This piece is not to be confused with my MVP race or my orderly rankings of players based on talent; this is strictly from what we witnessed through the majority of a full NBA season, or just about 65 games (give or take) per team.
*ALL STATS BASED ON AVERAGES PER 100 POSSESSIONS*
Honorable Mention: Hassan Whiteside, John Collins, Collin Sexton, Gordon Hayward, Serge Ibaka, Dennis Schroder, Tobias Harris, Devonte Graham, Eric Bledsoe, Caris LeVert
50. PF/C Montrezl Harrell (63 games played) – 58.0 FG%, 6.2 FTM, 31.6 PTS, 12.0 REB, 1.9 BLK
Harrell is set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason and is sure to attract major interest from teams that could use one of the league’s more active and aggressive big bodies. He perhaps took over the reigns from teammate Lou Williams as the league’s most valuable sixth man this season.
49. SG Buddy Hield (64 games played) – 3.5 3PM, 39.5 3P%, 30.2 PTS, 7.3 REB, 4.7 AST
There was apparently a lot of uncertainty swirling around the Kings organization. From Hield anxiously expressing he wanted an extension to him eventually coming off the bench toward the latter part of the season, the Kings maintained their status as a mystery that cannot yet be solved.
48. G Jamal Murray (55 games played) – 45.5 FG%, 28.3 PTS, 7.3 AST, 5.9 REB, 1.8 STL
The 23-year-old Murray has yet to average 20 points in a season but it seems inevitable it will happen one of these years. The only thing holding him back is the Nuggets’ system. They have six players averaging double-figures and nine players averaging at least seven points per game. They share the ball as well as any team in the league.
47. PG Malcolm Brogdon (48 games played) – 49.1 2P%, 89.5 FT%, 25.9 PTS, 11.4 AST, 7.5 REB
Because Brogdon stayed all four years in college, he already figures to be at the beginning of his prime in only his fourth year since he’s 27 years old. We really don’t know how much Brogdon’s departure from Milwaukee actually affected the Bucks. Only the playoffs could have confirmed if in fact they were really missing him.
46. PF/C LaMarcus Aldridge (53 games played) – 1.7 3PM, 38.9 3P%, 27.4 PTS, 10.7 REB, 2.4 BLK
Before the Spurs’ disappointing 2019-20 campaign, Aldridge hadn’t experienced a losing record since the 2012-13 season. That really changes the outlook of the type of season he was having. The Spurs’ new “Big Fundamental” because of his old-school playing style, Aldridge can still explode for 40 points any given night.
45. PF Kevin Love (56 games played) – 4.0 3PM, 37.4 3P%, 27.0 PTS, 15.0 REB, 4.9 AST
Love certainly doesn’t have the upside he once did but is one of the last players that had to worry about adapting to the new NBA. He has been more than comfortable shooting the three-ball nearly his whole career. Now he has gotten to a point where he can create and step in to his own perimeter shots instead of strictly catch-and-shoot.
44. SF/SG Andrew Wiggins (54 games played) – 2.8 3PM, 50.6 2P%, 29.6 PTS, 6.9 REB, 5.0 AST
The $122 million remaining on Wiggins’ contract was anything but easy to move. However, the Timberwolves found the right team that was willing to take him and now he couldn’t possibly be in a more favorable situation. Should Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson get back to full strength, Wiggins has a glaring opportunity to make a name for himself.
43. C Andre Drummond (57 games played) – 53.3 FG%, 26.4 PTS, 22.6 REB, 2.8 STL, 2.4 BLK
Drummond has long proved he’s easily the most dynamic rebounding big man in the NBA. He averaged over 15 rebounds for the third straight year. The Pistons had no choice but to move on as his market was watered down. Not that he isn’t an All-Star caliber player; big men like Drummond are just being tested in today’s perimeter-oriented game.
42. PG Derrick Rose (50 games played) – 49.0 FG%, 87.1 FT%, 34.3 PTS, 10.5 AST, 1.5 STL
Not only did he show flashes of the former MVP, but Rose actually was that exact player at times this year. The only difference is he’s eight years older and makes a lot more sense on a team that has a chance to compete at a high level. His per-minute production was amongst the best of his career. Based on this season, D-Rose still has a lot to offer.
