NBA

Who are the best players in the NBA entering the second half of the 2020-21 season?

With NBA All-Star 2021 behind us, we're making our way to the second half of the 2020-21 season.

What better time for an updated edition of our player rankings?

As we've done in the past, these rankings were done collaboratively, as 10 members of our NBA.com Global Staff submitted a list of who they believe are the top 30 players at the midway point of the season. From there, we used a point system to come up with the list.

We last ranked players in late December as a preview to the 2020-21 season. Since then, there's been some shuffling throughout the list, largely influenced by early-season success - or lack thereof - from players and their respective teams.

Now, onto the list…

Notable omissions

With so much talent in the NBA, cutting off the list at 30 means some notable players won't make it.

Here are some of the biggest names to not make it:

Of those players, Ingram, LaVine, Morant, Randle and Towns each receiving votes with Towns barely missing the cut.

Lowry (26th), Morant (27th), Siakam (24th) and Towns (23rd) were on our list ahead of the season while Conley and Ingram were first-time All-Stars in 2020 and 2021, respectively.

10. Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers

Highest rank: 7

Lowest rank: 11

It's been a rough season for Davis, who missed each of the last nine games leading into the All-Star break with an Achilles injury but the team is optimistic he can return before the end of March.

When he was on the floor, though, Davis' play saw some regression from last year's All-NBA First Team level performance though he was still producing at an All-Star level. In 23 games, LA's superstar big man is averaging 22.5 points and 8.4 rebounds - the lowest mark since his rookie year - while shooting just 29.3 percent from beyond the arc.

The Lakers' hopes to repeat as champions hinge on Davis' health.

9. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

Highest rank: 7

Lowest rank: 12

After a breakout postseason performance with the seventh-seeded Mavericks, the bar was set high for Doncic ahead of the 2020-21 season. Like, MVP favourite high.

While Doncic is averaging an absurd stat line of 28.6 points, 9.0 assists and 8.4 rebounds this season, a rough start to the season has set Dallas back to the point where it will look to make up ground in the second half of the season to avoid being a play-in team.

He might be a few years away from that MVP consideration but that's OK, let's not forget that he just turned 22.

8. James Harden, Brooklyn Nets

Highest rank: 3

Lowest rank: 10

A lot has changed since we last ranked Harden.

An early-season trade sent him from Houston to Brooklyn where he's teamed up with two other top-30 players in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. With more point guard duties, the reigning back-to-back-to-back scoring champ has taken a step or two back as a scorer and put his playmaking hat back on as he is well on his way to winning the second assists title of his career with a league-leading 11.1 dimes per game.

With all the talent in Brooklyn, Harden is in a great position to win his first NBA title this year, too.

7. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers

Highest rank: 3

Lowest rank: 10

Embiid made a huge leap from outside of the top 10 in our previous ranking to land at seven here.

It's warranted.

Philly's star centre has emerged as an MVP favourite thanks to his play in the first half of the season, averaging a career-high 30.2 points to go along with 11.6 rebounds per game. Not only that but Embiid's Sixers entered the All-Star break with the East's best record.

If they can hold on to the East's No. 1 seed, he could very well be named the league's MVP.

6. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets

Highest rank: 3

Lowest rank: 8

The Joker has done it all for his team this year.

Midway through the season, Jokic is averaging career-highs in points (27.1), rebounds (11.0) and assists (8.6) per contest on insane .567/.418/.881 shooting splits. While the assists numbers are no surprise - our NBA.com Global Staff recently ranked him as the league's best passer - Jokic has already put forth four (!) 40-point performances this year.

A slow start has hindered Denver but a second-half push could heat up the MVP race.

5. Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers

Highest rank: 3

Lowest rank: 10

Just like his demeanour, Kawhi is quietly putting forth a season worthy of MVP consideration.

Through Leonard's efforts, the Clippers have firmly established themselves as one of the top four teams in the West, though all eyes will be on what they can do in the postseason. If the regular season is any indication, things are looking promising.

Save for a few minor injuries, Leonard has been largely available for this team and when on the floor, has really keyed in on his post game, as pointed out by NBA.com's Scott Rafferty.

4. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

Highest rank: 3

Lowest rank: 9

The game is just much more fun when Curry is healthy.

The two-time MVP continues to prove time and time again that he is in a class of his own, with his exploits at NBA All-Star 2021 serving as the latest example. In what is a transitional year for the Warriors, Curry is averaging 29.7 points (the most since his unanimous MVP season), 6.3 assists and 5.5 rebounds per game and his team is in the thick of the playoff hunt.

