Today I’m ranking the top 20 NBA rising stars/stars going into the 2020-2021 NBA season. The players on this list must be 25 years or younger, and I am not counting anyone from the 2020 NBA Draft because none of them have played a single game in the NBA as of the writing of this blog.
Disclaimer: This blog is my opinion, and my opinion only
#20: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
I originally had Shai Gilgeous-Alexander ranked at #19, but I had to move him to #20 after comparing him to Jaylen Brown. He’s a good player, averaging 19, 6, and 3, but he’s 22 years old and he really needs to work on his shot. He’s shooting a below average 34% from three, and 80% from the charity stripe. He’s got potential and will probably end up carrying the Thunder next season, but for what he’s done so far, this is where he is.
#19: Jaylen Brown
Jaylen Brown has started to put his full potential on display, and prove the Celtics made the right choice in drafting him three years ago. This season, he averaged 20.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 2.1 assists, and has only gotten better over his years in the league. He also has some incredible jumping ability, letting him posterize players such as Lebron James and OG Anunoby. Don’t be surprised if Jaylen Brown is an All-Star next season.
#18: Zion Williamson
I know a lot of people were going to want Zion higher, but this is where he ranks. We know his future is bright and that he can help the New Orleans Pelicans make a playoff push, but that hasn’t happened just yet. I was considering putting Jaylen Brown ahead of him, as they averaged near identical stats last season. Although, Zion Williamson is 20 years old and already putting up these numbers, so that’s why he ranks higher than Brown. But throw in the fact that he’s only played 24 games in the NBA and missed over half of his rookie season, and I can’t rank him any higher.
#17: Ja Morant
At #17 we have the reigning Rookie of the Year Ja Morant. Even though he is the Rookie of the Year and more likely than not has a bright future ahead of him, we have seen previous Rookies of the Year fall off from expectations, such as Andrew Wiggins and Michael Carter-Williams. Either way, he’s a very good player, but not as good as some of the other guys on this list.
#16: De’Aaron Fox
De’Aaron Fox is one of the better defensive guards in the league. He’s an explosive point guard who is 22 years old, but has yet to make an All-Star appearance. During the 2019-2020 season, he averaged 21 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds, and 1 steal per game. At this point in time, he’s got unlimited potential if he can stay healthy. The only problem is that his shooting needs some work. Averaging 29% from three and 70% from the free throw line are two of the biggest things holding him back. That, and being on a Sacramento Kings team that can’t get into the playoffs to save their lives.
#15: Kristaps Porzingis
Being an All-Star, I wouldn’t hesitate to move Porzingis up a couple of spots; but I did. Why? Because of injuries. Porzingis missed all of the 2020 playoffs, severely hurting the Mavericks’ chances to make a deep playoff run. He also was frequently injured on the New York Knicks. Injuries appear to be the only thing holding him back. Throughout his first four years in the league, the most games he played in one season was 72; and that was his rookie year. If he can fight through and overcome injury problems, then he will be a lot higher on this list come next year.
#14: Zach Lavine
Some people may think Zach Lavine is ranked a little high, so here’s my reasoning. Lavine is the #1 option on the Chicago Bulls, averaging 25 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 4.2 assists on 45% shooting. These are definitely All-Star numbers. He has started to develop a deadly three-point shot, and is a decorated dunker, winning both the 2015 and 2016 Dunk Contests. Lavine will keep getting better, and maybe with a little help from the front office, he’ll be able to make the playoffs.
#13: D’Angelo Russell
D’Lo had a relatively good season, especially when you consider what he was working with. He started the season on the worst team in the league at the time, and averaged 23, 6, and 4, but just couldn’t lead the Warriors to wins. Then, at the trade deadline, Russell went from the 15th team in the Western Conference to the 14th team in the Eastern Conference. From there, he averaged 21, 6, and 5, but wasn’t efficient on the court, and averaged a horrible 1.8 win shares. He also was not an All-Star this year, which is why he’s #13.
#12: Brandon Ingram
At first I wasn’t sure whether or not to rank Brandon Ingram ahead of D’Angelo Russell, but I am now. While on the surface it seems like they’re averaging near identical stats, Ingram averaged a higher field goal percentage, three-point percentage, free throw percentage, PER, and win shares, while almost leading the Pelicans to a playoff appearance in the 2019-2020 season. Oh, and he was an All-Star last season and won the Most Improved Player award.
#11: Karl Anthony-Towns
Karl Anthony-Towns is a good player and a 2-time All-Star, and he averaged 27, 11, and 4 this season. But the reason he ranks behind Jamal Murray is that no matter how good he is, he still hasn’t led the Timberwolves to the playoffs, and only played in 35 games last season.
