Every NBA season has its storylines. Whether they are having to do with teams, players, or even coaches there is always drama. Sometimes in the midst of all this drama players who are breaking out seem to get lost in the fray.
The league is buzzing with young talent but not all young players find their stride right away. So let’s dive into the numbers of some standout players under the age of 25 and why they’ve managed to be so effective this season.
1. Domantas Sabonis
If that last name looks familiar that’s because it should. Son of EuroLeague legend and former Portland Trailblazer, Arvydas Sabonis, Domantas Sabonis is making a name for himself in the NBA this season. After playing a pivotal role in taking the Cavaliers to a 7 game first round series last season Sabonis is thriving in his third season for Indiana. His numbers are up across the board but the most glaring is FG%. his FG% is up from 51.4% to 62% this season. He’s up nearly 4 PPG and 2 RPG while only playing 1 MPG more than last season.
He’s filled in the bench role nicely for this Pacers team looking to contend in an open Eastern Conference. While his numbers don’t jump out at you they’ve all increased this season and he’s becoming a more consistent defender. Look for him to continue his breakout season.
2. Pascal Siakam
Listed at 6’9 this third year stand out has been a revelation for Toronto this season. Since his rookie season, it was clear that Siakam had potential and this season he’s finally playing into it.
He’s started every game but one and his versatility has proved key for the Raptors this year. His 7’3 wingspan coupled with his lateral quickness allows him to switch on defense and create mismatches on offense. His MPG is by 10.2 per game this season and his PPG has nearly doubled from 7.3 PPG to 15.2 PPG. His FG% is also up by 7% but perhaps the most glaring upgrade in his game is his free throw shooting. Siakam has gone from 62.1% up to 78%. Another part of his game that has proven key this season has been his ability to shoot the mid-range jumper. Last season his FG% on shots from 10-16 was 43.5%, this year that number is at a whopping 73.3%. Granted not many of his shots come from that range it forced defenses to respect him from that range. His 3P% currently sits at 33%, while not amazing its a much improved from last seasons 22%.
3. John Collins
Coming into this season many believed Trae Young would be the difference maker. While Young has been having a solid rookie outing, John Collins has been Atlanta’s best player. Currently averaging 19.1 PPG and 10.4 RPG Collins is breaking out this season. While his defensive numbers are down his offense easily makes up for that.
Collins has changed his game from his rookie season to fit the mold of a more modern day, big man. While his 3P% is down from 34% to 33.3%, his attempts are up from .6 to 2.3. His FG% and FGA are both up this season and his MPG are up by 6 per game, reflecting that his increase numbers come more from an increase in usage than playing time.
Collins is only 21 years old and already averaging a double-double. If he continues on this uptrend for the next few seasons he could be well on his way to becoming an all-star eventually.
4. D’Angelo Russell
On the surface, Russell’s stats don’t seem like they’ve made a huge leap since last season. His game however has.
His PPG is up from 15.5 to 18.7 and his FG% is at 43.1%. While that shooting % isn’t the best it is reasonable considering he’s the number one option on a shaky Nets team. He’s taken the role of being the primary distributor averaging a career-high 6.3 APG while also having a career low in turnovers.
One big reason for the change in his game is he’s been playing more SG, his more natural position. He’s played 14% of his total minutes at the 2 spot and 86% at the 1 spot, identical to his rookie season. Russell’s craftiness lends itself to time out of control style of play but this season he looks much more under control and his decision making looks much better.
Perhaps the biggest difference in his game has been his maturity. He looks like a leader for this young Brooklyn team and in clutch moments has stepped up. Despite being in his 4th season Russell is only 22 (although he’ll be turning 23 soon). Many wrote him off after the snitch incident that caused the Lakers to move away from him but he’s found a new home in Brooklyn and is turning out to be the player many thought he was when he was drafted 2nd overall back in 2015.
5. De’Aaron Fox
During his rookie campaign, last season Fox showed signs of being able to carry an offense, this season he’s been doing just that. Him and Buddy Hield (if he was younger he’d be on here too) have transformed this Kings team from a laughing stock to a respectable young team.
Like most players on this list, his numbers are up across the board but perhaps none more important than his 3 point shooting. His attempts are up from 2.1 to now 3.0 while his 3P% is at 37.6% from last seasons 30.7%. He’s averaging nearly 18 PPG to go along with 7.3 APG showing that he was worth taking 5th overall last season.
Defensively Fox sits at 7th overall in SPG at 1.8 due to his quickness and ability to play passing lanes. He’s also improved his on-ball defense and just overall seems to understand the game more. Often times for young players, especially point guards, it’s hard to adjust to the NBA but this season Fox has done just that.
Fox may very well be this years MIP winner and is looking like he could be a future all-star. John Wall with a jump shot no longer seems so far fetched for this 21-year-old.