Who will be the best player in the NBA in five years?
Five years from now is a long time into the future in terms of current and upcoming talent. That’s five more drafts, five more NBA finals, and five more opportunities for roster shakeups. With all the new young talent that’s come into the league, many folks at AthletiQA are wondering, who will be the best. You might be wondering, what is AthletiQA. Well AthletiQA.com is an intelligent and social sports Q&A website where athletes and experts are directly answering questions for their fans on the most relevant sports topics. Check them out at www.athletiqa.com and their recent feature on Product Hunt.
See what Alec Wilson (Survata. Die hard NBA fan. The Sonics were stolen.), thinks about the new best player on the court:
I’ll start by acknowledging that until he shows decline, LeBron James has to be mentioned as a contender, though it would be historically unprecedented. That said, given that the established prime of NBA players is their mid to late 20s, we should be looking at players who will be between 25 and 30 five years from now for our main contenders. Note that this would eliminate Steph Curry who will be 32 – however, like LeBron his game is historically unprecedented, so he should be acknowledged as a potential exception.
I’ll also note that Kevin Durant has potential to be a historical anomaly as well, but betting on historical aberrations isn’t the right way to approach “most likely.” This also means I am eliminating Russell Westbrook, who simply depends far too much on being the best athlete on the floor to project that he’ll maintain his current production.
Finally, I’m limiting my analysis to players who have played at least one full season due to the difficulty of projecting anyone without NBA experience, and I’m basing projections on the idea that they will continue developing at their current rate, and notdiscussing players who will be All-NBA contenders but not best-in-the-game contenders, which eliminates players like Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker.
Now… let’s talk about who is on the list.
1. Anthony Davis
The obvious candidate is Anthony Davis, who is 23 and will be in the middle of his prime at 28. He’s already a top 10 player, arguably top 5, and we’ve never seen him on a team that really fits his strengths yet. His downsides are injury related, but he’s my initial pick.
2. Kawhi Leonard
The next contender is Kawhi Leonard, who will be around 30 in five years, which is towards the end of the prime of a player’s career. His offensive growth has been astounding, and the Spurs track record of managing minutes makes him a better bet than most to have an extended prime. My biggest concern with him is that he derives so much value from his defense, which is generally the skill that fades first, as it’s tough to keep the level of intensity necessary as players age. However, he could end up following a path similar to LeBron, where his game to game defense fades, but he keeps the ability to simply lock a player down when truly necessary.
3. Giannis Antetokounmpo
The next candidate is Giannis Antetokounmpo, who will be 26, and have already played 8 NBA seasons. So far, he’s already become an above average player prior to moving to “Point Giannis” and becoming a borderline top 10 player, all while still not being a great shooter. The development he’s shown so far suggests that he’ll eventually become at least a passable shooter, which will open the game up even more for him offensively, on top of being some of the only true competition to Kawhi for best perimeter defender. He’s also had no major injuries thus far.
4. Karl-Anthony Towns
The last player I’m considering is Karl-Anthony Towns, who was historically effective for a rookie, has clearly added to his game in his sophomore season, and is a legitimate 7-footer with the ability to switch anything on defense, as well as play either inside or outside. He’s shown the least of any player on this list thus far, which is why I’m hesitating on projecting him as the best player – but by the end of 2016–17, if he develops remotely similarly to how he has so far, he’ll have jumped into the conversation as the true best player in five years as opposed to just being a contender.
Based on that, I’d say the best bet would be Davis, as he is already a top 10 player at 23. However, Giannis could be in this group by the end of the year, and if he can develop a 3-point shot, his offensive versatility would probably vault him past Davis for me.
Leonard and Towns bring up the rear for me for opposite reasons. Kawhi’s best skill is likely to decline at least somewhat, while Towns simply has not played enough for me to be confident in projecting him as the best player in the game five years from now.