I love reading (and laughing at) these lists. It's so fun to look back and see what people thought the league would look like today based on what they knew five years prior. For example, here's one that Kurt Helin and the NBA team at NBC Sports did four years ago. Their list aged pretty well (for the most part), which is a difficult thing to do, so kudos to them.
For those who are unfamiliar, these lists are predictions of what the NBA will look like in five years. Normally, the lists can never be fully right or wrong, since it is all about opinions on each player. My rankings will be different, since they are specifically for 9-cat head-to-head fantasy basketball leagues. Hopefully, you'll be able to use this as your draft guide for the first few rounds when your 2028 drafts roll around, though the odds are pretty slim.
This list was incredibly difficult, as I found myself leaving off players that will still likely be top players in the league (Ja Morant, Zion Williamson), but I decided to lean on the standard of 9-cat value. Morant's best season as of now is just inside the top-50, while Zion hasn't finished inside the top-60 yet. Given their statistical limitations, such as free throw shooting, they may not ever be as dominant in category leagues as they are in real life. My dynasty brain is also slightly biased towards younger players, so apologies to guys like Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Rotoworld's Roundball Stew Podcast: From waiver wire pickups, to season-long NBA trends, to DFS and random side bets, the crew has you covered. Don't forget to rate and subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts.
There were plenty of other players that I had to leave out that I believe could still make this list in five years, but I went with who has the best chance in my opinion. The difficulty of these rankings makes it clear that the league is in an excellent place talentwise. There are so many future stars scattered across every team, with more entering the league every year.
I only included two players that aren't in the NBA yet and none that won't be drafted in June. While it's certainly possible that one of the top prospects from the 2024 or 2025 draft class could be on this list in five years, it's nearly impossible to predict the fantasy impact of a player that will be in algebra class tomorrow.
You may entirely disagree with this list, and that's okay! This is based on my belief in player's either maintaining their value or developing into fantasy stars. With that being said, here are the 100% guaranteed, no doubt in my mind top-25 players in 9-cat H2H fantasy basketball leagues in five years (with a few honorable mentions). To my 2023 readers, enjoy! To my 2028 readers, I apologize in advance. Hope you get some laughs out of it.
Desmond Bane (Age in 2028: 29)
After failing to land in the top-200 as a rookie, Bane has been a late third-round player for the last two seasons. He's one of the best shooters in the league and has started to round out his game to provide more value across the board. He's a few years older than most third year players since he stayed at TCU for four seasons, but that doesn't take away from his production. He'll be in the middle of his prime in five years, and he should be a consistent fantasy contributor for years to come. However, he may be slightly limited by playing for a young, talented team. Unless he isn't sharing the backcourt with Ja, Bane will likely continue to hover around third round value.
Devin Booker (Age in 2028: 31)
One of the best scorers in the league, Book will be on the wrong side of 30 when 2028 rolls around. He was a top-20 fantasy player last season, and he should still be the face of the franchise in Phoenix in five years. Kevin Durant and Chris Paul will be retired and awaiting their Hall of Fame induction. Regardless of who he's playing alongside, Book will be one of the top scorers in the NBA. He was more of a playmaker before CP3 came to town and should be able to get back to that when Paul is gone.
Domantas Sabonis (Age in 2028: 31)
Sabonis is currently enjoying one of the best seasons of his career, and his playstyle should translate well into his older years. There's no reason to think he won't continue to be one of the best rebounders and passing centers while shooting a high percentage from the floor. Unfortunately, that has barely resulted in top-25 value this season. The numbers should stay around the same, but it's hard to imagine he is better than he is right now in five years.
Tari Eason (Age in 2028: 26)
As a rookie buried on the bench, Eason has only gotten to show his fantasy potential in flashes. In those limited opportunities, he has showcased the ability to provide value in every category. With Eric Gordon finally gone, Eason should play a larger role down the stretch of this season, but he'll be the unquestioned starting small forward in Houston at this point. His game is built for fantasy basketball, as he'll be one of the best in the league at supplying both steals and blocks, while also contributing 3-pointers and rebounds.
Josh Giddey (Age in 2028: 26)
In his second season, Giddey has proven that he can be a triple-double machine in a few years. He is currently averaging 16.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and 5.9 assists, and he should be capable of posting even better numbers in 2028. Unfortunately, his situation and lack of other numbers hurts him here. He doesn't provide much defensively or from beyond the arc, which are both critical in 9-cat leagues. The Thunder also have 16 first-round picks to make before 2028 rolls around. Giddey certainly could end up being so talented that none of that matters, but I left him out of the top-25 because of those reservations.
