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NBA

Predicting the top 10 players in the NBA in five years

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Who's next? (NBA Australia Illustrations)

LeBron James said it himself, "the league is in great hands" for the future.

We know that even when the LeBrons, Stephen Currys and James Hardens of the league move on, we'll still be left with future all-time greats to take their place under the NBA's brightest spotlight.

Antetokounmpo is already there while Williamson is in the beginning stages of carving out his legacy after missing the first half of the season with a knee injury. Young stars like those guys thriving this early into their careers had our NBA.com Staff excited, looking to the future to predict who the top 10 players in the NBA will be five years from now.

We first created this list back at the start of February, but with bigger sample sizes to work with, we went back and did a temperature check. As expected the results changed, but perhaps more drastically than you would expect over the course of one month.

After accumulating answers from seven staffers from our NBA Global team, we've averaged out the responses to create this list below.

Whether you agree or disagree with the order, these players got next in the NBA. Take a look.

This list is made up of players in the NBA today. Future prospects were not taken into account.

10. Joel Embiid

Current age: 25 years old

Previous ranking: 5

Highest ranking: 6

Lowest ranking: Not ranked

Joel Embiid took the biggest fall of any player on this list since we last polled, going from a top-five ranking to No. 10. Part of that may be his recent shoulder injury keeping him off the court and out of our minds, but it also could just be injury caution as a whole. There's no denying that when Embiid is healthy, he's one of the most dominant players in the NBA. Staying healthy has been the major issue, though.

If you were to take injuries out of consideration, it's proably safe to assume the All-Star centre would be much higher on this list.

9. Ben Simmons

Current age: 23 years old

Previous ranking: Outside top 10

Highest ranking: 7

Lowest ranking: Not ranked

Ben Simmons just missed the top 10 the last time we created this list, but his strong play prior to his back injury earned his name a spot this time around.

Simmons has always been an elite playmaker, great in transition and terrifying when getting downhill in the open floor. His biggest leap this season has been on the defensive end, where he's building a case as one of the best and most versatile defenders in the league. Even with offensive concerns on the perimeter, he's still one of the brightest young stars in the NBA today.

8. Trae Young

Current age: 21 years old

Previous ranking: 7

Highest ranking: 7

Lowest ranking: Not ranked

Trae Young has squashed any doubt that he has what it takes to be great in the NBA. Through nearly two full seasons, Young has proved he'll be one of the league's best scorers and passers moving forward and he earned his first All-Star bid to show for it this season, as a starter nonetheless. The next step for Trae to move up on this list would be team success and defence, but the 21-year-old guard has a bright future ahead of him regardless.

7. Nikola Jokic

Current age: 25 years old

Previous ranking: Outside top 10

Highest ranking: 6

Lowest ranking: Not ranked

It may have been a bit disrespectful that Nikola Jokic was left off this list the first time around. We'll gladly take a mulligan.

The All-Star centre has emerged as an MVP candidate for the second consecutive season and his game should age well. As it is, he already plays below the rim without the quickness or athleticism of his peers, instead using his ridiculously high basketball IQ, court vision and tough shot-making ability to flourish.

MORE: Jokic does this better than anyone else

6. Ja Morant

Current age: 20 years old

Previous ranking: 6

Highest ranking: 4

Lowest ranking: 10

Being in the same rookie class as Zion Williamson, it's not easy to draw attention away from a prospect like that, even through an injury. Ja Morant has been so electric during his rookie season that people had no choice but to talk about him. Vicious highlight reel dunks, flashy no-look passes, playing an attitude that there's no player he can't step to. The 20-year-old point guard is the Rookie of the Year favourite, his team is in the playoff hunt and he'll surely be one of the 10 best players in the NBA sooner rather than later.

5. Anthony Davis

Current age: 26 years old

Previous ranking: 3

Highest ranking: 3

Lowest ranking: 7

Anthony Davis will be the oldest player on this list in five years but he should still be in his prime, dominating the NBA at 31 years old. The freakishly athletic and versatile forward has been incredible playing for a championship contender this season, emerging as a potential MVP and Defensive Player of the Year candidate. He's a shot blocking machine, can score from anywhere on the floor and moves like a guard. A scary combination for opposing teams now and in the future.

