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The unintended consequence of

The unintended consequence of the new collective bargaining agreement has been the emphasis on asset collection: draft picks, cap space and youth. Players under the age of 25 are coveted more than ever, mostly for their artificially low rookie-scale salaries, but also for the promise of potential yet to be realized.

During my time as an assistant director of basketball operations in the NBA, I considered it a priority to be as knowledgeable as possible about young players on rosters, particularly those in their "First Four" years in the league (you might have read about these types of players during the Vegas Summer League). The under-25 list is a bit more expansive in that it includes players well into their second contracts, but nevertheless is still a good measure of young talent on a roster.

While an inventory of talent under the age of 25 on a roster is not predictive of a franchise's future success (the quality of management decision-making, financial resources, team chemistry, coaching and, of course, luck all play major roles), you'd rather your team have the assets in hand than not have them, all else being equal.

Given the select nature of those players eligible for an under-25 team ranking, here's an overview of guidelines and some brief rules of thumb:

• In order to be eligible for this list, a player must be 24 years old or younger (born on or after Aug. 8, 1988).

• Teams with established superstars get an edge, due to a greater likelihood of return on investment, over teams with multiple "solid" talents (as the adage goes, "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush"). However, teams with a lot of bushes (a full cupboard of solid talents) may trump teams with a solitary star.

• Added consideration was given to players who made last season's top 25 under 25 list or next 10 list.

• Players considered were only those expected to be on the 2013-14 roster (i.e. no Nikola Mirotic for Chicago, Raul Neto for Utah, etc.).

With the ground rules established, here's our ranking of the top 15 teams in the league based on under-25 talent. Note that player ages are indicated in parentheses. (To view the bottom 15 rankings, click here.)

1. Oklahoma City Thunder
Players: Steven Adams (20), Kevin Durant (24), Serge Ibaka (23), Reggie Jackson (23), Grant Jerrett (20), Perry Jones III (21), Jeremy Lamb (21), Daniel Orton (23), Andre Roberson (21), Russell Westbrook (24)

The Thunder were the only team to place three players in the top 25 under 25 list last January, and as of this writing, all three of those players are still under 25 and still fantastic. Durant's firmly entrenched at No. 1 of the "Best Player Not Named LeBron James" list, Westbrook is probably the most dynamic player at the point guard position and Ibaka continues to improve his skill set and range to make him more than a defensive specialist.

However, what makes the Thunder No. 1 on my ranking is their stable of young prospects and track record for developing talent. Jackson is a shining example of this, going from hardly playing in his rookie season to being a major contributor (and a starter in the playoffs once Westbrook went down). Elsewhere, Lamb is a silky-smooth shooting guard with excellent length and athleticism, Jones III has the chance to be a "Durant-lite" with his size and skill set, and rookies Adams and Roberson bring a different dynamic to the front line.

Oklahoma City is the rare team that is legitimately contending for a championship while simultaneously stockpiling real talent in its youth pipeline.

2. New Orleans Pelicans
Players: Al-Farouq Aminu (22), Anthony Davis (20), Tyreke Evans (23), Eric Gordon (24), Jrue Holiday (23), Pierre Jackson (21), Darius Miller (23), Austin Rivers (21), Jeff Withey (23)

Remember when I said the collection of young talent is not necessarily a predictor of future success? The Pelicans fit the bill here (no pun intended) as a team with a whole that is probably less than the sum of its parts. That said, they really have some pieces in their inventory, starting with 2012 No. 1 overall pick Davis. I saw him at USA Basketball training camp in Las Vegas, and he looks like he added some weight and improved the consistency of his midrange jumper. Davis has the potential to be a face-of-the-franchise talent if he continues to add strength. It's hard to believe draft-day acquisition Holiday is only 23 years old as he enters his fifth year as a pro; he provides the perfect pairing for Davis as an upper-echelon point guard who can grow with him.

It gets murkier from here, as Evans and Gordon are both talents I highly value (they were both on my next 10 list last January), though I'm not certain they can both co-exist with each other, or with Holiday, for that matter. Still, this list is about asset accumulation, and while I question the salaries paid to these players, they are good talents in their own right with the potential to get better.

Rounding out the roster, Aminu showed signs of being a defensive stopper on the wing and valuable rebounder -- though he needs to improve his perimeter jumper. Rivers has a ton of potential as a bench scorer, but his own mentality and $35 million in committed 2013-14 backcourt salaries all but ensure that if he realizes his potential, it will be somewhere else.