Top 25 Fantasy Players in 2028
25. Bam Adebayo (Age in 2028: 30)
Bam is averaging a career-high 21.6 points per game this season, and he's on track for his second top-25 finish of his career. He has showcased the ability to be both a scorer and playmaker while maintaining his defensive value. As Jimmy Butler ages, Bam will only continue to produce more. In his prime, he'll still be considered one of the top defenders in the league and will provide fantasy value across the board.
24. Karl-Anthony Towns (Age in 2028: 32)
KAT's season has been derailed by a calf injury, but he'll still be one of the top players in fantasy basketball in five years. He has provided first round value the last three years, though he hasn't been able to reach that level in his first year playing alongside Rudy Gobert. That won't be an issue in 2028 with Gobert playing elsewhere, which should allow KAT to get back to averaging 25-point double-doubles with multiple 3-pointers. He may not have many years of fantasy dominance left after this, but his game should translate well into his older years, which allow him to be a stretch five for a contending team. Could he evolve his game to become a fantasy star through just 3-pointers and blocks like Brook Lopez? Only time will tell.
23. Nicolas Claxton (Age in 2028: 28)
Claxton is enjoying a breakout season after finally becoming the starting center in Brooklyn. He has been a top-30 player in 9-cat leagues this season, though that would be much higher if he wasn't so limited by his atrocious free throw shooting. He has shot 50.6% from the line this year, which is significantly worse than his field goal percentage of 72.2%. He should continue to dominate rebounds, blocks and FG% for years to come, but he'll always be limited by his free throw numbers. In a free throw punt, Claxton should be one of the best players in fantasy, but in terms of overall value, he'll never reach that level.
22. Donovan Mitchell (Age in 2028: 31)
In his first season with Cleveland, Mitchell is having the best season of his career. As the backcourt of Don and Darius Garland grows, he'll continue to be a dominant player in fantasy leagues. In the later stages of his prime, Mitchell will still be an explosive scorer, though his added experience could bring more efficiency. He'll continue to be one of the best players in fantasy for a while, as we've seen that sharing the ball with a star point guard won't slow him down.
21. Walker Kessler (Age in 2028: 26)
As one of the best rookies in fantasy basketball, Kessler has already proven that he'll be a fantasy favorite for years to come. In 23 starts this season, he has averaged 10.8 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game while shooting 71% from the floor. With five more years of experience, it's not out of the question for him to provide numbers similar to prime Rudy Gobert. Like Claxton, Kessler has been limited by poor free throw shooting, which prevents him from being higher on these rankings.
20. Jeremy Sochan (Age in 2028: 24)
It has only been in spurts, but Sochan has proven that he can contribute in all nine categories. He's had his fair share of bad games, and he started off the season as an atrocious free throw shooter. He pivoted to a one-handed free throw, which has helped his percentage. He has shown the desire to improve even if it doesn't look pretty, which bodes well for his development. He should be an all-around contributor in fantasy leagues in five years and be a fantasy star for the five years after that.
19. Devin Vassell (Age in 2028: 27)
After getting off to a hot start to the season, Vassell's year has been derailed by knee issues that ultimately led to him having surgery in January. The Spurs are in no rush to bring him back, as they'll prioritize his long-term health over getting back on the court to play for a team that has lost 14 straight. Assuming the knee issues don't linger, Vassell should continue to be a star for the Spurs. He has already shown his ability to provide defensive value despite taking on a larger load on the offensive end. When the Spurs get out of this rebuild, Vassell will get the recognition on the national stage that fantasy managers already gave him. His game is built for category leagues, and he'll be a fantasy star when he reaches his prime.
18. Alperen Şengün (Age in 2028: 25)
Anyone who is nicknamed “Baby Jokic” should be widely recognized for his fantasy potential. He's already providing excellent value for a struggling Rockets team, and he'll only continue to grow. He likely won't reach the level of dominance that Nikola Jokić has shown for the past few years, but he's talented enough to be a star in fantasy. We're talking about a guy that can approach averages of 20/10/7/1/1 while shooting a high percentage. He hasn't filled it up with 3-pointers, but he has shown his shooting touch. The sky's the limit for him, and the main reason he isn't higher on this list is because I don't believe in Houston's ability to develop him.
