Last year, ESPN sparked a ton of debate with it's inaugural NBA player rankings, from 500 to 1. This year has been no different, with two of the most griped-about rankings being those of Dwyane Wade (#8) Kobe Bryant (#6). I have my issues with this list but I'll delve into that another time. This list got me to thinking about the landscape of the league, and in doing so, I came up with my top 15 five years from now, at the top of the 17-18 season. Rankings are based on personal projections, Enjoy:
15.) HARRISON BARNES- With confidence, and an NBA ready mid-range game, Barnes could be going into his fifth season as one of the best scorers in the league. His game reminds me of Carmelo Anthony's, not as fluid though.
14.) STEPHEN CURRY- One of only three players in league history to post career averages of 40+ 3P% and 90+FT%. (Mark Price, Steve Nash) If he can stay healthy, Steph's quick release and improving PG skills can make him a fixture near the top of the list.
13.) GREG MONROE: This versatile big man's trajectory would have him battling Anthony Davis as the best big in the league.
12.) ERIC GORDON: This guy gets buckets in his sleep, by this time I see him as a perennial All-star.
11.) KLAY THOMPSON: If my projections are correct, the Warriors could possibly be one of the league's scariest teams with three top-15 players. (Barnes, Curry) Klay Thompson's combination of skills, including great work off the ball, a pure shooting stroke, the ability to score off the dribble, and the ability to see the defense with his 6 foot 7 frame could make him the best of the Warriors young guns.
10.) DWIGHT HOWARD: Enough said, this guy is ranked third this year and I see the inevitable wear and tear causing him to fall to the bottom of the top 10 by now, but still very much an elite player.
9.) JAMES HARDEN: Harden's do-everything game will earn him a top spot on this list on a yearly basis.
8.) PAUL GEORGE: George is one of the most intriguing players in the league now. This athletic freak is a 6 foot 10 shooting guard that can defend virtually every position, He is a committed and willing defender and passer, both skills I think will continue to flourish. With that improvement along with a more consistent stroke, George can truly become a dominant player on both ends of the floor. Think LeBron James 2.0
7.) RUSSELL WESTBROOK: By now, I expect for Russ to be a more composed, poised player. By now I see him channeling his energy better and becoming one of the best wingmen in league history as he rides shotgun with Kevin Durant on the way to what could be a burgeoning dynasty.
6.) KEVIN LOVE: Gonna keep this one short and sweet. Love averaged 26 and 13 last season. If he can stay close to that production those aren't just elite player numbers, they're Hall of Fame numbers.
5.) ANTHONY DAVIS: He enters the league as one of the best big men defenders. He"ll only get better, stronger, and a more refined offensive game, which already included a good shooting stroke. He will be the best big man in the league, with a game reminiscent of Kevin Garnett when he was at his peak.
4.) KYRIE IRVING: By this time, Irving will easily be the best PG in the league not named Derrick Rose. At his best, Kyrie Irving will be a quicker Chris Paul with a much more consistent shooting stroke.
3.) LEBRON JAMES: By this time, LeBron will be what Kobe is now. The former undisputed best player in the game that has slipped a few rungs. Will have multiple rings, and still going toe to toe with the league's younger generation.
2.) DERRICK ROSE: By now, Derrick Rose will be the best player in the league not named Kevin Durant. He will be a multiple time champion and will have begun his assault on the record books and the league's historic PG hierarchy.
1.) KEVIN DURANT: Any doubt who would land number 1? After being 2 this year, its clear he is the heir apparent once LeBron's game takes it's slightest dip. At his current rate, Durant would be well on his way to Kareem Abdul-Jabaar's all-time scoring record.
Best of the Rest: Austin Rivers, Josh Smith, Nikola Mirotic, Roy Hibbert, Nerlens Noel, Shabazz Muhammad, Jabari Parker, Ty Lawson