The face of the NBA right now is undecided. LeBron James has been the most famous man in the league for over 10 years and is the most accomplished player that is still playing. In year 19, The King is arguably the most dominant player in the world, thanks to his ability to control games with his basketball IQ. But when LeBron finally hangs it up, the league is in very good hands thanks to a countless amount of young stars.
There are a ton of young players in the NBA right now who will hold the future of professional basketball in their hands. Basketball, like almost every other sport, is a young man’s game. A player’s prime usually lasts until the early 30s, with the decline starting by the mid-30s. By ranking the 10 best players in the NBA over the next 5 years, here are the new faces of the league.
Trae Young - 28 Years Old
Trae Young is a baller and most likely the next version of Stephen Curry. Young is smaller than Steph and much less efficient, but he plays like him and has the offensive tools to take over games at the point guard position. In just a matter of years, Trae will be a force in the league and there is not much stopping him from getting there.
Young made the Eastern Conference Finals last year at 22 years old, so he has the players around him to help him succeed. The key for Young is to score more consistently without taking too many bad shots and continue to be one of the best playmakers in the league right now.
Donovan Mitchell - 30 Years Old
Donovan Mitchell took a massive step up last season when he helped the Utah Jazz earn the best record in the NBA. While he could not make it to the Western Conference Finals yet in his short career, he is on the right track. The shooting guard is averaging 22.8 PPG this season, a slight decline from his 26.4 PPG average a year prior.
“Spider” Mitchell plays like a young Dwyane Wade and has a chance to be one of the tip-10 players in the league in just a few years. Time will tell if he can reach that level because he still needs to improve his all-around game and start experiencing postseason success.
10. Kawhi Leonard - 34 Years Old
The Claw will still be a relevant force in 5 years, although he will just miss out on a top-5 ranking among all NBA players. Leonard will still be one of the best 2-way players in the game as he ages because that's what he does best. Leonard is currently out for this season although he should be returning to full health very soon.
Leonard is averaging 26.0 PPG and 6.8 RPG for the Los Angeles Clippers over the past 2 seasons, and Kawhi has all the skills to be a superstar player that delivers them championship glory. The “fun guy” has a great squad waiting for him led by MVP candidate Paul George, so he might be able to win another championship over the next 5 years before decline starts setting in.
9. Devin Booker - 30 Years Old
Devin Booker has achieved a lot by the age of 25 years old. The shooting guard already has a 70 point game to his name, 2 All-Star appearances, and recently made an NBA Finals appearance last year with the Phoenix Suns. The trade of Chris Paul has helped Booker start experiencing postseason success, and there might be more to come.
The young star is averaging 23.9 PPG, 5.1 RPG, and 4.7 APG while nailing 41.0% of his three-pointers. Booker has averaged over 20 PPG the last 6 seasons and could end up being one of the best scorers of his era. If Paul can keep his own engine going, Booker will be able to learn from one of the greats as the shooting guard continues to refine his game.
8. Ja Morant - 27 Years Old
As good as other point guards such as LaMelo Ball will be, Ja Morant will be even more spectacular. Morant already plays like a young Westbrook, dominating other point guards with his athleticism and playmaking. But he is even better because he is adding an improved jump shot to his arsenal and improving his leadership qualities on and off the court.
Averaging 24.1 PPG and 6.8 APG this season, Morant is also the face of a franchise. But in 5 years, Morant will be similar to an experienced Russell Westbrook except he has a slightly better feel for the flow of the game. The young man is extremely explosive and has a long way to go to build his career, but he is on the right track as he has the Grizzlies in a playoff seeding through 20 games.
7. Jayson Tatum - 28 Years Old
The Boston Celtics made the best move in the 2017 draft by going after Jayson Tatum. Tatum is a spectacular scorer, and his work with the late great Kobe Bryant has paid off tremendously over the past few years. Despite the criticism that Tatum is starting to face by being a “selfish” player who only cares about his numbers, the forward is undoubtedly a special talent.
Tatum is averaging 24.3 PPG this season, although he hasn't quite led the Celtics to enough wins this season (11-10). Luckily for him, Tatum is only 23 years old and already has plenty of playoff experience. It is very likely that Tatum will continue to become one of the NBA's best players, and he might go down as an all-time great scorer when all is said and done.
