The theoretical phrase of ‘Passing the Torch’ is something that has existed since the NBA’s inception.
The great ones know when it is time to hang it up and the second they do, there lies a player in the league ready to take his seat and be considered the leagues best player.
For the majority of the 1980s, the league was co-ran by Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. In the ’90s Michael Jordan took the league by storm with a stretch of dominance to establish the Chicago Bulls dynasty. Soon after Jordan left, Kobe Bryant would capitalize on his opportunity to be considered the best to play the game of basketball following the mold that Jordan carved out.
Since the Black Mamba stepped down, the King himself, LeBron James, wears the crown of the leagues best player.
At age 34, LeBron’s race against the undefeated father time has begun to pick up steam. With a heavy influx of young talent residing in the league, the question then becomes who will become the next face of the NBA by the year 2022.
Listed below are five potential candidates.
Playing in the prime of his career, it is scary to believe that the ‘Greek Freak’ is continuing to grow his game. Oh yeah, not to mention that he is only 24-years old.
Antetokounmpo’s climb to becoming elite might not have been as sudden as most but there is no questioning that the hard work has paid off.
The Milwaukee Bucks superstar has seen his scoring average go up with each season and thus far in the 2018-2019 season, he has seen his average climb up to fifth place with 27.5 PPG. Nights like the one he had versus the 76ers helps his case as well.
With Antetokounmpo possibly driving the Bucks to the top seed in the Eastern Conference this season, there is a reason to believe that this stretch of dominance will continue for years to come. Imagine what he could become if his outside shot begins to fall with regularity.
Antetokounmpo for MVP 2018-2019, and 2022-2023.
Often times we get distracted by a players greatness and instead get caught up in wondering where his next destination might be. For Anthony Davis that is the case, there was a reason that the Lakers were willing to gut almost their entire roster for ‘The Brow’ at this years trade deadline.
At only age 25, Davis is the quintessential franchise centerpiece. With the ability to be just as comfortable on the perimeter as he is down-low, Davis is a match-up nightmare.
Effective on both ends of the floor, Davis is the NBA’s modern version of Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon. Comparing the two at age 25 the stats are eerily similar, Olajuwon would post averages of 22.8 PPG, 12.1 RPG, 2.7 BPG, and 51.5% from the field. Davis, who is currently 25 years old, is averaging more points at 26.3 PPG, the same 12.1 RPG rate, a slightly lower 2.5 BPG average, and is posting the same 51.5 FG% as Olajuwon.
Not a bad player to be compared to.
While Davis has not won an MVP award yet in his career, Davis is in the mix every year. Given the fact that he is a top five player in the league right now, it is a no-brainer that he will continue to ascend as a player and given some new scenery, will begin to cement his legacy as one of the All-Time greats in just a matter of years.
I know it is early and he is only a rookie, but this article is stating what kind of player he can project to be in 2022. Essentially running away with the Rookie of the Year award this season, Doncic just continually flashes signs of superstar potential, and the league and it’s fanbase has caught notice.
As the top international talent in last summer’s NBA Draft and one of the best prospect’s NBA scouts have ever seen, Doncic has done everything to live up to the hype.
Luka has been nothing but a bucket in the clutch this season. pic.twitter.com/oQawZFRZRn
— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) February 26, 2019
Doncic ranks first amongst rookies with 21.0 PPG, second is APG with 5.7, and fourth in steals with 1.08 SPG. With the toughness and complete skill-set that continues to be displayed on a nightly basis for Doncic, it is easy to see him get even better playing against the best players in the world.
I’m sure 76ers fans would have shown up at my front door and protested this article if I did not put Joel Embiid on this list. No need for that because I believe by the year 2022, Embiid will be right at the top of the league and his elite status will be without debate.
I could do without his antics and social media posts, but hey that is the generation we live in and the fans love it and it doesn’t seem to affect his play on the court in the slightest.
With footwork on the low-block that surpasses any big man in the NBA today, Embiid uses that along with his tremendous finishing ability to give opposing centers fits all night long. Much like Davis, Embiid has made a concerted effort to be a reliable rim protector, ranking seventh in the league in blocks with 1.97 BPG.
With the 76ers in prime position to be a contender in the East for several years with Embiid and Ben Simmons, a lot of the attention and MVP ballots might favor the player who’s team performs at a higher level.
Already labeled as the best big man in basketball, assuming the health of Embiid stays on the right track, there is no stopping how impactful and dominant he can be.
That’s right, yet another big man graces this list. While the past few years have been dominated by guards given the depth at the position, both power forwards and centers have truly separated themselves as game-changers and team leaders.
Not only does Jokic possess the ability to put the ball in the hole, but he also has the vision and capability to pass like a point guard. He ranks tied for seventh in the entire NBA in assists with 7.6 APG, right along with James Harden.
Here is just a taste of some of the things that ‘The Joker’ is capable of.
‘The Joker’ continues to lead the attack for Denver and has taken them from a possible fringe playoff team to an elite powerhouse in the Western Conference.
By the year 2022 roles around Jokic will only be 27 years old and given the fact that his speed and playstyle isn’t physically grueling now, his game should transfer over the next few years gracefully.
It is no secret that the legend of Zion Williamson has only grown with every step closer to the NBA. From his highlight reel dunks in high school to the same level of dominance seen in only one year at Duke University, it is clear to see he is a man among boys and appears ready for the big leagues.
The speed at which Zion splits the defenders is other worldly. pic.twitter.com/Uhvox8ZqeR
— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) March 17, 2019
With a strong and greek-god like physique paired with explosive athleticism, he reminds most people of LeBron when he came out of St. Vincent-St. Mary’s. With the aforementioned athleticism matched with the ability to finish at the rim and some signs of an improved jump shot, Zion is the future of basketball.
Had it not been for Doncic, Trae Young would be the rookie of the year this season and his first season has been quite thrilling. The comparisons to Steph Curry have been never-ending, given the sharp-shooting prowess along with elite level court vision. Young became the first rookie since Curry to record at least 35 points and 10 assists in a game.
With Young ranking second in points and first in assists among rookies, Young has shown that his success that he had at the University of Oklahoma was not a fluke and that his game will continue to grow. Just like this.
Some Trae Young magic tonight! He's been electric for the last month. pic.twitter.com/KwOPJC3NSf
— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) March 2, 2019
Much like Trae Young captivated college basketball fans last season with his scoring and facilitating ability, the same can be said about Ja Morant this year. Playing for a mid-major school in Murray State, Morant has led the Racers to an Ohio Valley Conference Title and a 12th-seed in the 2019 NCAA Tournament.
A lock to become a lottery pick, Morant oozes superstar potential and can get started right away as he is capable of taking his game to a whole other level.
Ja Morant was really out there looking like Steve Nash last night pic.twitter.com/HjMUhCVmbI
— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) March 9, 2019