The NBA recently announced its legendary 2020 Basketball Hall of Fame class. NBA legends Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett are the headliners of the class, which should certainly be considered one of the strongest ever.
Naturally, this Hall of Fame talk leads to discussions about current NBA players. Who will make it and who won’t? I’ve decided to go through Hall of Fame odds for all the players who played during the 2019-20 season and have at least five years of playing experience. That means youngsters like Luka Doncic and Joel Embiid don’t count, but 43-year-old Vince Carter, who just retired, does.
So who will make it and who won’t? Let’s discuss the chances for all players I believe have at least a little bit of a chance to make the Hall.
Already in the Top 30 Players of All Time (100%)
- LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers), Kevin Durant (Brooklyn Nets), Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors), Chris Paul (Oklahoma City Thunder).
These four players are all-time greats in their own different ways. There is no question that each will get into the Hall of Fame in the first year they become eligible. James is arguably the greatest basketball player of all time, Durant is the only 7-footer with the ball-handling, athleticism and shooting of a guard and Curry revolutionized the NBA with the greatest shooting stroke in the sport’s history.
Paul is definitely not quite as influential as the other three, especially due to his lack of a championship ring, but he has been so consistent, year in and year out. His 179.5 win shares rank No. 12 in NBA history, and all eligible players with at least 125 win shares are in the Hall.
Mid-Career Locks (98-100%)
- James Harden (Houston Rockets), Kawhi Leonard (Los Angeles Clippers), Russell Westbrook (Houston Rockets), Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks), Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers).
While none of these guys are quite at the all-time level of the four guys above (yet!), all six of them have also left their unique fingerprints on the NBA game. Harden’s ability to handle the ball, draw fouls and make incredibly difficult jump shots tested the limits of what an individual can do on offense. Leonard has developed into a slightly lesser version of Michael Jordan with his two-way dominance. Westbrook and Antetokounmpo have both used their incredible physiques and skills to their advantage.
Davis is the only player of this bunch without a regular season or Finals MVP, but he is also still just 27 years old. He seems to be just entering his prime, so expect him to keep adding to his seven All-Star appearances and three All-NBA Team appearances.
Late-Career Probables (80-98%)
- Dwight Howard (Los Angeles Lakers), Pau Gasol (Portland Trail Blazers), Carmelo Anthony (Portland Trail Blazers), Vince Carter (Atlanta Hawks).
The legacies of these players are already written. Due to age, none of them are anything close to the All-Star level anymore.
The three offensive-minded players of this bunch (Gasol, Anthony and Carter) all rank 37th or higher on the NBA’s All-Time scoring list. All the other 34 eligible players in that company are also in the Hall.
Howard hasn’t scored as well throughout his career as the others in this category, but he is still 67th in all-time points. It is mainly his three Defensive Player of the Year awards, eight All-NBA appearances and eight All-Star appearances that should get him in.
Mid-Career Probables (70-90%)
- Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors), Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors), Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets), Paul George (Los Angeles Clippers), Kyrie Irving (Brooklyn Nets), Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers).
Thompson and Green are the two guys in this group who are 30 years old or older, and I thought about classifying them as late-career players for differing reasons (Thompson’s injury and Green’s general decline). However, considering their potential to contribute to a title contender in the next few years with the Warriors, I do think they deserve to be here. Both are three-time NBA champions with at least three All-Star games. Every other eligible player with that combination of accolades is in the Hall.
Jokic is still very much writing his legacy. At just 25 years old, he has been a top-10 player in the NBA the past two seasons while leading two very strong Nuggets teams. Consistency at his current level, some playoff and FIBA success and improvement on defense could move him into “lock” territory.
George, Irving and Lillard are all in the middle of their primes and have been in that top 10-to-15 range of players for a while. Irving is the most flawed player of the three, as a very skilled point guard who tends to dominate the ball, but he also has a very impressive championship run under his belt from 2016.
Late-Career Maybes (30-70%)
- Marc Gasol (Toronto Raptors), LaMarcus Aldridge (San Antonio Spurs), Kevin Love (Cleveland Cavaliers), Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors), Blake Griffin (Detroit Pistons).
There is a definite gap from the late-career probables to this group of maybes. All of these guys have spent big chunks of their careers as top 25 players in the NBA, and sometimes closer to top 10, but I’ve never really considered any of them full-fledged superstars. Griffin had one year at that superstar level with the Los Angeles Clippers, but injuries have really hampered his career trajectory. None of these guys has really had that many great playoff moments, either.
Gasol is probably the most likely Hall candidate of these players. He and Lowry both have that elusive NBA championship ring, but Gasol has also been extremely influential in Spain’s success in international basketball in the past 15 years.
Mid-Career Maybes (30-70%)
- Jimmy Butler (Miami Heat), Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz), Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota Timberwolves), Kristaps Porzingis (Dallas Mavericks), Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns).
Butler is the oldest player of this group. The fact that he has played for four different teams since 2016-17 isn’t the greatest look for his legacy. However, he is still definitely a great two-way player who can lead a team capably when he is healthy, which admittedly hasn’t been all the time.
I have a feeling Gobert is going to be a hotly-debated Hall candidate when he retires. The Jazz center is a reliable finisher inside and a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate with his amazing rim protection and rebounding, but his lack of shooting ability and struggles defending the perimeter make him a bit of an awkward fit in the modern NBA, especially when the playoffs come around. It will be interesting to see how his career turns out.
Towns should have moved into “probable” territory by now, but injuries and his continual struggles on defense do worry me. At just 24 years old, though, he has time to grow as a player. Porzingis and Booker haven’t proven that much yet, but they are very talented players and seem set up for some team success in the future on rising young squads.
Late-Career Long Shots (10-30%)
- Rajon Rondo (Los Angeles Lakers), Derrick Rose (Detroit Pistons), DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings), Paul Millsap (Denver Nuggets), Al Horford (Atlanta Hawks), Andre Iguodala (Miami Heat), DeAndre Jordan (Brooklyn Nets), Tyson Chandler (Houston Rockets), Joakim Noah (Chicago Bulls).
Rondo, Rose and Cousins all have somewhat similar narratives. They all were early success stories in their career, but some combination of injuries and a changing style of play in the NBA have made them less impactful as they have aged. Rose would be the only MVP in NBA history not to make the Hall, but I just don’t see him making it. Cousins is still just 29 years old, so we will see if he can get back to an All-Star level following his Achilles and ACL injuries.
The remaining guys have all had long, successful careers and have been All-Stars at some point or another. However, none of them has spent enough time as a top-20 player in the league to ultimately make the Hall. Noah may initially seem like a strange inclusion, but remember that he has a Defensive Player of the Year, an All-NBA First Team inclusion and two NCAA National Championships to his name.
Mid-Career Long Shots (10-30%)
- DeMar DeRozan (San Antonio Spurs), Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics), John Wall (Washington Wizards), Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks), Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards), D’Angelo Russell (Minnesota Timberwolves), Jrue Holiday (New Orleans Pelicans), Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons), Gordon Hayward (Boston Celtics), Victor Oladipo (Indiana Pacers).
DeRozan, Walker and Wall definitely lead this group in terms of chances. All have at least four All-Star appearances (the others here all have one or two), but they also have little playoff success to speak of and are reaching the end of their prime years.
The others also fall short in terms of playoff success as well as level of impact at their peak. The Hall doesn’t tend to reward players who were merely very good for a few (or even several) years but never had any major playoff moments to speak of.