In review: My list of the best 25 NBA players before the NBA season

Zach LaVine
Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

On the Cusp

  • Andre Drummond
  • John Collins
  • LaMarcus Aldridge
  • DeMar DeRozan 
  • Clint Capela
  • Nikola Vucevic

25.  Zach LaVine 

  • He’s going to have his final “break-out” season as he establishes himself as the leader of the Chicago Bulls as well as a borderline All-Star, if not All-Star player being in the Eastern Conference. He’s the first option for a reason and looks to rejoice the city of Chicago with his electric style of play – not to mention the mind-blowing dunks he performs routinely. Expect LaVine to enter All-Star conversation this season, as he leads Chicago to a much needed playoff berth for the franchise.

2020 Stats Prediction: 24 PPG, 6 rebounds, 6 assists

24. D’Angelo Russell

  • This is a great year of potential growth for D’Angelo Russell. With no Klay Thompson for presumably until after the All-Star Break, Russell will be the second option offensively for a Warriors team that plays at a fast pace – with fits Russell’s playing capabilities perfectly. Russell will be under the guidance of former MVP Steph Curry, not to mention all time NBA three point field goal percentage leader and head coach – Steve Kerr. I expect a great year for D’Angelo Russell which ultimately lands him a presumed spot among the most elite NBA players at the end of the 202 NBA season. 

2020 Stats Prediction: 20 PPG, 4 rebounds, 6 assists 

23. Jimmy Butler

  • This shouldn’t be a surprise. He’s the only all-star caliber player on a Miami team hoping to scrap into the playoffs. His intensity and defensive/offensive combination make him one of the Eastern Conferences best play-makers and performers. Jimmy Butler is going to be the number one option on a rebuilding Miami Heat squad, which should give him the ability to take over games subject to his usage. Butler has been a growing legend in the Miami area and the fans love him. As the Heat continue to mesh and possibly add another all-star caliber player during the trade deadline, Butler will highlight what Heat have been missing recently in the ability to have a player who takes the big time shots. Expect the Heat to rely on Jimmy Butler heavily during the season, as he finally plays with one team again for a full season – the first time since his trade from the Chicago Bulls.

2020 Stats Prediction: 23PPG, 6 rebounds, 5 assists

22. Trae Young

  • Stephen Curry 2.0. Young was the first draft piece in the rebuild of the Hawks franchise. After a slow start to his rookie campaign in 2018, Young finished the second half of the season neck and neck with perennial international prodigy Luka Doncic. The Hawks are primed for a big season 2019, as they added Jabari Parker, Cam Reddish and De’Andre Hunter among a few. Young has so many options offensively that Atlanta will be electrifying like the Chicago Bulls this year. Look for Young to hit some pretty big shots as he continues at a rapid pace towards being a borderline all-star player, which I think he will reach by the end of the 2020 season. 

2020 Stats Prediction: 22 PPG, 4 rebounds, 9 assists

21. Rudy Gobert

  • His name is always on the list. Gobert has been a staple of the Utah offense and defense for years now, and it’s hard to imagine where they would be without his presence. He’s solid every game and consistently posts up a double double. He’s still in his prime and I would think that these next handful of years will be when his productivity is the best. Either way, he’s going to provide the Jazz a solid stat line and effort every game when healthy – so what more can you ask for from a solid two-way player.

2020 Stats Prediction: 16 PPG, 12 rebounds, 1 assist

20. Pascal Siakam

  • There’s no Kawhi Leonard still in the 6, so someone is going to have to take the helm at the primary forward position in Toronto. Siakam was live in the playoffs, emerging as a quality NBA starter, as well as a rising NBA young international talent. At only 25 years old, Siakam shot above 50% field goal percentage while grabbing just under 7 boards per game. Without “The Claw” in Toronto, the Raptors will need to rely on Siakam to take on a primary scoring role behind point guard Kyle Lowry. 

2020 Stats Prediction: 21 PPG, 9 rebounds, 5 assists

19. Kyrie Irving

  • New city. New state. New fan base. Hype. Kyrie Irving leads the Brooklyn Nets this season with Kevin Durant out with an ACL injury. He’s coming off an underappreciated 2018 season with the Boston Celtics, where he still averaged over 23 PPG and 6 assists per game. He’ll be the primary option on a team which has catered to his need of play-makers off the ball, so expect Kyrie to return to his usual form – barring any significant injury. He’s going to excite the Brooklyn fans, but also expect great stat-lines consistently from Kyrie as he establishes himself as a player who doesn’t require another all star accompanying him. 

2020 Stats Prediction: 24 PPG, 5 rebounds, 7 assists

18. Devin Booker

  • It’s a big year for the Phoenix Suns. They’ll try to avoid a losing season in 2020, as they added experienced point guard Ricky Rubio to compliment returning first overall pick DeAndre Ayton. Booker is going to continue to be drawing double teams all season offensively, but it’s not going to stop him. When healthy, Booker is unstoppable. He’s had periods where he hasn’t been particularly consistent, but either way he’s an elite player in the NBA and should draw a potential all-star selection this season. 