Curry will soon be 33 but as the best shooter the NBA has ever seen, his game should age gracefully. This is evidenced by his signature performances of the year, including a 62-point outburst earlier in the season.

Something tells me there's more where that came from.

3. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

Highest rank: 2

Lowest rank: 11

Are we taking Giannis for granted? While falling at third certainly doesn't necessarily lend itself to that notion, the bar has been set incredibly high for the back-to-back reigning MVP and reigning Defensive Player of the Year.

Let's start here: Antetokounmpo is averaging 29.0 points, 11.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists through the first 35 games of the season - insane figures - but Giannis is so good it feels like that's come to be what we expect from him and many barely bat an eye.

That's … not normal.

Still, with his play this season, Antetokounnpo will likely be a finalist for MVP and Defensive Player of the Year but, as I outlined back when he earned both awards in 2020, the award his eye is on to fill out his trophy case is the Larry O'Brien.

Milwaukee will be on a mission this postseason.

2. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets

Highest rank: 2

Lowest rank: 3

While some might have had reservations or worries leading into the season, KD has sent the basketball world a resounding message to start the season.

He's back.

Durant has missed time due to various things this season, namely the league's health and safety protocols and a hamstring injury that held him out of nine games leading into the All-Star break but when he's been active, it's been a sight to behold.

In his first 19 games, Durant is averaging 29.0 points - the highest since his MVP campaign in 2013-14 -, 7.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists for a Nets team that is beginning to put fear into all other 29 franchises. That he's doing this after missing 18 months due to an Achilles injury and the subsequent rehab is just a reminder of how special he is.

1. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

Highest rank: 1

Lowest rank: 1

Unanimous.

It's not often that a group of 10 can come to an agreement on a basketball-related topic but when it comes to this season, it couldn't have been anyone other than LeBron.

In Year 18, the 36-year-old continues to amaze, posting averages of 25.8 points, 8.0 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game. After leading the league in assists in 2019-20, James is knocking down a career-best 2.4 3s per contest at a 35.8 percent clip.

Before his team hit a rough patch due to injuries sustained by Davis and Dennis Schröder, it appeared that James might have had the MVP race wrapped up by the season's break.

Regardless, as the Lakers make their push to go back-to-back, James is the one that keeps them going and doesn't seem to show any sign of slowing down. They'll have their work cut out for them but with James playing at this level, you can't help but like their chances.

The Final List

Rank Player Team Previous Rank Points
1 LeBron James Los Angeles Lakers 1st 10
2 Kevin Durant Brooklyn Nets 5th 21
3 Giannis Antetokounmpo Milwaukee Bucks 2nd 52
4 Stephen Curry Golden State Warriors 7th 53
5 Kawhi Leonard LA Clippers 4th 57
6 Nikola Jokic Denver Nuggets 8th 58
7 Joel Embiid Philadelphia 76ers 13th 59
8 James Harden Brooklyn Nets 9th 65
9 Luka Doncic Dallas Mavericks 6th 94
10 Anthony Davis Los Angeles Lakers 3rd 95
11 Damian Lillard Portland Trail Blazers 10th 97
12 Jimmy Butler Miami Heat 11th 120
13 Jayson Tatum Boston Celtics 12th 141
14 Kyrie Irving Brooklyn Nets 18th 151
15 Bradley Beal Washington Wizards 21st 170
16 Paul George LA Clippers 22nd 172
17 Devin Booker Phoenix Suns 19th 178
18 Bam Adebayo Miami Heat 15th 192
19 Chris Paul Phoenix Suns 14th 195
20 Ben Simmons Philadelphia 76ers 16th 199
21 Donovan Mitchell Utah Jazz 17th 200
22 Rudy Gobert Utah Jazz 29th 220
23 Khris Middleton Milwaukee Bucks Not Ranked 223
24 Jaylen Brown Boston Celtics 28th 229
25 Zion Williamson New Orleans Pelicans 30th 231
26 DeMar DeRozan San Antonio Spurs Not Ranked 241
27 Jamal Murray Denver Nuggets 20th 253
28 Fred VanVleet Toronto Raptors Not Ranked 270
29 Trae Young Atlanta Hawks 25th 271
30 Domantas Sabonis Indiana Pacers Not Ranked 278

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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