17. Scoot Henderson (Age in 2028: 24)
While Victor Wembanyama is seen as one of the best prospects ever, Scoot is going to make whichever team gets him with the second pick very happy. In 29.3 minutes per game for G-League Ignite, Henderson has averaged 18.9 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 1.4 steals. We've seen young point guards like Trae Young, Ja Morant and LaMelo Ball become All-Stars within their first few seasons, and Henderson projects as the next great point guard prospect. While the world salivates over Wemby, Scoot will be right behind him, providing points, assists and steals in high volume.
16. Darius Garland (Age in 2028: 28)
The acquisition of Donovan Mitchell hasn't limited Garland's production. His numbers are all very similar to what he did last season. Many projected his value to drop, but both Mitchell and Garland have thrived playing alongside each other. As their backcourt chemistry develops and Garland enters his prime, he's only going to be more dangerous as a fantasy player. He has been a top-40 player in 9-cat leagues the last two years and has another level to reach. He'll continue to provide plenty of points, assists, steals and threes, with the improved efficiency likely on the way.
15. Trae Young (Age in 2028: 29)
Ice Trae has had some up and down seasons throughout his young career. He has two top-20 finishes so far, including a first-round finish last season. He struggled to adjust to playing alongside Dejounte Murray, but he seems to have figured it out as of late. He's averaging a career-high 10.3 assists, and after an ice cold start to the year shooting the ball, he has shot 45.2% over the past two months. Assuming he is able to produce closer to 28.4 points and 9.7 assists like he did last season, Trae will be a fantasy stud for a long time. Not many players are capable of being in the top ten in points, assists and 3-pointers like Trae is.
14. Franz Wagner (Age in 2028: 26)
He's underrated, but Wagner is one of the most talented players in Orlando. He can contribute in every category, even if he hasn't consistently through his first two seasons. His availability has been one of his best traits early in his career, as he played 79 games as a rookie and has only missed one game so far this season. I'm a huge believer in Wagner and think he can be one of the best players in the league. As he continues to develop, the fantasy value will come in a big way.
13. Scottie Barnes (Age in 2028: 26)
As a rookie, Barnes finished as a sixth-round producer in 9-cat leagues. He has provided similar value in his second season despite a really slow start to the year. To the surprise of many, the second year player's growth wasn't linear. He has been better over the past two months, and I think that will continue over the next five years. There aren't many players that can truly play and defend every position, but Barnes has that type of potential. He has all the makings of a player that impacts every category in a big way.
12. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Age in 2028: 29)
SGA exploded this season, as he has been a top five player in fantasy after finishing outside the top-30 last season. The Thunder are done tanking, and they should be in the middle of the playoff race next season. Even as they add more talent in the first round over the coming seasons, it'll be hard for them to acquire a player as impactful as Shai. His days as a premier fantasy player have just begun, and they'll continue through 2028.
11. Jaren Jackson Jr. (Age in 2028: 28)
JJJ has been a top ten player in 9-cat leagues this season because he has averaged 3.3 blocks per game. He's not the best rebounder for his size, but he also contributes steals and 3-pointers. One of his biggest limitations has been how often he has found himself in foul trouble. He is averaging a career-low 3.4 fouls per game, but he's only been able to play 27.2 minutes per game this year. He should maintain first round value for a long time because of his defensive impact, but if he can fix his fouling issues while maintaining his production, he'll be a fantasy superstar long past 2028.
10. Cade Cunningham (Age in 2028: 26)
I'm a huge believer in Cade. Coming out of the draft, I felt he was one of the most well-rounded prospects ever. A 6'8” point guard that can score, pass, rebound, defend and shoot isn't something to be taken for granted. His second year didn't get off to a great start before a shin injury ended his season less than a month after it began. He'll get back on track in 2024 and by the time 2028 rolls around, he'll be one of the best players in the NBA. He was a top-100 player as a rookie despite shooting 41.6% from the floor and turning it over 3.7 times per game. Those are normal struggles for rookies and are things he'll fix as he develops.
