Young superstars with talent through the roof are popping up more and more often. No one expected Ben Simmons or Jayson Tatum to be this good, this early in their careers. And with Lebron playing at a rate he shouldn’t be capable of sustaining, (although that type of logic has never applied to Lebron) he has to slow down eventually. He’s tearing it up this year, and next year doesn’t seem like he’ll slow down either, since he’ll either be proving his worth to a new team or proving his loyalty to Cleveland. So we’ll go with the 2019-20 season as the season when Lebron finally loses his best player status, and we’ll try to figure out who will be the next face of the NBA. All stats are from basketball-reference.com
The Old Guys: These are the players right now that are in their upper 20’s and might lose a step as well, but if they don’t, they have a better chance than the young guys do.
Case for: Durant is 6’11, and plays offense like a guard would, while being able to play defense like a big. He can play basically any position in the floor while leading a high level defense. This season he is averaging 25 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists per game on 52/43/85 percentages. He is a top 3 player in the game right now and will be 31 in 2019. He is a 1 time MVP and 1 time Finals MVP
Case against: He left the Thunder for the Warriors in a move that made him hated by many and possibly not popular enough to be the face of the NBA.
Case for: Leonard is a basketball robot in the Spurs well oiled machine. Last season he averaged 25.5 points, 6 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game on 49/38/88 percentages. He has taken on a larger load of the offense every year and could be up to 28+ points per game by the time 2019 rolls around, when he will be 28. None of this even mentions the fact that he is a Defensive Player of the Year and a 3 time all defensive team, and a finals MVP.
Case against: Leonard might be the quietest superstar in the NBA, and the Spurs are a generally quiet organization. Leonard might not get all the attention necessary to be the face of the league.
The Young Guns: These players all have 5 or less years of experience and have insanely high ceilings. They may not be as proven, but when projecting into the future, upside reigns supreme.
Case for: Davis has long been heralded as the guy who has next. A 6’10 big with the handles and shooting touch of someone 6 inches shorter, Davis has all the talent to be the face of the league. He is currently averaging 26 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 assists per game on 57/36/80 percentages. He will be 26 in 2019
Case against: Davis has only made the playoffs once in his career, quickly being swept by the Warriors. This lack of postseason success could be a huge detriment to his candidacy.
Case for: Giannis is the youngest player in league history to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals in the same season. He is currently averaging 29 points, 10 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game on 55/27/76 percentages. He is second in the league in scoring without any semblance of a jump shot. If he could shoot even 34% from 3, he would go from virtually un-guardable to literally un-guardable. There has not been a player in league history with his insane combination of length, speed, coordination and vision. He will be 24 in 2019.
Case against: Like Davis, Giannis has yet to win a playoff series, which could be held against him. There is also the chance he is never able to develop his jump shot, which leaves him with a major hole in his game that could allow others to pass him up.
Case for: Simmons is a rookie this year and has a very real chance to make the all star team. He is currently averaging 18.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 7 assists per game on 50/0/56 percentages. He might be an all star as a rookie and has yet to take a 3 pointer this season (if you don’t count the 7 half court shots he has taken at the buzzer). His story is very similar to that of Giannis. He can’t be guarded now, so if he ever develops a jump shot, it’s over. Lebron himself has even said that Simmons has a very real chance to be better than he is. Simmons will be 23 in 2019.
Case against: Simmons might not ever develop his jump shot, and without that, it is very hard to be a top player in the league. Giannis is the only blueprint to follow, and he is otherworldly athletic and long. Simmons will also only be in his 3rd year in the league, so he may not quite be ready to be the face of the league in such a short amount of time.