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The National Basketball Association is the world’s most prestigious professional basketball league; there is no greater level. Top players around the world go to North America to be picked by one of the NBA’s 30 clubs. Each club has 15 players on its roster, with only 12 of them active or eligible to participate in a game.
This year’s rankings were established using a combination of statistics and human judgment. The goal remains to evaluate NBA players in as much of a vacuum as possible, without overvaluing team context when judging their skill.
To be precise, these rankings are only for the current season and don’t include players’ long-term potential or career paths beyond 2021-22. Rookies weren’t considered, as has been the custom here. As a result, these rankings should be viewed as short-term value forecasts. This isn’t a reflection of a player’s trade or contract worth, and it doesn’t take into consideration the influence of his pay on his output.
5 Top NBA Players for the 2021-22 Season
1. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets:
Durant’s peak potential was called into question for the first time in his career after he spent the whole 2019-20 season recuperating from a ruptured Achilles. Would the four-time scoring champion, at 32 years old, come back and look precisely as he did when we last saw him—that is, could he again be one of the world’s two or three top players?
Durant’s regular season was hampered by a strained left hamstring and a left thigh contusion, which were subsequently overshadowed by a blockbuster deal for James Harden. But in the 35 games he did play, KD looked like himself, with a statistical profile that equaled or exceeded the majority of his career norms.
His accomplishments are even more impressive when you consider he missed the whole 2019-20 season and a big portion of the 2020-21 season. Riding the wave of a historic postseason and a spectacular performance at the Tokyo Olympics, it’s apparent that Durant’s emphasis has shifted to capturing his third NBA championship.
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks:
Aside from Durant, Antetokounmpo, the reigning NBA champion and winner of two of the past three league MVPs has the strongest case for the No. 1 spot.
His ability to rapidly recover from one of the most heinous knee hyperextensions you’ll ever witness changed the course of basketball history, earning the Bucks a championship. That shouldn’t be something to be taken for granted.
3. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers:
I’d argue that the margin between third and first isn’t that wide since James was a frontrunner for MVP during the 2020-21 season before a high ankle sprain wrecked his and the Lakers’ season. Despite still seeming hampered during the postseason, James led LA over Golden State in the Play-In Tournament before falling out in the first round to the Phoenix Suns, marking the first time in his career that he had been eliminated in the first round.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned about James, it’s that those experiences are still vivid in his memory, and with a new supporting cast in 2021-22, we expect him to challenge for the top place.
4. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors:
Curry is as good as ever as he enters Year 13 of his career. Not only did the greatest shooter of all time win his second scoring title last season by averaging a career-high 32.0 points per game, but he also finished third in MVP voting by nearly forcing Golden State into the playoffs.
Golden State has reloaded with talent through the draft and free agency this season, but Thompson’s return to the lineup will be the most anticipated shift, which should only make things easier for Curry. Curry’s life made easier? Sounds like the league is in big trouble.
5. Nikola Jokić, Denver Nuggets:
Every night, Jokic is in danger of getting a triple-double. As a shooter, he has excellent touch, allowing him to pop for threes on pick-and-rolls or draw up for tiny midrange Js at the elbow.
In the post, Jokic does not bulldoze anyone. Instead, he attacks with a flurry of movements until finding the right angle on the backboard and uncorking a shot from a humorously uncomfortable position. Of course, he’s a far superior passer, keeping the Nuggets’ offense humming and always finding open guys on the floor.
Jokic has been one of the NBA’s most influential offensive players for many years. His defense will never be exceptional, but it can be constructed around him to be adequate. What matters more is that Jokic’s unique mix of abilities not only lifts his own game to new heights but also those around him.