6. Anthony Davis - 33 Years Old
Anthony Davis is the best big man in the game when he is focused, no matter if he plays power forward or center. No big possesses the ability to score and defend like Davis, and there is a reason he captured the NBA title in 2020 alongside LeBron James. By looking at the all-time great bigs, Davis’ talent compares with a lot of them.
The only issue is his inability to stay healthy because he always seems to be bothered by something in his body. It is expected that LeBron will continue to play for another 2 years at least, which bodes well for Davis’ future. Davis will learn a lot from The King over the latter’s remaining seasons, and that will make the big man a top-10 player in the game at 33 years old.
5. Joel Embiid - 32 Years Old
Joel Embiid is one of the most dominant centers in the NBA right now, and a top-3 big man in the game alongside Anthony Davis and Nikola Jokic. He is putting up 23.5 PPG and 10.0 RPG for last season’s best team in the Eastern Conference although the squad has a 10-10 record so far. It is a shame that Ben Simmons is unavailable because there could have been a great duo in Philly had things gone right.
Embiid has gotten better every season, and he will continue getting better over the next 5 years. Of course, health is a major issue because the center is once again injured and that will likely never change. Joel is a legitimate MVP candidate every season going forward because he has refined his scoring ability and as long as Doc Rivers is his coach, the big man will be one of the five best players in the world.
4. Nikola Jokic - 31 Years Old
The Serbian superstar will be 31 years old in 5 years, which means he will still be in his prime. Jokic is already one of the smartest players in the NBA, and probably in NBA history, so one can imagine how dominant he will be in just a couple of years. As Jokic continues to get in better shape, he will be a serious force for MVP every year.
The reigning MVP is putting up 26.4 PPG, 13.6 RPG, and 6.4 APG for the Nuggets this season and is an MVP favorite once again. No big man in history can pass like Jokic and he will likely be one of the best players in the league for a long time. Unfortunately for the center, he is missing time due to an injured wrist and his team is losing games as a result of it.
3. Zion Williamson - 26 Years Old
The New Orleans Pelicans athletic power forward will be challenging the top spot as the best player in the world. Williamson is a special talent, a player who comes along once in a generation. His mix of size and skill means he can impact the game on many levels. After all, Williamson averaged 27.0 PPG and 7.2 RPG while making his first All-Star Team last year.
However, there are doubts about Zion’s ability to stay healthy and in proper shape. The big man has not played this season and reports have come out that he has ballooned to over 300 lbs. More importantly, Zion seems unsettled with the Pelicans so early in his career. If Williamson can sort out these issues, he can soon become the epitome of a superstar player. That means there could be multiple All-Star and All-NBA Team selections if Zion returns to the floor at full health every season.
2. Luka Doncic - 27 Years Old
Luka Doncic is already a top-10 player in the NBA in his fourth season, so imagine what will happen when he gets a few more years under his belt. Doncic affects the game in all areas on offense, and he is slowly refining his game as he matures. The now-22-year-old is gifted as a leader and also has the ability to carry a heavy burden on his back. Without Luka, the Mavericks are a lottery team.
In 5 years, Luka will be inching his way to being the best player in the world and challenging for the MVP Award every season. Luka is averaging 25.5 PPG, 8.1 RPG, and 8.1 APG this season under new head coach Jason Kidd, and he once again has Dallas in a playoff spot. Doncic will need Kristaps Porzingis to be healthy because, without a proper sidekick, he is at risk of getting bounced in the first round every year no matter how great he is.
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo - 31 Years Old
Giannis Antetokounmpo will become the face of the NBA as an international player with proven dominance in the league. The Greek Freak has won 2 MVP Awards, Finals MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, and an NBA championship with the Bucks already. It is scary to imagine how dominant he will be in 5 years.
Giannis is averaging 27.0 PPG, 11. RPG, and 5.9 APG this season and he is continuing his spectacular play on both ends. Giannis is arguably the best regular-season player in the world and winning the NBA title last year has boosted his stock tremendously. We are currently looking at a top-30 talent of all time, and with a few more championships and possibly more MVPs, he could have a crack at being top-10. It is too soon to predict if The Greek Freak can actually enter the almost unattainable list of 10 greatest players ever, but in terms of dominance, he is among the very best that has ever done it.