3. Utah Jazz
Players: Trey Burke (20), Alec Burks (22), Derrick Favors (22), Rudy Gobert (21), Gordon Hayward (23), Enes Kanter (21)

Although they lack a single player ranked in the top 25 under 25, I have the Jazz third on this list for two reasons. First, Favors is quickly laying claim to the mantle of "most underrated player in the league" by virtue of playing for the small-market Jazz. He's a top-shelf athlete with excellent length and an improving post game, and also serves as a team defensive anchor and rim protector. Second, Utah has diversified talent; that is to say, the Jazz have players who bring different things to the table at different positions: Hayward as a shooter, Burks as a combo guard, Burke as a scoring point guard and Kanter as a talented face-up 4. The advantage gained by this is that each player has the room to grow their game into natural areas of team need without cannibalizing their minutes.

Outside of those core players, Gobert is an athletic freak who has the potential to be a game-changing talent on the defensive end. He won't see much time initially, but that's a good thing for a player whose game needs refining.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers
Players: Anthony Bennett (20), Carrick Felix (22), Kyrie Irving (21), Sergey Karasev (19), Tristan Thompson (22), Dion Waiters (21), Tyler Zeller (23)

The list takes an interesting turn as I rank the Cavs fourth, based a great deal on the rising star of Irving. I have previously written about what makes Irving special, and recently seeing him in action at USA Basketball training camp only reaffirmed my belief that it is only a matter of time before he is unequivocally regarded as the best point guard in the league. His superhuman feel, unbelievable ball-handling skills, proficient perimeter game and leadership skills all point toward greatness. Outside of Irving are a collection of talented assets: Thompson improved greatly from his rookie year as an energy big and outstanding rebounder, Waiters had his moments as a slasher and scorer who needs to get more consistent and Zeller showed decent feel and touch on the block.

Cleveland brought in one of the more complete rookie classes in 2013, including No. 1 overall pick Bennett, who has the potential to be a versatile inside-outside threat, Karasev as a big wing shooter and Felix as a big wing defender and energy guy.

5. Chicago Bulls
Players: Jimmy Butler (23), Erik Murphy (22), Derrick Rose (24), Tony Snell (21), Marquis Teague (20)

If Cleveland was No. 4, Chicago ought to be No. 4(a). Rose is right up there as one of the elite players in the league, regardless of position, although it remains to be seen how he reacts to coming back from the first major injury of his career, which caused him to miss the 2012-13 season. The expectations will be massive, especially considering the somewhat controversial decision to not play during the Bulls' playoff run last spring. Still, a lot of weight must be given to a legitimate franchise player like Rose, who is a piece that almost every other team would kill to have.

Butler made a name for himself last season after not playing much his rookie year, and contributed with high-level athleticism on the wing and excellent defensive instincts. He's improved his accuracy from the perimeter but needs to continue to work on his shot in order to handle the greater scoring load that will be expected of him. With the departure of Nate Robinson, Teague has the opportunity to seize minutes at the backup PG position from veteran Kirk Hinrich. Rookies Murphy and Snell probably won't play this season, but both bring something useful to the table: Murphy as a stretch 4 and Snell as a ballhandling "3-and-D" wing.

6. Houston Rockets
Players: Isaiah Canaan (22), Robert Covington (22), James Harden (23), Terrence Jones (21), Jeremy Lin (24), Donatas Motiejunas (22), Chandler Parsons (24), Greg Smith (22), BJ Young (20)

Harden exploded out of the gates last season and fulfilled all of Houston's wildest dreams with him as its franchise player: He bought into the coaching system, scored points efficiently, made his teammates better and, best of all, made Houston an attractive enough basketball destination to lure Dwight Howard in free agency. Parsons was another pleasant development as an efficient 3-point shooting wing with size and playmaking ability, and perhaps an underrated defensive game. Lin was perhaps overextended in his first season post-"Linsanity," but with an increased emphasis on getting the ball into the post and more of a ballhandling responsibility for Parsons, Lin can increase his efficiency.

Houston's remaining young players are somewhat of a mixed bag, with Jones and Motiejunas having the most promise, as both players look to find their niche in the league. Rookie Canaan also has the potential to be a specialist who fits in with Houston's high-octane attack.

