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Ranking The 10 Best Young Cores In The NBA Right Now

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Ranking The 10 Best Young Cores In The NBA Right Now

Every year, the NBA draft is one of the most efficient and enticing ways for teams to import talents, reform the roster and even build a dynasty. With the 2022 NBA Draft coming to an end in June, 58 young and promising talents globally have joined the biggest stage.

From the first pick to the last, every pick matters. The San Antonio Spurs started their dynasty by selecting Tim Duncan as the first overall pick in the 1997 NBA draft. In contrast, the Golden State Warriors’ legendary trio, Stephen Curry (7), Klay Thompson (11), and Draymond Green (35), were all chosen after first-six picks.

With the addition of a large number of high-ceiling rookies, even some of the worst regular season teams seem to be interesting to watch next season. It’s time to take a deep dive into the best young cores in the league.

Players aged 23 or under are evaluated. But certain players aged 25 or under can still be in consideration. A core of three players are selected from each team, and each player is rated from 1 to 5 points, and then the three add up to get a total score.


10. Orlando Magic (10 points)

Paolo Banchero - 19-year-old, (4 points)

Franz Wagner - 20-year-old, (4 points)

Cole Anthony - 22-year-old, (2 points)

What a dramatic draft it was! When everyone thought Jabari Smith Jr. would be selected as the No. 1 overall pick, the Orlando Magic surprisingly took a bet on Duke’s forward Paolo Banchero. And so far, Banchero has proved rightfully why he should be the chosen one, averaging 20 points, five points, six rebounds, 2.5 steals, and one steal over his two games during the 2022 NBA2K23 Summer League.

Besides Banchero, there are many other youngsters on this Magic team, including 6-foot-10 forward Franz Wagner and guard Cole Anthony. Wagner was selected to the 2021-22 NBA All-Rookie First Team. Second-year, Anthony made a considerable jump, filling his stats sheet with an average of 16.3 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 5.7 assists.

With the addition of Banchero, the Magic is expected to showcase their improvement since the beginning of next season.


9. Houston Rockets (10 points)

Jabari Smith Jr. - 19-year-old, (4 points)

Jalen Green - 20-year-old, (4 points)

Kevin Porter Jr. - 22-year-old, (2 points)

It is widely believed that Smith was not the Houston Rockets’ initial selection, but he truly is the same caliber player as Banchero. Smith has already displayed his NBA-level shooting and defensive abilities, especially in switch defense on small and athletic guards.

The Rockets are in the right direction because of their backcourt, Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr. Green is a walking scoring bucket with versatile offensive skills and freaky athletics, averaging 17.3 points in his rookie year. Last season was a transition for Porter, where he spent time learning to be a more efficient playmaker for the team rather than a pure scorer.

Houston may still struggle in the upcoming season because their young roster needs time to grow, and the West is getting stronger, but their time will come in years.


8. Toronto Raptors (10 points)

Scottie Barnes - 20-year-old, (5 points)

Gary Trent Jr. - 23-year-old, (2 points)

OG Anunoby - 24-year-old, (3 points)

It is hard to rank a team in the eighth spot with Rookie of the Year — Scottie Barnes. On the other side, however, it shows how talented these young teams are.

6-foot-7 Barnes has become one of the most valuable young prospects in the NBA after posting up 15.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists as a freshman. His ability to defend from one to five is the ultimate goal for positionless basketball. If Barnes could improve his shooting in the second year and become the top two offensive choices of the Raptors, he would have a chance to be an All-Star.

Gary Trent Jr. and OG Anunoby are all solid two-way young players with more playoff experiences but might have lower upsides than young players on other teams.

A huge difference between the raptors and most young teams is that Toronto is already a playoff-level team, which means their young players will have much more high-level game experience than others, just like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics.


7. Detroit Pistons (10 points)

Cade Cunningham - 20-year-old, (5 points)

Jaden Ivey - 20-year-old, (3 points)

Jalen Duren - 18-year-old, (2 points)

The Detroit Pistons are widely considered as one of the biggest winners of the most recent draft with a steal of guard Jaden Ivey in the fifth pick and center Jalen Duren in the 13th pick. Both players are athletic and extremely young, which are the perfect complement for the team's absolutely core, guard Cade Cunningham.

Cunningham was absent due to injury early last season, but he finished the season with a convincing performance, averaging 17.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 5.6 assists. With his skills and vision, he has found a balance between individual and team offense and has become one of the best playmakers in his class.

With a combination of Cunningham, Ivey, and Duren, the Pistons will be an entertaining team to watch next season.


6. Oklahoma City Thunder (11 points)

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander - 24-year-old, (3 points)

Josh Giddey - 19-year-old, (4 points)

Chet Holmgren - 20-year-old, (4 points)

Chet Holmgren is the true unicorn of the 2022 draft with a 7-foot height and 7-foot-6 wingspan. Offensively, he can dribble like a guard and hit 3-pointers from behind the arc. On the other end, he has dominated every Summer League game so far with an average of 2.3 steals and two blocks per game.