4. Jayson Tatum

Current age: 22 years old

Previous ranking: 8

Highest ranking: 3

Lowest ranking: 5

To be completely honest, Jayson Tatum is the sole reason we had to re-do this list. At the start of February when we had our first rankings, Tatum placed 8th and was left off of four of the eight ballots polled. This time around, after an insane last month where the Celtics All-Star forward has taken his game to a completely different level, Tatum didn't fall lower than 5th on any list. He's scoring at will and has become an All-Defensive team calibre defender on the other end. The sky is the limit for the 22-year-old.

MORE: Russell. Bird. Pierce. Tatum?

3. Zion Williamson

Current age: 19 years old

Previous ranking: 4

Highest ranking: 2

Lowest ranking: 5

Zion Williamson jumped up one spot on this list as there isn't much remaining doubt of how great this kid can be based off of the first handful of games we've seen. He's dominating already, scoring around the rim with ease. He's explosive, a walking highlight reel and has more than lived up to the hype so far. He's a generational talent and the future of the NBA.

MORE: The best moments from Zion's rookie season so far

2. Luka Doncic

Current age: 21 years old

Previous ranking: 2

Highest ranking: 2

Lowest ranking: 3

Luka Doncic didn't get any first place votes this time around, and he did drop down to No. 3 on one list in favour of Zion Williamson, but he still comes in at No. 2 on this list. The All-Star guard is defying all odds with how incredible he's been in just his second season in the NBA. He's nearly averaging a triple-double and has solidified himself as a legitimate MVP candidate this season. As a 21-year-old, he's only going to get better with time.

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo

Current age: 25 years old

Previous ranking: 1

Highest ranking: 1

Lowest ranking: 1

Unanimous.

Last time around, there were a couple people that had Luka Doncic as the league's best player in five years, but this time, there were no doubts that it would be Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Greek Freak has all but locked up his second-consecutive MVP trophy with his team on pace to flirt with 70 wins. He may also win Defensive Player of the Year and his game's one glaring flaw - his jumpshot - has already improved from last season to this one. It's scary to think about how good Antetokounmpo will be as a 30-year-old in his prime.

Honourable mentions

Kawhi Leonard and Devin Booker were tied for 10th on our previous list, while Donovan Mitchell came in at 9th last time. In Leonard's case, it's likely more of a respect for the younger players in the league than it is disrespect to the reigning Finals MVP. Booker only cracked the top-10 of one list this time around, while Mitchell's name landed on three lists and was the first player out of the top-10.

The only other player to receive a vote aside from these three was Denver Nuggets' rookie forward Michael Porter Jr., who undoubtedly has a high upside if he can stay healthy. A couple surprises were that Pascal Siakam and Brandon Ingram, who were both fairly popular selections the last time we polled on this topic, did not receive any votes in the most recent ballot.

Below, you can find each of the eight NBA.com staffers polled, along with their Twitter handle if you agree or disagree with their list!

Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_)

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo

2. Luka Doncic

3. Anthony Davis

4. Jayson Tatum

5. Zion Williamson

6. Joel Embiid

7. Trae Young

8. Ben Simmons

9. Devin Booker

10. Ja Morant

Juan Estévez (@JuanEstevez90)

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo

2. Luka Doncic

3. Zion Williamson

4. Jayson Tatum

5. Anthony Davis

6. Nikola Jokic

7. Ben Simmons

8. Ja Morant

9. Donovan Mitchell

10. Trae Young

Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13)

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo

2. Zion Williamson

3. Luka Doncic

4. Jayson Tatum

5. Anthony Davis

6. Nikola Jokic

7. Trae Young

8. Ja Morant

9. Ben Simmons

10. Michael Porter Jr.

Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles)

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo

2. Luka Doncic

3. Zion Williamson

4. Anthony Davis

5. Jayson Tatum

6. Kawhi Leonard

7. Nikola Jokic

8. Ja Morant

9. Ben Simmons

10. Joel Embiid

Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21)

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo

2. Luka Doncic

3. Zion Williamson

4. Anthony Davis

5. Jayson Tatum

6. Ja Morant

7. Nikola Jokic

8. Trae Young

9. Ben Simmons

10. Joel Embiid

Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay)

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo

2. Luka Doncic

3. Jayson Tatum

4. Ja Morant

5. Zion Williamson

6. Nikola Jokic

7. Anthony Davis

8. Donovan Mitchell

9. Ben Simmons

10. Trae Young

Leandro Fernández (@FernandezLea)

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo

2. Luka Doncic

3. Zion Williamson

4. Anthony Davis

5. Jayson Tatum

6. Joel Embiid

7. Ja Morant

8. Trae Young

9. Nikola Jokic

10. Donovan Mitchell

The views on this page do not necessarily represent the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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