When it comes to sports, we are certainly worried about what is happening right now in front of us, but there is always a part of us that is looking to the future. Just watch an episode of SportsCenter after a championship game. As soon as the postgame show wraps up, they are always talking about who the odds on favorites are from Las Vegas to win the next year’s championship.
Then, you have the beloved mock drafts. We read them, we can’t get enough of them and we always want more. If you want to look up the 2019 NFL mock draft, I’m certain that there are plenty of them available where you can fill your time. As for the NBA, it can be pretty hard to predict which players will be going to which teams since there is a lottery, but you can usually guess who the best players are going to be.
We want to take a look into the future; to see who the best NBA players will be when the 2020-21 season rolls around. It’s usually not as hard as you think because NBA players typically follow a certain criteria. Most of them peak between the ages of 25-28, start to decline at age 30 and then take a huge dip in production after they turn 32.
Just look at the best players in the league right now. Stephen Curry is 28 years old, LeBron James is 31, Kawhi Leonard is reaching his peak window now at 24 years old and the duo of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant are both 27 years old. Using that knowledge, we are going to predict who the 20 best NBA players are when we reach the 2020-21 season. Some of your favorite players on the list might even be playing for an expansion team like Las Vegas or Seattle. With a performance for the ages, we will now take a look at whose next in line following the Kings reign on top.
20 Evan Fournier
Our list starts with a player that now has four seasons under his belt, Evan Fournier, who just narrowly beats out teammate Victor Oladipo. Fournier didn’t get much starting time in his first two years in the league with Denver, but found much more of it in the past two years with Orlando. Fournier has increased his scoring in each of his first four seasons in the league and is now up to 15.4 points per game.
19 James Harden
It’s hard to believe that James Harden has already wrapped up his seventh season in the NBA and his fourth with the Houston Rockets. Harden has seemingly gotten better each year and the 2015-16 season saw him reach a career high in points per game (29.0), rebounds (6.1) and assists (7.5.) The Arizona State product hasn’t always been the best shooter with a career field goal percentage of .443, but there is no doubt that he is one of the best scorers in the league and knows how to get to the free throw line.
18 Ben Simmons
The Philadelphia 76ers were excited to win the NBA Draft Lottery this year as they will have their pick between standout college freshmen Ben Simmons of LSU and Brandon Ingram of Duke. Of the two, Ben Simmons is projected to be a better fit in the NBA by most scouts and just about every mock draft that you will find has him going first overall to the 76ers. Admittedly, Simmons will have to struggle in his first couple of seasons in the NBA, but should be hitting his stride right around the 2020-21 season when he will be 24 years old.
17 Kevin Durant
While the 2016 NBA Finals has grabbed headlines for the past couple of weeks, the biggest story of the offseason is where Kevin Durant will land now that he is a free agent. Durant has been around for a long time now after being drafted out of Texas. So long, in fact, that he played for the Seattle SuperSonics for a year before the team moved to Oklahoma City. Since then, Durant has been one of the best players in the league and has an MVP title to his name.
16 Russell Westbrook
The other player that has been part of the Thunder’s success for the past several years is point guard Russell Westbrook. Westbrook joined the team the year after Durant out of UCLA and was an immediate impact player. Now, Westbrook is undoubtedly one of the best players in the league. 2015-16 was perhaps the best season for Westbrook despite a drop in scoring, but he still averaged 23.5 points per game to go along with 7.8 rebounds and 10.4 assists, and he was no stranger to triple-doubles.
15 Damian Lillard
We didn’t include too many guys on the list that will be 30 years old or higher, but Damian Lillard feels like the only one among them that still hasn’t hit his peak. Lillard will be 30 years old at the start of the 2020-21 season, which is a bit surprising. Lillard is what we would refer to as a “young 30” since he played his college ball at Weber State and only has four seasons in the NBA, meaning that his mileage isn’t high. Lillard has also been very durable in his career, missing just seven starts in his four seasons and they all came in the 2015-16 season.
14 John Wall
Not many players can say that they averaged a double-double with 4.6 rebounds per game to go along with it and still improved the next year, but that’s what John Wall did in the 2015-16 season. Wall had the best year of his career with 19.9 points, 10.2 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game. Wall does have some mileage to him, and has had some injury issues in the past, but in the past three seasons he has missed just eight games. Wall has already been to the All-Star Game three times, and isn’t likely to go away anytime soon.
13 Jahlil Okafor
After being a dominant offensive force under the basket at Duke in his one season there, Jahlil Okafor got thrown into a tough situation right away in his pro career by being drafted third overall in 2015 by the Philadelphia 76ers. With almost no supporting cast around him and some injury troubles, Okafor was still able to have a solid rookie campaign. Okafor averaged 17.5 points per game with 7.0 rebounds and 1.2 blocks. Those numbers will only continue to grow over the next several seasons as he gets more adjusted to the NBA and gets some better players surrounding him.
12 Stephen Curry
There’s not much about Stephen Curry that you can say that hasn’t already been said. He was figured to be a decent prospect out of Davidson back in 2009, but he has continued to improve each season and in 2015-16 became the first unanimous MVP in the NBA. Curry took a few years to develop as a star and has now hit his stride at the age of 28. This season, Curry scored 30.1 points per game and averaged 5.4 rebounds and 6.7 assists. While that type of scoring might not be sustainable for several years, he is so far ahead of most other players at his position that even coming down a bit will keep him in the top five.
