In the year 2028, who will be the best players in the NBA? Are any of them in the league right now? Is someone who has yet to make the league going to ascend to the top five by 2028?
TSL is going to do a little predicting. We don’t have a crystal ball; this is just a guess based on age, current level and how well a player’s game will age.
#5. Nikola Jokic
The two-time reigning MVP will be 32 in 2028. His game doesn’t rely on athleticism. He is a basketball savant, a virtuoso passer and the craftiest player in the league. None of that is going to wane as he ages. If anything, his computer brain will have even more reference points by 2028.
He has been consistently at the top of the league in EPM and WS/48 the last three seasons and it’s not slowing down. His skill level is among the best who have ever played this game, and he is the best big in the game.
The 19-year-old French phenom isn’t even in the league yet! But the presumptive 2023 number-one pick will be in his fifth year in the NBA by 2028, assuming health. The 7’4 multi-skilled “big” with an 8’0″ wingspan is something the NBA has never seen.
He has Steph Curry shooting range, can handle and protect the rim like elite DPOY Rudy Gobert.
On day one he should be able to make threes and protect the rim. He doesn’t need to be a primary ball handler or wing offense creator early. If he gets 10 to 12 attempts from three per game off screens and pin downs, and he protects the rim he’ll be an All-Star level player well before his fifth year.
Victor Wembanyama is a one-of-a-kind hooper!
🦄 37 PTS, 4 REB, 5 BLK, 7 3PM pic.twitter.com/jc3Jz6SLio
— NBA (@NBA) October 5, 2022
#3. Ja Morant
This was the toughest selection. Ja is a human highlight reel; respect to the OG Dominique Wilkins. He is the straw that stirs the Memphis Grizzlies’ drink and he has the moxy to go with a big game. But his acrobatics and extreme athleticism are concerning. He has a high injury risk.
He’ll only be 28 in 2028, and if his jump shot continues to improve, he’ll be able to pick and choose his spots better and become an even deadlier player. He’s also improving defensively. If he is a net positive defender, look out.
#2. Luka Doncic
It’s possible Doncic never gets better than he is right now. But he’s only 23 and maybe the best player in the league. If he is at or near this level for the next five seasons, he’ll be one of the two best players in the league.
He’s averaging 34, 9, and 9 on 62 TS% and 57 eFG%. This is elite basketball.
He plays at his own pace and will get through any defense thrown at him. Triple team? No problem, he’s the best passer in the world not named Nikola Jokic. He reads the game exceptionally well and controls the pace, much like peak LeBron.
Recap / Appreciation of Luka Doncic’s absurd performance last night
67.7% FG (21/31)
33.3% 3FG (2/6)
72.7% FT (16/22)
One of the greatest individual performances in a single game of all time. Highlights ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/kHL4sKPp5L
— Coast 2 Coast (@Coast2CoastNBA) December 28, 2022
#1. Jayson Tatum
Controversial? Perhaps. Jayson Tatum is 24 and is already, arguably, a top -five player. He adds something to his game every year. At 6’8″, nearly 6’9″, he is a devastating two-way wing. He is one of the preeminent shot makers in the league today.
He’s averaging 30, 8, and 4 on 62 TS% and 55 eFG% efficiency splits. He made his first All-NBA first team last season.
Among players all time who’ve yet to hit their 25th birthday, he is fourth in total playoff points scored, first in 3-pointers made and third in total minutes. In five years he’ll be in his prime at 29.
No Giannis Antetokounmpo? No Joel Embiid?
In the case of Giannis, he’ll be 33 and his game might not age as well, as it is based on his overwhelming physicality.
Embiid will also be 33 and has a serious injury history.
We thought about Zion Williamson. But even at 22, his play style and injury history is concerning.