7. Golden State Warriors
Players: Harrison Barnes (21), Kent Bazemore (24), Festus Ezeli (23), Draymond Green (23), Nemanja Nedovic (22), Klay Thompson (23)

Four of the six Warriors under the age of 25 were bona fide contributors on a playoff team, and each has significant room to grow. Barnes really started to shine as a versatile scoring option in the postseason, getting buckets on post-ups and from the perimeter. He'll have to adjust to his new role as sixth man (making way for free-agency pickup Andre Iguodala), but that also means he'll have more opportunities to feast on second units. Thompson was one of my next 10 under 25, and is in the conversation for second-best shooter in the NBA (teammate Steph Curry being No. 1). Ezeli and Green both were surprise contributors last year, and simple adjustments and improvements can increase their productivity tremendously.

Bazemore was known as a sideshow for most of his rookie season, but he showed in the Vegas Summer League that he's ready to play a bigger role, as a defensive specialist and part-time playmaker. Nedovic is an explosive, athletic rookie who won't get much time this season but could bring a different dynamic to Golden State's backcourt in the future.

8. Detroit Pistons
Players: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (20), Andre Drummond (19), Brandon Jennings (23), Tony Mitchell (21), Greg Monroe (23), Peyton Siva (22)

Like the Pelicans, I like Detroit's collection of talent more than I like its combination of talent. Drummond and Monroe might be the best frontcourt combination in the league, but they competed for minutes almost as much as they played together last season. Without Monroe adding at least a reliable 17-foot jumper, it will be tough for them to coexist on the court. Still, I'd rather have the challenge of deciding how to play both of them than the problem of not having either of them. The Pistons hope the addition of Jennings will help facilitate their offense and open up the game for their frontcourt, but he'll need to show greater restraint when it comes to shot selection and a greater desire to showcase his bigs' talent, rather than his own.

Each of Detroit's three rookies brings something different to the table: Siva is a reliable backup point guard who will bring full-court defensive pressure, Caldwell-Pope is an athletic slasher with an underrated perimeter game and Mitchell is a raw frontcourt athlete with a ton of potential.

9. Portland Trail Blazers
Players: Will Barton (22), Nicolas Batum (24), Victor Claver (24), Allen Crabbe (21), Meyers Leonard (21), Damian Lillard (23), C.J. McCollum (21), Thomas Robinson (22)

"License to Lillard" is the name of the popular web series centered around Lillard's day-to-day life, but it also can refer to the permission granted to the Rookie of the Year to wreak havoc on the league last season. Lillard was one of the breakout stars of the 2012-13 season, as a scoring guard with point guard feel and playmaking, and he made the top 25 under 25 as a result. Lost in the hoopla of Lillard's play was a career year from Batum, who is entering his sixth season in the NBA. His all-around game finally got a chance to shine under new head coach Terry Stotts, as Batum was one of just eight players to average at least 14 points, five rebounds and four assists per game.

Barton showed some promise as a raw, untamed scoring talent; Leonard exhibited potential as a raw, unrefined athlete at center; and Claver flashed as a multi-talented wing with size. But the real haul came in the draft, as the Blazers were able to bolster their bench by drafting McCollum, a gifted scoring combo guard, and Crabbe, a pure shooter with size. Finally, the acquisition of Robinson might turn out to be the steal of the summer if he can develop into the type of player teams thought he could be coming out of Kansas a year ago.

10. Minnesota Timberwolves
Players: Lorenzo Brown (22), Gorgui Dieng (23), Kevin Love (24), Shabazz Muhammad (20), Ricky Rubio (22), Alexey Shved (24), Derrick Williams (22)

Entering his sixth season, Love has to show the ability to be reliably healthy. He's one of the premier pick-and-pop bigs in the NBA, specifically because he is the rare 3-point shooting big who also manages to be an elite rebounder on both ends of the floor (very difficult for stretch 4s to be excellent offensive rebounders), but it's all for naught if he is wearing a suit on the sidelines.

Rubio's growth as a point guard has been stunted by Love's absence, but he also bears some burden of the blame in continuing to lag in his perimeter shooting. His potential for development, along with Love's present stardom, make Minnesota talent rich in under-25s. Outside of those two, the talent takes a drop with Shved an inconsistent combo guard, Williams a "tweener" who has yet to master a position and draft picks Muhammad, Dieng and Brown who don't figure to make an impact out of the gate (and who have limited upsides).

