Updated: Feb 4
If there’s one thing we love at GameDay Squad it's theorising about the perfect squad for the future and with so much young talent in today’s NBA, I couldn’t stop myself from dreaming about what the perfect young squad might look like.
In a similar format to the “All NBA teams”, I wanted to create 3 teams of the NBA’s best young talent that I believe make up the best 3 players per position that I would want to have in my squad.
I gave myself a few rules when assembling my teams:
1. Players must play in their correct positions 2. Players must be capable of playing for the next 7 years at a championship level (yes, we’re going to top the bull’s dynasty by 1!) 3. Take off my OKC thunder eye patch when looking at SGA and Giddy
Now, I’m not trying to say my list is perfect but... good luck trying to find a spot I got wrong!
PG: Ja Morant – 22 – Memphis Grizzlies
Easily the most hyped player at the time of writing. Ja simply has now become THAT guy. This season he’s taken the leap from a potential star to genuine MVP contender. Forget the fact he can drop 35 at ease or have noteworthy dunks/lay-up highlights every other, it’s his rapidly developing maturity and an increased willingness to get his teammates involved through assists or his off the ball cutting that makes him a lethal threat, regardless of who he shares the court with. Good luck guarding him for the next 7 years!
SG: Luka Donic – 23 – Dallas Mavericks
The first on the team sheet for me and the only player on all 3 teams I wouldn’t listen to an argument against. Not only is this guy the best player 23 and under, he’s also the best player under 25, and its not even close. I could go on about his 2020 Olympics, his already insane playoff stats, the fact he was Euro League Finals MVP before even entering the NBA at the age of 18, but the truth is if you still need any convincing that Luka isn’t #1 on this list, there’s no help for you out there.
SF: Jason Tatum – 23 – Boston Celtics
On the NBA GDS podcast we do love to rip into our very own Tom about his golden child, but the truth is Tatum remains one the premier young talents in the whole NBA. At 23, he has over 300 games to his name, two all-star appearance, two trips the conference finals an all-NBA third team appearance and let’s not forget that dunk on Lebron James. We are happy to overlook his recent shooting woes and a couple of poor seasons from the Celtics because the fact remains, he remains on track to one day become the league’s most dominant wing player.
PF: Evan Mobley – 20 – Cleveland Cavaliers
In my years of watching the NBA, there are zero players who have had more of a defensive impact in their first season in the NBA Mobley who along with Allen have turned the Cavs defence around from the worst last season into a top 5 this season. After dropping to third in the recent draft, there’s now no surprise as to why his pre-draft comparisons to Garnett, Bosh and Duncan are incredibly accurate with his movement, length and IQ already causing opposition teams plenty of problems. He’s no scrub on offense either, with 15 points and a 3 assist average he is contributing to the Cavs surprising push into the top three of the east showing us why he has run away with the rookie of the year award and looks like the premier big to build around for the next 10 years.
C: Nikola Jokic – 26 – Denver Nuggets
Now I know what you’re thinking, what business does a reigning MVP have doing on a team build for the future? My answer is simple, this guy’s game is that great and unique that I believe Jokic’s best years are still all ahead of him. Crazy to think for a guy on track for one of the most dominant seasons of all time, but his strength is the IQ at which he plays the game, allowing him to be in the right place to rebound, score and dish out passes the rest of us could only dream of giving. He doesn’t rely on his athleticism and for me a Jokic with five years more experience may be an even scary prospect to play against then he is today.
PG: LaMelo Ball – 20 – Charlotte Hornets
Already boasting a career stat line of 20, 8 and 7 in just his second NBA season, Ball has burst onto the scene as one of the most impactful and watchable young player the league has seen. Whether it’s a gorgeous assist or a deep deep 3, he is showman and serious headache for opposition team. He has the length to be a hassle on defence as well and the 2021 rookie of the year is player I want in this team for a very long time!
SG: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – 23 – Oklahoma City Thunder
Ok, I know I said I would take off my OKC glasses, but this guy is an absolute stud. The thing for me that separates SGA from so many of these other great guards in the league is that when a game is on the line, this guy is CLUTCH. Whether it’s a 3 from the logo or his signature lay up in traffic with his 6”10 wingspan, he can deliver when it counts. But it’s not just that, last season he was so dominant in the first half of the season he had the thunder at .500 in the west, the thunder sat him and they went 6-31 without him. Pretty darn impressive for a 22-year-old is you ask me.