2020 Stats Prediction: 28 PPG, 4 rebounds, 5 assists

17. Paul George

  • Who would’ve predicted Paul George would have ended up on the Clippers this season. Especially with Kawhi??!! George will bring an added defensive intensity to the already heavily defensive oriented Clippers team. His ability to play two ways will give the Clippers the ability to space the floor incredibly efficiently, especially with Lou Williams and Kawhi Leonard as well. George will be an impactful player in the Western Conference as he looks to help lead them to a top playoff seed. 

2020 Stats Prediction: 22 PPG, 7 rebounds, 3 assists

16. Zion Williamson

  • I think Zion is the real deal. He’s un-guardable. Nobody in the NBA mirrors his athleticism or physical capabilities. I predict that Zions starts every game pending his health. He’s dominant inside the paint and too quick for typical forwards and centers to stay in front of him without the help of a double team. He’s too big to have a guard play up on him, as he’d just “Giannis” his way to the rim for a quick flush. Zion will solidify himself by the end of the 2020 season as a superstar on the rapid arise as the Pelicans look to compete in a crowded and competitive Western Conference.

2020 Stats Prediction: 21 PPG, 8 rebounds, 3 assists

15. Damian Lillard

  • He’s big time, man. He’s a guy you love on your team but hate playing against. D.O.L.L.A Dame can do it all. The Trail Blazers transformed their bench this off-season with the additions of Rodney Hood, Kent Bazemore and Mario Hezonja. Dame will become an elite passer, should he not be already, by the end of the season as the Blazers look to head to the Western Conference Finals. He’s unguardable in isolation and meticulously threads through defenses while making it look easy. He single-handedly dismantled the Oklahoma City Thunder organization last year in the playoffs, so I’m excited to see how he performs consistently as the first option on a now deep Blazers squad.

2020 Stats Prediction: 26PPG, 5 rebounds, 7 assists

14. Bradley Beal

  • It’s going to be a rough season for the Washington Wizards. Their one bright light however? Bradley Beal. Beal has been a consistent elite shooting guard the last several years and has emerged as a consistent first option scoring threat. With John Wall out for the entire year, the Wizards are incredibly thin as a whole at the guard position. Beal is going to be attempting most of the Wizards shots offensively and he seems to be ready to lead the team. He’s going to take a leap statistically this season without the presence of John Wall, but nevertheless he will be a problem on the court – should he remain consistently healthy.

2020 Stats Prediction: 28 PPG, 7 rebounds, 6 assists

13. Joel Embiid

  • Dudes a monster. In recent years, few big men have been able to match the dominance of Shaq, but Embiid embodies and is close to mirroring those numbers, as well as game. He returns to a new look 76ers squad hoping to reach the NBA Finals this year. He’s healthy and he’s ready to make a similar impact this year as to what he did last year. Joel is going to be a dominant, consistent player on the court should he remain healthy – although the 76ers don’t plan for him to partake in all 82 games this season. He’s going to take over games and he’s going to be dominant.

2020 Stats Prediction: 28 PPG, 13 rebounds, 4 assists

12. Russell Westbrook

  • I don’t think he’ll average a triple double this year, breaking his historical streak of three straight seasons averaging a triple double. Russell Westbrook seems content with the fact that he won’t be the primary ball handler for the Houston Rockets’ offense, but rather than he’ll be able to help his supporting cast much more on the offensive end. He’ll still be the same spark plug for the Houston Rockets as the one he was during his tenure with the Oklahoma City Thunder, so although I think his statistical value decreases just by a bit, he’ll still be productive enough to help benefit the Rockets as they try to solidify themselves as a legitimate playoff contender.

2020 Stats Prediction: 23 PPG, 8 rebounds, 11 assists

11. Luka Doncic

  • He didn’t seem like a rookie last year and I’m sure he never felt like one. Luka Doncic’s skill-set is matched by few in the NBA, especially at his age. He’s been challenged by the toughest and most intimidating in Europe and in the NBA year 1 but has remained unfazed. I think Doncic takes a leap this year in terms of how valuable he is, not just to the Dallas Mavericks, but also to how teams prepare to play against him. He’s going to make the big plays and has a score first mentality, although he is a solid distributor as well. 

2020 Stats Prediction: 25 PPG, 8 rebounds, 7 assists

10. Nikola Jokic

  • Dudes just a tank. Plain and simple.  He seems to be a magician on the offensive end and demonstrates that you don’t have to have a big “flashy” aspect in your game to succeed. With a deep Denver Nuggets team, Nikola Jokic is going to have less pressure with the ball as dynamic players such as Michael Porter Junior for the Nuggets come into the rotation. Jokic is going to continue to be the man down low for the Nuggets and is one of the primary ball handlers for the Nuggets on offense. By the end of 2020, Jokic will still be one of the most consistent if not most consistent ball players in the league, with little uncertainty about what he is not able to do on the court.

2020 Stats Prediction: 21 PPG, 11 rebounds, 6 assists

9. Kristaps Porzingis

  • I think Kristaps is going to surprise a lot of people this season. Him and Luka Doncic are going to be one of the best tandems in the NBA that feed off one another from their play. Kristaps put on what seems a significant amount of muscle during the pre-season and has extended his range. He’s 7’2 without shoes and can pull up from behind the arc. Not many big men in the NBA have that level of versatility. This is going to be a big comeback year for Kristaps Porzingis as he hopes to stay healthy consistently throughout the entire season.

