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Insider Help. Top 20 Year Olds

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Insider Help. Top 20 Year Olds

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Two weeks ago, we rated the

Two weeks ago, we rated the youngest age group in the NBA, teenagers all. Today, we continue our series ranking the rookie class by age with the 20-year-olds, who all have long careers ahead of them if they get some breaks. As a reminder, we are rating a player purely on the level of his ceiling -- how good he can ultimately be if given the perfect situation.

ROOKIE 50 RANKINGS
We're ranking the top 50 rooks in the NBA. Here's the latest: Rookie 50 »

1. Harrison Barnes, Warriors
I can't help but wonder how Barnes would be playing on a team like Charlotte, which is short on offensive talent and trying to develop its talent for a playoff run in the future. Barnes has always reminded me of Paul Pierce. Check out what Pierce did as a rookie (per 36 minutes) when he was 21, compared to what Barnes is doing now at 20.

Pierce: 17.4 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.8 SPG, 1.1 BPG, 43.9 FG%, 41.2 3PT%
Barnes: 12.9 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 2.0 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 44.6 FG%, 35.9 3PT%

Pierce played on a bad team that ran and pressed and shot a lot of 3s and was featured on offense from day one. He's a surefire Hall of Famer now.

My guess is that if Barnes were on a team that featured him more, he'd be putting up very similar numbers to what Pierce did as a rookie despite Barnes being a year younger. Even if Barnes is only given slightly more opportunities next season on the offensively talented Warriors, he can put up similar numbers to Pierce's. Barnes might be the best athlete in this draft and has the potential to be a dominant wing defender. Coupled with his offensive talent, he should be a multi-time All-Star.

Sullinger
2. Jared Sullinger, Celtics
Sullinger fell in the draft due to health concerns, not because of a lack of talent or production in college. Perhaps it was right for him to drop, as he is out for the season now with back issues, but there is every reason to believe he should be 100 percent by next season. If he comes back in better shape and with a more athletic body -- combined with his feel for the game, his understanding of how to use his body for leverage and his power and length -- the Celtics will have the makings of a starting power forward who should average a double-double for years.

This season, Sullinger was a pick-and-roll and pick-and-post offensive player. In time, he should also be a pick-and-pop threat. There are very few NBA bigs who can excel in all three of those categories, but Sullinger can. If he can become a more dangerous low-post player in isolation -- quicker and more explosive -- he has All-Star potential.

Valanciunas
3. Jonas Valanciunas, Raptors
Every season, we are reminded that big men often develop later than expected. DeAndre Jordan, Kosta Koufos, JaVale McGee -- the list is long and impressive. The best thing about Valanciunas, besides his size and hands, is that he is just 20, which is very young for a big man.

Valanciunas does not project as strongly as some bigs who are better athletes -- he is not that nimble on defense and not an above-the-rim player -- but he is active enough to start for a lot of good teams going forward.

He is already a good rebounder with room to improve and has a Rasheed Wallace-type perimeter shot with a high release, making it very hard to contest. (He brings his feet too close together when he shoots, but that will be easy to fix.) I also like how he sets screens with a wide base and patience. In time, the ability to screen well, coupled with his strong hands, will make him a good pick-and-roll player. And when his perimeter shot improves, he will be a strong offensive weapon.

Lamb
4. Jeremy Lamb, Thunder
Crazy long with a beautiful shooting stroke, Lamb should be able to find court time next season as a designated shooter. But his basketball IQ and limited ability to make attacking plays with the ball in his hands might keep him from reaching the high ceiling his fans think he has.

Lamb is best when a team features him as a shooter off screens, but there are not many teams that play that way. He would look nice in Utah, using pin-downs to get medium-range jumpers as part of a form of a continuity offense. He could also be a high-level scorer running what Detroit used to run with Richard Hamilton back in the day, or Reggie Miller in Indiana, using single-doubles to free him up -- but only if he has the work ethic to get into the kind of shape needed to run all over the court possession after possession. Absent those kinds of offenses, he should still be a good player in this league if he works on his shot selection and ball security (he is far too casual with the ball now).

Rivers
5. Austin Rivers, Hornets
This may seem high for someone who might be the worst rotation player in the league. Watching Rivers play, though, tells a different story than looking at his results. Rivers gets to a lot of great places on the court. He is a powerful dribbler who is crafty with his moves and footwork. The problem, and it's a huge one, is that he is a horrible finisher.

However, as the game slows down and he learns how to finish, I see Rivers becoming a valuable guard who will be capable of averaging double figures in points and tough to defend in fourth quarters. His work ethic is respected, and his ego should be able to swallow just how bad he has been because the numbers scream it. That is a recipe for many long days in the offseason fine-tuning his game.

Upside potential still to be determined

Leonard
Meyers Leonard, Trail Blazers
We know he can run and is a good screen setter who understands that he needs to look to set screens at all times. So just based on those talents and his size, he can be in the NBA for years. But for a big man at such a young age, there is still a lot left to evaluate.

Can he become a reliable pick-and-pop guy? Probably, which would add huge value to his game. Can he become a great rebounder? Maybe, as he grows into his body and adds a lot of strength. It is not likely that he becomes any kind of low-post threat, but if he can be a solid rebounder and perimeter shooter he will be a good rotation player for over a decade.

Fournier
Evan Fournier, Nuggets
I am high on his talent as a shooter -- he has a smooth and effortless release. He also has a solid offensive feel, knowing where and when to get off clean looks. But he is completely a fish out of water on the defensive side of the ball for Denver.

Although he has no history of being a willing defender, Fournier brings toughness, which is a good start. If he becomes decent on the defensive end, he's a great fit for any team in need of a pure shooter.

Miller
Quincy Miller, Nuggets
Miller is still a complete unknown at this point. An injury caused him to fall to Denver in the second round and the Nuggets' amazing depth has kept him on the bench all season. He showed some flashes of talent during summer league, but he remains a mystery playing against proven veterans.

We have seen signs of life from him as an offensive weapon in the D-League, as he's decent with the ball in his hands in terms of quickness for a guy his size. His shot is fluid as well, though he usually has his feet too close together and thus is too narrow to be properly balanced.

Crossyboy
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TOP 20 TEEN ROOKIES

Thanks Y2G. Any chance of getting the previous article to make the comparison?

http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/story/_/page/Rookies-130207/ranking-19-ye...

Many thanks in advance.

PS: Always imagined that Rivers was in the 19yo category.

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Doesn't make sense to me to

Doesn't make sense to me to leave the 19 year old players out of this. No Drummond, no Davis and a list who is incomlpete to me now. Should be named 20 year old players or less in the NBA.

But maybe espn is trying to lure readers into insider articles with this split of a ranking. Doesn't make a difference to me if Freshmen like Drummond and Rivers are beeing ranked seperately.

I don't like Sullinger at 2nd and to assume he comes back next year 100% and with a more athletic body seems like a major stretch for me. He is a steal for the Celtics and I'm sorry for him that his back is injured but to rank him now ahead of Lamb or Jonas is not really realistic to me. He accomplished more than both of them in the league this season but with him out for the year this seems wrong to me.

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Its a pity Lamb is with the

Its a pity Lamb is with the Thunder, I would love to know what sort of numbers he would put up if given quality minutes on a lotto team - cavs, bobcats etc

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Milwaukee

Lamb could have been yours Brew-Town and you messed it up with that trade to Houston. And than you give up too many assets for Reddick. SMH.

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