The NBA will be very different three years from now. Veterans will have retired and superstars will have elevated their careers to the next level by winning a championship. This gives way to new talent: talent that can make an immediate impact in the league. Comparing this year to last season, the best point guards have fluctuated to the middle of the pack, or averages ones have been even better than usual. For example, Devin Booker and Jabari Parker have a good shot at winning the Most Improved Player Award.
This article contains strictly projections, which are based on opinion and statistics. Since time travel has not been invented yet, and will most likely NEVER be invented, I cannot take a day trip to 2020 to observe who the best point guards are - obviously. Some athletes on this list have yet to enter the NBA, which makes sense considering I am predicting the best players in three years. This being said, some prominent guards from 2017, who are already top tier athletes, in my opinion, will remain great. They will not necessarily be as high up as you expect, but it would be simply boring if I just listed current studs where they are in 2017. Let's start with a possible success story.
15 Succeed: Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker has averaged 22.7 points per game this season. He has mirrored the offensive dominance that was respected at University of Connecticut in a great way. Though it certainly took a little bit for Kemba to tap his potential, Hornets fans have been very pleased. In his rookie season, he averaged 12.1 PPG. He is scoring more than he has in any season in 2016-17 and shooting his most impressive .444 from the field. I don't consider him to have reached his full potential.
Within a couple years, or so, Kemba Walker will be even more productive than he is now. His team is the only thing holding him back from having better statistics. He may be the focal point in Charlotte, but with other star talent, he would produce potentially higher numbers. There is something to be said of the athlete that stays on a poor team and yields high numbers, but this is simply not relevant to team success. He will have more personal success in an atmosphere where the organization has the potential to win a championship.
14 Struggle: Jeff Teague
Teague is an okay point guard. In no situation, will you hear someone say Jeff Teague should be MVP, but also in no situation will you hear someone say he should be dropped. The seven year veteran has accomplished little in his career. He is known as a very good passer, averaging 7.8 APG this NBA season. I don't think he has ever developed into the player fans were hoping he might be. He has slid into mediocrity, but remained the starting point guard for the Indiana Pacers. Certainly, he has earned that role. The Pacers do not have a better PG.
I think 2020 will be a declining year for Teague. I see him either becoming a backup guard or heading overseas. It is not necessarily a poor decision for guards to go overseas, as their services are greatly appreciated all around the world. With emerging talent coming from the 2017, 2018, and 2019 NBA Drafts, Teague may be irrelevant in the basketball world very soon.
13 Succeed: Dennis Smith
Dennis Smith is a future NBA Draft 2017 first round pick. The NC State guard plays at a very high level and averaged 18.1 PPG, 4.6 RPG, and 6.2 APG during regular season play. He is from the same town as J Cole by the way (Fayetteville), something I thought that needed to be stated.
He has performed against top teams at NC State. Against Notre Dame, Smith had 16 points and shot 50% from the field. He recorded 580 points and 197 assists in his freshman season. Wherever he lands in the draft, I think that team will make sure to capitalize on his athleticism. He is often compared to Baron Davis and Steve Francis, two explosive and elite NBA retirees. He does not force the ball on offense and is good at making decisions. Smith is also a solid defender who can hound the ball deliberately. Here are some predictions:
2017-18 NBA Season: 14 PPG, 5.7 APG.
2018-19 NBA Season: 17.9 PPG, 5.3 APG
2019-20 NBA Season: 22.4 PPG, 6.8 APG
12 Struggle: Derrick Rose
Derrick Rose was once the best player in the NBA. In 2011, he was named MVP - but since then he has struggled to remain as dominant. He has averaged 17.8 PPG and 4.4 APG this season with the Knicks. Though his point total is solid, he isn't passing as well as he used to since the horrible injury against the 76ers. Notably, I feel really bad for Rose. He was on top of the NBA world and would have probably remained just as good had he not been hurt.
In 2020, I don't see him being as good as he is now (which isn't even that good). Rose will be averaging low numbers in 2020 and may even be a backup. I don't think he will be on the Knicks for the 2019-20 season, but that is another story. How he plays now is very different from how he did in say 2010 or 2011. With any luck, he will continue to make a lot of money in the NBA and remain wealthy, but will be a below average player.
