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Ranking the NBA's top-5 young cores entering the 2023-24 season


Most NBA teams have a young core of some sort, but some arebetter than others.

Each year, teams try to add to their young nucleus through thedraft. The 2023 NBA Draft just featured the most highly-anticipatedprospect since LeBron James in Victor Wembanyama, plus a number ofother talented rookies like Scoot Henderson, Brandon Miller and theThompson twins.

Entering the 2023-24 season, which team has the best young core?Today, we'll rank the five best cores from around the league. Thecriteria is simple: players must be age-25 or younger to beconsidered.

5. Orlando Magic

The Magic landed young star Paolo Banchero with the No. 1overall pick last season, pairing him with 2021 lottery pick FranzWagner to form a nice one-two punch. Cole Anthony had highexpectations entering the league, but he hasn't quite become theplayer that fans wanted him to be. One player who has exceededexpectations is Wendell Carter Jr. After a shaky start to hiscareer with the Chicago Bulls, Carter has found his place on theMagic and is considered one of the better young starting centers inthe NBA. He isn't the only player who turned his career aroundafter landing in Orlando, as Markelle Fultz is playing his bestbasketball and has a nice redemption story of his own. Other youngplayers who have an opportunity to make an impact going forward areOrlando's recent lottery picks Anthony Black and Jett Howard, bothof whom are 19 years old. Orlando has consistently been one of theworst teams in the league for several years now and while theirrebuilding roster is solid, it isn’t quite as good or enticing assome of the other teams on our list.

Notable Players: Paolo Banchero (20), Franz Wagner (23),Wendell Carter Jr. (24), Anthony Black (19), Jett Howard (19),Markelle Fultz (25), Cole Anthony (23), Jalen Suggs (21), JonathanIsaac (25), Caleb Houstan (20)

4. New Orleans Pelicans

The Pelicans are the only young core on this list withpostseason experience, as they made the playoffs in 2021-22 andmade the play-in tournament last season. Their young core islargely carried by four players: Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson,Trey Murphy III and Herb Jones. Ingram has become a terrificscorer, and he's coming off a season in which he averagedcareer-highs in points (24.7) and assists (5.8). While Williamsonhas been one of the best players in the NBA when healthy, wehaven’t seen him on the court very much since he was drafted in2019. Murphy is a terrific shooter and Jones has had a very solidstart to his career as well, making a name for himself as alockdown perimeter defender. New Orleans has a few other youngplayers with potential including Dyson Daniels, Jordan Hawkins andKira Lewis Jr., but they have yet to prove themselves. Ingram,Williamson, Murphy and Jones are the main reason why the Pelicansare ranked here.

Notable Players: Brandon Ingram (25), Zion Williamson (23),Trey Murphy III (23), Herb Jones (24), Dyson Daniels (20), JordanHawkins (21), Kira Lewis Jr. (22)

3. Houston Rockets

The Rockets have one of the more underrated young cores in theNBA, as their lack of success has prevented them from getting muchrecognition. Fortunately for the Rockets, their main issue has beenlack of experience, and the team addressed it this offseason. Theyhad money to spend and they brought in some veterans to help leadthe team, most notably Fred VanVleet. That said, their young coreis still extremely talented and got even better through this year’sdraft. The key for this Rockets team to succeed is to make surethese young players continue to develop at a high rate, which iswhere new head coach Ime Udoka and his staff come in. They havemultiple players on their roster with All-Star potential, and it'spossible they'll compete for a play-in spot by the end of theseason.

Notable Players: Jalen Green (21), Jabari Smith (20),Alperen Sengun (21), Amen Thompson (20), Tari Eason (22), KevinPorter Jr. (23), Cam Whitmore (19)

2. San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs undoubtedly have one of the NBA's best young cores.No. 1 overall pick Victor Wembanyama has made San Antonio the teamto watch this season. That said, they likely won’t be a playoffteam for at least another year. While it's possible that they'llshock everyone, it will be difficult for Wembanyama to lead them tothe postseason as a rookie. He will likely need at least a year toadjust to the NBA and develop before taking that next leap in hiscareer. Wembanyama isn’t the only young star on the Spurs, as theyhave already started developing fellow cornerstones Devin Vasselland Keldon Johnson, who have made quite an impression. Throw in TreJones, Jeremy Sochan, Malaki Branham, Romeo Langford and BlakeWesley, and it's clear why the Spurs are this high. Other youngplayers who have shown promise are Charles Bassey and JulianChampagnie, both of whom came over from the Philadelphia 76ers’organization. These two players have displayed a ton of potential,particularly in the G League and Summer League, and they could besolid contributors for years to come.

Notable Players: Victor Wembanyama (19), Keldon Johnson(23), Tre Jones (23), Devin Vassell (22), Jeremy Sochan (20),Malaki Branham (20), Romeo Langford (23), Zach Collins (25), BlakeWesley (20), Julian Champagnie (22), Charles Bassey (22), DominickBarlow (20), Sandro Mamukelashvili (24)

1. Oklahoma City Thunder

The Spurs were a hard core to beat but, to nobody’s surprise,the Oklahoma City Thunder have the best young core in the NBA. Notonly do they have the youngest starting lineup in the league, it isfilled with young stars. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has emerged as oneof the best guards in the league, while Josh Giddey andRookie-of-the-Year runner-up Jalen Williams just had a terrificseason. Chet Holmgren, the No. 2 overall pick in last year's draft,hasn't played yet but he will undoubtedly make an immediate impactand could give OKC a Rookie-of-the-Year finalist for the secondyear in a row. Despite how young the Thunder are, they could make aserious playoff push this season, with Shai at the steering wheel.Perhaps what's scariest about the Thunder is that they have 35draft picks over the next seven years, including 15 first-rounders,so their already-impressive young core is still a work inprogress.

Notable Players: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (25), Chet Holmgren(21), Josh Giddey (20), Jalen Williams (22), Cason Wallace (19),Luguentz Dort (24), Aleksej Pokusevski (21), Isaiah Joe (24), TreMann (22), Jaylin Williams (21), Ousmane Dieng (20), JeremiahRobinson-Earl (22), Keyontae Johnson (23)

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