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NBA top 30 players in five years: Where will Victor Wembanyama rank among elite talent like Jayson Tatum, Luka Doncic?

LeBron James said it himself back in 2020, “The league is in great hands with guys like Zion (Williamson), Ja Morant, Luka Doncic, Trae Young, Jayson Tatum, and the list goes on and on.”

The league’s talent pool is as deep as it has ever been — something that was made clear when The Sporting News released its top 30 rankings in the NBA this season just last week.

As perennial stars like James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Kawhi Leonard, James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Damian Lillard enter the twilight of their careers, there’s a group of extremely talented young players who are already replacing their predecessors in the NBA’s hierarchy.

The overwhelming presence of those young players on today’s top 30 list left us wondering — who will be the 30 best players in the league in five years?

I took on the challenge of ranking the future of the NBA, trying to predict what the league might look like in 2027-28 with a few things to consider:

  • The cut-off for prospects was the 2023 NBA Draft class.
  • According to a study done by Dartmouth College in 2021, the average peak of an NBA player is 27 to 28 years old. Players who fall in that age range in five years’ time were given a boost, while also acknowledging that some players defy reality, like Derrick Rose winning MVP at 22 or LeBron still dominating at 38.
  • Injury history was taken into account, especially when it comes to players who will be at the back end of their careers in five years.
  • When I began this exercise, I started with a pool of 65 (!) players who I thought were worthy of consideration. Trimming that list to 30 players was an extremely tough task, especially when it came to eliminating some rookies and sophomores with more to prove or some of today’s long-time All-Stars.

So without further ado… who will be the 30 best players in the NBA in five years?

If you’d like to see the entire list, click here to skip down.

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NBA Top 30 players in five years

Players like Tyler Herro (27 years old), Tyrese Maxey (27), De’Aaron Fox (29), Desmond Bane (29), Domantas Sabonis (31), Karl-Anthony Towns (32), Pascal Siakam (33) and Anthony Davis (35) just missed the cut.

30. Stephen Curry, 39 years old

29. LeBron James, 43 years old

28. Franz Wagner, 26 years old

27. Scottie Barnes, 26 years old

26. Bam Adebayo, 30 years old

  • While it’s certainly possible that neither Curry nor James are in the league in five years, I’m not ready to say they won’t be top 30 players if they are still playing. Curry will still be a lights-out shooter who warps defenses with his gravity and James will always impact the game in all facets, even at 39 and 43, respectively.
  • Wagner and Barnes are a coin flip after both players have established themselves in their first season and a half. Wagner is already a do-it-all-type player while Barnes could rise even higher if he develops his jumpshot and shot creation skills.
  • It feels safe to assume Adebayo will still be one of the best defenders in the league in five years.

25. Jaren Jackson Jr., 28 years old

24. Brandon Ingram, 30 years old

23. Kevin Durant, 39 years old

22. Jalen Green, 25 years old

21. Anthony Edwards, 26 years old

  • In the prime of his career, Jackson should be a Defensive Player of the Year-caliber player every season.
  • Even at 39 years old, I can still see Durant rising over the top of any defender and knocking down tough shot after tough shot, averaging over 20 points per game with ease. There’s no question his understudy, Ingram, will still be one of the best offensive weapons in the league in five years.
  • Green has the type of swagger and offensive prowess to lead the league in scoring one day. We’re not far from the day Edwards takes over as the face of the Timberwolves franchise. The duo will be a fascinating position battle to monitor over the next five years.

20. Darius Garland, 27 years old

19. Scoot Henderson, 23 years old

18. Trae Young, 29 years old

17. Cade Cunningham, 26 years old

16. LaMelo Ball, 26 years old

  • It’s fun to think about how dangerous Garland and Young will be offensively in their prime considering what they’re already doing as two of the best playmakers in the league at 22 and 24, respectively.
  • Think about the way that Morant has taken the league by storm by age 23. I expect Henderson to have a similar immediate impact given his build, skillset and professional experience at a young age, and he’s one player I know I’m going to wish I had higher on this list in retrospect.
  • Cunningham and Ball will be another positional battle — this time between two big playmaking guards who will be the engine of their respective teams. Ball gets the edge for now because his production is more proven than Cunningham’s.
Evan Mobley, Joel Embiid 12282022

15. Joel Embiid, 33 years old

In the eight seasons since Embiid was drafted in 2014, he has only appeared in more than 60 games three times. While there is no doubt that he is one of the most dominant players in the NBA when he’s on the floor, his injury history plays a massive role in where he lands on this list.

With that being said, even as a 33-year-old with injury concerns, Embiid will still be a force if he’s relatively healthy. It feels like a relevant reminder that Shaquille O’Neal was still an All-Star at 33, averaging 20.0 points and 9.2 rebounds per game when he won the NBA championship alongside Dwyane Wade in 2005-06.

