There are a number of veterans that will still be some of the hardest players to beat in the “near” future, but the drop-off that comes with age is inevitable. Four years from now, big names like LeBron James and Steph Curry will still be some of the most talented guys on the court, but as the spring in their step declines so will their dominance. It’s not to say that James and Curry won’t be some of the best on any given night, just that across the league, there will be someone putting up even more impressive stat lines.
We always look to predict what young stars will turn out to be the future of the NBA, which leaves a very different type of question unanswered. Which players will end up being a total bust? For every athlete that continues to rise through the ranks with each passing year there is another that endures a fall from glory, or never got to make the initial climb as expected. Here is a look into the not-so-far future of who will be some of the best, and worst, NBA players across the league in the year 2020.
15 Best: Andrew Wiggins
Andrew Wiggins started his NBA with a bang by earning the title of Rookie of the Year in the 2014-15 season. Things look to only keep getting better for the young star. And by young, I’m talking real young. Minnesota’s star small forward will only be 25 years young, which means he still has a very long career ahead of him. The first overall pick of the 2014 draft resulted in a blockbuster trade in which he was traded from the Cavaliers to the Timberwolves for Kevin Love. The Cavs may have got what they wanted with two straight finals appearances and an NBA Championship in 2016, but Wiggins’ play has put Love’s to shame. Wiggins increased his scoring from 16.9 ppg as a rookie to 20.7 in his sophomore year. His explosive attack to the rim, play-making ability, and constant potential to create a highlight play has visibly improved with each game.
14 Worst: Klay Thompson
Oh yeah, you read that right. Klay Thompson will be far from one of the best players when 2020 rolls around. Hear this one out, because it all relies on Klay’s contract that will end after the 2018-19 season. When that contract is up, there is going to be an odd man out. History has shown that’s the case; just look back to when Monta Ellis got the boot despite being a dynamic scorer alongside Steph Curry. Whether Klay ends up being traded, or reaches the end of his contract and becomes a free agent, he’ll end up signing a monster contract with a different team. Chances are Klay will be getting that superstar paycheck at the expense of the rest of his team and end up being the lone Mr. Do It All on a very bad squad. Expect him to be playing on a garbage squad that will need far more talent than he can provide to make his team a contender.
13 Best: Anthony Davis
Anthony Davis is a big man with the handles of a little guy. Actually, Davis is a bigger man than he was last year. The 6-10 PF/C is now apparently 6-11. He just won’t stop growing. The only thing that has managed to hold the three-time All-Star back in his young career so far has been injuries. Once Davis finally gets some help around him, he will be unstoppable. Star players often have to deal with a bad team, but when they’re star caliber talents like Davis, owners will stop at nothing to get some help around their franchise guy. After the Pelicans dealt with one of the most insane seasons of compiled injuries spanning across their entire roster and then some, it will only be uphill from here. Growing pains will soon be a thing of the past, and he’ll be the star big on one of the toughest teams to beat in the NBA four years from now.
12 Worst: Kevin Love
It’s been a disappointing couple of years for Kevin Love. Let’s put those back-to-back NBA Finals out of the discussion, because the credit all goes to LeBron James for bringing the Cavaliers to both. Love has looked like a shell of himself since getting out of Minnesota and being traded to Cleveland. It may have been a great move for him to have the opportunity to win an NBA Championship, but his skills and leadership have been exposed for what they real are – not that special. This isn’t to say that Love isn’t a good PF, he most certainly is… but anyone that argues he’s anything more than that is either living in denial or hasn’t watched the NBA for a couple years. Love’s salary is insane for the measly production he’s given and when he’s finally a free agent in 2020 that disappointing reality won’t likely change. Wherever he ends up, he won’t be there to run the team.
11 Best: Andre Drummond
The former UConn center only spent one year in college, which may have been one of the best decisions he ever made. Andre Drummond’s game and build was meant for the NBA – it just didn’t translate to the college game, so there were understandably some question marks surrounding his inconsistent play when he was taken by Detroit in the lottery. Drummond laid any and all questions to rest immediately. The Pistons have a special player that is proving a “true center” can still be the player to beat despite such a major transformation at the position in recent years. Drummond earned his first All-Star honors in 2016, which is well deserved considering he was the league’s leading rebounding with an average of 14.8 rpg. Check that stat again. At only 23, Drummond is dominating centers with nearly 15 rebounds per game. The sky is the limit for what he’ll be doing in four years.
