The NBA features a wide variety of young to older players. It’s pretty easy to tell when a team is full of veterans or rookies based on their overall team performance. Some teams, such as the Lakers, feature a slew of older players, who have put in a high amount of minutes in their careers. Others, such as the Houston Rockets, are hoping that their lottery pick will pan out.
Outside of Udonis Haslem at the age of 41, the league features most players between the ages of 19-37. Looking at this list takes you on a ride from childhood players to the new faces of the league. These are the best players at each age.
19 - Jalen Green
Last Season Stats: 17.9 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.8 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.3 BPG (G-League)
This Season Stats: 16.0 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.3 SPG, 1.0 BPG
The No. 2 overall pick from the 2021 NBA Draft is expected to be the new face of the franchise now that James Harden is long gone. In 15 games in the G-League, Green impressed executives enough to be the second overall pick. Green showed off his professional talents after recently dropping 30 points on the Boston Celtics.
Out of high school, Green was considered a top pick and All-American. However, he chose to forgo college to gain professional experience. Out of all the teenagers, Green will reign supreme and he will make a run for Rookie of the Year.
Honorable Mention: Josh Giddy, Moses Moody
20 - LaMelo Ball
Last Season Stats: 15.7 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 6.1 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.4 BPG
This Season Stats: 22.8 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 6.8 APG, 1.8 SPG, 0.2 BPG
The reigning Rookie of the Year became the youngest player to record a triple-double last season. Out of all the Ball brothers, LaMelo appears to be on the fast track towards making the All-Star Game. The Hornets haven’t had an All-Star since Kemba Walker. What makes Ball exciting is that he seems like more of a complete package in comparison to Walker.
The No. 1 overall pick in 2021, Cade Cunningham, has not made his debut this season. The jury is also out on this true potential. Anthony Edwards, the 2020 No. 1 overall pick, appears to be a superstar in the waiting as well. With that said, Ball proved he can take over and lead his team to victories. With an improved surrounding cast, the Hornets are a potential playoff team this year.
Honorable Mention: Anthony Edwards, Patrick Williams
21 - Zion Williamson
Last Season Stats: 27.0 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 3.7 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.6 BPG
This Season Stats: None
Williamson has missed the start of the season with a foot injury, but when healthy, he is a dominant power forward. In his first full season, Williamson averaged 27.0 points, 7.2 rebounds, and shot 61.1% from the field. Williamson has shown flashes of Charles Barkley at the age of 21. Imagine what he will look like when he enters his true prime years.
RJ Barrett took strides individually when he posted a field goal percentage of 44.1%, as well as a 40.1% from the three-point range. Tyler Herro broke out when the Heat qualified for the NBA Finals in 2020. With that said, neither have made an All-Star appearance, let alone start. Williamson became the fourth-youngest player to start the All-Star Game last year, trailing Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Magic Johnson. That is some pretty impressive company.
Honorable Mention: RJ Barrett, Tyler Herro
22 - Luka Doncic
Last Season Stats: 27.7 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 8.6 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.5 BPG
This Season Stats: 22.5 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 9.5 APG, 0.5 SPG, 0.5 BPG
Doncic isn’t just the best 22-year old player in the league, but also a potential MVP candidate this season. Doncic is a prime candidate to join Oscar Robertson and Russell Westbrook as the only players to ever average a triple-double in a season. It took Westbrook about eight years to work his way to triple-double production on a nightly basis. Doncic is already the Mavericks’ all-time leader in the category.
Doncic is going to have tough competition in this category for years to come with Ja Morant, the 2020 Rookie of the Year. Morant is a high-flying athlete that finds a way to make plays all over the place. With that said, Doncic owns playoff experience and his stats are far superior. This will be a fun rivalry for years to come.
Honorable Mention: Ja Morant, Collin Sexton
23 - Jayson Tatum
Last Season Stats: 26.4 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 4.3 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.5 BPG
This Season Stats: 27.5 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 4.5 APG, 0.5 SPG, 1.0 BPG
Tatum looks like the new version of Kevin Durant at 10 years younger. The only difference is that Durant won a scoring title in his younger years. With that said, Tatum was a part of three Eastern Conference Finals Celtics teams, so both have accomplished a lot when they were first starting in the league.