11. Washington Wizards
Players: Bradley Beal (20), Otto Porter Jr. (20), Glen Rice Jr. (22), Kevin Seraphin (23), Chris Singleton (23), Jan Vesely (23), John Wall (22)

The Wizards recently inked John Wall to an $80 million contract extension, after which he proclaimed himself to be the best point guard in the NBA. While I'm not ready to jump on that particular bandwagon, I do support Washington's decision to lock up Wall, who is a freak of nature game-changer at the point. What separates him from many of the other great young point guards in the league (besides his superhuman athleticism and speed) is his ability to impact the game on both ends of the floor. His perimeter game is slowly improving, but he's still a long way from adequate; he also needs to add the ability to change pace/tempo to his game, a la Wizards assistant coach Sam Cassell. Wall's backcourt mate, Beal, is no slouch athletically, either, and brings much-needed spacing to the Wizards' offense. Together, they can form Washington's starting backcourt for the next decade.

Additionally, Seraphin is a blossoming post scorer, and 2013 draftees Porter and Rice each bring different looks and functions to the small forward position.

12. Los Angeles Clippers
Players: Reggie Bullock (22), Blake Griffin (24), Byron Mullens (24), Maalik Wayns (22)

One of the most marketable players in the league, Griffin has captivated the imagination of the masses with his aerial acrobatics. Very quietly, he has improved as an offensive player every year, adding a post game and improving his free throw shooting. The last stage of his evolution will be to become a more consistent defensive player and extend his range to be a more efficient midrange jump-shooter (similar to Amar'e Stoudemire).

But beyond Griffin, the Clippers' cupboard is somewhat bare. In the draft they snagged a nice 3-and-D player in Bullock and have fringe roster fillers in Mullens and Wayns. In fact, the Clippers' relative lack of youth was a point of concern I wrote about in February. They've managed to add vets in their prime at the cost of youth, highlighting the emphasis on winning now.

13. Indiana Pacers
Players: Paul George (23), Solomon Hill (22), Orlando Johnson (24), Lance Stephenson (22)

George cemented himself as perhaps the best young two-way player in the league as a long, rangy defender with explosive athleticism and scoring ability. He hasn't been extended yet, but the expectation is that this will be a formality.

After George, however, Indiana's young talent pool drops considerably: Stephenson has developed into a solid scoring guard, but he's probably better suited coming off the bench (something which might happen this year with the return of Danny Granger from injury); Johnson was used in spot situations as a big combo guard who has some promise from a versatility standpoint; and Hill, who projects at best to be an eighth or ninth man, won't play much this season. The Pacers' lack of young talent is indicative of the all-in approach they've taken with a roster that is built to compete now.

14. Sacramento Kings
Players: DeMarcus Cousins (22), Jimmer Fredette (24), Ray McCallum (22), Ben McLemore (20), Patrick Patterson (24), Isaiah Thomas (24)

I struggled to drop the Kings this low, but ultimately I felt their ranking (be it high or low) rests with how you reliable you view Cousins. He has the talent to be an elite big, but I don't believe it will happen for him in Sacramento, no matter how different the ownership, management and coaching are. The remaining vets all have the makings of merely being good second-string role players: Thomas has been a starter for them the last couple of years, but he is probably best cast as a 15-20 MPG backup; Patterson is a solid backup stretch 4, but nothing more; and Fredette would excel in an Eddie House-type role as someone who gets buckets in short minutes off the bench.

Sacramento did well in the draft by acquiring McLemore, an athletic pure shooter, and McCallum, a gifted point guard; however, both of their developments will be stunted as long as the Kings' roster is primarily populated with shoot-first players.

15. Charlotte Bobcats
Players: Bismack Biyombo (20), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (19), Jeff Taylor (24), Kemba Walker (23), Cody Zeller (20)

Charlotte is an excellent example of why I give more weight to teams with a star in hand than teams with a collection of solid young players. Despite having several nice young pieces, the team has struggled lately to find success. Even so, I am still optimistic about Kidd-Gilchrist's chances of developing into something special. I defended him as a prospect on TrueHoop TV at Summer League, but forgot to make the most important point: He's not even 20 years old!

