1. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
Anthony Davis is only 25. I repeat, he’s only 25! It honestly feels like we’ve been seeing AD play for a decade, but that’s just a testament to how good of a player he is and how quickly he rose to that stature. Spending his entire career in New Orleans, everyone knew from the jump that he would be incredible. While he’s struggled to stay healthy for entire seasons, he’s played 75 games each of the last two, and the Pels seem hopeful that his injury concerns are past – he’s never missed more than 21 games in a season. Over the last two seasons, Davis has averaged 28.1 points, 11.4 boards, and 2.4 blocks per game. He actually jumped his three-point percentage from 30% to 34% during that time and becomes virtually impossible to defend if he can boost that number up to 37%. There are a lot of great young players on this list, but AD is undoubtedly the best – and might still be the best at his position in five years.
2. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
Sixers’ fans have Trusted the Process, and NBA LIVE 19 is also Trusting the Process as Joel Embiid was named the cover athlete for this year’s game. Learning to play hoops at only 16, Embiid has turned himself into a superstar in just eight years. His unbelievable mix of size, strength, and athleticism make for a cocktail of previously unknown physical dominance. In his 94 career NBA games, Embiid has averaged 22 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, and two blocks. Oh yeah, those averages come in a combined 28.7 minutes per game. Imagine what he might do in 36.
3. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves
KAT is a bit of a conundrum – he’s only 23, he’s averaged double-doubles in each of his three NBA seasons, but he still isn’t really known for being dominant on both ends of the floor. Rather, he dominates on the offensive end by being capable of going for over 30 points on any given night while also drilling multiple three-pointers (he averaged 42.1% from distance this past season). Not to mention, he’s never missed a game in his NBA career. The defense may still be a work in progress, but he has the tools, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to see him overtake the second spot in this list if he can boost his stats on D.
4. DeMarcus Cousins, Golden State Warriors
DeMarcus Cousins shocked the world by signing a mid-level exception contract to join the Golden State Warriors. I mean, the Warriors have top-five players at each position; it just doesn’t seem fair that they’re this stacked. Last season, Boogie seemed to really find his footing alongside Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday in New Orleans – then, after suffering a serious Achilles injury, he chose a location where he won’t be pressured to return prematurely and where he’ll have as light or heavy a workload as he can handle. There’s no question to his offensive ability – he’s a versatile scorer who can shoot from range and is able to distribute the ball, a a big-bodied center, beefier than anybody on this list, who can bully other fives in the low post if needed with his incredible footwork. Whenever Cousins is healthy enough to come back, it’s going to be worrisome for the rest of the NBA.
5. Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
Very few people expected Gobert to hit this level, but he has quickly become the top shot-blocker in the NBA. At only 26, Gobert is still learning his own game. He took home this year’s NBA Defensive Player of the Year award and was close to winning it the year before when he led the league in blocks. And aside from blocking shots, he’s a monster on the boards who moves better than most people his height could. Gobert has averaged double-digit rebounds for three seasons (averaged 9.5 four seasons ago) but has also hovered around 60% from the field shooting the ball. He struggled with a few injuries last season but, with a competitive playoff team in Utah, expect Gobert to make another run at the DPOY trophy.
- Rahul Lal (Follow Rahul on Twitter @rlal95)
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