Predicting the Top 10 NBA Players in 2015
The NBA has many different stars. Some, like LeBron James, are in their prime. Some, like Kobe, are a little past their prime. And some, like reigning MVP Derrick Rose, are just starting to dominate this league and still have room to grow.
But let's jump ahead a little. At the beginning of the 2015-2016 season, which is four long years from now, how will things change? Who will be the most dominant player in the league? Which current players will have become superstars and which ones will have faded away?
Well, here it is. These are the top 10 players in the NBA in 2015.
Note: Players who have yet to enter the NBA are excluded. Although prospects such as Anthony Davis, Andre Drummond, Harrison Barnes and others could be elite players, they have yet to prove their ability at an NBA level.
10. Kyrie Irving
2011-2012 Stats: 18.9 PTS, 5.7 AST, 1.0 STL
The first pick of the 2011 draft has been absolutely amazing this year, and with Ricky Rubio injured he is now practically an automatic pick for the Rookie of the Year award.
You could even say that Irving has exceeded expectations. A great shooter, he hits 47 percent of his shots and 40 percent of his three-pointers. Though he struggles with turnovers, he averaged six assists a game and has carried this year's Cavaliers team further than almost anyone expected.
Though Cleveland is still just 17-28 this year and their playoff odds are slim, the team has improved their winning percentage from 23 percent all the way to 38 percent.
Irving is extremely valuable to the Cavs. Despite him and Tristan Thompson being the only major acquisitions for the Cavs this year, he has helped turn the team into a positive direction. Within a couple years, the Cavs could be back playing .500-plus ball. He is already outperforming 2010 No. 1 pick John Wall, and within four years Irving will be a superstar.
9. Blake Griffin
2011-2012 Stats: 20.9 PTS, 10.9 REB, 0.7 BLK
I'm going to have to be completely honest. I think Blake Griffin is overrated. I don't think he deserved all the attention he got for the Perkins dunk, and I definitely don't think he should've won the 2011 NBA Slam Dunk contest. But that is all in the past. What I have to admit is that he is a pretty amazing basketball player.
Though some dunks can be overrated, Griffin has amazing leaping ability and is one of the most athletic players in the NBA. With a great passing point guard like Chris Paul by his side, nothing can go wrong.
He is a monster offensively. He makes a couple great dunks every night, and he is one of just three players this season to average more than 20 points and 10 rebounds a game. He also shoots 53 percent from the field.
The only question is, can he develop to become a better defensive player? He is not nearly a dominant defensive player right now, and although DeAndre Jordan handles the defense down low for the Clippers, if Griffin can polish off his defense, he could definitely be higher on this list in 2015.
For now, just enjoy the show. Though he might get more attention than he deserves, he is an all-around fun player to watch and should continue to develop over the next few years.
8. LaMarcus Aldridge
2011-2012 Stats: 21.4 PTS, 8.0 REB, 1.0 STL. 0.7 BLK
Clearly one of the most underrated players in the league, Aldridge deserves a lot more recognition than he gets. Though some may argue about him being higher than Griffin, Aldridge can play both ends of the floor equally, and that is what makes him such a great player.
At the start of the 2015-2016 season, Aldridge will be 30 and still be in his prime. This year on offense, he averages 21 points and eight rebounds a game while shooting 51 percent from the field. He is also a good free-throw shooter. He is a great post player, but he is an even better pick-and-pop player and can be played in a few different ways on offense.
As for defense, he is much better than some other young power forwards today. The 6'11" forward can defend power forwards and is strong enough to stop centers in the post. At the same time, he is an amazing pick-and-roll defender.
Aldridge may not have eye-popping stats, but he does everything well. Rather than some guys who just score, or some who just rebound, he not only fills the stat sheet but forces misses on the defensive end. As for growth, Aldridge has pretty much hit his ceiling at this point. Expect much of the same from him over the next few years.
7. Russell Westbrook
2011-2012 Stats: 24.5 PTS, 5.4 AST, 1.6 STL
Westbrook will still be 26 at the start of the 2015-2016 season and in his prime, but he may not be playing PG anymore. The truth is, he is really more of a shooting guard. And although both he and Durant dropped 40 on the T-Wolves last night, it will be difficult for a SG with a big ego to coexist with Durant, the real franchise star.
However, no matter where Westbrook is and what position he is playing, he will be an elite player in the league. He is an absolutely explosive scorer, who as we saw last night can put up career high scoring numbers on any given day. He is also a great defender who gets 1.6 steals a game and is lightning quick. If he converted to SG, he could be one of the top defenders in the league as well as being a great shooter.
Hopefully Westbrook and Durant will figure it out and bring OKC a few championships over the next several years. But even if he isn't playing in OKC, Westbrook should be playing at an All-Star level for a long time.
6. Chris Paul
2011-2012 Stats: 19.5 PTS, 8.4 AST, 2.4 STL
Finally, Paul is in LA this season, where he has a better supporting cast. Keep in mind, his best players in New Orleans were Trevor Ariza, David West and Marco Bellineli, and he still managed 10 assists a game.
Now in LA with another rising star in Blake Griffin, Paul should take full advantage. With his new team he can start to lead the Clippers deep into the playoffs each year, and if veterans like Chauncey Billups stay healthy, the Clippers have a decent shot at a championship. If his team performs better now, Paul has a very good shot at an MVP award in the next few seasons. He'll be 30 by the time he enters the 2015 season, but he'll still be going strong.
