The Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2020 could be one of the most star-studded ever, a group that is expected to include Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and the late Kobe Bryant.
But which active players are on track for basketball immortality?
Ahead of Saturday’s announcement of the full class, our NBA experts examined which player on each current NBA roster — from the locks to the long shots — is on track to join the all-time greats in Springfield, Massachusetts.
See you in Springfield (the locks)
The Hall of Fame proposition for James is a matter of when, not if. The more intriguing question is whether he can further add to his considerable accomplishments — three championships, three Finals MVPs, four regular-season MVPs, two Olympic gold medals and all sorts of statistical achievements — that would make his induction day less about his place in Springfield and more about his place at the metaphorical table next to the likes of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
James isn’t the only future Hall of Famer in the Lakers’ locker room. Dwight Howard‘s three Defensive Player of the Year awards and five- or six-year stretch as the game’s best big man will get him in. Anthony Davis, when you combine his Kentucky championship with his NBA success, is well on his way, too.
— Dave McMenamin
Curry will go down as the best shooter in the history of basketball. He has three NBA championships and two MVP awards, one of which was unanimous. Outside of LeBron James, he is the lock of locks among current players.
Klay Thompson is also likely headed to the Hall of Fame as one of the best two-way players in the game, and he may go down as the second-best shooter behind Curry by the time both their careers end. And as a key to three title teams, Draymond Green will have a good case too.
— Nick Friedell
Even if Durant’s Achilles tear in the 2019 NBA Finals keeps him from being the “You’re the real MVP” Durant who conquered the league, he is on a surefire journey to Springfield.
His impressive list of accolades includes two NBA Finals titles, two Finals MVP awards, 10 All-Star nods and the 2014 regular-season MVP award.
Anything he does in Brooklyn and beyond is just adding to a highlight reel that is already Hall of Fame-ready. And teammate Kyrie Irving, NBA champion and author of one of the most clutch shots in Finals history, might not be far behind.
— Malika Andrews
As much a lock as pretty much any other current player, Paul will head to Springfield via the first ballot on which he’s eligible. His overall résumé may end up missing a few things — an MVP, a championship — but his overall impact as a consistent winner and one of the best point guards in history makes the Hall of Fame a sure thing.
Beyond him, though, the Thunder are pretty far away from Springfield. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is blossoming into an All-Star-caliber player, but Hall of Famer is a big leap. So their next best shot is probably Draft Pick To Be Selected Later.
— Royce Young
OK, I may have cheated and picked two players. They’re in their prime, but Harden and Westbrook could retire right now and be no-brainer Hall of Famers, regardless of their ringless status. Harden has staked a claim as the best scorer of his generation, averaging at least 25 points in each of his eight seasons in Houston and 30-plus in the past three. That includes the most prolific scoring season since Michael Jordan’s 1987 campaign. And he won an assist title.
Westbrook, the MVP a year before Harden won that honor, sealed his case by joining Oscar Robertson as the only player to average a triple-double for a season (three times).
— Tim MacMahon
The debate over Anthony’s Hall of Fame credentials during his time out of the NBA was surely a waste of time. His 10 All-Star appearances, six All-NBA picks and legendary international career for USA Basketball (as “Olympic Melo”) make Anthony a certain Hall of Famer.
The more interesting Blazers case is Damian Lillard, who is still building his résumé but is improving his chances with four All-NBA appearances and a fifth likely this season. No eligible player with more than five All-NBA picks has failed to make the Hall.
— Kevin Pelton
Go ahead and book the 2023 Hall of Fame announcement, because even if Carter’s wave goodbye on March 11 was it for him, he’ll be in that class.
He ranks 19th all-time in scoring, ahead of greats such as Jerry West, Allen Iverson, Patrick Ewing and Ray Allen. He has redefined the approach to aging gracefully, going from arguably the greatest high flier of all time to a knockdown floor spacer in his elder years.
Trae Young has a shot at the Hall of Fame, obviously, but he has a long way to go before he becomes anything close to the sure thing Carter is.
Not many people saw this coming when the Bucks drafted the skinny Greek teenager with the 15th overall pick of the 2013 NBA draft. Early in his career, folks struggled to pronounce the name Giannis Antetokounmpo. Now he appears to be a near lock for the Hall.
The NBA’s reigning MVP is having another MVP-caliber season while putting up historic numbers on a championship-level team. His blend of speed, size, power and toughness has seldom been seen in NBA history. He’s only 25 years old, so his best years could be ahead of him.
— Eric Woodyard
Leonard prefers to keep his focus on the day-to-day process and not get ahead of himself when it comes to his career. But the Clippers forward should be heading to Springfield when he hangs up his jersey for good.
