The value of NBA wings is on the rise.
And so is the talent level of that position’s player pool.
In the modern game, wings have often been tasked with do-it-all duties on both ends of the court. They can be offensive leaders, go-to scorers, defensive tone-setters, and primary playmakers.
It’s a lot to ask from one position group, but this batch of budding ballers is consistently rising to the occasion.
The following 10 wings—who will all be under 25 when the opening night of the 2023-24 campaign tips—have been ranked by both their potential and perceived likelihood of reaching it.
10. Benedict Mathurin, Indiana Pacers
In the spotlight, Bennedict Mathurin of the Indiana Pacers showcases his prowess as a skilled isolation attacker who strategically exploits analytically favorable zones on the court.
Throughout the 2022-23 season, over 60 percent of his shot attempts were concentrated either directly at the rim (accounting for 29.2 percent of his shots) or from beyond the arc (making up 32.6 percent). Notably, this statistic does not include his impressive 5.8 free-throw attempts per game, placing him second among rookies, just behind Rookie of the Year Paolo Banchero.
However, certain uncertainties linger regarding Mathurin’s distribution abilities and defensive consistency. Nonetheless, as long as he continues honing his skills as an isolation scorer and outside shooter, his potential for growth remains substantial, potentially propelling him beyond his current ranking.
Honorable mentions: Jonathan Kuminga, Golden State Warriors; Keldon Johnson, San Antonio Spurs; Trey Murphy III, New Orleans Pelicans; Ausar Thompson, Houston Rockets; Cam Whitmore, Houston Rockets
9. Devin Vassell, San Antonio Spurs
Devin Vassell, selected as the 11th overall pick in the 2020 draft for his exceptional three-and-D attributes, has surpassed expectations by expanding his game beyond that initial label. His evolution from a specialized role player to a well-rounded force could potentially elevate him from a solid supporting role to a more prominent status.
In the past season, at 23 years old, Vassell achieved career-best averages of 18.5 points and 3.6 assists per game. Impressively, he maintained efficiency even with a significant uptick in usage (24.4 percent usage rate compared to his previous high of 18.9 percent).
Of note, Vassell’s growth is demonstrated by his ability to create nearly 55 percent of his two-point field goals and contribute over 10 percent of his three-pointers. As he continues on his trajectory, Vassell’s potential for future stardom appears promising.
8. Keegan Murray, Sacramento Kings
The Sacramento Kings’ transformation from a 16-season playoff drought to a No. 3 seed in the Western Conference was anchored by the addition of Keegan Murray, the fourth pick in the 2022 draft. His instrumental role was highlighted by his record-setting rookie season, where he not only played a significant number of games but also showcased his sharpshooting prowess.
As a 6’8″ swingman, Murray’s impact on the court extended beyond his 206 rookie-record threes, which he sank at a remarkable 41.1 percent accuracy. While Murray’s offensive growth is still a work in progress, his contribution to the Kings’ success and his ability to evolve further in offensive creation could determine whether he cements himself as a star player or remains in a supporting capacity.
Nonetheless, his rapid ascent, coupled with his solid foundation, places him in a promising position for continued growth.
7. RJ Barrett, New York Knicks
RJ Barrett, selected as the No. 3 pick in the 2019 draft, is characterized by his prowess as a determined and physical driver on offense. Despite navigating tight spaces created by opponents’ paint-packing strategies, Barrett has consistently posted respectable averages of 19.1 points per game on a 42.7 percent shooting over three seasons.
Barrett’s ability to elevate his game rests on refining his perimeter shooting, as his connection rates from beyond the arc and the free-throw line are points of improvement. If he can enhance his scoring efficiency and expand his playmaking skills, Barrett has the potential to transition from a reliable scorer to a more well-rounded player capable of even higher nightly point production.
However, his journey toward becoming a long-distance threat may determine the extent of his rise within the league’s ranks.
6. Jaden McDaniels, Minnesota Timberwolves
Jaden McDaniels, a standout defensive player for the Minnesota Timberwolves, boasts exceptional versatility and dominance on the court. Recognized as one of the league’s most formidable defenders, McDaniels has successfully guarded players across a wide spectrum of positions, illustrating his prowess in perimeter and interior defense.
Notably, McDaniels achieved a rare feat by recording both over 75 blocks and 70 steals in a single season, further underscoring his defensive excellence. While his offensive game continues to develop, his potential for growth in that aspect, coupled with his defensive prowess, sets him up for a prominent position within the league’s hierarchy.
As his offensive repertoire expands and matures, McDaniels could further ascend the ranks and establish himself as a key player within the league.
Brandon Miller, Charlotte Hornets
In the realm of emerging talents, Brandon Miller shines as a beacon of potential for the Charlotte Hornets, despite carrying a handful of concerns.
On the positive side of the ledger, Miller’s developmental journey holds the promise of crafting him into the NBA’s next two-way wing sensation. While he must traverse several hurdles to reach that zenith, one can already discern the contours of a 6’9″ forward who adeptly engineers scoring opportunities for both himself and his teammates using his dribbling finesse. Additionally, he exhibits commendable versatility by tackling a broad spectrum of defensive assignments with gusto.
Nevertheless, his ability to extricate himself from defenders when dribbling is still a concept rather than a reality. His struggles in college to elude adversaries continue to echo in the professional arena, where the challenges remain no less arduous. Despite his appearance as a versatile defender, bolstering his physical strength is a necessity to fully inhabit that role.
While potential pitfalls lie in wait, it’s pivotal to acknowledge that Miller is a fledgling 20-year-old rookie. The crucible of growth pains is integral to his development process. Navigating these challenges will dictate the heights to which he can ascend.
