As the NBA continues to be on pause until the second half of the season begins on Thursday, it is never too early to start fantasizing about what the future might hold in the league. I am embarking on an impossible task of predicting who will be the 20 best NBA players in 5 years, 2028. A lot will change in 5 years, some players may never develop into what they were predicted to be. And, there are names that are still in High School right now who could easily be on this list in 5 years.
I did not include some of the top names today due mostly to age, as I am expecting them to be not themselves in 2028. Some of those names include, LeBron James 43, Steph Curry 39, Kevin Durant 39, Damian Lillard 37, Kyrie Irving 35, and Kawhi Leonard 36. Another player that just missed the list for me includes Anthony Davis 34, as given his injury history I expect him not to be able to hold up to an elite level of play in 5 years.
Lastly, a couple youngsters I did leave off the list that are very close in my opinion include, Tyrese Haliburton, Chet Holmgren, Bam Adebayo, and Darius Garland. Now lets dive into the top 20!
20. Zion Williamson, 27
Williamson has all the talent in the world to easily become a top five player in five years. Already in his young career he has a career average of 25.8 points a game which is exceptional. But, the problem that will always remain with Zion is his health. The amount of games he has already missed in his career is extremely worrisome.
19. Trae Young, 29
Mr. Ice Trae, has had a very productive NBA career at this point, including an Eastern Conference Finals appearance. The only reason he is not higher is mainly due to there being better talent developed by 2028 than him.
18. Evan Mobley, 26
Mobley is an insane talent for Cleveland, the versatility this guy brings every night is incredible. I do think he may fall short on fully developing his offensive game in my predictions but he still will become one of the best defenders in the league. At the end of the day offense will always reign at the top in the NBA.
17. Jaylen Brown, 31
Jaylen Brown is an amazing scorer and defensive hog for the Boston Celtics at the moment and is easily one of the most underrated players in the league today. Brown should remain a superstar level player in five years with possibly a few championship rings under his belt as well by the time it is 2028. Brown’s ceiling will only grow if he were to move onto a new team, transferring to the focal point of that team’s offense.
16. Scottie Barnes, 26
Scottie Barnes is such a unique talent that the Toronto Raptors have gotten their hands on. Barnes won Rookie of the Year the season before this one but has not taken much of a second year jump at all. Largely that has to do with Pascal Siakam and Fred Van Vleet being the focal scoring parts of the offense currently. I expect in five years Barnes to be the leader on both ends of the floor for Toronto and the face of their franchise. If Barnes develops a more consistent jump shot and deeper bag on offense over the next few years, I believe he can easily be a top 5 to 8 player in 2028.
15. LaMelo Ball, 26
Big Baller Brand, you have a superstar. At this stage in his career, LaMelo Ball is one of the most exciting young players in the NBA given his amazing size and skill he possesses. Though in 2023, the Charlotte Hornets are one of the worst teams in the league and is favorite to land either Scoot Henderson or Victor Wembanyama in the 2023 NBA Draft. Adding either player should help take Ball’s game to a whole another level. Ball is hoping to put Charlotte on the map with a new running mate that he can develop with to make this team a championship contender in 2028.
14. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, 29
SGA is a certified bucket for the Thunder. The Kentucky product just became an All-Star for the first time in his career in 2023, a accomplishment I expect him to become accustomed to a few more times once 2028 hits. The only reason he is not higher on this list is because the Thunder have an insane amount of draft picks, so the team possibly could easily have a different face of the franchise in 2028. The team even could have moved on from SGA at this point for more draft picks in Thunder tanking fashion.
13. Joel Embiid, 33
Embiid has been a force in the league for a long time now at this stage in 2023. Still no MVPs or NBA Championships in 2023, I could see him potentially winning either one in the next five seasons depending on the play of his running mates, Harden and Maxey. Embiid is only this low because of his past injury history and the possible wear and tear his body could indulge in at this point with the way he plays the game.
12. Paolo Banchero, 25
The rookie out of Duke has been exciting to watch down in Orlando this season. The most likely Rookie of the Year for the 2022-23 season has an insane talent of scoring the basketball and that should continue in 2028. The scary thing is at this point he still will be not in his prime yet. Banchero can easily develop into a top five player too, watch out for Paolo to put Orlando on the map!
11. Donovan Mitchell, 31
Mr. 71 points himself, Donovan Mitchell aka Spida is an amazing player. Mitchell uses his athletic ability to full strength in the way he plays the game, but his improved three-point shooting gives me confidence he will still be an elite player in 2028. Will Mitchell still be in Cleveland though?