14. Evan Mobley, 26 years old

Even as a 20-year-old rookie, Mobley was starting to generate some All-Defensive Team buzz for his versatility on that end of the floor. Give him another five years to polish off an already developing inside-out offensive repertoire and the future Defensive Player of the Year candidate will be in the discussion for one of the most impactful two-way players in the NBA.

13. Jaylen Brown, 31 years old

Brown is a prolific scorer who continues to grow as a player every season. One year after reaching the NBA Finals for the first time in his career, Brown is having his most efficient scoring season while averaging a career-high 27.0 points per game, looking as confident as ever in his ability to get a bucket from all three levels of the floor.

When you take into account his situation in Boston, it’s not hard to believe that in five years’ time, Brown could cross an All-NBA nomination off his list, add a few more All-Star appearances and raise a Larry O’Brien trophy. 

12. Donovan Mitchell, 31 years old

Mitchell has been a 20-point-per-game scorer every season since he stepped foot in the league. He has fine-tuned his offensive game to become more efficient as a scorer and he has shown flashes as a secondary playmaker. Even if his explosive first step and athleticism deter a tiny bit, he’ll still be able to make teams pay as a shooter.

If his first five years with the Jazz are any indication of the success he’ll see over the next five with the Cavaliers, Mitchell feels safe as a top-15 player in 2027-28.

11. Tyrese Haliburton, 27 years old

At 22 years old, Haliburton has already established himself as one of the most elite playmaking guards in the league. It took less than one-half of a season as the Pacers’ lead floor general and No. 1 option to become the type of player who could lead the NBA in assists.

Averaging 20.5 points, 10.2 assists and 1.7 steals per game on hyper-efficient shooting splits in his third season, it’s hard to ignore the common comparisons to Chris Paul’s breakout in Year 3, where he posted 21.1 points, 11.6 assists and 2.1 steals per game. Even being in the conversation to follow the path of the future Hall of Famer justifies Haliburton as a fringe top-10 player five years down the line.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Devin Booker 12282022

10. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, 29 years old

What we’ve seen from 24-year-old Gilgeous-Alexander this season is enough to cement his spot as a future top-10 player in the league. Gilgeous-Alexander has proved he can be a franchise player — a 30-point-per-game scorer who plays at a high level on both sides of the ball, is a vocal leader and isn’t afraid to take (and make) the big shots with the game on the line.

Just wait until the Thunder cash in on their treasure chest of future draft assets and put some talent around SGA to become a playoff team. 

9. Devin Booker, 31 years old

Booker went from being labeled as a player whose success doesn’t contribute to winning to an All-NBA and MVP candidate for one of the best teams in the West in a matter of seven seasons. His game has only gotten prettier with age and I don’t see that changing from 26 to 31 years old.

Booker has yet to lead the league in scoring — something that feels inevitable to come over the next few seasons. He has already established himself as the best shooting guard in the NBA and even though guys like SGA, Mitchell and Brown are knocking on that door, Booker doesn’t seem prepared to surrender that crown any time soon.

8. Nikola Jokic, 32 years old

The back-to-back reigning MVP somehow still gets overlooked, but his game will not be disrespected here. Jokic has made it clear that he doesn’t intend to leave the MVP conversation any time soon and even though he’ll likely lose a step over the next five seasons, his skillset isn’t going anywhere.

By the time 2027-28 rolls around, Jokic will be making a run for the title of the greatest international player of all time. He’s already arguably the best passer in the league, his savviness and shooting touch will translate with age and if his supporting cast can help him out, we should finally see him compete on the NBA Finals stage — perhaps even as soon as this season.

7. Paolo Banchero, 25 years old

Banchero in the top 10 — ahead of Jokic — may seem ambitious but the 20-year-old has shown enough through the first half of his rookie season to believe the Magic landed a franchise-altering talent. The 2022 No. 1 overall pick makes the game look easy on the offensive end, averaging more points per game (21.1) than LeBron did as a rookie (20.9) so far. Once his 3-point shot becomes more consistent and he evolves into a true three-level scorer, good luck stopping the 6-10 playmaker.

There have been almost zero growing pains going from the NCAA to the NBA and with his size and athleticism, I have no doubts that Banchero will continue to improve on the defensive end. It went back and forth ahead of the draft but Orlando made the right decision and got its guy this year.

6. Giannis Antetokounmpo, 33 years old

Antetokounmpo might be the most interesting case on this list because it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest if he’s still the best player in the NBA in five years. His landing at No. 6 on this list is less about how I think his game will age and more about the respect I have for the potential of the five players above him.

With that being said, will 33-year-old Giannis still be able to bully his way to the rim on every possession and cover the absurd about of ground that we see from him now on the defensive end? On the flip side, maybe he does smooth out his jumpshot and become a more complete offensive player — which would be terrifying for the league.