Tatum headlines a strong class of 23-year olds that features Trae Young and De’Aaron Fox. Tatum has potential as a future MVP candidate one day. Now that the keys to the Celtics have been given to him, he could earn an MVP one day. With what Tatum brings to the table from a scoring, rebounding, and playmaking standpoint, he is a truly complete package despite the double-doubles of points and assists that Young can bring on a nightly basis.
Honorable Mention: Trae Young, De’Aaron Fox
24 - Devin Booker
Last Season Stats: 25.6 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 4.3 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.2 BPG
This Season Stats: 18.3 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 4.0 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.0 BPG
Booker took such a jump in his game that there were people across the country calling him the next Kobe Bryant. Booker has developed his game from all over the court. He can hit midrange, score in transition, and hit clutch outside shots. Remember, Booker is the closest player to Bryant when it comes to scoring given his 70-point performance back in 2017.
The Suns made the NBA Finals with a lot of offensive production coming from their shooting guard. When Chris Paul was in the mix, it allowed Booker to play his natural position. While Bam Adebayo and Brandon Ingram are both All-Stars, Booker has more on his resume as a true No. 1 option in comparison to both.
Honorable Mention: Bam Adebayo, Brandon Ingram
25 - Jaylen Brown
Last Season Stats: 24.7 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 3.4 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.6 BPG
This Season Stats: 28.3 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 3.0 APG, 2.0 SPG, 0.7 BPG
It’s early to this season, but if Brown stays healthy and keeps playing like this, he is going to give Jayson Tatum a run for his money to face the Celtics. Brown began the season with a 46-point game and then two games later followed that with a 30-point effort against Charlotte. Last year, Brown made his first All-Star game and appears to be riding the momentum.
While Donovan Mitchell has led the Jazz to the No. 1 seed in the West, Brown has played in multiple Eastern Conference Finals. Brown has the best overall reigning stat line, as well as the deeper playoff push. Between Brown, Mitchell, and Karl-Anthony Towns, who will be the first to make the NBA Finals?
Honorable Mention: Karl-Anthony Towns, Donovan Mitchell
26 - Giannis Antetokounmpo
Last Season Stats: 28.1 PPG, 11.0 RPG, 5.9 APG, 1.2 SPG, 1.2 BPG
This Season Stats: 24.5 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 6.5 APG, 1.2 SPG, 1.8 BPG
The age 26 class is deep in the NBA. You have the reigning MVP Nikola Jokic, a 7-foot unicorn in Kristaps Porzingis, a Slam Dunk champion in Zach LaVine, and the Most Improved Player of the Year in Julius Randle. That doesn’t even include Aaron Gordon and Andrew Wiggins. At the end of the day, two-time MVP and Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo stood supreme.
After becoming the seventh player to score 50 points in the Finals, Giannis will be hard to dethrone. Even before he did that, his resume still beats the competition. Out of the competition, he is the only one with a ring. Giannis is the face of not only the league but the world. With many years left, the next question is how many rings will he win in Milwaukee?
Honorable Mention: Nikola Jokic, Zach LaVine
27 - Joel Embiid
Last Season Stats: 28.5 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 2.8 APG, 1.0 SPG, 1.4 BPG
This Season Stats: 21.0 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 5.0 APG, 1.3 SPG, 2.7 BPG
Embiid stands alone out of the players at the age of 27. The only contenders are Terry Rozier and Jerami Grant, both of who have never played in an All-Star Game. Grant made a run for Most Improved Player of the Year last year, but he only has one true successful season at a superstar level. Meanwhile, Rozier is a talented shooter who has earned his money in the league.
Embiid was the MVP runner-up. Had Embiid played in the same amount of games as MVP Nikola Jokic, he might have ended up winning the award. The 76ers won the No. 1 seed last year, which was the first time since 2001, the last 76ers MVP in Allen Iverson. Embiid is the most beloved player in Philly since the days of Iverson. A lot of that has to do with his ability to score, rebound, and block. With an added three-point shot, Embiid looks unstoppable at times.
Honorable Mention: Terry Rozier, Jerami Grant
28 - Anthony Davis
Last Season Stats: 21.8 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.2 SPG, 1.6 BPG
This Season Stats: 25.7 PPG, 11.0 RPG, 2.3 APG, 0.7 SPG, 2.7 BPG
While Bradley Beal is the reigning scoring runner-up and Andre Drummond is a four-time rebounding champion, the best player among the players of age 28 is Anthony Davis. In his prime, Davis was a top-10 player in the league, a contender for Defensive Player of the Year, and an NBA champion. With Davis and LeBron James, the Los Angeles Lakers boast the best dynamic duo in the league.
