Many NBA players play at the top of the NBA despite their age. Players this young have not yet reached their prime, and they are already some of the most elite players in professional basketball. Check out the could-be college player list of the top five NBA players who are 22 and younger.
There is no doubt about it. Luka Dončić, 21, is one of the league’s best players. Luka Dončić averages a career 24.9 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 7.5 assists per game with the Dallas Mavericks. Last season in his second year, Luka brought the Mavericks to the playoffs for the first time since the 2015-2016 playoffs. In that season, Luka had the sixth-most points per game, the third most assists per game, and the fourth-best box plus/minus. Luka did that with the second-highest usage percentage in the NBA, behind Giannis Antetokounmpo. Luka is not only one of the best players 22 years or younger, but a front runner for this season’s MVP award.
Jayson Tatum, 22, was drafted third overall in the 2017 draft to the Boston Celtics. In the fourth year with the Celtics, Tatum has already achieved an All-Rookie, All-NBA, and one All-Star team. Tatum is one of the best two-way players in the league. On the offensive side, Tatum has averaged a career of 17.7 points per game, six rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game, shooting 45.8% from the field and an astounding 40.4% from behind the arc. On the defensive side, he has a career 0.6 defensive box plus/minus and 11.5 career defensive win shares. Last season, Tatum led the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals averaging 26.9 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 3.8 assists in the regular season and putting up the sixth most defensive win shares.
Trae Young, 22, would have been in his senior year at Oklahoma if it wasn’t for the NBA. Young was traded to the Atlanta Hawks from the Dallas Mavericks for Luka Dončić in the 2018 draft. Since then, however, Trae Young put up nearly 20 points per game in his first season with the Hawks. In his second year last season, he averaged the fourth-most points of any NBA player with 29.1 per game, along with 3.7 rebounds and 9.3 assists per game. Trae Young does have his defensive struggles with a career -2.5 Defensive Box Plus/Minus, but he makes up for it on the offensive end as one of the game’s best point guards.
Ja Morant, 21, is the most recent rookie of the year winner from last season after putting up 17.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 7.3 assists for the Memphis Grizzlies. He also recorded an outstanding 35.3% assist percentage from a 25.9% usage percentage (the 15th highest of any point guard in the NBA). Morant has career averages of 18.1 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 7.3 assists per game on 48.1% shooting from the field. In five games this season, he is averaging 22.6 points per game, two rebounds, and seven assists per game with a 4.6 offensive box plus/minus. Morant is one of the most athletic point guards in the league and the leader of the Memphis Grizzlies team.
Zion Williamson came in as one of the league’s highly anticipated draft selections in 2019. In 24 games last season, Williamson posted 22.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game. Zion missed out on being named the rookie of the year, due to his injuries. But, he still has excellent career averages with 22.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, and two assists per game. He also has a career 3.2 offensive box plus/minus and 2.0 box plus/minus on the New Orleans Pelicans. He nearly brought his team to the playoffs in the bubble last season, averaging 18.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game in five games of the bubble.
Outside of these five players, there are many more that fit the bill of 22 or younger that are far from their career heights. Tyler Herro, 20, is a popular name to be left off the list, along with guys like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, 22, and Jarrett Allen, 22.
These top five NBA players above withhold unbelievable potential as guys that are no older than 22 years of age. While already being some of the best talents in the NBA, they are bound for increasing success as they enter the primes of their careers.