All-Decade Team: Some names to watch in 2020s

As a new NBA decade nears, these players may be poised to rise to the top

Sekou Smith

Sekou Smith NBA.com

Archive

Aug 7, 2019 9:52 AM ET

 

Which young players will dominate the NBA in the coming decade?

Picking the best players of the past decade can be a delightful process, a walk down memory lane that highlights the best of the NBA’s best from the most recently completed era.

We took care of that for you earlier this week with NBA.com's All-Decade Team for the 2010s.

Data and established success provide the context needed to make a strong case when you're looking back. But you can't rely on those conventions when trying to decide what, and perhaps more appropriately, who, comes next.

 
In the 2010s, these players made our All-Decade First Team.

Questions linger for the big stars of the 2010s who would normally transition into the next decade with similar status.

How will Kevin Durant look when he comes back from a season lost to an Achilles injury? What will Klay Thompson’s game look like post-ACL injury? There’s no saying how the summer’s superstar free agent and trade shuffle will impact career trajectories for older stars like Durant (going from Golden State to Brooklyn) and Russell Westbrook (going from Oklahoma City to Houston).

Young stars just entering the league (or still finding their way) are bound to emerge in the coming years. On the other hand, established veterans will see the inevitable fading of their star status.

That uncertain future for so many is part of what makes today’s exercise so much fun. We are peering into our crystal ball and projecting the future, identifying the stars who, a decade from now, might find their names on the best-of-the best list for the 2020s.

* * *

* = players who made a 2010s All-Decade Team

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks * 

 
Relive the best moments from Giannis Antetokounmpo's Kia MVP season!

"The Greek Freak" finished off the 2010s with his first Kia MVP and should be poised to compete for more this decade. He’s only scratched the surface of his immense potential and should be in the thick of the race for best player of the decade.

 

Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors * 

 
Stephen Curry put on show often in the 2018-19 NBA season.

One half of the sweetest shooting backcourts in NBA history, Curry and his fellow Splash Brother, Thompson, could make the next All-Decade Team, too. That would require them to prove they’re still playing championship-level basketball in the Bay Area post-Durant.

 

Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers *

 
A championship is the sole focus for Anthony Davis in Los Angeles.

Davis is finally positioned to chase championships and will do so as he enters the physical prime of his career. With Davis and LeBron James leading the way, the Lakers begin the next decade poised for a return to legitimate contender status.

 

Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

 
Take a look back at Luka Doncic's Kia Rookie of the Year run in 2018-19!

The reigning Kia Rookie of the Year gave us all a preview of what’s to come. Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis are the foundational players expected to fuel the Mavericks the way Dirk Nowitzki did the past two decades.

 

Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers

 
Joel Embiid has become one of the best centers in today's NBA.

If Embiid stays healthy, he’s good enough to challenge for the unofficial title of best player of the 2020s. His availability is the most critical component for a Sixers organization that believes it is on the cusp of championship contention.

 

Paul George, LA Clippers *

 
Paul George has a new challenge ahead of him with the LA Clippers.

George has fully bounced back from his devastating leg injury in 2014, earning a place among the NBA’s elite by finishing third in the Kia MVP voting to close out the 2010s. The only thing left on his to-do-list is to make the championship dreams of Clippers fans a reality.

 

James Harden, Houston Rockets *

 
James Harden showed in 2018-19 that he has some of the best handles in the NBA.

Finding a new groove alongside Westbrook will determine the Rockets’ championship fate and perhaps Harden’s legacy. Harden’s Hall of Fame status is secured. He just needs a title to complete his trophy case. 

 

LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers *

 
LeBron James will take on more playmaking duties for the Lakers in 2019-20.

Could he win a Kia MVP in three different decades? LeBron has broken the mold in just about every way imaginable to this point of his career, so it would be foolish to doubt him. He’s also got a chance to add to his title haul in the next decade as well. As for Father Time … what does that matter?

 

Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets

 
Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant will form a superstar duo in Brooklyn.

After winning a title as the supporting star in LeBron’s homecoming story in Cleveland, Irving hopes to revisit that magic in Brooklyn once Durant is healthy again. While Irving has some repair to do to his reputation after his final season in Boston, his talent remains undeniable.

 

Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets

 
Nikola Jokic powered the Nuggets to a Game 7 in the West semifinals.

Some would argue that Jokic (and not Embiid) finished the decade as the NBA’s best big man. The Nuggets are banking on it, as they’ve built their operation around the triple-double versatility of the 24-year-old All-Star known as “The Joker.”

 

Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers *

 
Kawhi Leonard picked a move to L.A. this summer rather than staying in Toronto.

Leonard load managed his way to a title in Toronto but has already declared himself ready to play without limitations as he attempts to bring a championship parade to his hometown. He’s at the height of his powers right now and, with good health, will be for the foreseeable future.

 

Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

 
Take a look back at some of Damian Lillard's best moments from 2018-19!

Lillard was noticeably absent from the 2010s All-Decade Team, but he shouldn’t have to worry about that happening in the 2020s. The face and soul of the franchise in Portland, Lillard knows that the next step for he and CJ McCollum is a Finals berth.

 

Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz

 
Few in the NBA are as fluid with the ball as the Jazz's Donovan Mitchell is.

If the addition of veteran Mike Conley has the impact Utah’s braintrust expects, Mitchell is primed to rise any ranking of the West’s (and NBA’s) top players. Don’t be surprised if he snags a scoring title (or two) in the next decade.

 

Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics

 
Boston's Jayson Tatum has become a rising star in the NBA.

With Kyrie Irving gone, Tatum and the Celtics can get back to the performances he provided during the 2018 playoffs as a rookie. The Celtics have refused to trade Tatum for a reason. He’s got the array of skills that a team values in a wing scorer.

 

Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks

 
As a rookie, Trae Young dazzled for the Hawks in the 2018-19 season.

Any pre-Draft trepidation about Young was overturned after his strong finish to his rookie season. A splendid passer with Splash Bros.-type range, Young will grow and mature physically into the leader of a franchise revival in Atlanta.

* * *

Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.


Copyright © 2019 NBA Media Ventures, LLC. All rights reserved.

Privacy Policy | Accessibility and Closed Caption | Terms of Use |

NBA.com is part of Turner Sports Digital, part of the Turner Sports & Entertainment Digital Network.

Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. A Time Warner Company.