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NBA

Ranking the 30 best players in the 2019-20 NBA season restart

For the last time this season, let's talk about who the best players in the NBA are.

If you're new to our rankings, here's what you need to know...

  • This is a collaborative effort from our NBA Global Staff. This time nine members - myself included - ranked who they believe are the top 30 players in the league. The average position was then taken for each player to determine the order.
  • Players who are currently out with injuries aren't included. That rules out Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, to name a few.
  • Players who aren't playing in Orlando aren't included. That rules out Bradley Beal, who is sitting out the season restart in Orlando because of a shoulder injury. We had Beal ranked as the 19th best player in the league prior to the season being suspended.
  • This is about the rest of this season. So it's more about the now than the future. If you want to find out who we think the best players in five years will be, click here.

Got it? Great. Now onto the rankings...

Biggest risers

Zion Williamson continues to move up our rankings, this time almost cracking the top 20. It still feels a little crazy to be talking about someone who has played only 19 games in their NBA career as one of the best players in the league, but that speaks to how incredible Williamson was in those 19 games.

Someone who has now cracked the top 20 is Bam Adebayo, moving from 25th in our last rankings to 18th in this one. He probably benefits more than anyone from us not including Karl-Anthony Towns, Trae Young and Bradley Beal, each of whom were ahead of Adebayo in our last rankings but will not be playing in Orlando. Even so, Adebayo has proven to be one of the league's rising stars this season with his two-way play. He could be a staple in the top 20 for the foreseeable future.

Finally, Jayson Tatum has moved into the top 10, surpassing Pascal Siakam and Jimmy Butler in our rankings. More on him in a bit.

Biggest fallers

We had a hard time placing Rudy Gobert.

The highest anyone ranked him was 17th by yours truly. The lowest? 30th. As a result, Gobert has dropped 11 spots (!) since our last rankings, from 13th to 24th.

I'm honestly not sure why. Gobert hasn't been quite as good this season as he was last season, but he's still one of the best defenders in the league. We might be taking his defence, as well as his rebounding, for granted at this point.

Joining Gobert in biggest fallers is Kemba Walker, who went from 23rd to 30th. This is almost certainly due to injuries, as Walker has been dealing with a nagging knee injury since our last rankings. If he can stay healthy in Orlando, there's a good chance he'll move back up in our next rankings.

On the outside looking in

Otherwise known as the "Made Some Ballots But Not All Of Them" list.

The closest to making the top 30 was DeMar DeRozan. He ranked as high as 24th on one list, but he wasn't included at all in five of our nine ballots. He continues to be one of the most polarizing players in the league.

Following DeRozan were Jrue Holiday and De'Aaron Fox. Leaving both of them off hurts. Holiday has been underrated his entire career and is still one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. Fox's career is just getting started, but it wouldn't be a surprise if we're soon talking about him as one of the best point guards in the league.

In addition to DeRozan, Holiday and Fox, some other notable omissions: Nikola Vucevic, Gordon Hayward, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, Jamal Murray, Fred VanVleet, Marcus Smart and Malcolm Brogdon.

Nobody said this was easy.

Where are the Raptors?

Two Raptors made the top 30: Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry.

Siakam landed in 12th and Lowry finished 17th. It's actually a slight drop for Siakam and a slight improvement for Lowry. Compared to the last time we did this exercise, Siakam fell two spots, whereas Lowry jumped two spots.

We were all over the place with Siakam. The highest he ranked was 10th. The lowest? 17th behind the following 10 players, plus Paul George, Chris Paul, Ben Simmons, Zion Williamson, Jimmy Butler and Lowry.

10. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics

Highest rank: 9

Lowest rank: 13

This is us banking on the player Tatum was prior to the season being suspended being here to stay. He's been incredible since the turn of the New Year, posting averages of 26.0 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.4 steals per game on .473/.430/.780 shooting splits. Those are the types of numbers that earn MVP love, not just All-Star selections.

9. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers

Highest rank: 8

Lowest rank: 11

It's been a weird season for Embiid. He's once again dealt with injuries and his numbers have taken a hit since last season, but peak Embiid is still an unmovable force on offence and arguably the scariest player in the league on defence. If he shows up in Orlando, he'll make us look silly for having him ninth.

8. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets

Highest rank: 5

Lowest rank: 9

A candidate to make the MVP shortlist for the second year in a row. Led by Jokic's 20.2 points, 10.2 rebounds and 6.9 assists, the Nuggets had the third-best record in the Western Conference prior to the season being suspended. One member of our staff had Jokic as high as fifth, putting him ahead of Luka Doncic, Damian Lillard and James Harden.

7. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

Highest rank: 6

Lowest rank: 8

It's incredible to think that Doncic is already a top 10 player in the league in only his second season. There are only five other players in NBA history who have posted the numbers Doncic has this season. Their names? James Harden, Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson. Pretty good company for the 21-year-old to be in.

6. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

Highest rank: 5

Lowest rank: 9

The Blazers are outside looking in on the playoffs in the Western Conference, but that shouldn't take away from the season Lillard is having. He had an all-time stretch prior to the All-Star break in which he averaged 42.4 points and 9.6 assists over nine games. He scored 40 or more points in six of those games, including a 61-point outing against the Golden State Warriors.

5. James Harden, Houston Rockets

Highest rank: 4

Lowest rank: 7

What else is there to say about Harden at this point? He's an offence unto himself and he's set to lead the league in scoring for the third straight season. The only thing remaining on his to-do list is win a title. Is this the year he does it?

4. Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakes

Highest rank: 4

Lowest rank: 7

Unlike last time, we all agreed that Davis is the best big man in the league. He's once again a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year, all while ranking 10th in the league in scoring with 26.7 points per game. We expected him to fit in like a glove next to LeBron James when he was traded to the Lakers. He's done just that.

3. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

Highest rank: 1

Lowest rank: 3

The playoffs are LeBron's time to shine. Need you be reminded, The King averaged 34.0 points, 9.1 rebounds and 9.0 assists the last time he was in the playoffs, culminating in a Finals appearance for a good but not great Cleveland Cavaliers team. He's two years older now, but you should know by now to never count out LeBron in the playoffs.

2. Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers

Highest rank: 1

Lowest rank: 3

Leonard had a career year last season with the Toronto Raptors and he's been even better in his first season with the Clippers. To go along with a career-best 26.9 points per game, he's averaging a career-best 5.0 assists. Should Leonard win Finals MVP in a Clippers uniform, he'd become the first player in NBA history to win the award with three different teams.

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

Highest rank: 1

Lowest rank: 3

For the first this season, Antetokounmpo takes the top spot. It was close, but he just edged out Leonard. Based on our end-of-season award picks, Antetokounmpo could very well take home both MVP and DPOY this season, making him only the third player in NBA history - the others being Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon - to win both awards in the same season.

For the rest of the rankings, here are the full results...

Top 30 NBA players heading into 2019-20 season restart
Rank Player Previous Rank
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo 2nd
2. Kawhi Leonard 1st
3. LeBron James 3rd
4. Anthony Davis 4th
5. James Harden 5th
6. Damian Lillard 7th
7. Luka Doncic 6th
8. Nikola Jokic 8th
9. Joel Embiid 11th
10. Jayson Tatum 12th
11. Paul George 14th
12. Pascal Siakam 10th
13. Jimmy Butler 9th
14. Chris Paul 16th
15. Russell Westbrook 17th
16. Ben Simmons 15th
17. Kyle Lowry T-19th
18. Bam Adebayo 25th
19. Khris Middleton T-21st
20. Donovan Mitchell 18th
21. Zion Williamson 26th
22. Devin Booker 27th
23. Kristaps Porzingis Not Ranked
24. Rudy Gobert 13th
25. Jaylen Brown Not Ranked
26. Ja Morant 29th
27. Domantas Sabonis 30th
28. CJ McCollum Not Ranked
29. Brandon Ingram Not Ranked
30. Kemba Walker 23rd

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