Hall of Fame Tiers: Ranking Active NBA Players Most Likely to Be Inducted

Which NBA players are surefire inductees? Which have more work left to do? Here is where top active players currently stand.
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The 2020 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame class is one for the ages. Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan headline a standout nine-person Hall of Fame class that helped define an era for the NBA.

Following in the 2020 class's footsteps, the present-day NBA is shaping up a strong roster of players that are projecting to be inducted at Springfield, Mass.

In looking at which current players are crafting a Hall of Fame resume, factors such as length of career, NBA championships, statistical rankings, points scored and All-Star game selections are taken into consideration. Based on these categories, some players’ outlooks are clear—while others need more time in determining their likelihood to be inducted.

Which players are surefire inductees? Which have more work left to do? Here is where top active NBA players currently rank in their Hall of Fame candidacy, in no particular order.

Photo by Winslow Townson

Photo by Winslow Townson

Tier 1: First Ballot Inductees

● LeBron James

● Chris Paul

● Kevin Durant

● Russell Westbrook

● James Harden

● Stephen Curry

● Dwight Howard

● Carmelo Anthony

● Vince Carter

The accomplishments and high-level of consistency has placed this group of players on the fast track to the Hall of Fame. Particularly, the imprint made by LeBron James, Chris Paul and Kevin Durant speaks for itself. James and Durant are anchored with both regular-season and Finals MVP awards while Paul is a four-time assist and six-time steals champion during his 14-year career. Every MVP that has been crowned has entered the Hall of Fame, and James and Durant’s futures are no different.

Offensive ability powers players such as Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Stephen Curry in their track to the Hall of Fame. Westbrook averaged a triple-double over three straight seasons from 2016-19, Harden is a two-time scoring champion who ranks 11th in points per game in his career (25.1) and Curry has proven he is one of the best three-point shooters in the game’s history with a 43.5% career mark.

When it comes to Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony and Vince Carter, their value throughout the arc of their careers is where they shine. Howard has thrived on defense, becoming a five-time rebound champion, two-time block champion and five-time All-Defensive Team member. Meanwhile, Anthony holds his value on offense and stands at 17th in all-time NBA points (26,314) and Carter has contributed on contending teams and held his own throughout his career while becoming the longest-tenured active player in league history (22 seasons).

One thing many of these players are missing is a ring. While Paul, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony and Vince Carter have not yet won a championship, they have made their cases through longevity and value they add to teams. Their statistical rankings add to the resumes that put them as likely first-ballot Hall of Famers.

Photo by John W. McDonough

Photo by John W. McDonough

Tier 2: Players on Track

● Derrick Rose

● Giannis Antetokounmpo

● Kyle Lowry

● Kevin Love

● Damian Lillard

● Paul George

● Kyrie Irving

● Blake Griffin

● Kawhi Leonard

● Klay Thompson

● Anthony Davis

Many, if not all, of these individuals will likely make the Hall of Fame, but the players vary in terms of the level of accomplishments and status of their careers. The list ranges from former MVPs to NBA champions and players that have played well into specific systems.

So, what can these players do to ensure their place in Springfield? As for MVPs Derrick Rose and Giannis Antetkounmpo, they are on opposite sides of the spectrum in terms of the current state of their careers. Rose has worked his way back from injury setbacks while Antetokounmpo is on track to win his second straight MVP award. Antetokounmpo has proven a lot at 25 years old, but the peak of his potential is yet to be seen and only time can aid that factor. Both players must maintain consistency to prove they can take the next step, and a ring would be a worthy lift to either player’s resume.

Kyle Lowry, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard and Klay Thompson all hold NBA championships to their names. They have largely made their mark offensively, with Thompson holding the 14th-best three-point mark in league history (41.9%) and Irving making one of the greatest shots in NBA Finals history in 2016. Leonard largely made his mark defensively and has shown he can step up when it matters most, taking home Finals MVP in both his championship titles. In addition, Lowry and Love played key roles in their teams’ championship runs.

Meanwhile, Damian Lillard, Paul George, Blake Griffin and Anthony Davis have proven to be high-level players but have yet to prove themselves at the championship level. They have shown they are ready for big moments and hold accolades, but each need to continue on their paths to find how they can stand out when it matters most—whether that be alongside a complementary player or as the lone leader,

What eludes a majority of these players is time. Antetokounmpo, Irving, Leonard, Thompson and Davis are still young in their careers and have more to accomplish. On the other hand, veteran players such as Rose, Lowry, Love and Griffin have a bit more to prove in the latter years of their careers. These players largely have Hall of Fame resumes, but they have to take advantage of their immediate futures to take the leap as surefire candidates.

Photo by Greg Nelson

Photo by Greg Nelson

Tier 3: On the Skirts

● Jimmy Butler

● Rajon Rondo

● Draymond Green

● John Wall

This group is one that has been impacted by injuries, delayed starts and overall value. These players have shown they can instantly impact a team, while others have accomplished more while being surrounded by greater talents.

In order to solidify Hall of Fame chances, these players must prove themselves as leaders at the highest level. Draymond Green is a three-time NBA champion and has shown his tenacity on defense, but there is room for him to grow outside the benefits of having Curry and Thompson on the floor. Jimmy Butler is another defensively-minded player that has shown he can expand his game by adapting as an effective ball-handler.

Meanwhile, players such as John Wall have been highly-touted but have also been impacted by injuries. Rajon Rondo is a three-time assist champion but has been on six different teams in search of a proper fit.

These players have hit great peaks in their careers, but the difficulty has been in sustaining their impact long enough to be able to contend. More pieces must fall together for this group in terms of maintaining success and finding the right balance with teammates.

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Tier 4: Too Early to Tell

● Trae Young

● Luka Doncic

● Ja Morant

● Zion Williamson

● Jayson Tatum

It is fun to imagine players such as Zion Williamson or Luka Doncic entering the Hall of Fame, but in reality, it is far too soon to put these players on the spectrum. Doncic, Trae Young, Ja Morant and Jayson Tatum have dazzled offensively and have shown promise for the league’s future. Meanwhile, Williamson played up to standards in his debut as the No. 1 overall pick, but he still has a long way to go to shape his career.

It would not be surprising to see these five players on a Hall of Fame ballot in 20+ years, but it is too soon to start projecting their trajectory and the impact they will have on the NBA.