5. Kevin Love
2011-2012 Stats: 26.2 PTS, 13.7 REB, 0.9 BLK
Love is just 23 right now and will be entering his prime in a few seasons. Last year, after averaging 20 points and 15 rebounds a game, Love was about the only good thing that happened to Minnesota. And now this year, despite Ricky Rubio being injured, the T-Wolves are still in the playoff hunt in what has been an amazing turnaround of a season.
Love is an absolute stud offensively. The winner of the 2012 Three-Point Shootout shoots 38 percent from downtown and hits almost two a game. He isn't a post-up player and is really pretty much exclusively a high-post and pick-and-pop offensive player, but it works for him as he is one of the top scorers in the league.
The only problem is defense. Although Love is one of the most efficient rebounders in the league, rebounding only helps after a miss, but doesn't actually stop opponents from making shots. And in terms of stopping guys in the post, Love is actually pretty terrible.
It is OK, though. He is young and still has time to learn. If he does become a good defensive player, watch out, because he could be bringing Minnesota deep into the playoffs and possibly take an MVP award.
He might not be the best defensively, but if Rubio and Love are still working together four years from now, the T-Wolves will be fun to watch.
4. Dwight Howard
2011-2012 Stats: 21.0 PTS, 14.8 REB, 2.2 BLK
I'm not sure anyone really knows where Howard is going to be in 2015. But it is hard to imagine that there will be a better big man than him at that point. Howard is an absolutely dominant player and is is likely he'll win at least a couple more Defensive Player of the Year award before 2015.
He has been an amazing player his whole career. He will be 29 in 2015, but so far he has made a legend out of himself in the NBA. He has career averages of 18.4 points and 13 rebounds a game, he has averaged over two blocks a game for five consecutive seasons now, and has a career 58 percent shooting percentage.
Here are some more scary stats about Howard: Despite the fact that he is just 26, he is already 43rd on the all-time blocks list. If he continues his same pace, he could be about 20th by 2015. He is also No. 3 all-time in rebounding rate, behind Swen Nater and Dennis Rodman.
Howard should still be great in 2015 and might even have an MVP award. He is not only the best big man in the game, but could be considered one of the best big men of all time by the time he calls it a career.
3. Derrick Rose
2011-2012 Stats: 22.8 PTS, 8.0 AST, 0.9 STL
The reigning MVP has struggled with a couple nagging injuries this year, and although his stats have taken a slight hit, he is still leading the best team in the NBA.
Rose will only be 27 in 2015 and should be the best point guard in the league. There is always a lot of competition at the point guard position—just look at this list with Westbrook, Paul, Irving and Rose—but Rose should be the best of the best at the PG position.
He has improved a huge amount since being drafted. Rose now has a pretty good jumper, and is one of the best in the league at finishing at the rim. His pass accuracy and assist-to-turnover ratio have also jumped much higher since being a rookie. Not to mention that he is probably the fastest player in the league.
Rose will continue to be one of the top threats of this decade. He is expected to lead the Bulls to an NBA championship, and he should probably accomplish this goal. On his way, he might even get another MVP award or two.
2. LeBron James
2011-2012 Stats: 27.0 PTS, 8.4 REB, 6.7 AST
The "King" will start the 2015-2016 season as a 31-year-old and is the only player on this list who will be on the wrong side of 30. James, who is a strong candidate for the MVP award this season, will continue to dominate opponents across the league.
If you examine LeBron, there are only a couple weaknesses with him. For one, he fails to capitalize offensively when it matters most, and he is not a good post player. However, he is a great passer and rebounder for his position, he is a great scorer, a very good defender and one of the greatest players in the league in transition.
LeBron's ability to dominate so many aspects of the game makes him an extremely efficient player. He is the most complete player in the league, getting 27 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, two steals and a block a game, as well as shooting 54 percent from the field, 38 percent from downtown and being a good defender.
In 2015, LeBron will still be a great player. I'd expect a slight decrease in performance however. He will still be great, but he will have past his prime. In the next few years, though, LeBron could still win the MVP award a couple times, and who knows, maybe he'll get a few rings.
1. Kevin Durant
2011-2012 Stats: 27.9 PTS, 8.5 REB, 1.5 STL, 1.2 BLK
Kevin Durant may not be the all-around player that LeBron is, but the two-time scoring champion will be dominating the league as the best player in 2015.
Durant will be 27 entering the season, and he has a lot of time to work on his game. Durant may never be the player LeBron or Howard are on defense, but he will be phenomenal on offense.
Over the next few years, as Durant improves his handle, develops a better post game and learns to pick the right shots, he'll become the most efficient and unstoppable offensive player in the league. He may not get the assists LeBron does, but his job as one of the greatest shooters in the league isn't to create shots for his team. The Thunder are doing absolutely fine without Durant being a playmaker.
In a few years, the Thunder will likely be one of the most dominant teams in the league. Durant will lead them to the finals multiple times and probably win a couple MVP award by scoring 35 points a game in OKC.
Durant vs. LeBron will be the conversation of the next several years, and perhaps they will settle it in the finals. Maybe Durant isn't an all-around player, but he is unmatched and overwhelming on offense. If Dirk can outplay LeBron, why not Durant, right? After all, Durant is over a decade younger.