavaliers
Small Forward
Age: 23
I keep going back to how the guy who's already the best young player in the game casually informed us recently that he's now 6-9 and 260 pounds. We repeat: 6-9, 260. The way LeBron is growing -- on and off the floor -- he's going to pull a Magic someday and play center in the NBA Finals. No joke: LBJ is such a physical specimen that you can call him a big man, too.

Dwight Howard
Orlando Magic
Age: 22
Don't want to hear about his offensive shortcomings. He's a wrecking ball at both ends and honestly too young and big to place any lower. He's a 7-foot franchise player, people. Not a lot of those in circulation these days. (Going with Dwight at No. 2 is also a handy way to delay the impossible Chris Paul versus Deron Williams debate.)

Chris Paul
New Orleans Hornets
Point Guard
Age: 22
On this season's form, he has to be one spot higher than D-Will. As Dirk Nowitzki said last week, size don't matter in this case: Paul can only be classified as a beast. Or make that a beast who makes everybody around him better. Keep shooters around him and he will always take your team good places.

Deron Williams
Utah Jazz
Point Guard
Age: 23
There are still plenty of GMs who would take D-Will over Paul because of his all-around floor game and his size/durability advantages. Don't forget that Williams will never have the gaudier numbers in Utah's system, where he's often throwing the ball ahead and giving it up a lot more than Paul has to.
Carmelo Anthony
Denver Nuggets
Small Forward
Age: 23
Monta Ellis is a personal favorite and Al Jefferson is better than I thought. But Melo has shown more franchise-player potential than those two or Brandon Roy or anyone else we haven't mentioned yet from this age group.

Kevin Durant
Seattle SuperSonics
Shooting Guard
Age: 19
I think people forget that he's only 19. He's also 6-10 with a gorgeous stroke and he's a kid who will be able to play three positions (shooting guard, small forward and power forward) when he reaches his peak. Factor in the uncertainties about Greg Oden's long-term health and Durant is an easy choice.

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

Click here to return to main page