11 Jabari Parker
There is certainly something good brewing for the Milwaukee Bucks as they have two players in the top 11 of this list, starting with Jabari Parker. Parker was the second overall pick by the Bucks out of Duke in the 2014 NBA Draft and had a rough rookie season thanks to injuries, playing in just 25 games. Parker showed a lot more potential in his sophomore campaign, thankfully, playing in 76 games. While his numbers weren’t the greatest (14.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.7 assists per game), there was still a lot of promise that he could be a star in the league.
10 Kristaps Porzingis
Do you remember when the fourth pick of the 2015 NBA Draft came around last summer and the New York Knicks fans booed pretty loudly when it was announced that their team was taking Kristaps Porzingis out of Latvia. When the regular season started up, those boos turned to cheers pretty quickly when they saw what Porzingis was capable of. The result of his strong rookie campaign landed him a spot on the All-Rookie First Team thanks to 14.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game.
9 Paul George
Paul George was a bit of a prospect pick back in 2010 when he was selected 10th overall by the Pacers out of Fresno State. It wasn’t until the 2012-13 season that he started to average more than 30 minutes per game. Just as he was becoming a star in the NBA, George suffered a broken leg in a USA Basketball scrimmage in Las Vegas and people were worried about his future. George responded with a full season in 2015-16 missing just one game while averaging 23.1 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game.
8 DeMarcus Cousins
If you play fantasy basketball (and we know a lot of you do), then you know how big of an impact that DeMarcus Cousins had in 2015-16. Cousins, for his first three seasons, was playing just about 30 minutes per game and scoring about 17 points on average. In the past three seasons, though, Cousins has been averaging 33 minutes per game while scoring 25. In the 2015-16 season, Cousins had his best campaign yet, posting 26.9 points per game with 11.5 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 3.3 assists.
7 Andre Drummond
You might not hear all that much about Andre Drummond, but that’s because he plays with the Detroit Pistons and not many people around the country are tuning in to see them play. In 2012, the Pistons front office made a great decision by drafting Drummond ninth overall out of Connecticut. Drummond started off a bit slow, playing just 20 minutes per game and averaging 7.9 points. Since then, he has been scoring and rebounding like a true star, as he averaged 16.2 points with 14.8 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game in the 2015-16 season.
6 Kyrie Irving
You can probably guess that LeBron James and Kevin Love won’t be members of the Cleveland Cavaliers by 2020-21, but the team will be eager to hold onto their best young player, Kyrie Irving. The Cavaliers drafted Irving with the first overall pick out of Duke in 2011, and they got instant production out of him when he scored 18.5 points per game with 5.4 assists in his rookie season. Now, Irving is among the best point guards in the league and is coming off of a season where he averaged 19.6 points, 3.0 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.1 steals per game.
5 Giannis Antetokounmpo
For the casual basketball fan, perhaps nobody has flown under the radar more to become a star in the past couple of seasons quite like Giannis Antetokounmpo. Antetokounmpo was drafted with the 15th overall pick in 2013 by the Milwaukee Bucks and now appears to be the biggest future franchise piece on the team even though they already have Jabari Parker. Antetokounmpo didn’t have much of an impact in his rookie season, but really had his huge breakout in 2015-16 with a position change to point guard.
4 Anthony Davis
One of the most popular arguments that NBA fans and analysts like to have is “Who would you take first overall in a fantasy draft between all NBA franchises with every player available?” For a little while there, the most popular answer was Anthony Davis, the first overall pick out of Kentucky in 2012 by the New Orleans Pelicans. Davis had a strong rookie campaign with 13.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per game, and has only gotten better. In each of his past three seasons, Davis has averaged a double-double and was scoring 24.3 points per game with 10.3 rebounds and 2.0 blocks before an injury caused the Pelicans to shut him down.
3 Kawhi Leonard
Just like Giannis Antetokounmpo, it’s hard to believe that a team waited until the 15th overall pick to draft Kawhi Leonard. The San Diego State product was taken in 2011 by Indiana and then sent to the Spurs in a trade (oh what might have been for the Pacers). Leonard has increased his numbers each year and it’s clear to everybody that has watched the Spurs that his growth as a player has made him the most impactful member of the squad. Leonard would have been considered an MVP candidate in any other season if it weren’t for the explosion that Stephen Curry posted in the 2015-16 season.
2 Andrew Wiggins
If you’re a Minnesota Timberwolves fan, we have got some good news for you that you will want to hear. First, we want to introduce Andrew Wiggins, who was the first overall pick by the Cavaliers in 2014, but was shipped over to the Timberwolves as part of the deal for Kevin Love. In his rookie season, Wiggins had a sudden impact where he won the Rookie of the Year Award thanks to scoring 16.9 points, pulling in 4.6 rebounds and dishing out 2.1 assists per game. His second year saw an increase in his scoring and an improvement in his shooting percentage.
1 Karl-Anthony Towns
And the good news continues for Timberwolves fans as they might have the two best players of the 2020-21 season as long as they can keep signing them to extended contracts. The top player on our list is Karl-Anthony Towns, the top overall pick in 2015 out of Kentucky. The 7’0” Towns was fantastic in his first season, winning the 2016 Rookie of the Year Award thanks to his 18.3 rebounds, 10.5 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. Those are some absurd numbers for a guy who was just 19 years old when the 2015-16 season started.
It only gets better for Minnesota as they should have Wiggins when he enters his prime in 2020-21, as well as Towns who will be just 24 years old when the season starts. Even Kevin Durant has already said that Towns will be a Hall of Fame player and the numbers that he posted in his first season were comparable to stars like Shaquille O’Neal and Tim Duncan. Towns should be averaging about 24 points with 13 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game by the 2020-21 season and an MVP candidate. Can he be the new King?
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