ESPN came out with its annual “Top 25 under 25” players in the NBA list ($) on Tuesday. Usually, these lists always get chopped apart and ridiculed. What usually doesn’t happen is an ESPNer absolutely shredding and discrediting the article, which is exactly what Stephen A. Smith did.
For fans of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell were “aged out” from the list. However, Anthony Edwards made it, and the gap between him and fellow rookie LaMelo Ball is laughable.
Let’s start with the obvious to clean up the mess that was started here. Luka Doncic and Zion Williamson are No. 1 and No. 2 on the list, respectively. Fine, perfect, spectacular. You won’t find many people fussing about that. The head-scratching starts at No. 3.
Charlotte Hornets rookie sensation LaMelo Ball is in the No. 3 spot on the list. Not only is he ahead of players like Donovan Mitchell, Devin Booker, Jayson Tatum, and others, he’s SIXTEEN spots ahead of Edwards, who lands at No. 19.
Don’t get it twisted, seeing Edwards at No. 19 makes sense intuitively until you see who is ahead of him. Personally, I’d put him ahead of Mikal Bridges and Michael Porter Jr. (no disrespect to those two) if we are comparing player potential alongside what everyone on the list has already shown or accomplished.
The issue that is almost comical is the distance between Ball and Edwards. LaMelo was dazzling in his rookie season before injuring his wrist. For every one of Edwards’ viral dunks, LaMelo flashed with beautiful passes or acrobatic moves at the rim. But there’s no way that he’s shown so much potential that he should be listed that far ahead of Edwards.
Look at the base numbers. Edwards is averaging 17.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game. As far as potential goes, he looks like a future All-Star who can be a franchise pillar. He’s shown flashes of being a star for the next decade-plus.
LaMelo’s averages before his injury were as follows: 15.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 6.1 assists per game. Pretty damn good numbers. Not enough to be placed 16 spots ahead of Ant on ESPN’s list.
Look at some of the lineups Edwards has played with while Towns, Russell, and Malik Beasley all floated in and out of the lineup. There were games where the Wolves needed Edwards to be the go-to option offensively if they wanted a chance on a given night. He was frequently the focal point of an opposing team’s defense and played in the starting lineup with guys who should be coming off the bench. Often he still flourished.
Most likely, this is a classic ESPN overreaction to the national spotlight LaMelo has been thrust into as he worked his way from Chino Hills to Lithuania and Australia. Nobody is doubting LaMelo has the ability to become a star. But to put him ahead of Tatum, Mitchell, Booker seems wildly optimistic. Putting him 16 spots ahead of Edwards, who has shown every bit of brilliance that Ball has as the two have worked through their rookie seasons, is nonsensical.
The good thing is these lists mean nothing. They are great discussion points, and heck, maybe this motivates Edwards. Either way, when Stephen A. talks about how laughable the list is, it’s probably not a great list. Let’s hope Edwards cracks the top 10 by this time next year.