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Which NBA team has best under-23 players?

Sep 4, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT

The Bucks finished an NBA-worst 15-67 last season.

Being bad stinks, but it’s a lot worse when you’re trying to be good. That’s why Milwaukee’s season was much more problematic than that of the 76ers, who went a similar 19-63.

But the Bucks realized the hole they’re in, so now they’re truly rebuilding. And owner Marc Lasry thinks they’re doing a good job.

Is Lasry right? Do the Bucks really have the best collection of players under age 23?

Here’s how I rate the NBA’s top dozen teams by the collective value of their under-23 players:

12. Thunder

This is a deep group of players who could become long-term NBA starters, but Adams is the only one I think gets there. Still, there’s a lot of talent between McGary, Lamb and even Jones. And maybe Roberson, who has a knack for doing the little things, ends up better than all three.

11. Raptors

Valanciunas is on track to become an All-Star, but there’s no guarantee he gets there and he’s the only under-23 Raptor of significant value. It’s not ideal to put all your eggs in one basket.

10. Hornets

This list includes multiple players – Vonleh, Kidd-Gilchrist and Biyombo – I know I’m higher on than most. So, I struggled to rank Charlotte, and I’m not sure whether I overcompensated or undercompensated for my personal preferences. Zeller really looked more comfortable late last season, and between him and Vonleh, I think the Bobcats have a strong future at power forward.

9. Jazz

Burke and Exum could each become one of the NBA’s better guards, though it’s unclear whether they can reach that level together. Kanter hasn’t panned out as hoped, though it’s soon to close the book on him. Gobert, as Zach Lowe of Grantland detailed, has intriguing upside, though he didn’t play much last season. Essentially, it’s easy to find reasons for optimism, but just as easy to find reasons for pessimism.

8. Wizards

It might not be long until Beal is the NBA’s best shooting guard, and though I don’t think he ever hits that level, he’s still very good. Porter had a rough rookie year, but I’m not giving up him yet.

7. Magic

Outside of Oladipo, I’m not that high on any of these players – and I’m not even totally, absolutely, 100 percent sold on Oladipo. But it’s a deep collection of young talent, and I bet at least one other player emerges as quality.

6. Timberwolves

Wiggins has incredible potential. He went No. 1 in a loaded draft, after all. LaVine has tremendous upside, but he’s extremely raw. Maybe Bennett, who was awful last season, capitalizes on his impressive summer and turns around his career.

5. Bucks

Lasry’s Bucks didn’t quite make it to the top spot. There’s a major disconnect between Antetokounmpo current production (not great) and potential (great), and I want to see more from him before I’m convinced he’ll bridge that gap. I would have taken Parker No. 1 in the draft, though I essentially viewed him and Wiggins as a tossup. Knight made major strides next year, and I’m interested to see whether he continues progressing as he settles into a larger role.

4. Pistons

Drummond is a singular force individually lifting Detroit so high on this list. Underrated for what he already does, Drummond has potential to become the NBA’s top center – and it’s not a far climb. Caldwell-Pope, who could be a nice 3&D threat next to Drummond, boosts the Pistons, too.

3. Cavaliers

Irving is already a two-time All-Star, a true offensive game-changer. I think his defense could come around to at least competent now that Cleveland is ready to win. I’m not big on Waiters, but he has talent, and the Cavaliers are here due to Irving anyway.

2. 76ers

Carter-Williams just won Rookie of the Year, and he’s a good athlete with great size for his position. Noel, for my money, was the best prospect in the 2013 draft ignoring his injury. We’ll soon see how much that affected him long-term. Embiid would have gone No. 1 in this draft if healthy. And Saric has impressed in the World Cup. The 76ers might be years away, but I like where they’re going.

1. Pelicans

Davis is just that good. He could be the NBA’s third-best player as soon as this season, so if you can get him, you do. Worry about depth or hedging bets later. Davis is the real deal.

  1. 00maltliquor - Sep 4, 2014 at 4:39 PM

    Not sure how all this works but even if AD is the best name out of the bunch, and by far, there’s not enough depth to go out and say that’s the #1. BTW, I could have sworn they have way more players under 23.

    • 00maltliquor - Sep 4, 2014 at 4:47 PM

      Aha! Russ Smith. He’s 23.

      Still, not what I thought they had though. TBH Smith didn’t even cross my mind before I did the quick research.

    • avb300 - Sep 5, 2014 at 1:31 PM

      The Pels have a bunch of players that are a couple years or barely older than 23.

      i can’t wait to watch the Pelicans this year with AD, Asik, Tyreke, Anderson, etc. Damn they;re stacked with young talent.

  2. succulentnipples - Sep 4, 2014 at 4:53 PM

    Big John Football likes them under 23.

    • rrhoe - Sep 4, 2014 at 5:36 PM

      I gotta ask,what’s with the “Big John Football” comments yo’…..

      • eugenesaxe1 - Sep 4, 2014 at 5:59 PM

        Boring gimmick accounts are boring.

    • 2drunk2dunk - Sep 4, 2014 at 7:30 PM

      yeah wth is this Big John Football thing
      pretty amusing post though

  3. nicktomfrank - Sep 4, 2014 at 5:01 PM

    Good read but why rank Orlando so high then write a paragraph that gives the impression that they all stink?

    • rymurphy617 - Sep 4, 2014 at 5:23 PM

      This so called raking system is quite flawed. To say Orlando’s young talent is nearly only 7th best in the NBA is ridiculous. At least half the player on that list have potential to make an all-star team in their future. Not saying they will, saying the potiental is there. This list is bizarre. Giving the pelicans 1st is silky. Yes Anthony Davis is the best player on that list by far as far as im concerned. But I think the entire point the bucks owner was making was a collection of young talent. Not one play. Poor job with this list. A lot of teams did not get any benefit of the doubt.

  4. nicktomfrank - Sep 4, 2014 at 5:59 PM

    rrhoe-please ignore that man. There’s about a 115% chance that he’s a troll. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised.to find out that he created the username ‘rrhoe’ to ask himself a question like that since no one else will give him attention.

  5. aldavis4president - Sep 4, 2014 at 6:05 PM

    I like Orlando’s under 23 better than most of these teams. Tobias really turned it on last season, oladipo is only going to get better, and harkless, Gordon and fournier all have huuge upside.

  6. ravenswhat - Sep 4, 2014 at 6:12 PM

    Um easily the sixers. Easily.

    • fanofthegame79 - Sep 4, 2014 at 6:34 PM

      I agree.

    • mazblast - Sep 4, 2014 at 11:32 PM

      Perhaps, but being the Sixers, they’ll mess it up. The writer may be factoring that into the equation.

  7. tcclark - Sep 4, 2014 at 9:57 PM

    One player doesn’t make a team. teams like New Orleans Cleveland and Washington shouldn’t be on this list. I think the best is philly with Minnesota Milwaukee Orlando and Utah following in no particular order. btw I feel like Utah isn’t getting enough respect. They have a bunch of really good young players

    • asimonetti88 - Sep 5, 2014 at 3:50 PM

      New Orleans should be on the list, just not first. Anthony Davis is pretty good, but not enough to carry them to first by himself.

  8. boogiefan87 - Sep 4, 2014 at 10:08 PM

    I think Charlotte doesn’t get enough respect, I think their 3 young bigs can all become quite good, Biyombo is actually quite underrated, his production was actually quite impressive last year when taking playing time into account. MKG will never live up to being the no 2 pick but that doesn’t mean he cannot be a good player as well. He’s already an excellent defender, a few years from now he should be even better.

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