Antetokounmpo has been the most dominant paint force the NBA has seen since Shaq. He’s a perennial MVP and Defensive Player of the Year candidate and it would be surprising if he doesn’t add another title to his resume over the next five years.

5. Zion Williamson, 27 years old

Speaking of “most dominant paint forces since Shaq,” hello, Zion.

The beginning of Williamson’s highly anticipated career was derailed by injuries but in the small sample size we’ve seen when he’s on the floor, the 22-year-old has been everything he was hyped up to be. Through his first 100 games, Williamson constantly placed himself in Hall of Fame company with his scoring and efficiency.

There’s no questioning his ability as an unstoppable force, as most teams do not have a one-player answer for him because of his powerful and explosive athleticism. The only question about his standing as a future top-five player is can he stay healthy?

Williamson came into this season in the best shape of his career and if he can make that a habit, the sky is the limit.

Victor Wembanyama, 10262022

4. Victor Wembanyama, 23 years old

“How do you rank a player who has never played a single game in the NBA as a future top-five player?” Well… have you seen how otherworldly Wembanyama is?

The way the 7-4 big man is dominating France’s Betclic Elite LNB Pro A (one of the best leagues in the world outside of the U.S.) couldn’t be more reassuring that he is ready to make an impact in the NBA from Day 1. He’s already an MVP candidate against other professionals and the NBA has never seen anything like the 18-year-old.

The once-in-a-lifetime prospect has had the NBA buzzing for two full seasons now as teams prepare for what is the most anticipated NBA Draft since LeBron came into the league in 2003. Health provided, I don’t think it’s that crazy to say Wembanyama could legitimately be the best player in the league in five years.

3. Ja Morant, 28 years old

At 23 years old, Morant is already the most electrifying player in the NBA and I’m not sure it’s even debatable. His rapid ascension to the NBA’s top tier of superstars feels like something that we’ve seen before, often drawing comparisons to Derrick Rose, who was the youngest MVP in league history.

With hopes that Morant can remain healthy, we may finally get a parallel answer to the question, “what if Rose never got hurt?”

Morant is already one of the faces of the league. He’s improved as a scorer and playmaker every season of his career. He has immediately brought Memphis from a lottery team to a contender and with the other young talented players around him, it’s only a matter of time before we see him competing on the NBA Finals stage. Morant is a lock to be a top-five player in the NBA in five years.

Luka Doncic, Jayson Tatum 12282022

2. Luka Doncic, 28 years old

Doncic is so unbelievably incredible that only he could land at No. 2 on this list and it feels like he’s being snubbed. Fresh off of one of the most ridiculous individual performances in NBA history — going for the first-ever 60-20-10 triple-double — Doncic reminded us just how magical his game is.

He has averaged over 27 points per game in three of his four full seasons in the NBA. He’s a walking triple-double threat, averaging 8.6 rebounds and 8.0 assists per game to this point in his career. In four years, he already has three (!!) First Team All-NBA honors. He’s so good at such a young age that he was already in the discussion for the NBA 75 despite playing three seasons in the league when the list was made.

There is no doubt that Doncic will take home at least one MVP and multiple more All-Star and All-NBA honors over the next five years. The big question is: will he win a championship in that span?

1. Jayson Tatum, 29 years old

Tatum at No. 1 might seem like a shock — but is it really that crazy?

In his first five seasons, Tatum is already a three-time All-Star and two-time All-NBA member (one First Team). He has been the best player on three Conference Finals teams with one NBA Finals appearance, all by the age of 24. This season, he has ascended to another stratosphere, establishing himself as an MVP candidate by averaging over 30 points while becoming one of the game’s best two-way players.

At this trajectory, with the talent around him in Boston for the foreseeable future, Tatum is in a position to compete for a title every season over the next five years. If he can add an MVP, a few more All-Star and All-NBA nominations and a Larry O’B to his trophy case, it’ll become very hard to keep him off this top spot — even with Doncic right on his tail.

Rank Player Age in five years
1. Jayson Tatum 29
2. Luka Doncic 28
3. Ja Morant 28
4. Victor Wembanyama 23
5. Zion Williamson 27
6. Giannis Antetokounmpo 33
7. Paolo Banchero 25
8. Nikola Jokic 32
9. Devin Booker 31
10. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander 29
11. Tyrese Haliburton 27
12. Donovan Mitchell 31
13. Jaylen Brown 31
14. Evan Mobley 26
15. Joel Embiid 33
16. LaMelo Ball 26
17. Cade Cunningham 26
18. Trae Young 29
19. Scoot Henderson 23
20. Darius Garland 27
21. Anthony Edwards 26
22. Jalen Green 25
23. Kevin Durant 39
24. Brandon Ingram 30
25. Jaren Jackson Jr. 28
26. Bam Adebayo 30
27. Scottie Barnes 26
28. Franz Wagner 26
29. LeBron James 43
30. Stephen Curry 39

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