10. Nikola Jokic, 33
Will the current defending two-time MVP have the most triple-doubles all-time when we are watching the NBA in 2028? I would not be surprised, but more importantly will he have proved it in the playoffs by now with either a Finals appearance or an NBA Championship with Denver? Time will only tell if he erases the criticism he receives in the next five seasons. The Joker easily has all the skills in the world to continue to be a dominant player for a long time, there just will be some better players than him in five years.
9. Devin Booker, 31
Booker is an elite scorer, averaging just over 26 points a game the last five seasons for Phoenix. At this point the Suns just acquired Kevin Durant so we don’t know how much that will impact his averages but my guess is Durant may not be in a Suns uniform by the time it is 2028. Booker’s game should age like fine wine with his elite mid-range game and already big time playoff experience. He may even have a championship ring or two at this point with adding a superstar like Durant to play next to him.
8. Ja Morant, 28
Some might be surprised that Morant is not higher on this list but I still think top eight is insanely good especially with the talent in the NBA. Morant has been leading the Grizzlies so far but he has not gotten them anywhere far at this point in the playoffs. He’s an exciting player to watch and that should continue. But, he should be worried about the West, it will be the Wild Wild West for some time.
7. Cade Cunningham, 26
Cunningham was just on his way to taking his game to a whole another level in his second NBA season right before a heel injury shut him down for the season. Fortunately the injury is not a knee or achilles injury which slows down player’s careers even more. Cunningham has all the tools to be an elite all around player, as a creator and scorer. I think that along with his leadership is going to lift Detroit up with his play and make them a playoff contender in the future seasons.
6. Scoot Henderson, 24
Scoot Henderson at this point has not even been drafted into the NBA yet. But his athleticism, scoring ability and swagger gives me confidence he will take over the NBA and help a franchise in need heavily. He has traits similar to Ja Morant but I see even more superstar in his game than Morant.
5. Victor Wembanyama, 24
At this point there is a handful of teams looking to acquire Wembanyama in the upcoming draft that has not occurred yet. The French unicorn has insane traits to be the next generational type player in the NBA. His slim frame does worry me a bit with potential injuries but I truly believe this guy will take over the NBA. Wemby and Scoot coming into the league together will be one of the best NBA draft duos in a long time.
4. Anthony Edwards, 26
Ant Man has been a spectacular player to watch come into his own in Minnesota. He just was selected to his first All-Star game and there should be plenty of more appearances in his future. His combination of swagger and dominance when he plays gives me hope what his ceiling will become. Hopefully at this point Minnesota does not make any other large trade mistakes like trading for Rudy Gobert, and completely build around Edwards. Everyone thought that Minnesota’s guy was going to be KAT but Edwards is easily the player to help Minnesota become a norm competing in the postseason.
3. Jayson Tatum, 29
Jayson Tatum at this point is an elite player who is coming off an NBA Finals appearance a long with just winning the All-Star Game MVP. Tatum is an elite talent who can score 50 on a given night and can use his size to lock down defenders if he chooses to do so. At this point I would be shocked if he didn’t have a NBA MVP and a championship by the time he is 29 in 2028. Tatum easily could be the face of the NBA by this time too, he is that great.
2. Luka Dončić, 28
Luka Magic is real. The special player in Dallas game should only be continuing to develop his game over the next few years. In 2023 he is only 23 still and has a lot of accomplishments left to covet. The playmaking and craftiness Dončić, possesses should make him even more dominant over the years. He just paired up with Kyrie Irving which can hopefully give Dallas a shot at another NBA title. The problem is the competition especially in the West will be insane. The only way Dallas doesn’t get over the hump is if they truly cannot find the correct running mate for the Slovenia Superstar.
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, 33
This may be bias but I think the Greek Freak is a one of a kind player whose dominance should continue to reign even at the age of 33. Maybe at this point he does have a knockdown jump shot as it truly would not surprise me, especially with the work ethic he does have. Giannis in 2023 has already accomplished what most NBA players can only dream of but he for sure is not satisfied at this moment at all. In 2028 there will be more battles that have occurred over the years especially against the Boston Celtics. Milwaukee may even have added another NBA Championship trophy too. In 2028 his running mates, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday, most likely are not great players anymore due to age and possibly have their jerseys retired and hanging in the rafters of Fiserv Forum. So, the question at this point will be to find Antetokounmpo the next correct running mates to help him continue to compete for championships. Giannis has too much competitiveness in him to slow down by the time he is 33, and he will continue to be the face of the NBA in 2028.