#10: Jamal Murray
Jamal Murray ranks this high on the list because of his incredible playoff performance. He and Nikola Jokic led the Nuggets to 3-1 comebacks in two different series! The Nuggets made the Western Conference Finals for the first time in heaven knows how long, and Murray was no small part of it. Emerging as a playoff superstar, Murray averaged 26.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 6.6 assists on 50% shooting from the field, 45% shooting from three, and 90% shooting from the free throw line. The Nuggets are incredibly fortunate to have him.
#9: Bam Adebayo
Bam Adebayo displayed his true potential last season. Helping the Miami Heat reach the NBA Finals for the first time since 2014, he averaged 15.9 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 5.1 assists as a first time All-Star. He was the X-factor in the Heat making a deep playoff run, and a crucial reason for them holding the Lakers to winning in six games. He might have the most potential of anyone on this list, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s a Defensive Player of the Year sometime in the near future. The reason he’s ranked ahead of Jamal Murray is because of his playoff success and that he is now an All-Star.
#8: Ben Simmons
I have Ben Simmons ranked at #8 because
a. He still hasn’t developed an outside shot
b. He hasn’t made it past the second round of the playoffs in his career
One of these is not completely his fault, and the other 100% is. So, if you see guards who are a lot less experienced or in your mind better players higher up on the list, it’s mostly because of these reasons. Simmons plays like the traditional big man, just a lot faster and with much better passing.
#7: Donovan Mitchell
I see Donovan Mitchell as a better version of Zach Lavine. Averaging 24, 4, and 4, Mitchell is now an All-Star, a Slam-Dunk Champion, and the leader of the Utah Jazz. One reason that he’s ranked way ahead of Zach Lavine is the playoff success he’s had so far. In each year he’s been in the NBA, he has led the Jazz to the playoffs. His future is incredibly bright, and so is Utah’s basketball future.
#6: Devin Booker
I ranked Devin Booker a little bit higher than most people would have, so here’s my reasoning. If the Suns bubble run was an indication of everything, the Suns are going to be a contender next year. Throw in Chris Paul, and you now are looking at a playoff team. The knowledge Paul can give to Booker is near infinite. Add that to last year’s All-Star appearance and his 26.6 points, 6.5 assists, 4.2 rebounds, 20.6 PER and 91.9% from the free throw line, and Devin Booker deserves this spot. Even so, he’s still not in the top five.
#5: Trae Young
I put Trae Young over Devin Booker because of the incredible success he’s already had in the league and how young he is. In his second year in the league, he’s averaging 30, 9, and 4, and is a first time All-Star. He is the next-coming of Steph Curry as far as I’m concerned, and if he could get one more big-time player to join him in Atlanta, there’s no doubt he could make the playoffs. The lack of success really isn’t his fault, but Atlanta smiles brighter when Trae Young lights up other All-Stars for 50.
#4: Jayson Tatum
Jayson Tatum is a surefire superstar in the near future. He’s now an All-Star, and has made deep playoff runs with the Boston Celtics in each of his three years there. With a young core and veterans, such as Gordon Hayward and Kemba Walker, to help guide him on his way, Jayson Tatum has an incredible future. I think he’ll be a member of the 1st Team All-NBA in years to come. He’s ranked as #4 because of how good he is, but also because he hasn’t done quite as much as the three players in front of him.
#3: Nikola Jokic
Nikola Jokic has truly proven himself this year as an All-Star, a winner, and as one of the best second round picks in NBA history — and at only 25 years old! Jokic has helped turn the Nuggets around as a franchise, leading them to the playoffs every year from 2018-2020. This year he has gotten the furthest he ever has in the playoffs, the Western Conference Finals. Once Lebron retires, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray in the NBA Finals. As well as this, Nikola Jokic is the best passing big man we’ve ever seen in the NBA. And keep in mind again, he’s only 25 years old!
#2: Luka Doncic
Luka was a shoe-in for the #2 spot on this list. At just 21 years old, he’s an All-Star and was selected to the First Team All-NBA just one year after he won the Rookie of the Year award. He averaged a near 31-point triple-double during the regular season, and almost made it to the second round in the bubble. He still has to prove himself in the playoffs, but he has a lot of time to do that. I wouldn’t be surprised if Luka was an MVP in the next 2-4 years.
#1: Giannis Antetokounmpo
If there’s one thing that we can all universally agree on, it’s that Giannis belongs at #1. He’s the reigning 2020 MVP and Defensive Player of the Year, and is only 25 years old. Often considered a hybrid of Scottie Pippen and Shaq, the only real knock you can make on him is that he has never made it to the NBA Finals. In the last two years, his team was knocked out of the playoffs by the team that won it all or went to the NBA Finals. Even with this lack of major playoff success, Giannis is still by far the best rising star. Actually, he’s not a rising star. He may still be 25 years old, but Giannis is a superstar and the best player in the NBA.
Comment down below if you think I ranked anyone to high or low, don’t forget to like, follow, and as always, have an awesome day!
Credit to the NBA for pictures