41. PG De’Aaron Fox (45 games played) – 47.5 FG%, 31.5 PTS, 10.4 AST, 6.2 REB, 2.2 STL
Fox was the third point guard selected in the 2017 draft behind Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball. Through three years, Fox has hands-down been the best of that trio. Fox wasn’t talked about a whole lot this year but quietly showed some growing strides while having a solid season individually.
40. G Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (63 games played) – 51.1 2P%, 26.7 PTS, 8.4 REB, 4.6 AST, 1.5 STL
Usually I’m not one to drool over one game. But with S.G.A.’s 20-point/20-rebound effort, this is something to make a lot of. When do you see guards corral in 20 rebounds in one game? Gilgeous-Alexander figures to be the future of the OKC franchise – and maybe the present too if Chris Paul ever gets traded.
39. F Bojan Bogdanovic (63 games played) – 4.4 3PM, 41.4 3P%, 29.8 PTS, 6.1 REB, 3.1 AST
Bogdanovic has gradually developed into one of the most electrifying foreign players in the league. Here’s what’s not at all foreign to him – that’s joining a new team. Bogdanovic was welcomed in Utah with open arms and immediately given the green light to be a catalyst of this offense while enjoying a career season.
38. SF/SG Jaylen Brown (50 games played) – 3.0 3PM, 49.0 FG%, 29.0 PTS, 9.0 REB, 1.6 STL
Brown was highly efficient on both sides of the ball but largely overshadowed by the stardom of Jayson Tatum. Brown doesn’t have all the offensive ability that Tatum does but he is probably just as important to the Celtics’ success. He wasn’t known as a dangerous 3-point shooter entering the league but he has steadily gained traction as one.
37. PF/C Kristaps Porzingis (51 games played) – 3.8 3PM, 47.7 2P%, 29.7 PTS, 14.6 REB, 3.2 BLK
We wouldn’t have concluded this when Porzingis was the man in New York. However, it appears he might actually be better suited as a second-fiddle behind a star like Luka Doncic. It’s well-known the Mavs live and die with the offensive firepower of Doncic but Porzingis should keep improving due to his complicated recovery from a torn ACL.
36. PG D’Angelo Russell (45 games played) – 5.2 3PM, 34.0 PTS, 9.3 AST, 5.8 REB, 1.9 STL
Minnesota’s acquisition of Russell may have been one of the least surprising blockbuster trades in recent history. The rumor around the league was that Russell was just viewed by the Warriors as an asset. That turned out to be true and now he is in an enticing situation with a chance to help turn this Wolves franchise around alongside Karl-Anthony Towns.
35. G Jrue Holiday (55 games played) – 50.2 2P%, 25.9 PTS, 9.1 AST, 6.4 REB. 2.2 STL
It slightly bothers me that people are starting to get away with not considering Holiday one of the best two-way players in the league. Make no mistake; Holiday shows very few flaws, if any at all, and is still a tremendous two-way player, and not just compared to other point guards.
34. G Spencer Dinwiddie (64 games played) – 8.3 FTM, 48.5 2P%, 31.4 PTS, 10.3 AST, 5.3 REB
Dinwiddie has come a long way from being a fringe roster player to one of the league’s ultimate crunch-time threats. He ranks top ten in total points in the clutch as well as third in free throws made in the clutch. Still, Dinwiddie is a healthy Nets team’s third most-talented option at best and has been verbal at times about how disrespected he is.
33. PG Kemba Walker (50 games played) – 5.0 3PM, 86.7 FT%, 32.2 PTS, 7.5 AST, 6.2 REB
Despite recently making his fourth consecutive All-Star appearance, Walker was somewhat flying under the radar as a low-key top-ten point guard and nothing more. None of that really matters though because it was expected his offensive volume would take a hit with his new team and he was doing a great job leading by example.