In his ninth season, Leonard already has two NBA titles, two NBA Finals MVP trophies and two Defensive Player of the Year awards. He has made two All-NBA teams, five All-Defensive teams and four All-Star Games.
Paul George — a five-time All-NBA performer, four-time All-Defensive member and six-time All-Star — will have his own Hall of Fame case if he can remain healthy. Don’t rule out three-time Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams, either.
— Ohm Youngmisuk
Count on it (on track for the Hall)
Jimmy Butler has carved a great career for himself and this season made his fifth All-Star Game, all of which seems remarkable given he came into the league as the 30th pick in the 2011 draft and wasn’t expected to be much more than a defensive stopper. Bam Adebayo is still just 22 and made his first All-Star team in February. His future is extremely bright if he keeps improving.
But as solid as both players are, the man closest to Springfield right now is Iguodala. He won three titles with the Warriors and was the 2015 Finals MVP. He has been one of the best two-way players in the game for a long time and has built a strong case for induction whenever he decides to retire.
Basketball Reference’s Hall of Fame probability gives Love nearly a 75% chance of enshrinement, which feels about right. Though Love’s five All-Star appearances are on the low side for a Hall of Famer — contrast that to 11 for Chris Bosh, who played a similar role alongside LeBron James in Miami — we’ve seen players with similar totals get in recently, and the 2016 championship will be an important point in Love’s Hall of Fame favor.
He can boost his chances by remaining effective long enough to accumulate strong counting stats totals.
With three future Hall of Famers on the bench — Gregg Popovich, Tim Duncan and Becky Hammon — Aldridge has the best case among the players on the Spurs’ roster.
Aldridge, a former No. 2 overall pick after he was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2006 and earned third-team All-America honors, is a seven-time All-Star and a five-time All-NBA selection. He is just under 20,000 points for his career and sits in the top 75 in points, rebounds, blocks, field goals and career PER.
— Andrew Lopez
Lowry is a six-time All-Star and an NBA and Olympic champion who will go down as the best player in Raptors history, a stunning turn considering where his career was when he arrived in Toronto in 2012.
After Lowry, Marc Gasol has an intriguing Hall of Fame case as a Defensive Player of the Year, a three-time All-Star, part of an iconic Memphis team and a very successful player on the international scene.
–– Tim Bontemps
Walker has already made four All-Star teams and an All-NBA team. What if he makes two or three more All-Star teams in Boston and wins an NBA title to go with his NCAA championship? That’s the kind of résumé the Hall tends to honor.
Do Tatum and Brown have a higher ceiling? Sure. But this is about who is most likely. And, as of today, Walker is the choice.
With his lumbering, well-paced style, high intellect and still-evolving game, Jokic is going to be a force in the league for at least a decade. And that’s about all it will take to build the kind of résumé that makes him Hall-worthy.
Checking other boxes, like playoff success, would be a big boost, but Jokic’s international impact will carry weight, and he could nudge Vlade Divac as the best Serbian player ever.
Given the youth and injury history on this roster, it is extremely difficult to project exactly who is the most likely Hall of Famer from this group.
For all of his accomplishments, and despite being underrated throughout his career, Al Horford is not one yet.
So the choice comes down to Embiid or Ben Simmons. Before Simmons injured his back, the smart money would have been on him to be more durable in the long run — and he very well may still be.
But with Embiid having accomplished more to date, the big man has to be the choice for now. However, they both are talented enough to make it to Springfield one day.
Gobert has two All-NBA selections and a pair of Defensive Player of the Year awards, so the foundation of a Hall of Fame case is in place at age 27.
Winning the NBA’s ultimate defensive honor multiple times doesn’t guarantee a spot in Springfield, as Mark Eaton and Ben Wallace can attest. But Eaton and Wallace never had double-digit scoring for a season. Gobert has done so four straight years, averaging 14.7 points on 66.4% field goal shooting during that span.
Donovan Mitchell, who already has an All-Star appearance and almost 5,000 points at 23, might be an even better bet down the road.
The great debate
The story of NBA basketball in the past decade includes Rose prominently. In 2011, he became the youngest player to win the MVP award at age 22, and every former MVP who is eligible is in Springfield.
Injuries robbed Rose of his full potential, but his basketball résumé still includes being the 2009 NBA Rookie of the Year, 2011 All-NBA First Team, a three-time All-Star, the No. 1 overall pick and a high school and college All-American.
Blake Griffin is also a candidate, but like Rose, he has fought through injuries over recent seasons.
The future (young stars to watch)
Doncic could be a lock by the time he’s old enough to rent a car. That might sound like hyperbole, but remember that his historic European résumé also factors into Hall of Fame consideration.
It’s a pretty safe bet that Doncic will accomplish enough in the NBA to merit first-ballot status. The dude was an MVP candidate before he could buy a beer in America, putting up numbers for a probable playoff team that are unprecedented for a player his age. Durability issues would be the only reason to doubt him.
Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Of course, all projections for Williamson are contingent upon him staying on the floor and on the trajectory we’ve seen in his 19 NBA games since he returned from a knee injury.
When his teammate JJ Redick appeared on ESPN’s Get Up on Wednesday, he was asked what Williamson would look like if he reached his full potential. Redick said, “An NBA MVP, a first-team All-NBA, a Hall of Famer, and a guy who leads teams to championships. I think that’s his ceiling. He hasn’t even come close, really, to scratching the surface. And as his skill level develops and as the game slows down a little bit for him, he’s gonna be even better, which is scary, for sure.”
Sure, it’s premature to discuss Morant’s odds before he even finishes his phenomenal rookie season. But the only other players to average at least 17 points and six assists as a 20-year-old rookie are Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas and Trae Young.
Morant’s impact goes beyond statistics, as he has shown a special blend of leadership and clutch chops. He’s also part of a young Grizzlies core that has a chance to win a lot of games as it grows up together.
Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis’ other young cornerstone, also could have some Springfield potential.
When Towns was named All-NBA after his third season at age 22, he appeared to be on a Hall of Fame track. Just 22 players in league history have earned All-NBA honors for seasons completed before their 23rd birthday, and the majority of them are in the Hall or headed there when eligible.
The Timberwolves’ return to the lottery has cast doubts about Towns’ ability to translate his prodigious statistics into team success, and as Towns heads into his prime years, he’ll have to lead Minnesota deeper in the playoffs to stay on the path to the Hall.
When it’s said and done for Booker, there’s an excellent chance he’s going to be in the top 20 all-time in scoring.
In his fifth season, at just the age of 23, he’s already at 7,439 points. Assuming good health, if he plays just 10 more quality seasons, he’d be over 22,000 points by year 15 and the age of 33. Another three or four good seasons after that, and Booker is looking at flirting with 30,000.
Some might be surprised Victor Oladipo isn’t listed here. But Sabonis is four years younger and healthier and has just one fewer All-Star selection.
Do I think he is on a Hall of Fame track? No. But this is about what’s possible, and Sabonis should be a healthy, productive big for years to come. He has the chance to rack up All-Star appearances and could also have success with the Lithuanian national team. That gives him more pathways than Oladipo, even if he never matches Oladipo’s stellar 2017-18 season.
Fox is just 22 years old and averaging 20.4 points and 6.8 assists this season. He gets better and gains more confidence every year.
One key for Fox will be to lead the Kings back to the postseason for the first time in over a decade and prove he can carry his team to prominence. If he does that, he’ll be on the right track.
Long shots (You’re telling me there’s a chance?)
The choice here is between the Wizards’ All-Star guards, but I don’t think John Wall is as likely to add to his Hall résumé given his age (29) and the Achilles injury that has sidelined him since December 2018.
By contrast, Beal is just coming into his own at age 26. If Beal ends up as a second or third option on a championship contender, that could help him overcome just two All-Star appearances to date.
LaVine has bounced back from severe injuries to average a career-best 25.5 points this season while working to become the star the franchise needs him to be. The question is where he and the team go from here.
At just 25, if LaVine continues to grow and learn the game with a strong, healthy supporting cast around him, it’s not too late to build an impressive résumé.
Ask again later …
For a proud Orlando native, this really hurts. There was Shaq, T-Mac, Dwight — all three are either in or headed to the Hall of Fame — and all three left the Magic in the middle of their Hall of Fame careers.
On this roster, there is nobody close right now, which has been the problem since Orlando traded Howard in 2012. Yes, Nikola Vucevic is a nightly 20-10 threat. Aaron Gordon continues to wow fans with his dunks and improved game. Markelle Fultz was the No. 1 pick just three years ago.
But let’s face it. Outside of some, well, magic, no one on this current roster has a chance to make it to Springfield.
The Knicks have cycled through rebuild after rebuild, so making a Hall of Fame case for any player is a tough sell right now.
Barrett has already shown promise in his rookie season. If the Knicks can put a better roster around him and Robinson, then maybe, just maybe, these two young players are on the early stages of a path that includes stardom and improbable Hall of Fame careers.
The Hornets have some good young talent. Devonte’ Graham‘s sophomore season has been one of the league’s biggest surprises, while PJ Washington has had a nice rookie year. But Graham, an undersized point guard, is already 25. And Washington, an undersized power forward, will turn 22 in August. In the best-case scenario for either, they sneak onto an All-Star team or two.
While there is no shame in that, that also isn’t anywhere close to being a Hall of Fame-caliber player. So while arguably the greatest player in the history of the sport owns this team, there isn’t anyone on the current roster joining him in Springfield.