Where Celtics stars rank in ESPN's new Top 25 Under 25 NBA players list

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Nick Goss
·3 min read
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Did ESPN underrate Celtics stars in new Top 25 Under 25 ranking? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Boston Celtics have two of the NBA's best young players in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, but where do these All-Stars rank among their peers?

ESPN on Wednesday unveiled its annual best 25 players under 25 years old ranking, for which both Tatum (age 23) and Brown (age 24) qualify to be included. The list was made by ESPN analysts Bobby Marks, Kevin Pelton and Mike Schmitz. Players are ranked on "future potential."

Tatum came in at No. 5 this year, a drop of two spots from 2020 when he was No. 3. Just like last season, Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic is No. 1 and New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson is No. 2.

Two players -- Charlotte Hornets rookie point guard LaMelo Ball is now ranked No. 3 and Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell at No. 4 -- are now ahead of Tatum. 

Ball was having a tremendous first season in Charlotte before suffering a potentially season-ending wrist injury in March, but should he be ranked above Tatum? It's a bold take, for sure. Tatum has earned back-to-back All-Star appearances and is currently averaging career highs with 25.2 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. Tatum is a better play than Ball right now, and you could make a very strong case that the Celtics forward's ceiling is higher, too.

Mitchell being ahead of Tatum makes a lot more sense. The 24-year-old All-Star is the best player on a Jazz team that leads the league with a 38-12 record.

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What about Brown?

He's ranked at No. 12, sandwiched between two players from his 2016 draft class in New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram at No. 11 and Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray at No. 13.

There are really only two players -- Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo at No. 9 and Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander at No. 10 -- who are ahead of Brown that maybe should be lower than him. 

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Brown was No. 13 on ESPN's list in 2020, so he's climbed one spot despite having the best year of his career in 2021. The No. 3 overall pick in 2016 is scoring a career-high 24.3 points per game and shooting just below 40 percent from 3-point range. He also was an All-Star for the first time this season.

The Celtics are one of seven teams -- along with the Pelicans, Suns, Nuggets, Hawks, Kings and Cavaliers -- with multiple players in ESPN's 2021 ranking.

Overall, the two C's stars were ranked pretty fairly. Perhaps the biggest surprise is Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young slotted at No. 16 despite averaging 25.2 points and 9.4 assists per game for the fourth-place team in the Eastern Conference.