Davis missed time last year due to multiple ailments. His scoring and rebounding were near his career-lows, but make no question that he is one of the best when healthy. The Lakers are going to rely on Davis once again to get back to the NBA Finals. If he stays healthy, he could win his first DPOY now that he must man the power forward and center position.
Honorable Mention: Bradley Beal, Andre Drummond
29 - Rudy Gobert
Last Season Stats: 14.3 PPG, 13.5 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.6 SPG, 2.7 BPG
This Season Stats: 16.5 PPG, 20.5 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.5 BPG
Gobert is a three-time Defensive Player of the Year. He is one of four players to ever win the award three times. If Gobert can win the award this season, he will join Dikembe Mutombo and Ben Wallace, both Hall of Famers, as the only players to own four nods. On top of that, Gobert averaged an impressive double-double, while he was runner up in blocks.
Kyrie Irving would be added to this list, but given his playing status due to disagreements over the vaccine, it appears he could miss significant time this year. Tobias Harris is a great complementary piece that is a borderline All-Star caliber player, while Jonas Valanciunas had a career season. As all of these players exit their 20s soon, the player with the most promise is Gobert. He does not appear to be slowing down anytime soon. When it is all said and done, Gobert could be the all-time leader in Defensive Player of the Year awards.
Disclaimer: We will not count Kyrie Irving because his status is uncertain
Honorable Mention: Tobias Harris, Jonas Valanciunas
30 - Khris Middleton
Last Season Stats: 20.4 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 5.4 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.1 BPG
This Season Stats: 21.2 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.2 BPG
With what Middleton produced last year, it’s easy to say that he was snubbed from the All-Star Game. Middleton makes a great case that he is a top-3 small forward in the league. He can shoot well, averaging 47.6% from the field and 41.4% from three, rebound, and make plays. When the Bucks struggled in the playoffs offensively, most of the time it was Middleton taking a big shot to keep the team in the game.
Out of all the 30-year olds in the league, the other two options are great shooters. Joe Harris is a Three-Point Contest champion, while CJ McCollum is a consistent 20-point scorer. With that said, neither have made an All-Star Game. McCollum gets paid like he is an All-Star, but has never played in the game. Middleton has done that, twice actually, and owns a championship ring. Also, keep in mind that Kawhi Leonard, 30, is out for the year with a torn ACL.
Honorable Mention: CJ McCollum, Joe Harris
31 - Damian Lillard
Last Season Stats: 28.8 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 7.5 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.3 BPG
This Season Stats: 17.0 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 7.3 APG, 0.3 SPG, 0.0 BPG
Outside the players who are 26, the 31-year olds in the league are just as deep. Jrue Holiday is an excellent two-way player, while Paul George was an MVP candidate just a few seasons ago. Others on the list include former Defensive Player of the Year and three-time champion Draymond Green, All-Star center Nikola Vucevic, Hornets all-time leading scorer Kemba Walker, and international star Ricky Rubio.
Despite all this competition, would you take any of these players over Damian Lillard? The star of the Trail Blazers is expected to break Clyde Drexler’s all-time scoring mark this season. He led the league in clutch points last year. With Lillard on the floor, no place on the court is safe. The Trail Blazers would be nothing without Lillard. Most of the team’s runs to qualify for the playoffs have been from Lillard putting the team on his back.
Honorable Mention: Paul George, Jrue Holiday
32 - James Harden
Last Season Stats: 24.6 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 10.8 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.8 BPG
This Season Stats: 17.2 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 8.2 APG, 1.2 SPG, 1.0 BPG
The 32-year olds are pretty deep in this league too. You have 2017 MVP Russell Westbrook, who has averaged four triple-doubles in his career. Jimmy Butler might be the best two-way player in the league, while both players have played in the NBA Finals. Outside of these two, you have former No. 1 overall pick Blake Griffin, former rebounding champion Hassan Whiteside, and Raptors all-time leading scorer DeMar DeRozan.
Out of all the competition, James Harden is the best of the best. Harden, the 2018 MVP, led the league in scoring for three consecutive seasons from 2018 to 2020. Had he played the league minimum in games last year, he would have led the league in assists. Harden is a triple-double threat that moves his team to higher spots in the seeding rankings. Harden will be a vital part of the Nets this season, especially with the team’s aspirations of making the NBA Finals.