Holmgren is not the only promising prospect in the Oklahoma City Thunder. The team has already developed one of the best young backcourts in the NBA — Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey. Gilgeous-Alexander and Giddey contributed 37.0 points, 12.8 rebounds, and 12.3 assists per game last season.

With excellent heights and wingspans on all five positions, the Thunder will give their opponents a hard time on both ends.


5. Atlanta Hawks (11 points)

Trae Young - 23-year-old, (4 points)

Dejounte Murray - 25-year-old, (4 points)

De'Andre Hunter - 24-year-old, (3 points)

By adding former San Antonio Spurs All-Star guard Dejounte Murray, the Atlanta Hawks have made themselves to fifth place on the list. And here's why.

The Hawks are one of four teams now to have at least two young current or former All-Stars, Trae Young and Murray. Young has everything a team needs offensively, including offensive skills, play-making, basketball IQ, etc.

However, what limits his game is his defense. He might improve his defense by having a better read of the game, but he will always be the target of the opponents due to his lack of height and weight.

That is also why Murray and De'Andre Hunter are the perfect fit for him. They are players with great defensive versatility who can switch to guard multiple positions and contribute high efficiency on the offensive end.

With the gigantic trade for Murray, the Hawks are supposed to aim to return to where they were two years ago.


4. Boston Celtics (11 points)

Jayson Tatum - 24-year-old, (5 points)

Jaylen Brown - 25-year-old, (4 points)

Grant Williams - 23-year-old, (2 points)

People would always forget how young the Celtics' cores are because they've already had so many playoff experiences at such a young age.

24-year-old Tatum has played 51 playoff games, including one appearance in the Finals and three in the Eastern Conference Finals. And 25-year-old Brown has played 62 playoff games, including one appearance in the Finals and four in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Averaging 48.7 points, 13.6 rebounds, 9.7 assists, and 2.3 steals per game last season, they have become one of the best duos in the NBA.

But don’t forget about forward Grant Williams, who contributed some clutch moments in this year’s playoff games on both ends. With the talent the Celtics have, they are expected to be one of the favorite title contenders for years to come.


3. Memphis Grizzlies (12 points)

Ja Morant - 22-year-old, (5 points)

Jaren Jackson Jr. - 22-year-old, (4 points)

Desmond Bane - 24-year-old, (3 points)

Superstar guard Ja Morant has elevated his game to the MVP level in the third year, finishing the regular season tied for the team-highest 56 wins and leading the team to the second round of the playoffs. Morant won the Most Improved Player Award for 2022 and was selected to the All-Star game for the first time.

But the Memphis Grizzlies have so many other young forces, including Jaren Jackson Jr., who was selected to the All-Defensive First Team, and Desmond Bane, who averaged 18.2 points per game.

Jackson will miss most of the games next season due to injury, but Memphis’ deep roster will help them remain strong in the West.


2. Cleveland Cavaliers (12 points)

Evan Mobley - 21-year-old, (5 points)

Darius Garland - 22-year-old, (4 points)

Jarrett Allen - 24-year-old, (3 points)

Even though the Cleveland Cavaliers didn’t make the playoffs last season, they still had an astonishing run with their young cores of Evan Mobley, Darius Garland, and Jarrett Allen. Prior to the season, the Cavaliers were considered one of the bottom teams in the East, but their extraordinary behavior has completely changed the narrative.

Forward Mobley was selected to the 2021-22 NBA All-Rookie First Team and within the Defensive Player of the Year discussion as a rookie. Guard Garland and center Allen were voted All-Stars since the LeBron James era.

Coming up next season, the squad is going to be scarier.


1. New Orleans Pelicans (12 points)

Zion Williamson - 22-year-old, (5 points)

Brandon Ingram - 24-year-old, (4 points)

Herbert Jones - 23-year-old, (3 points)

The New Orleans Pelicans started the 2021-22 season with a record of 3-16, made the Play-Ins, and ended the season after six games with the 64-win Phoenix Suns in the first round. With a crazy second-half season run, the Pelicans have been considered one of the dark horses next season.

Just because forward Zion Williamson will be back.

Williamson is a top-15 player in the NBA when he is on the floor, averaging 27.0 points on 61.1% shooting in the 2020-21 season. His return will automatically turn the team into a potential top-5 offensive team with dominance in the paint.

Plus former All-Star forward Brandon Ingram and young defensive force Herbert Jones, the Pelicans are predicted to have a 50-win regular season and potential second-round playoff run.

“The sky is not the limit for us...it’s the view,” said Swin Cash, vice president of basketball operations and team development for the Pelicans.

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