The 2022-23 NBA season is kicking off soon, and that means we’re back with an updated edition of our player rankings.
The last time we listed our top 30 players was ahead of the 2022 NBA Playoffs, with a blend of analysis from 11 writers and editors. This time around, you can direct all complaints to yours truly. This will be a solo effort.
These top-30 rankings are based on who I’d like to have for this full season going forward. You’ll see some different names from our previous list, along with some that didn’t make the cut (apologies to Draymond Green, Khris Middleton and Bradley Beal).
Without further ado, here is the top 10. (For those interested in simply seeing the entire list, you can click here to skip down.)
MORE NBA RANKINGS: PG | SG | SF | PF | C
10. Jimmy Butler, Heat
Previous rank: 14
Butler is one of the more perennially underrated players in the league. He’s been the engine for the Heat, and he turns his game up in the NBA Playoffs.
Butler’s 3-pointer has disappeared of late — he’s hit only 24 percent of his attempts over the past three years. But he still has very good efficiency offensively because he bullies his way to his spots from inside the arc.
He also gets to the line a ton. He shot the fourth-highest amount of free throw attempts per game last season.
9. Jayson Tatum, Celtics
Previous rank: 12
Tatum is coming off a year in which he finished sixth in MVP voting and was named a member of the All-NBA First Team. He did slow down in the 2022 NBA Finals, but it was later revealed that he was playing with a fractured wrist.
That Finals performance marred what was an amazing year for Tatum. He’s a tough shot-maker, a career 38.3 percent 3-point shooter and a solid defender. His career-high averages of 26.9 points, 8.0 rebounds and 4.4 assists during the last regular season already put him in elite territory, and he’s still not at his peak at age 24.
8. LeBron James, Lakers
Previous rank: 6
James will be entering his 20th NBA season. For him to still be at this level is absurd.
He isn’t quite the same player as he was in his younger days. That explosion is no longer there, and he settles for more layups rather than dunks when he gets to the rim. But he has improved drastically in other areas.
James has become a very solid 3-point shooter, hitting 35.9 percent of his looks last season. The Lakers also used him as a small-ball center much more often, and to great success. His passing is still elite, and his top-tier understanding of the game will never fade.
Those attributes keep him as one of the best players in the league and someone that you can never count out in the postseason.
7. Kawhi Leonard, Clippers
Previous rank: 7
Leonard hasn’t played since June of 2021, so it’s very easy to forget just how good he is. He’s one of the best perimeter defenders in NBA history. Two Defensive Player of the Year awards and seven All-Defensive selections back that statement up.
His offense is otherworldly, too. He’s hit 3-pointers at a 38.4 percent clip in his career, and he’s one of the best midrange shooters in the game. It’s impossible to keep him off his spots because of how strong he is.
He’s won two rings, and he’s been the Finals MVP in both series. He could capture a third Larry O’Brien Trophy this year.
6. Luka Doncic, Mavericks
Previous rank: 8
Doncic will be the best player in the NBA sooner rather than later. He continues to rise up these lists.
What else is there to say about Doncic’s offensive impact? If his regular season averages of 28.4 points, 9.1 rebounds and 8.7 assists weren’t impressive enough, he upped his scoring in the NBA Playoffs to a ridiculous 31.7 points per game, leading the Mavericks to a surprising Western Conference Finals berth.
He’s a savant on the basketball court and a special player to watch.
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5. Kevin Durant, Nets
Previous rank: 2
There are no weaknesses in Durant’s offensive repertoire. He’s a fantastic 3-point shooter that can rise up to get his shot over anyone, he’s unstoppable in the midrange and his finishing at the rim is elite.
He’s also more solid than most superstars on the defensive end, where his size and positional awareness can cause problems.
4. Stephen Curry, Warriors
Previous rank: 5
Curry has changed the game. His 38 percent 3-point shooting during last year’s regular season was the lowest mark of his career, and he still made more 3-pointers than anyone else. He has been the driving force behind the Warriors’ offense, and that helped him win title No. 4 last season.
Even more than the splashy triples and dance moves, he’s willing to do the little things that go unseen to lead his team to greatness. He’s an unselfish passer, a great screener for his teammates and competes hard to execute the defensive schemes that have led to so much success.
3. Joel Embiid, 76ers
Previous rank: 4
Could this be Embiid’s MVP year? Voter fatigue may take other candidates out of contention, and Embiid has been right there as a deserving candidate.
His 30.6 points per game led the league last season, and he chipped in 11.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.1 steals per game to top it off. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bob McAdoo are the only other players in NBA history to hit those marks.
With two players in the top 15, the Sixers should be among the leaders in the East. And with those wins, Embiid should get some more recognition for what has already been an incredible career.
2. Nikola Jokic, Nuggets
Previous rank: 3
The reigning back-to-back MVP should finally get some of his help back, with Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. expected to return this season. That might lessen his career-high scoring average of 27.1 points per game last season, but his 7.9 assists per game may go up.
Jokic is one of the most fun players in the league to watch. Every night, he will throw a pass that no other big man in the league would dare try. His “Sombor Shuffle” fadeaway jump shot has become automatic from the midrange. And he’s a bear in the post that makes defenders look silly when they try to guard him one-on-one.
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks
Previous rank: 1
“The Greek Freak” might be the best defender in the league, with his ability to guard multiple positions and insane 7-3 wingspan.
He also might be the best creator. He is impossible to stop going downhill, and he’s leveled up his passing to make him even more of a threat. He almost beat the Eastern Conference champion Celtics, forcing them to seven games without Khris Middleton by his side.
Antetokounmpo finished third last year in MVP voting, showing up no lower than fourth place on all 100 ballots. He’s already won two awards in the past, and he could easily win his third this season.
The Final List
Here is a breakdown of the full top 30 along with previous ranks.
|18||Damian Lillard||Trail Blazers||15|