10 Worst: Ben Simmons
Ben Simmons has the weight of the world on his shoulders going into his first year in the NBA. Simply put, no one’s career makes it out of Philadelphia alive. Not only is Simmons – a 20-year-old rookie – expected to be great, he’s expected to resurrect the 76ers from their sad, miserable, and downright pathetic existence in the NBA. This daunting task is enough to crack even the greats that have nerves of steel to support their talent.
In his lone year at LSU, Simmons put up some great numbers averaging 19.2 points per game, 11.8 rebounds, 2.0 steals, and often adding a highlight reel jam or two to cap off a strong performance. These stats leave out one important fact, which is that Simmons wasn’t even able to lead his team to the NCAA tournament. While 19-14 record is okay, it's anything but special with the matchups they had all season. Don’t expect any greatness that will lead Philly to a postseason if he couldn’t even manage to do so in college.
9 Best: Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant is… well, Kevin Durant. He may lose a step, but KD’s talent has, and always will outweigh his athleticism. There was endless speculation around KD when he entered as a rookie mainly about the fact that he weighed about as much as (and possibly less than) a paperweight. Despite looking like a lanky child in his early years, Durant was a dominant shooter that made an impact immediately.
Durant will be 31 when we reach 2020, so he shouldn't lose too much bounce. Even if he did somehow manage to lose some of his explosive step, KD could be an All-Star if he never even jumped. Durant’s ability to find a shot is uncanny. It may sound like hyperbole, but it’s absolutely true that Durant would still be one of the best scorers in the league if his feet never left the ground. The 6-11 (we all know it’s not 6-9) SF has a high release that coaches salivate over. No matter who matches up with KD, they’ll be getting scorched for plenty of years to come.
8 Worst: James Harden
The old saying that “you can’t keep an old dog new tricks” is the only ammunition necessary to prove why James Harden will be a terrible player come 2020. Harden has one of the most laughable defensive approaches of all time in the NBA. It’s so bad that there are actually compilations of its sadness all over the Internet. Won’t start playing defense when he’s older. Harden’s talents on the offensive end are undeniable, but that’s only half the game. A lot of people claim that “NBA players don’t play any defense.” This argument is either supported by using Harden as exhibit A, or squashed by pointing out what not playing defense actually looks like. Even now, Harden is heavily reliant on getting buckets by finding a way to the free throw line. While his style of play, constantly trying to draw a foul, may be controversial, it’s effective. Four years from now, that may be a problem. Harden will be 31, which means his quick fakes and fast moves to get to the rim may not be a sustainable strategy.
7 Best: Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi Leonard made a strong case for MVP and finished as runner-up to Steph Curry for the award at the end of the 2015-16 season. Kawhi is going to be in the MVP discussion for many years to come with the level of play he showed this year. Now that Tim Duncan is retired, this is officially Leonard’s team. Not only is Leonard on one of the best teams with the Spurs, he has the gift of playing for one of the greatest coaches to ever grace the NBA in Gregg Popovich. Popovich will continue to be the Belichick of basketball and coach up a monster team around Leonard that will keep making San Antonio one of the most desirable destinations. That point can’t be overstated enough. A great coach with an equally impressive track record like Pop really is a difference maker in a player’s decision to join a team. With one of the best coaches in the game, Leonard will never draw the short straw on having a talented team that allows him to play his best basketball.
6 Worst: Michael Carter-Williams
Michael Carter-Williams has been a turnover machine since he entered the league. MCW may have earned Rookie of the Year back in the 2013-14 season with the 76ers, but that should be about as good as it gets for him. The fact that MCW earned his rookie award as a member of the woeful 76ers makes that title come with a monster asterisk. Everyone looks like a star when they play in Philadelphia. Average players (and worse) put up career numbers when they play for Philly simply because there is never really any other talent to turn to.
Carter-Williams (now playing for the Milwaukee Bucks) had a lot of promise when he first entered the league, but his talents don’t look like they’ll ever truly translate to the professional level. For every great game the erratic guard has, he follows it up with a few nauseating displays of awful shooting and questionable decision-making. Turnovers – and that’s plural – are a guarantee on any given night, while productivity is more of a “fingers crossed” expectation. There haven’t been any signs to imagine that will change any time soon.