Honorable Mention: Russell Westbrook, Jimmy Butler
33 - Kevin Durant
Last Season Stats: 26.9 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 5.6 APG, 0.7 SPG, 1.3 BPG
This Season Stats: 31.0 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 5.8 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.8 BPG
This could be a coin flip to some people. Both Kevin Durant and Steph Curry are 33 years old. Curry led the league in scoring last year. He is going to be the highest-paid player in the league one day. He owns three championships, two with Durant during their playing days together, and is already on a tear shooting this season. With that said, had Durant not missed time due to injuries, he might have won the MVP if he played the whole season.
When Durant came back healthy, the Nets were a different team. Had he not had his toe on the line in Game 7 of the semifinals, we might be talking about Durant winning his third ring and Brooklyn’s first championship. Durant is the best player in the league, period. Will he win the MVP? That is a great question. The better question is can he stay healthy?
Honorable Mention: Steph Curry, Derrick Rose
34 - Mike Conley Jr.
Last Season Stats: 16.2 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 6.0 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.2 BPG
This Season Stats: 13.5 PPG, 1.0 RPG, 3.5 APG, 2.5 SPG, 0.0 BPG
It took all this time for Conley to make his first All-Star appearance last year. Conley is the all-time leader in points for the Grizzlies, as well as the leader in assists and steals. When he joined the Jazz, he became a staple point in the team’s defense. Most importantly, he allowed Donovan Mitchell to play more off the ball, which opened him up for most shot opportunities.
The Jazz was the No. 1 seed in the West for a reason. Conley is the ultimate glue guy, but also a pretty good basketball player. Lou Williams is a three-time Sixth Man of the Year but has slowed down the last two years. Danny Green’s defense is not as fierce. The only player still holding his own at an elite level is Conley.
Honorable Mention: Lou Williams, Danny Green
35 - Kyle Lowry
Last Season Stats: 17.2 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 7.3 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.3 BPG
This Season Stats: 7.0 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 7.0 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.5 BPG
Lowry is the perfect example of a late bloomer. Lowry has made the All-Star team six times in his career. The first time didn’t come until he was 28 years old. Even at the age of 35, most teams will take his defense and tenacious attitude on their team any day of the week. Lowry has shown no signs of slowing down either based on his stat line last year.
With Lowry, Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and PJ Tucker, the Heat own an intimidating bunch. This is truly a veteran’s team. Lowry was already seen as a great leader. He didn’t need age to gain wisdom. At this point in his career, he has both.
Honorable Mention: Dwight Howard, Al Horford
36 - LeBron James
Last Season Stats: 25.0 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 7.8 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.6 BPG
This Season Stats: 26.0 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 5.3 APG, 1.7 SPG, 1.0 BPG
LeBron was on his way to becoming the oldest MVP in league history before injuries forced him to miss significant time. With his absence, the Lakers fell from the No. 1 seed to the No. 7 seed. You can’t stop Father Time, but LeBron appears to have borrowed some because he continuously plays like a top-10 player in the league.
To put everything into perspective, there are only six players in the league that are 36 years old. Outside of Chris Paul, who led the Suns to the NBA Finals last year, what other player would you consider elite at this age? LeBron’s game is a testament to his work ethic. He could be the Tom Brady version of the NBA by the time he does decide to retire.
Honorable Mention: Chris Paul. LaMarcus Aldridge
37 - Carmelo Anthony
Last Season Stats: 13.4 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.6 BPG
This Season Stats: 17.7 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.3 SPG, 0.7 BPG
There are only two 37-year olds in the league, but even if there were more this nod would go to Anthony. It’s amazing how Anthony can continually evolve his game. Last year, Anthony was regulated to coming off the bench. He was rewarded by shooting over 40% from three-point range for the first time in his career. While his days of leading the league in scoring are over, he serves a role for this Lakers squad as the team’s best outside shooter.
After trading away Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the team was hurting on outside shooting. Anthony is far from his prime, but can still connect on deep shots. Anthony is in pursuit of winning his first championship this year. He’s been in the league since 2003 and has yet to play in the NBA Finals. After all this time, could this finally be the year?
Honorable Mention: Andre Iguodala