11 Succeed: Kris Dunn
Kris Dunn is not the most relevant name on the Timberwolves this season. The 6-foot-4 guard has been getting little minutes in Minnesota, causing people to question this once dominant player out of Providence College. This year he is averaging a shy 3.6 PPG. The Wolves are not the right situation for Dunn. He needs to try to opt out of his contract and look for other jobs. Being that I believe he still has a lot of untapped potential, I think Kris Dunn can still be a very dominant guard in 2020. I find him to be very elusive and an offensive machine. He is a very good shooter as well.
If he gets the minutes he deserves, Dunn will be an effective offensive threat in the league. If teams continue to doubt him has an athlete, he will likely go overseas and be unbelievable there. I believe he will be a sick guard soon enough, just give it time.
10 Struggle: Patrick Beverley
Beverley is a solid guard. Notice how I said solid, a word that does not really mean "good". He has averaged just under 10 PPG and 5.8 RPG this season. He is starting in Houston because they do not have another viable option right now. Obviously, James Harden often takes control of the offense and brings up the ball. This being said, Harden is a true shooting guard. Beverley will be a bench player in no time. He should cherish the spotlight down in Texas, because soon enough there will be none.
I see him going to another team, likely the Bucks, and then just bouncing around to different NBA teams throughout his career. Maybe, at some point, he will find his stride. Until that time comes, I consider him to be a probably irrelevant player come the 2019-20 NBA season. With any luck, he will land a nice contract overseas and be a legend on a poor team in need of Americans.
9 Succeed: Kyrie Irving
Irving showed unbelievable talent in the NBA Finals a year ago. Along with LeBron James, the two are bound to make more championship runs. Arguably, Irving was the REAL MVP in the Finals last season. He brings intensity to the court. Plain and simple.
Irving has a great shot. He has averaged 25.6 PPG this NBA season and has shot around .500% from the field. I find him to be the second best point guard in the NBA, behind Russell Westbrook. His ball handling is very reliable, something I think makes him different from other athletic guards. As he progresses through his career, he has been yielding better numbers. Last season he averaged 19.6 PPG and his rookie season he yielded 18.5 PPG. Based on what I stated earlier, his productivity has merely risen with LeBron James's presence.
8 Struggle: Elfrid Payton
Payton has earned the starting job down in Orlando. He was taken 10th overall by the 76ers but traded to the Magic in the 2014 NBA Draft. I said that Jeff Teague is mediocre, but if you want to talk average basketball, this guy is one of the first people that comes to mind; he is averaging a subpar 12.4 PPG this NBA season. From what I see, he has not tapped his potential yet. Will he?
Some say Payton needs some more time in the NBA, but I disagree. Unlike players that bring a lot of energy to the court, I don't really find him to be that appealing to watch. He is a good passer, which is evident from his average of 6 assists per game. In 2020, I see him taking a backseat to a younger guard. His career will not be over, but I will not say he is going to be an impact player in the future. I could see him going overseas, maybe somewhere like China, and doing very well there.
7 Succeed: Shai Alexander
Let me introduce you to Shai Alexander. He is a 6-5 high school senior in the class of 2017, who has committed to Kentucky. Shockingly, he only received offers from Florida, Syracuse, Texas, UNLV, and of course Kentucky. He has the ability to take control over an offense. Shai is a point guard from Ontario, where he attends Hamilton Heights Christian Academy. Though it is a little early to predict his success, he reminds me of a young Oscar Robertson. With proper development from coach John Calipari - you will be hearing this guy's name be called in the NBA Draft by Adam Silver fairly early. He is very good at delivering tough passes. Additionally, Shai is a very solid defender. Shai's height is a factor that works in his favor - considering most point guards are not 6-5. Take my word for it - Shai Alexander will be a stud in the NBA by 2020.
6 Struggle: Emmanuel Mudiay
I've never been very "big" on Mudiay. He has been earning bigger minutes in Denver due to his good work ethic. This being said, his production is minimal. This season, he has averaged 11 PPG and 3.9 APG. As a point guard, this is a problem. His primary job should be passing the ball. Most NBA players who are not big assist players score more. Mudiay does not score well either, considering his minimal 11 PPG.