Taylor is a solid 3-and-D candidate who is also a high-level athlete with the ability to create off the dribble; Walker has the skill, leadership and charisma to play bigger than his diminutive size; and Biyombo might eventually become a defensive specialist. Finally, adding Zeller in the draft could be the missing piece needed to tip the Bobcats from "awful" to simply "bad.

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Los Angeles Clippers are way

Los Angeles Clippers are way to high at 12. Look outside of Blake, who I am not very high on, there is not that much talent to warrant them the 12th spot. The bobcats youth is incredible not sure why they are 15 and Clippers are 12

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I think the Raptors would

I think the Raptors would have been a better choice for Number 15 but it is very close.

Under 25 players that Raptors have include: Demar DeRozan (24), Jonas Valanciunas (21), Terrence Ross (22) Quincy Acy (22) and Dwight Buycks (24)

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Looking at the Clippers at

Looking at the Clippers at number 12 reminded me when Byron Mullens was the #1 recruit on Rivals for his class. Looking back I remember so many people calling him an athletic freak and the potential to be a Dirk/Amare Hybrid. Look how that turned out haha.

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Bucks at 16?

GA-18 (poor mans Durrant), Henson-22, B. Knight-21 and Larry Sanders-24. And if Peyton Silva is on ESPN's list we might as well include Nate Wolters on the Bucks under 24 squad as well.

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Thanks for bringing this

Thanks for bringing this article up, I have insider, but I dont always look on espn for articles and I like it when people bring them up on here so I can know if there is an interesting article on espn

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Clippers way too high and i

Clippers way too high and i personally think the Wizards are a little low. Cool article though.

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Why not add 16-30 while we're at it.

Ranking teams' U-25 talent (16-30)
By Amin Elhassan
ESPN Insider

Mike D'Antoni, Kobe Bryant
Mike D'Antoni and Kobe Bryant don't have much help on the way in terms of young talent.

The unintended consequence of the new collective bargaining agreement has been the emphasis on asset collection: draft picks, cap space and youth. Players under the age of 25 are coveted more than ever, mostly for their artificially low rookie-scale salaries, but also for the promise of potential yet to be realized.

During my time as an assistant director of basketball operations in the NBA, I considered it a priority to be as knowledgeable as possible about young players on rosters, particularly those in their "First Four" years in the league (you might have read about these types of players during the Vegas Summer League). The under-25 list is a bit more expansive in that it includes players well into their second contracts, but nevertheless is still a good measure of young talent on a roster.

While an inventory of talent under the age of 25 on a roster is not predictive of a franchise's future success (the quality of management decision-making, financial resources, team chemistry, coaching and of course luck all play major roles), you'd rather your team have the assets in hand than not have them, all else being equal.

Given the select nature of those players eligible for an under-25 team ranking, here's an overview of guidelines and some brief rules of thumb:

• In order to be eligible for this list, a player must be 24 years or younger (born on or after Aug. 8, 1988).

• Teams with established superstars get an edge, due to a greater likelihood of return on investment, over teams with multiple "solid" talents (as the adage goes, "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.") However, teams with a lot of bushes (a full cupboard of solid talents) may trump teams with a solitary star.

• Added consideration was given to players who made last season's top 25 under 25 list or next 10 list.

• Players considered were only those expected to be on the 2013-14 roster (i.e. no Nikola Mirotic for Chicago, Raul Neto for Utah, etc.).

With the ground rules established, here's our ranking of the bottom 15 teams, those ranked Nos. 16-30, in the league based on under-25 talent. Note that player ages are indicated in parentheses. (To view the top 15 rankings, click here.)

16. Toronto Raptors

Players: Quincy Acy (22), Dwight Buycks (24), DeMar DeRozan (24), Terrence Ross (22), Jonas Valanciunas (21)

One of the absolute stars of Summer League this year was Valanciunas, who looked every bit the part of a player who was too good to be in Vegas. He was quietly productive in Toronto despite erratic minutes, but will be a major part of any Raptors success moving forward. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Ross struggled mightily in Vegas, looking tentative and unsure. He's got plenty of talent as an athletic shooting wing, but he needs to find his game if he's to develop any further. Ideally, Ross can look up to DeRozan, who similarly had a rocky start before finding his footing.

