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NBA

Who are the best players in the NBA?

Can LeBron James hold off Kawhi Leonard for the title as best player in the NBA?
Can LeBron James hold off Kawhi Leonard for the title as best player in the NBA? (Getty Images)

Who are the best players in the NBA?

Over 500 players suited up for an NBA franchise last season yet only a select few are considered to be among the league's truly elite.

Did missing the playoffs impact the standing of LeBron James? How high did Kawhi Leonard climb after his incredible postseason run? How long until Giannis Antetokounmpo takes over the league? What will Anthony Davis look like in Los Angeles?

Kevin Durant, James Harden, Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, Russell Westbrook, Joel Embiid, Kyrie Irving, Nikola Jokic, Paul George ... there's load of starpower throughout the entire league, which makes picking just 15 all the more difficult.

Several times a year, our Global NBA.com staff votes to determine the top 15 players in the league. Here are the latest rankings along with the biggest changes since the last update following All-Star Weekend.

Keep in mind that this list assumes full health so as to avoid trying to predict how players like Durant or Klay Thompson will look whenever they make it back onto the hardwood.

Top Players in the NBA
Player Previous Rank 2018-19 Regular Season
1. Kawhi Leonard 6th 26.6 PTS, 7.3 REB, 3.3 AST
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo 4th 27.7 PTS, 12.5 REB, 5.9 AST
3. LeBron James 1st 27.4 PTS, 8.5 REB, 8.3 AST
4. Kevin Durant 2nd 26.0 PTS, 6.4 REB, 5.9 AST
5. Stephen Curry 3rd 27.3 PTS, 5.3 REB, 5.2 AST
6. James Harden 5th 36.1 PTS, 7.5 AST, 6.6 REB
7. Damian Lillard 12th 25.8 PTS, 6.9 AST, 4.6 REB
8. Anthony Davis 8th 25.9 PTS, 12.0 REB, 3.9 AST
9. Nikola Jokic 10th 20.1 PTS, 10.8 REB, 7.3 AST
T-10. Joel Embiid 7th 27.5 PTS, 13.6 REB, 3.7 AST
T-10. Paul George 9th 28.0 PTS, 8.2 REB, 4.1 AST
12. Klay Thompson N/A 21.5 PTS, 3.8 REB, 2.4 AST
13. Kyrie Irving 11th 23.8 PTS, 6.9 AST, 5.0 REB
14. Bradley Beal 15th 25.6 PTS, 5.5 AST, 5.0 REB
15. Jimmy Butler N/A 18.7 PTS, 5.3 REB, 4.0 AST

Biggest takeaways

The Rise of Kawhi: It's wild how much four months can change the overriding perception. Coming out of the All-Star break, we had Kawhi Leonard ranked sixth. Though it was apparent he was back to being himself, nobody could foresee the rise to truly elite of the elite status. Is this ranking a result of being held hostage by the moment? Perhaps. But for the time being, it's Kawhi Leonard's league.

Guard dominant league?: Given the importance of guard play in today's NBA, it's somewhat surprising that only three of the top 12 are traditional playmaking guards with the cluster of Curry, Harden and Lillard. It speaks to the next wave of playmaking bigs that could perhaps replace the idea of a traditional point guard.

Helped by playoff perceptions: There were two players in this edition that were not included in the last go-around: Klay Thompson and Jimmy Butler. Both of them had standout performances in the postseason with Thompson stepping up for Golden State following Kevin Durant's injury (and before his own) and Butler at times looking like Philadelphia's best player when it mattered the most, no small feat given he shared the floor with Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris.

Who fell out?: With Butler and Thompson climbing into the top 15, that meant two players had to drop out. In this instance, it's Rudy Gobert and Russell Westbrook. Gobert dropping in a season in which he won his second Defensive Player of the Year award probably says more about how the league is perceived than it does his actual value. Westbrook's standing is likely diminished thanks to another 1st-Round loss despite yet again averaging a triple-double in the regular season.

Exhibit PG-13: Paul George might be the perfect example of just how much top shelf talent is in the league right now. He's coming off a season in which he finished as a top-3 finalist for BOTH Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player of the Year while ranking second in the league in scoring ... and yet he barely cracked top 10 on our list.

Who just missed?

There are six players who received top-15 votes, but didn't crack the overall combined list:

Who is next?

There's an immense amount of young talent throughout the league with any number of players who this time next season could show up on our top 15. 10 more potential names to keep an eye on?

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

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