By Joseph Cervantes
10. Joel Embiid
Joel Embiid is coming off a career high in points, rebounds, and assists this past season but unfortunately his season came to a heartbreaking end due to Kawhi Leonard’s game 7 buzzer beater. Joel has the potential to be the best center in the league next season, however his health is the main concern as he missed a total of 18 games this past season. This off-season he is expected to change his eating habits and hopefully builds more lean muscle so that way he can add more endurance and quickness towards his game. Keep in mind that Joel is only 25 years old and is entering his prime so he has another chance to prove himself as one of the best centers in the league this upcoming season if he can stay healthy.
9. Russell Westbrook
Westbrook is coming off an impressive regular season as he averaged a triple-double for the 3rd consecutive year however, his season came to another disappointing end as the OKC Thunder were eliminated in the first round against the Portland Trailblazers. Russel continues to make history each season with his astounding stats he achieves each game even when playing alongside MVP candidate Paul George. Although he’s making NBA history during the season with his triple-doubles, his field goal percentage has been declining these past 2 seasons as well as his inconsistent shooting. Nonetheless he’s expected to make some big changes towards his game this off-season which is why he will be a top 10 player this upcoming season.
8. Nikola Jokic
Nikola Jokic is coming off a spectacular season as he was selected to the All NBA 1st team and developed himself into an All-Star for the first time in his career. Nikola is an extremely talented center with a wide set of skills including rebounding, defending, passing, and scoring. Nikola averaged a career high in points, steals, rebounds, and assist this past season and is expected to evaluate his game to the next level this upcoming season now that he’s being seeing as the face of the franchise of the Denver Nuggets. With the experience of playing in 80 games this past season and also getting a taste of playing in the playoffs feels like, he has a legitimate chance to make himself a top candidate for MVP this upcoming season.
7. Paul George
Paul George had arguably the best year of his career this past season as he scored a career-high in points and also led the league in steals. Although he played like an MVP this past season, he did suffer a shoulder injury in the last few months of the season which was noticeably affecting his game. George recently underwent rotator cuff surgery to repair a partially torn tendon in his right shoulder but he’s expected to be ready when the regular season starts. Paul George proved that he’s still one of the best players in the league this past season and if he continues to dominate he should have no problem being a top 10 player this upcoming season.
6. Anthony Davis
After months of back and forth drama with his former team the New Orleans Pelicans, Anthony Davis finally got what he asked for: a trade to the Los Angeles Lakers. Davis is a dangerously fast big man who can fly down the court to finish on the break. He is a nightmare finisher around the rim on alley-oops and offensive rebounds. He has no weakness on the court, he can shoot, dribble, pass, guard any position and what’s so fascinating about this is that he’s only 26. Davis will now be playing alongside with arguably the best player in the league, King James, so it’ll be interesting to see how his game progress when the season starts but he will be one of the league’s top players this upcoming season.
5. James Harden
James Harden had a historical season this past year while averaging a whopping 36 PPG, which has been the highest ever since the 1980s. In the post-game interview after a disappointing series loss against the Warriors, Harden stated that he knows what needs to be done during the off-season to get the Rockets over this hump. It will be interesting to see what moves they make this summer, nonetheless, you can still expect Harden to lead the league in scoring this upcoming season. He is a gifted scorer, outstanding passer, creative shot-maker, master of the step-back 3-pointer and a great finisher at the rim. James Harden can be seen as one of the league’s toughest players to defend which is why he be a top 10 player this upcoming season.
4. Giannis Antetokounmpo
Giannis lived up to the expectations this past season as he put up an astonishing MVP season this past season, although he came up 2 games short from advancing to the NBA Finals. Giannis is once again a favorite to win MVP this upcoming season according to Draft Kings however, he must work on his constancy of making jump shots this off-season. Giannis shot just 25 percent from 3-point range this past season on three attempts per game. If he can get that to 32-33 percent, it would make a huge difference. Teams would no longer be able to play off him and create a wall in the paint. Giannis is a smart player and it’s expected that he will work on his consistency this off-season which is why he will still be a top 10 player this upcoming season.
3. Stephen Curry
Steph Curry is coming off an exciting season once again, while also playing alongside 4 All-Star skill players. Unfortunately, his season came to a devastating end to a Finals series loss against the Toronto Raptors, while also loosing 2 phenomenal players, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson due to gruesome injuries. Regardless of what happens this free agency, both players are expected to miss a majority, if not the entire season, which means that Steph Curry has a chance to put an MVP like season once again. Taking a look back in 2016, before the signing of superstar Kevin Durant, Curry averaged a career-high 20.4 in FGA per game while also averaging 30 PPG. Keep in mind he was also the first NBA player in NBA history to win the MVP award unanimously that season. Now take a look at his FGA and PPG after the signing of Durant, they have respectably descended. Curry is favorite to win MVP this upcoming season according to Draft Kings, but that’s if he can have the same historical performance as he did in 2016.
2. Lebron James
After many people would consider last season as a “down year” for not making the playoffs due to injuries, Lebron James still put up King like numbers averaging 27.4, 8.5, 8.3 in 55 games. Recently this past week the Lakers acquired a superstar named Anthony Davis to pair up with King James, which might now make the Lakers the favorites to win the West. Despite being 34, Lebron proved over the years that he should never be underestimated, which is why he will still be considered one of the best players in the league this upcoming season.
Kawhi Leonard, Mr. Fun Guy, Mr. Board Man, what can I say? After one of the best postseasons runs in NBA history, he has established himself as arguably the best player in the league right now. We must acknowledge the fact that he suffered a devastating injury in the 2017 WCF, missed almost the entire season in 2018, and was traded to a new team in a different country but was still able to reign himself as an NBA Champion and a Finals MVP for the 2nd time in his career. Kawhi Leonard will now be playing alongside superstar Paul George this upcoming season after recruiting him to the Clippers this past week. Now that Kawhi wont be double teamed as often anymore , he’ll be able expand his game more like he’s never done before.
Joseph Cervantes is a 16-year-old Senior that attends Sunny Hills High School. He grew up near Los Angeles and is still currently living there. He plans to attend Arizona State to continue his academic journey.