Choosing the top five NBA players of the 2010s is a relatively simple exercise.
But forecasting the five best players of the next 10 years? Even acknowledging a pair of no-brainer selections, that’s a task fraught with unknowns.
But here’s how the NBA’s next All-Decade Team looks to us just a few days into 2020.
Giannis Antetokounmpo won MVP last season to become the youngest winner of basketball’s top individual honor since Derrick Rose in 2011 . He’s been objectively better this season, expanding his shooting range and taking his all-court playmaking exploits on both ends to a new level.
The only thing left for Antetokounmpo to prove? That his historic regular-season production and jaw-dropping two-way abilities translate to a championship. Whether or not it happens this season with the Milwaukee Bucks, Antetokounmpo will pose a looming threat for the Larry O’Brien Trophy every season for the foreseeable future – no matter where he’s playing.
Draft gurus were up in arms when Luka Doncic, the most decorated teenager in the history of European basketball, slipped to third overall on draft night. But even that vocal majority has been surprised by how quickly the Dallas Mavericks’ franchise player has ascended to the top of the league’s individual hierarchy.
Doncic could very well receive first-place MVP votes when his sophomore season comes to a close come spring. That’s a remarkable accomplishment for a player who can’t legally drink in the United States until February. But even it pales in comparison to the one he’s chasing with the upstart Mavericks, who are only a matter of time and experience away from perennial championship contention with Doncic leading the way.
When Embiid, 25, made his long-anticipated NBA debut three years ago, it seemed a stretch to say he’d finish any season fully healthy. But previously debilitating back and foot injuries have been a blip on Embiid’s career ever since, as he continues staking his claim as basketball’s best big man.
He’s struggled this season as the rebuilt Philadelphia 76ers deal with an amplified dearth of shooting and playmaking. As they made so forcefully clear in a Christmas blowout of the Bucks, though, Embiid and the Sixers are so talented that they could prove those issues moot under the postseason microscope.
The Los Angeles Lakers superstar has appeared on many iterations of the NBA’s All-Decade Team of the 2010s. No big man in the league has been more consistently impactful and productive over the last five seasons than Anthony Davis. He’s taken his game up a notch while competing for a title during his Lakers debut, too.
Health provided, Davis, still just 26, is a no-brainer for the 2020s team. But he deals with more nagging injuries than any superstar in basketball, and will finish out the second half of the decade in his thirties. But there’s still another level for Davis to reach offensively, a possibility too tantalizing to ignore even given concerns of age and injury.
Thirty games into his rookie season, Zion Williamson remains all projection. He still hasn’t taken the floor for the New Orleans Pelicans while rehabbing from a torn meniscus, the type of injury that portends health struggles to come, given his unprecedented combination of size and explosiveness.
No matter. Williamson absolutely dominated during preseason action while relying solely on his physical tools. Once his skills start to catch up, watch out – Williamson could actually realize the hype.