The best 23-year-old: Ben Simmons
You know who can’t shoot from deep? Ben Simmons. In 7,362 career minutes, he’s made two 3-pointers. You know who can’t do all the things Simmons does? 99 percent of the NBA. Before a nerve impingement in his lower back sidelined him shortly after the All-Star break, the 23-year-old was leading the 76ers in assists and steals, second in scoring and rebounding and often guarding the other team’s best player, and guarding them well. Simmons had 10+ points in 89 percent of Philadelphia’s games, 10+ assists in 35 percent and 10+ boards in 31 percent. Sometimes stats lie, but Simmons’ production was central to the Sixers’ success: when he played Philadelphia was on a 50-win pace; in the 11 games he missed, they went 6-5.
The best 24-year-old: Giannis Antetokounmpo
You know who else can’t shoot from deep? Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Greek Freak is 29 percent beyond the arc for his career and barely topped that last year. You know who can’t do all the things Antetokounmpo does? 100 percent of the NBA. The likely MVP scored more buckets than anyone in the league, finished third in scoring and rebounding average at a shade under 30 and 14, set a career-high in assist rate, led the league in defensive rating as the centerpiece of a historically stingy Bucks’ defense, and numbers don’t do him justice. The Bucks were on pace to set a franchise record for wins while finishing with the league’s best record for the second straight year. All that and Antetokounmpo isn’t even in his prime yet. Abandon all hope, NBA.