5 Best: Kristaps Porzingis
Kristaps Porzingis got his fair share of boos on draft night when the Knicks took him with their first pick as the fourth overall selection in the 2015 NBA Draft. Porzingis has been making New Yorkers eat those jeers. The 7-3 power forward was a dominant force in his rookie year and has an incredibly high ceiling. When the Latvian boy wonder reaches the 2020 season, he’ll be one of the hardest matchups in the league on any given night.
Porzingis is only just filling into his massive frame. He’ll be 25 when 2020 comes, which means a skinny Big P will be a thing of the past. Porzingis can already shoot the three ball and has a sweet touch from anywhere inside or out of the paint. As he puts on that muscle, he’ll become an even more dominant low post player. He’ll be a far more dominant low post defender too, which is saying a lot considering he already posted 1.9 blocks per game in his rookie year.
4 Worst: D'Angelo Russell
D'Angelo Russell got a chance to truly exhibit some of his supreme talent when given more playing time late in the second half of his rookie season. Unfortunately, that talent is only going to get him so far. If there’s one player that Russell can be compared to, it’s Stephon Marbury. The comparison has nothing to do with the way both point guards play the game, but has everything to do with the way they carry themselves off the court. Marbury was always known for bringing a toxic attitude to the locker room, which was one of the main arguments for why the Knicks were never able to build around their star PG despite his skills. Russell’s poor decision-making needs no further explanation than his ruthless callout of teammate Nick Young. Swaggy P was anything but a saint for cheating on his then-girlfriend Iggy Azalea, but Russell’s decision to record his teammate admitting to the act is one of the most head-scratching moves of all time. Right or wrong, four years from now that skeezy move by the Lakers point guard won’t be forgotten when NBA stars continue to decline offers to play with Russell.
3 Best: Karl-Anthony Towns
Karl-Anthony Towns is going to absolutely wreak havoc in the NBA when we reach 2020. Towns was already named 2016’s Rookie of the Year, and that will surely mark the first of many awards to come his way. Minnesota’s prized center posted incredible numbers that look like a veteran: 18.3 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 1.7 bpg. Arguably the most impressive stat is his 82 games started. For a big man to go the whole stretch at such a young age is incredible. Towns is only 20 years old and is already contributing as if he’s been in a pro for just as long. The already large center is going to be yoked in a few years, but won’t even need to rely on his size. He’s a smart, savvy play-maker with incredible vision on both offense and defense. Without a doubt, Towns is going to be one of the best players in the league for one of the best teams in the league (which will make Timberwolves fans some happy people).
2 Worst: Anthony Bennett
Anthony Bennett has been “shaping up” to be another first overall draft pick that turns out to be a massive bust. The fact that the Nets signed him to a two-year deal says it all. Seriously, the Nets are almost completely void of talent and are making a strong case to become the Browns of basketball. Brooklyn will be the fourth place that Bennett will play in what will also be his fourth year in the NBA. Dreamers can dream all they want about the possibility that the disappointing forward will turn things around – it’s not going to happen. Bennett was forced to undergo shoulder surgery back in 2013, but has had more than enough time to make a full recovery. There are no excuses; Bennett just isn’t very good. Four years from now, expect the below average forward to be searching for a roster spot just as he has been so far in the NBA. Sometimes a player is just a work in progress. In Bennett’s case, a bust is just a bust.
1 Best: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Giannis Antetokounmpo is going to completely change the NBA as a point guard. Aptly nicknamed “The Greek Freak,” the Milwaukee Bucks franchise player of the future will soon come to be known as “The Experiment.” He can play any and every position he wants. Actually – to be more precise – he can dominate every position he plays. The 6-11 Antetokounmpo started at small forward where he was a force of nature and he’ll continue to do so for many years to come at the point. Many thought the tall, versatile Shaun Livingston would change the way point guard was played before he suffered a devastating knee injury. The Greek Freak has an added four inches on Livingston to go along with some added muscle and insane skills. Simply put, there are no doubts surrounding Antetokounmpo and his abilities. He has fantastic handles, a beautiful stroke from anywhere on the court, and can play defense against smaller and bigger guys alike. The only player imaginable that will be able to stop The Greek Freak come 2020 will be your personalized player on NBA 2K20.