2020 Stats Prediction: 24 PGG, 11 rebounds, 4 assists

8. Karl Anthony Towns

  • The Minnesota Timber-wolves are Jimmy Butler-less as they enter the season as a team looking to establish themselves. Karl Anthony Towns is certainly the Timber-wolves most valued and best player – defensively and offensively. I think with less of a dramatic season off the court, KAT is going to elevate his game. He’s been knocking down trees from deep as of recent but can also pump fake to the rim for a powerful flush. He’s going to establish himself firmly as one of the best tier players in the league this season as he leads the Timber-wolves. 

2020 Stats Prediction: 26 PPG, 12 rebounds, 4 assists

7. Kawhi Leonard

  • He’s the first option on a stud Clippers team and he’s going to continue to be the best and most dominant two way players – while obviously retaining his humble characteristics.  It’s a big season for Kawhi and the Clippers, but with the playoff experience and big performances in past big games, I’m sure Kawhi will always just be Kawhi and perform well under any given circumstances. He will be one of the best NBA players still by the end of the 2020 season, if not ranked higher than what he is now. Expect big things from Kawhi and the Clippers as they look to establish their dominance among the top of the Western Conference rankings. 

2020 Stats Prediction: 26 PPG, 8 rebounds, 5 assists

6. Ben Simmons

  • This all depends of his product with his shot. I personally think Ben Simmons will be more “daring” with the ball as he looks to take consistent jump shots in line with how he can bully his way to the rim. He plays as a unique hybrid between a forward and ball handling point guard, so obviously he has skills in which few players just under 7 feet (not named Kevin Durant) can match. I expect Ben to pull consistently from range, as he tries to force players to play up on him should he rather fancy a drive to the basket. He’s an elite passer and distributor, but there are dry spots sometimes when he won’t show up in games. Expect at the end of the season for Ben Simmons to be a certain top 10 NBA talent as he and Joe Embiid look to lead the city of Philadelphia to a trip to the NBA Finals.

2020 Stats Prediction: 21 PPG, 9 rebounds, 9 assists

5. Stephen Curry

  • No Klay Thompson. No Kevin Durant. No Iggy. Steph Curry is going to have to return to his MVP caliber form to help lead the Warriors into a secure playoff position. He’s going to draw a lot more pressure from defenses, but I’m not sure it’s going to make much of a difference. I expect by the end of 2020, maybe even possibly before the all-star break, Steph Curry is on the bubble of the MVP talk once again. He’s going to give us great games and memorable highlights while being an elite distributor. Expect by the end of 2020 that Steph Curry is once again an established prolific MVP type caliber player in the NBA.

2020 Stats Prediction: 28 PPG, 5 rebounds, 5 assists

4. Anthony Davis

  • It’s a new city, wildly different atmosphere for Anthony Davis compared to 2018. He’s been dominant the last few recent years in New Orleans without playing with more star power than well – himself. Now he has the 3 time champion and King, LeBron James. Should Anthony Davis remain injury free for most of the season, I believe he continues to provide a great stat-line for the Lakers night in and out. Expect for him and LeBron James to click well and give flashy highlights to the LA fans. 

2020 Stats Prediction: 24 PPG, 12 rebounds, 3 assists

3. LeBron James

  • He’s back from injury after a long rest since the Lakers did not secure a playoff spot during the 2018 season. He looks much more comfortable having this long offseason and with the pairing of Anthony Davis – should be quite excited for the season. He’s going to rejoice the LA fans and continue to go off on the court – as per usual. After all, it’s the ageless LeBron James – so what did you expect? He’s always going to be in the MVP conversation and after the 2020 season, could very well have the opportunity to take the award home once again. 

2020 Stats Prediction: 27 PPG, 8 rebounds, 7 assists

2. James Harden 

  • I don’t see James Harden overtaking LeBron James for any other year except for now. He certainly won’t surpass Giannis either. Harden, even with the significant addition of Russell Westbrook in Houston, is the primary first option for the Rockets. He’s coming off averaging 36 points per game and looks to probably keep his points per game average in the thirties. We’ll see how far the Rockets can get into the playoffs behind Harden and Westbrook, but Harden’s ability to take over games is matched by very few in the NBA.

2020 Stats Prediction: 31 PPG, 7 rebounds, 7 assists

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo

  • This should be obvious, to some. Giannis takes the throne from King James as the best NBA player for the first time in 15 years. Take Giannis away from the Bucks and you have a borderline playoff team in contention in the East. Keep him on the team and you have a squad that has the pieces and capabilities to reach the Eastern Conference Finals. I expect Giannis to win his second MVP award as he continues his Shaq like dominance by bullying his way to the rim against elite defenders.

2020 Stats Predictions: 28 PPG, 12 rebounds, 4 assists

Judging Steph Curry doesn’t get injured in this case, would you change anything or add anyone to the list? Let me know.