5. Brandon Miller,
A member of the Charlotte Hornets struck a pose for the cameras during the 2023 NBA rookie photo shoot held at UNLV on July 14, 2023, in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Looking at the positives, should he fully realize his developmental potential, he could emerge as the league’s upcoming star in the realm of two-way wings. However, there are substantial hurdles that lie ahead before he can achieve this breakthrough. Nevertheless, one can discern the potential of a 6’9″ scoring forward who adeptly crafts opportunities for both himself and his teammates through dribble penetration, and adeptly handles an array of defensive assignments.
Yet, his capacity to create separation through dribble maneuvers is still in the realm of concept rather than concrete skill. He encountered difficulties in shaking off defenders during his college career, and this challenge doesn’t necessarily lessen upon entering the professional league. Although he possesses the appearance of a versatile defender, he must enhance his physical strength to effectively fulfill this role.
While he possesses promising attributes, there are also potential challenges lying ahead, particularly as a 20-year-old rookie. The inevitable growth pains are a natural aspect of the journey. His ability to effectively navigate through these challenges will play a pivotal role in determining the heights he can ultimately reach.
4. Sharon Sharpe, Portland Trail Blazers
Sharon Sharpe made his entrance into the NBA with an unmistakable flair for defying gravity, a conspicuous lack of refinement, and a trove of enigmatic qualities stemming from his one-and-done tenure at Kentucky.
Upon concluding his inaugural season as a 20-year-old, Sharpe retained several of these attributes, armed with an awe-inspiring highlight reel and a conclusive stretch that hinted at a trajectory that could surpass expectations sooner than anticipated.
Over his freshman campaign, he showcased promise by averaging 16 points per 36 minutes, boasting an impressive 47.2/36/71.4 shooting percentage distribution. Particularly during the final 10 games, he catapulted to greater heights, amassing averages of 23.7 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 4.1 assists while maintaining a shooting efficiency of 46/37.8/77.3.
Admittedly, the backdrop lacked high-stakes circumstances as Portland embraced a deliberate tanking strategy that ultimately led to the acquisition of Scoot Henderson. Nevertheless, Sharpe’s performances unfolded on the NBA stage against legitimate defenses, where he cut through the opposition like a warm knife through butter. He paraded an array of shot-creation moves that hint at a future where he might lead offensive charges.
To be unequivocal, his lingering uncertainties include a sometimes unreliable handle, subpar passing, and inconsistency in defensive intensity that could impede his trajectory if left unanswered.
While he carries the potential to emerge as the list’s top player, the current probability of achieving that pinnacle isn’t robust enough to secure him a place in the top three.
3. Franz Wagner, Orlando Magic
The addition of Franz Wagner to the Orlando Magic fold with the eighth overall pick in the 2021 draft initially appeared to offer reliability over star power.
Nonetheless, the 21-year-old wasted no time accelerating his trajectory, surpassing even the most conservative estimates of his potential.
Fast forward two seasons, and the 6’9″, 225-pounder boasts career averages of 16.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 3.2 assists. His shooting prowess spans all three levels, boasting a commendable 47.7/35.8/85 distribution, which could still ascend further across each category.
Yet, while his offensive game stands on a sturdy foundation, his defense emerges as the standout feature. Statistical assessments peg him in the 95th percentile for defensively estimated plus-minus, a testament to his elite defensive capabilities. On-court, he’s a persistent nuisance for adversaries, irrespective of their position. His motor operates at peak capacity, and his ability to analyze and adapt is particularly notable.
While superstardom might elude him, Wagner’s potential for All-Star honors is substantial, rivaled only by the top two. His proficiency in the modern NBA landscape, which prizes versatility, propels him on both ends of the floor.
2. Scottie Barnes, Toronto Raptors
Scottie Barnes encountered a mild setback in his hype trajectory during the preceding season, a mere blip in a sea of uncertainties in the northern basketball territory. If this ranking hinged solely on present-day evaluations of burgeoning talents, his position might have suffered.
Yet, the focus here is firmly fixed on the horizon, and when scrutinizing Barnes’ prospects, no alarming warning signs emerge. His distinct skill set—a designation as a wing seems to limit given his potential as both a primary playmaker and a small-ball big—thrives under more conducive conditions. Should the Toronto Raptors pivot toward a lineup rich in shooters and reduced ball-handlers, Barnes’ talents will truly gleam.
While his struggles as an outside shooter (career 29 percent from beyond the arc) have been magnified due to his extended off-ball periods, Barnes could still ascend to stardom even without a consistent three-point shot. As a two-way architect, he adeptly maneuvers the interior thanks to his size and strength, while also showcasing lateral speed and tenacity on the perimeter. Remarkably, he stands among the select few capable of effectively defending across all five positions.
The unresolved issue of honing his outside shooting might cap his offensive ceiling. This could curtail his scoring and offensive efficiency, preventing him from seizing the top spot. Nevertheless, his future could still yield a cascade of triple-doubles and regular All-Defensive accolades.
1. Paolo Banchero, Orlando Magic
Paolo Banchero, the first overall pick in 2022, wasted no time in announcing his arrival on the NBA stage. In his debut game, he etched his name alongside LeBron James as the only rookie to debut with a stat line featuring 25 points, five rebounds, and five assists since 2003.
Banchero continued his relentless pace, securing five of the six available Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month honors before collecting all but two first-place votes in the Rookie of the Year balloting. Concluding his maiden campaign, he joined an exclusive club of rookies averaging 20 points, six rebounds, and 3.5 assists.
“His greatness is evident,” remarked Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr in January, as relayed by Marc J. Spears of Landscape. Kerr further marveled at Banchero’s combination of skill and agility, a rarity for someone of his size.
At 6’10” and 250 pounds,