17. Orlando Magic

Players: Maurice Harkless (20), Tobias Harris (21), Doron Lamb (21), E'Twaun Moore (24), Andrew Nicholson (23), Kyle O'Quinn (23), Victor Oladipo (21), Romero Osby (23), Nikola Vucevic (22)

The Magic don't have any birds in hand, so they decided to plant an orchard of bushes. Vucevic was unexpectedly the best center to come out of the Dwight Howard-Andrew Bynum trade last summer, providing finishes out of the pick-and-roll and solid rebounding on both ends. Orlando has other promising young talent: Harris blossomed after being acquired midseason from Milwaukee; Nicholson has shown promise as a post scorer who can also step out and shoot the medium-range jumper; and Harkless has the potential to be a do-it-all wing player. The addition of Oladipo via the draft brings someone who can set the culture and tone for Orlando's future.

18. Phoenix Suns

Players: Michael Beasley (24), Eric Bledsoe (23), Archie Goodwin (18), Malcolm Lee (23), Alex Len (20), Kendall Marshall (21), Markieff Morris (23), Marcus Morris (23), Miles Plumlee (24)

Acquiring Bledsoe greatly boosted Phoenix's youth corps, who until that point were a roster of bench contributors. He brings elite athleticism at the point guard position, although now he'll have to adjust to playing more minutes without necessarily playing more minutes at point guard (he'll share those duties with incumbent Goran Dragic). The Morris twins both have the potential to be productive players, albeit at the same position: power forward (I'm not sold on Marcus as a full-time 3). Marshall is fighting for his NBA life at this stage, and it doesn't help that the Suns are well stocked at point guard. In terms of draft talent, Len has the potential to be a skilled big on the block who can pop out for the jumper, but the real gem was Goodwin, an athletic freak who, at 18, was one of the youngest players in the draft.

19. Philadelphia 76ers

Players: Lavoy Allen (24), James Anderson (24), Michael Carter-Williams (21), Justin Holiday (24), Arsalan Kazemi (23), Arnett Moultrie (22), Nerlens Noel (19), Tim Ohlbrecht (24), Evan Turner (24), Royce White (22)

Philadelphia forged full speed into tank mode with their draft-day trade of Jrue Holiday to New Orleans, leaving Turner as the sole vet under 25 on the roster with the opportunity to become something special. Rather, the Sixers have put their eggs into the basket of their rookies, banking that Carter-Williams can be a unique talent as an oversized point guard and Noel can be a defensive game-changer. I'm not as sold on Noel as I am on Carter-Williams, which deflated Philly's ranking on this list.

20. Atlanta Hawks

Players: Jared Cunningham (22), John Jenkins (22), Shelvin Mack (23), Mike Muscala (22), Lucas Nogueira (21), Dennis Schroeder (19)

Of the young vets on Atlanta's roster, Jenkins is the only one with a discernible NBA skill (as a shooter). Cunningham has some potential as a defensive option in the backcourt, but he's a long way from being offensively competent. The Hawks' potential comes in the form of their three draftees: Schroeder is a crafty point guard with excellent speed; Nogueira is a long, athletic big whose game (and confidence) has improved by strides in the last few years; and Muscala has a lot of potential as a pick-and-pop big who can also do damage on the block.

21. Boston Celtics

Players: Avery Bradley (22), MarShon Brooks (24), Jordan Crawford (24), Colton Iverson (24), Fab Melo (23), Kelly Olynyk (22), Phil Pressey (22), Jared Sullinger (21)

Another orchard of bushes with no birds in hand, as the closest thing Boston has to a sure thing is Bradley, who has developed into one of the top defensive guards in the game but leaves a lot to be desired on the offensive end. There are no sure things elsewhere, either: Brooks and Crawford are both volume scorers who inefficiently fill it up off the bench; Sullinger is a solid complementary big as a high basketball IQ skill player, but lacks the athleticism to be anything more; Melo is extremely raw and might never develop into anything more meaningful than a Steven Hunter-type of player. Of the rookies, Olynyk has a shot at becoming something special if he can translate his game to the highest levels of length and athleticism, while Pressey and Iverson project to be serviceable backups.