The 2020 campaign will not yield as much success for Emmanuel. He may not be a starting guard or even still in the NBA. He is not an outlandishly bad player, but he is kind of one dimensional. With any hope for him, the Nuggets will re-sign him to a steady contract. I don't see this happening, but you really never know in today's NBA. Under no circumstance would I compare Mudiay to other 6-5 guards. He lacks athleticism and is not a great scorer.
5 Succeed: Damian Lillard
Lillard has developed a lot since his Weber State days. He has averaged 26.9 PPG, 5.8 APG, and 4.8 RPG this season. The Blazers, on the other hand, are a below average team. Regardless, it is not apparent that Lillard will remain in Portland for years to come. Lillard has a solid wingspan and is a very good scorer. He uses short dribbles to get to the basket and is equally good at dishing bounce passes from unlikely positions. By 2020, he may be on a championship caliber team - that is not in Portland.
He has surpassed what people thought of him, especially in his rookie season. Coming from Weber State, there was confusion as to if he would be able to compete with the nations top prospects. Obviously, these questions and conversations have ceased to exist. Lillard is fairly old for a four year NBA veteran, which isn't really a good thing. He may not have as long of a career as other people his age, but I think he has a lot of juice left in the tank.
4 Struggle: John Wall
John Wall is doing very well in 2017. The 2010 first overall pick is averaging 22.9 PPG and 10.8 APG. Compared to what people were expecting, he has been an incredible passer. The Wizards are also surpassing people's initial expectations of them this season. They have earned a solid record are sitting comfortably at third in the Eastern Conference. I would be betting against extreme odds to say Wall would struggle in 2020 - but hey - I will stick with my gut feeling.
Though the Wizards are experiencing success in 2017, I don't for one second buy in to them having playoff success. Wall is a very crafty guard but unlike 76ers fans, I don't trust the process in Washington with him. He will be 10 year veteran come 2020 and will have aged to 30. There is a difference between a 26-year-old guard and a 30-year-old guard, as in speed regression. Wall is doing well for himself now, but I don't necessarily envision him continuing immense success in Donald Trump's city.
3 Succeed: Lonzo Ball
Lonzo Ball's father, LaVar, has been very outspoken about his son. Though he tends to annoy everyone, myself included, I have enjoyed watching Lonzo play at UCLA. He averaged 14.7 PPG, 6.1 RPG, and 7.5 APG this regular season. The freshman from Chino Hills, California has become a household name due to the hype about him being the first or second pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. According to various scouts and pundits, he is similar to Jason Kidd. Ball has great court vision and can make direct passes with both hands. Notably, he is known to have a high basketball IQ. His shot is a little unorthodox, but it is not bad by any means.
I predict that Lonzo Ball will take the league by storm. Though I have been annoyed at the brashness of his father, I can't help but acknowledge him as a potential threat in the 2020 NBA landscape.
2 Struggle: Stephen Curry
Even after Curry's exceptional 2015-16 NBA season, I don't necessarily admire his game. The game of basketball involves more than long range shooting. Sure, Curry made a lot of threes, making himself known as an all-time shooter. I don't disregard his perimeter success, but simply challenge him to drive to the basket more. Curry has inspired young aspiring basketball players to chuck up shots, and not play more fundamentally sound basketball. I predict that he will remain a good point guard, but I am unsure if he will win another championship. Obviously, he is paired with some very talented players in Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. Also, Curry may not stay in the Bay Area for much longer. Many analysts speculate he will move on to another city in the near future: potentially Charlotte.
I respect Curry as a shooter, but as an all around basketball player, I hold more respect for more versatile guards like...
1 Succeed: Russell Westbrook
It is almost common knowledge that Russell Westbrook is one of the most athletic players in NBA history. He has a vertical leap of 36 1/2 inches making him the best athlete at the point guard position in 2017. In 2020, I see him continuing his dominance. Westbrook is in the MVP race for this season and will be for years to come: He brings a lot of intensity to the court
Though the Thunder are not ready to win a championship, they will develop. If they do not, Westbrook can always go elsewhere. From what I understand, there is not one thing straining him to necessarily stay in Oklahoma City. With some solid players, Russell could truly help his team succeed. Durant left Wesbrook with the Thunder - but this only showed fans how truly talented he is. In 2020, I predict the following.
He will average somewhere in the realm of 25-28 PPG, 6-9 APG, and 10-11 RPG.