We're just weeks away from training camp opening ahead of the 2021-22 NBA season, the landmark 75th anniversary season for the league.
With the NBA planning to name its 75 greatest players of all time, we're back with an updated edition of our top 30 active player rankings, as voted upon by our NBA.com Global Staff.
These rankings consist of players who are slated to suit up on opening night of the upcoming season, meaning LA Clippers superstar forward Kawhi Leonard and Denver Nuggets star guard Jamal Murray were excluded as they are each recovering from surgery to repair torn ACLs.
Just as in the past, these rankings were a collaborative effort, with 10 members of our staff submitting a list of who they believe are the top 30 players in the league after a busy offseason. Each first-place vote was worth 30 points, second-place votes worth 29 points, third-place votes worth 28 points and so on until 30th place, where votes are worth one point.
Got it? Cool, now onto the rankings, which are our first since the second half of the 2020-21 season began …
The league is in great shape, as evidenced by the extremely talented players who missed the cut.
Here are a few of the notable names that missed out:
- LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets
- Mike Conley Jr., Utah Jazz
- DeMar DeRozan, Chicago Bulls
- Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
- Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls
- Domantas Sabonis, Indiana Pacers
- Nikola Vucevic, Chicago Bulls
Ball, the 20-year-old phenom who took the league by storm during his rookie campaign, appeared on two ballots but didn't accumulate enough points (9) to crack the top 30. The same applies to LaVine, who earned two 30th-place votes, a 29th-place vote and a 27th-place vote.
DeRozan, Green and Sabonis each appeared on multiple ballots but fell shy of receiving enough points.
Of the above list, DeRozan (26th) and Sabonis (30th) fall out after appearing in our top 30 list in March. Conley and Vucevic are notable omissions in that they each appeared in the 2021 NBA All-Star Game.
10. Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers
Highest rank: 8
Lowest rank: 12
Like clockwork, AD lands at No. 10, the same place he was ranked in March.
The injury bug bit Davis and the Lakers hard last season, as the superstar forward missed half of a possible 72 regular-season games before returning ahead of the postseason, where he suffered a groin injury in LA's first-round loss to the Phoenix Suns.
After a full offseason of rehab and recovery, Davis will look to bounce back to the form he showed during the 2020 NBA Restart, where he won the first NBA title of his career.
9. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Highest rank: 9
Lowest rank: 10
There were few players who our voters could agree on to this extent, but it was clear that everyone considers Lillard to be a top-10 player in the league.
Dame is coming off of a season in which he averaged 28.8 points, 7.5 assists and 4.2 rebounds for the Blazers, leading them to the West's sixth seed and away from the Play-In Tournament. In the postseason, Lillard upped his production to 34.3 points and 10.2 assists per game, including an all-time performance with 55 points and 10 assists in a Game 5 overtime loss. Despite Lillard's heroics, Portland was eliminated in six games, prompting an offseason headlined by a coaching change.
The Blazers face many questions in the 2021-22 season, but with Dame on the roster, they'll be good enough to compete every night.
8. James Harden, Brooklyn Nets
Highest rank: 6
Lowest rank: 10
Who said Harden wouldn't find his way in Brooklyn?
The Nets were dealt an awful hand with injuries this past season, but Harden averaged 24.6 points, 10.9 assists and 8.5 rebounds over 36 regular-season games with his new team. Had he not gotten injured seconds into the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the series may have had a much different outcome.
With that in the past, Harden and the Nets' eyes shift forward, where they will again be expected to come out of the Eastern Conference. We'll get a much better look at him next to his superstar teammates Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, a trio that has just scratched the surface of what it could become .
7. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
Highest rank: 5
Lowest rank: 8
The MVP runner-up, Embiid has made his claim as the league's most dominant player loud and clear.
After averaging a career-best 28.5 points per game during the regular season, Embiid continued his dominance in the playoffs. And despite tearing his meniscus in the first round, Embiid averaged 30.4 points, 12.7 rebounds and 3.9 assists in the Sixers' seven-game series loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Plenty of uncertainty surrounds Philly this upcoming season, but there's no question surrounding the ability of Embiid, who signed a four-year, $196 million extension to remain a Sixer for the next six seasons.
6. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
Highest rank: 5
Lowest rank: 8
It's gone from "we're running out of words to describe Doncic" to "we've run out of words to describe Doncic." Seriously.
Three seasons in, Doncic's wizardry isn't even a surprise anymore, you just can't help but sit back and laugh.
The 22-year-old continues to grow in his ability to dominate the pace and direction of the game, as evidenced by his playoff performance in which he nearly led Dallas to the second round with averages of 35.7 points, 10.3 assists and 7.9 rebounds over seven games. If history is any indicator, his encore will be even more impressive.
5. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
Highest rank: 4
Lowest rank: 7
Jokic has broken the mould in many ways, becoming the first-ever second-round pick to win the NBA's Most Valuable Player award and the first center to hoist the trophy in 20 years. Only, he's not your typical center.