22. Denver Nuggets

Players: Kenneth Faried (23), Evan Fournier (20), Danilo Gallinari (24), Jordan Hamilton (22), J.J. Hickson (24), Quincy Miller (20), Anthony Randolph (24)

The Nuggets are the lowest-ranked team with multiple players on our January ranking lists, and for good reason: Gallinari's devastating knee injury gives me pause over his projected development as a lead scorer, and I believe Faried is pretty much exactly who he's going to be for most of his career (a high-energy, low-skill big with athleticism). Hickson similarly seems to have peaked and might actually come down from last year's career numbers. Fournier, Miller and Hamilton are all big scoring wings with some room for improvement, but all are incomplete players for a variety of reasons. Randolph is still the biggest tease in the league from a potential-versus-production standpoint.

23. Milwaukee Bucks

Players: Giannis Antetokounmpo (18), John Henson (22), Brandon Knight (21), Khris Middleton (21), Larry Sanders (24), Nate Wolters (22)

Despite the improvements shown last season, I still have serious doubts about Sanders improving his game beyond what it is; in fact, I'm much more bullish on Henson's potential as a player. Knight is probably a high-level backup at best. Wolters and Antetokounmpo are both underrated draft pickups who are probably several years from contributing.

24. Memphis Grizzlies

Players: Jerryd Bayless (24), Ed Davis (24), Jamaal Franklin (22), Kosta Koufos (24), Jon Leuer (24), Willie Reed (23), Tony Wroten (20)

Davis has All-Star potential as he continues to develop his game, but won't get much of an opportunity to showcase it as long as Zach Randolph is on the roster. Koufos was one of the most underrated pickups of the offseason, but he is who he is: a solid backup center who can start in a pinch. Bayless has finally settled into his optimal role, as a scoring guard off the bench. Wroten has incredible potential, but I don't see him reaching it.

25. San Antonio Spurs

Players: Cory Joseph (21), Kawhi Leonard (22), Patty Mills (24), Deshaun Thomas (21)

Outside of Leonard, who had an outstanding sophomore season capped with a successful playoff run, the Spurs cupboard is bare; Joseph plays hard but isn't very talented, Mills is a third-string point guard and Thomas is a rookie without a clear position.

26. New York Knicks

Players: Tim Hardaway Jr (21), C.J. Leslie (22), Iman Shumpert (23), Jeremy Tyler (22)

Shumpert is developing into what I always thought he'd be: a high-level defender with an improved 3-point shot (and not a point guard). Like Bradley in Boston, he's a nice piece to have but is not going to move the needle from a star-level talent standpoint. Rookies Hardaway and Leslie both project to be contributing role players, but you aren't making either of them cornerstones of your franchise.

27. Brooklyn Nets

Players: Mason Plumlee (23), Toko Shengelia (21), Tyshawn Taylor (23),

Brooklyn made it clear with its offseason decisions that the focus is to win now, and it mortgaged its future to that end. Shengelia is an interesting prospect as a big wing, but it remains to be seen if he'll want to stick around Brooklyn much longer as a player nailed to the bench. Plumlee also has some promise as a rebounder and pick-and-roll target, but not much else.

28. Miami Heat

Players: Norris Cole (24), James Ennis (23)

The Miami Heat are firmly entrenched in the golden age of their franchise, and every resource is devoted to competing for a championship now. Given their track record, it's easy to forgive them for being shortsighted. Cole is a solid backup point guard as a one-on-one defender and improved 3-point threat. If Ennis can make the roster, he might be able to eventually develop into a 3-and-D wing who can contribute.

29. Dallas Mavericks

Players: Jae Crowder (23), Shane Larkin (20), Ricky Ledo (20)

Unlike many of the other teams lacking youth on this list, the Mavericks are not close to competing for a championship, making their current predicament a little inexcusable. Crowder might be a 3-and-D candidate, but he's a long way away from the "3" part of that. Larkin is a spark-plug point guard, but I don't envision him being better than a high-level backup. Lastly, Ledo is a volatile player with a lot of talent, but also has a lot self-constructed obstacles that will probably prevent him from realizing it.

30. Los Angeles Lakers

Players: Ryan Kelly (22), Robert Sacre (24)

Bringing up the rear are the Lakers, with almost nothing to show for their quest to remain contenders. They are a borderline lottery team with nothing worth mentioning in their pipeline. Of course, part of this is by design, to ensure the minimum amount of committed salaries for the 2014 offseason. Still, it's tough to look at that list and feel good about the future.

Memphis Madness
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Ryan Kelly should get some

Ryan Kelly should get some open looks with Kobe, Pau, Nash, and Chris Kaman. They are even older and more wounded but this still looks like the team no one in the West wants to play in the first round.

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