SF: Anthony Edwards – 20 – Minnesota Timberwolves
It's freakish to think that this former number 1 draft pick didn’t start playing basketball until he was 15 but then again freakish is a pretty good way to describe the Ant-man’s talents. I watched him score 48 points for fun against the warriors in his rookie season and every time I’ve watched him since it feels like a 50-point game is just around the corner. He is as athletic as anyone else in the league and arguably as funny off the court as well and for me is a no brainer to have on this list with the potential celling he may one day get to.
PF: Bam Adebayo – 24 - Miami Heat
It’s hard to believe that Bam Bam is only 24 as it felt like he walked into the league with one of the most developed bodies in the game, but it’s not all just looks for the big guy! He consistently backs it up with 20 and 10 games in which he will often selflessly play to let his fellow heat starts in Butler, Lowrey and Hero shine. This all stars shown how great he can be with that 2020 finals push and there’s no reason why after only 4 years in the league he still won’t get better and better for my squad.
C: Deandrea Ayton – 23 – Phoenix Suns
While flying under the radar in his first couple of seasons, the former number 1 pick has really emerged over the last two seasons as not only one of the best centres in the game but also as one of the best young players in league. To me, he plays an egoless game that doesn’t always shown in the box score however the Sun’s surprise trip to last year’s finals is evidence of just how impactful this guy is to winning. While we won’t ever be your number one or maybe even your number two guy, I doubt you’ll ever find a more perfect number three in the league.
PG: Trae Young – 23 – Atlanta Hawks
At just 23, the stats and achievements of this guy are phenomenal! As an All-star in just his second season in the NBA, Young became only the 5th player in NBA history to average 29 points and 9 assists in a season. In year 3 he led a lowly ranked hawks’ team to its first conference finals leading from the front with a playoff stat line of 29 and 10. For all his flaws and his unlikability (not from me Trae, I love you!), he is the league’s best villain and a guy I would trust to go into an opponent’s building on the road and single handily win you a game in the playoffs. He will only mature and learn to get his team mates more involved and will be causing other teams’ headaches for years to come.
SG: Donavon Mitchell – 25 – Utah Jazz
Yep, I went Mitchell over Booker and I’m not going to apologise for it. The fact is that when you compare the two, Mitchell averages more points, rebounds, steals, and blocks while trailing assist by just 0.2 a game. In his first season with the Jazz, he single handildley beat the OKC trio of Westbrook, George and Melo and since then has shown an elite ability to accumulate stat lines like a 36 point per game average during his 2020 playoffs. He can be a winning player as both THE man and as a guy in the system and at only 25 he’s a guy that can both help me win the chip this year and for the next 6 as well.
SF: Scottie Barnes – 20 – Toronto Raptors
It didn’t take long for the NBA world to see why the raptors surprising reach in the recent draft to take Barnes 4th overall ahead of the national college standout, Jalen Suggs. Barnes has took the NBA by storm in his first season with his incredible on ball defence and ability to get a bucket, particularly in crunch time. He’s a non-stop energiser bunny that night after night looks like the player on the court playing the hardest and at 6-9 with and incredible wingspan, he will be a match up problem in the NBA on both ends for years to come.
PF: Domantas Sabonis – 25 – Indiana Pacers
While PF isn’t the deepest position for future talent in the NBA, at 25 I still believe the best of this 2x All-star is yet to come. While Jokic has ruined what is considered normal for big men, at his best Sabonis is one of few other bigs who can facilitate an offence at an elite level. He is a player who gets better when those around him can make their shots (yes, that’s dig at the Pacers) and I truly believe that in the right situation he can go past the level of play we’ve seen from him in the past.
C: Jarrett Allen – 23 – Cleveland Cavaliers
And finally, a guy that only now is getting the true love for what he’s doing and the future potential he can have. Allen like his front court running mate is one of the league’s best defensive players with Second Spectrum Tracking Data showing that players are expected to score 12.5% worse at the rim when met by Allen - 96th percentile in the league! On top of this insane defensive presence his points per game have continued to increase year on year (now at 17ppg) and when he’s getting that at a 70% shooting percentage while already grabbing 11 boards a game, its easy to see why he be a pillar you’d happy to build around for years to come.
Honourable mentions: Devin Booker, Karl Anthony Towns, Cade Cunningham, Darius Garland, Josh Giddey, RJ Barrett and Tyrese Haliburton.
Listen to Episode 16 of the NBA Gameday Squad to hear me defend my picks and explain why I think the 3 teams I have chosen will stand the test of time!
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