Already considered by many as the best passing big man ever, The Joker averaged 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists in the 2020-21 season and willed Denver to the second round despite the absence of his running mate in Murray. Things get no easier as details surrounding Murray's return are unclear, meaning Jokic will again have to piece together an MVP-worthy campaign to keep the Nuggets among the top teams in the West.
4. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Highest rank: 3
Lowest rank: 6
He'll turn 34 this season, but Curry's not showing any sign of slowing down.
The greatest shooter of all time is coming off of a season in which he averaged a career-best 32.0 points per game, which were also good for his second-ever scoring title and a third-place finish in MVP voting. At the time of writing, the ink is still drying on Curry's landmark four-year, $215 million extension which made him the first player in league history to sign two contracts valued at over $200 million.
Golden State went 0-2 in the Play-In Tournament last year but with the addition of two talented lottery picks and Curry's Splash Brother, Klay Thompson, returning to action, Curry might have an easier time leading the Warriors to greater heights in 2021-22.
3. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
Highest rank: 2
Lowest rank: 4
LeBron lands at three here, but The King is far from washed.
In fact, in our last ranking, James landed at No. 1, just days before he would go down with the ankle injury that altered the course of his and the Lakers' season. Despite missing 25 of LA's last 29 regular-season games, LeBron was full-go for the postseason, where he first led the Lakers past the Warriors in the Seven-Eight Play-In Game and then averaged 23.3 points, 8.0 assists and 7.2 rebounds in six games against the Suns, as he was eliminated in the first round for the first time in his career.
That LeBron is even in the conversation for the top spot ahead of his 19th season is incredible, and he has plenty of motivation to reclaim the throne. With an almost entirely new cast around him, James is primed to make some noise.
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
Highest rank: 1
Lowest rank: 3
The champ is here, and he was just edged out by No. 1 on our list.
Giannis lands at No. 2 after turning in one of the most dominant championship performances in NBA history. Playing through a knee injury that caused him to miss two games in the previous round, Antetokounmpo led the Bucks to their first NBA title in 50 years with averages of 35.2 points, 13.2 rebounds and 5.0 assists in the Finals.
He delivered signature moment after signature moment on the biggest stage, capped off by a 50-piece in the title clincher.
Considering he won't turn 27 until December, Giannis is primed to make a play for our top spot sooner or later.
1. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets
Highest rank: 1
Lowest rank: 3
Y'all know who he is.
Durant lands at one after a magical postseason run in which he averaged 34.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists while shooting 51.4 percent from the field, 40.2 percent from 3 and 87.1 percent from the charity stripe. KD nearly willed an injury-riddled Nets roster to the Eastern Conference Finals, putting the team on his back with performances like his 49-point, 17-rebound, 10-assist masterpiece in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals and his 48-point explosion in Game 7 just four nights later.
Despite missing the entirety of the 2019-20 season to rehab and half of the 2020-21 season due to various ailments, Durant was back at an MVP level in the postseason, something he parlayed into winning his third Gold Medal with Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics.
As our top-ranked player ahead of the 2021-22 season, Durant's eyes are set on winning NBA title No. 3.
The Final List
|1||Kevin Durant||Brooklyn Nets||2nd||294|
|2||Giannis Antetokounmpo||Milwaukee Bucks||3rd||293|
|3||LeBron James||Los Angeles Lakers||1st||279|
|4||Stephen Curry||Golden State Warriors||4th||271|
|5||Nikola Jokic||Denver Nuggets||6th||258|
|6||Luka Doncic||Dallas Mavericks||9th||250|
|7||Joel Embiid||Philadelphia 76ers||7th||241|
|8||James Harden||Brooklyn Nets||8th||232|
|9||Damian Lillard||Portland Trail Blazers||11th||217|
|10||Anthony Davis||Los Angeles Lakers||10th||212|
|11||Jimmy Butler||Miami Heat||12th||197|
|12||Jayson Tatum||Boston Celtics||13th||172|
|13||Devin Booker||Phoenix Suns||17th||164|
|14||Chris Paul||Phoenix Suns||19th||163|
|15||Paul George||LA Clippers||16th||162|
|16||Kyrie Irving||Brooklyn Nets||14th||131|
|17||Trae Young||Atlanta Hawks||29th||128|
|18||Donovan Mitchell||Utah Jazz||21st||123|
|19||Bradley Beal||Washington Wizards||15th||116|
|T-20||Bam Adebayo||Miami Heat||18th||105|
|T-20||Zion Williamson||New Orleans Pelicans||25th||105|
|22||Khris Middleton||Milwaukee Bucks||23rd||102|
|23||Rudy Gobert||Utah Jazz||22nd||92|
|24||Jaylen Brown||Boston Celtics||24th||68|
|25||Jrue Holiday||Milwaukee Bucks||Not Ranked||61|
|26||Karl-Anthony Towns||Minnesota Timberwolves||Not Ranked||52|
|27||Russell Westbrook||Los Angeles Lakers||Not Ranked||42|
|28||Ja Morant||Memphis Grizzlies||Not Ranked||30|
|29||Julius Randle||New York Knicks||Not Ranked||29|
|30||Ben Simmons||Philadelphia 76ers||20th||21|
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