9. Nikola Jokić (Age in 2028: 33)
This is probably the lowest you'll see Jokic on any list for a while. He's on his way to his third straight finish atop the 9-cat rankings, and he's under contract with Denver through the 2027-2028 season. There's no way he finishes as the best player in fantasy basketball for eight straight seasons. If by some miracle he does, we'll be having some serious conversations about his status among the all-time greats. Not because fantasy value matters at all, but the numbers he'd have to put up year after year to do that would be insane. Still, to be in the top ten five years after (potentially) winning a third straight MVP is okay, especially as he approaches the final few seasons of his career.
8. Anthony Edwards (Age in 2028: 26)
In his second season, Edwards was a top-50 player in 9-cat leagues and has provided third-round value in his third year. He's only getting better, and it wouldn't be shocking to see him lead the league in scoring or steals a few times over the course of his career. He has played in all 61 games of Minnesota's season so far, and has made comments similar to Kobe Bryant about wanting to be available for every game he can. He'll be just entering his prime in 2028 and should be seen as one of the best players in the NBA.
7. Jayson Tatum (Age in 2028: 30)
Over the past few seasons, Tatum has hovered around first round value, but he has finally taken the leap to the top ten this season. He's in the MVP conversation as the best player on the best team, and he is still young. He should continue to get better over the next few seasons, and he'll be one of the premier players in fantasy basketball for a long time. There's no reason to think he'll drop off over the next five years, which means the Celtics should be true contenders every single year.
6. Luka Dončić (Age in 2028: 29)
This may feel a bit low for Luka, but he has two issues holding him back: free throws and turnovers. Despite that, he has provided early second round value this season. He has shot 73% from the line this season, which is incredibly low for a guy that drills contested stepbacks in his sleep. This is assuming he improves on his percentage slightly but never truly becomes an elite shooter from the charity stripe. He's had one of the best starts to a career statistically, and he should only continue to get better, which is a scary thought.
5. Tyrese Haliburton (Age in 2028: 28)
Through three seasons, Haliburton has had a sixth round finish, a second round finish and is on his way to a first round finish. He's in the five for both assists and steals per game, and he's in the top-20 for 3-pointers per game. Haliburton has a long career of fantasy dominance ahead of him that should rival Chris Paul. It'll be exciting to see what he can do for a true contending team in a few seasons.
4. Chet Holmgren (Age in 2028: 25)
Though Chet hasn't made his NBA debut yet, there's no question that he'll quickly become a dominant fantasy player if he's healthy. He's 7'0” and can shoot, dribble, pass, rebound and block shots. It may take a few seasons for his body to fully adjust to the NBA, but when that happens, he's going to be scary. In his first Summer League game, Chet had 23 points, seven rebounds, four assists, six blocks and four 3-pointers. Not that Summer League is a direct representation of what a player will be, but it does help indicate his potential to be a star.
3. Evan Mobley (Age in 2028: 26)
He didn't win Rookie of the Year, but Mobley finished as a seventh round producer and should have a sixth round finish this season. His production has been limited by playing alongside ball-dominant stars like Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland, as well as sharing the frontcourt with Jarrett Allen. However, as Mobley gets older and better, they won't be able to outshine him. It's not easy to draw Kevin Garnett comparisons, but Mobley has shown that type of potential through his first two seasons. By the time 2028 is here, Mobley could have multiple Defensive Player of the Year awards and be widely considered one of the best centers in the league.
2. Victor Wembanyama (Age in 2028: 24)
Despite not knowing where he'll be playing basketball next season, Wemby is too talented to have any lower than this. He's reported to be 7'5” when wearing shoes, but he weighs 230 lbs, which is about 40 pounds heavier than Holmgren. He plays in the highest-tier basketball league in France and has made it look like a rec league. His feel for the game is unmatched for a player of his height. He can shoot, dribble and block shots while being the tallest player in the league. The spotlight will be on him the moment he enters the league, and he has the type of talent to be able to exceed expectations.
1. LaMelo Ball (Age in 2028: 26)
After a second round finish last season, LaMelo had high expectations coming into this season, but ankle issues prevented him from getting off to a good start. Playing for one of the worst teams in the league, LaMelo needs some help. Hopefully he'll get some soon, but there's a real chance that he's playing for a different team in 2028. Regardless of where he is, his combination of scoring, passing and rebounding from the guard position is unmatched. It feels as though he's barely tapped into the talent that he has, and it'll be fun to watch him reach it over the next few seasons, assuming the Hornets get him some help soon.