32. C Karl-Anthony Towns (35 games played) – 4.5 3PM, 41.2 3P%, 36.2 PTS, 14.8 REB, 6.0 AST
Just a few months ago, K.A.T. encountered his first significant injury of his professional career. As evidenced by his statistics, Towns had molded himself into an unconscious jump-shooter and that almost makes you forget about the damage he can do in the low-post as well. He probably deserves more attention as part of the NBA’s elite.
31. SF Paul George (42 games played) – 39.9 3P%, 34.0 PTS, 9.3 REB, 6.3 AST, 2.2 STL
After missing about the first quarter of the regular season, P.G. was starting to pick up some steam and he seemed plenty content taking a backseat to Kawhi Leonard. George was still hoisting up nearly eight 3-pointers per game and connecting on them at a more-than-respectable rate. It was all about the playoffs this time around.
30. SG CJ McCollum (62 games played) – 3.7 3PM, 38.0 3P%, 29.8 PTS, 5.7 AST, 5.4 REB
In a brief six-game stretch without Damian Lillard in the lineup, McCollum proceeded to average 33.3 points on 40.6% 3-point shooting to go with 8.3 assists during that span. The Blazers are obviously much better off with its backcourt in full-throttle but that small sample size does show what C.J.M. is capable of despite never making an All-Star team.
29. SG/SF DeMar DeRozan (61 games played) – 7.8 FTM, 52.6 FG%, 31.0 PTS, 7.9 REB, 7.8 AST
The main story about DeRozan hasn’t been his rare mid-range shooting efficiency. Instead, it’s been regarding the likelihood he would opt out of the final year of his contract to sign elsewhere following the season. DeRozan is 11 years deep in this league with seven straight seasons of more than 20 points per game. He shouldn’t be taken for granted.
28. C Nikola Vucevic (54 games played) – 2.3 3PM, 52.3 2P%, 29.1 PTS, 16.5 REB, 5.6 AST
Vucevic failed to make back-to-back All-Star appearances because of players like Bam Adebayo and Domantas Sabonis who took his shine. Nevertheless, it goes without saying the Magic desperately needs the 29-year-old big man to ensure locking up a playoff spot. It’s plain and simple; Vucevic is a model of consistency for this franchise.
27. PG Ja Morant (59 games played) – 49.1 FG%, 36.7 3P%, 27.4 PTS, 10.8 AST, 5.5 REB
The rookie phenom wasted no time turning in some stellar performances early in the season. Morant was the primary component to the Grizzlies being possibly the league’s biggest surprise. It’s very possible they could have fallen out of the playoffs but at least we know what’s in store for this “rebuilding” organization.
26. SG Zach LaVine (60 games played) – 4.3 3PM, 35.3 PTS, 6.7 REB, 5.9 AST, 2.0 STL
LaVine was top ten in the league in usage rate ahead of the likes of LBJ, Lillard, and many others. The impact he made a nightly basis was perhaps too unnoticed because he was lost in the disarray of this underachieving Bulls team. LaVine’s future in Chicago seems murky and it probably wouldn’t hurt for him to play alongside an experienced All-Star.
25. F/PG Ben Simmons (54 games played) – 58.5 FG%, 22.7 PTS, 11.1 AST, 10.6 REB, 2.9 STL
Simmons averaged 21.6 points (65.3 FG%), 9.3 rebounds and 7.9 assists in a nine-game span in January without Embiid. Scoring was way up, rebounds were up, and assists were just barely down. Embiid handles the ball more than some people realize. Ask yourself: would things really be drastically different if Simmons played with Nikola Jokic instead?
24. PG Kyle Lowry (52 games played) – 50.5 2P%, 86.1 FT%, 25.8 PTS, 10.0 AST, 6.3 REB
Reigning champion Lowry was one of four players to average 36 minutes per game and had the Raptors playing some of their best basketball ever (Kawhi Leonard included). Although he’s had some pretty good backcourt mates, Lowry doesn’t necessarily need a top-notch shooting guard to maintain some of the best backcourt stability in the NBA.
23. G Donovan Mitchell (63 games played) – 3.5 3PM, 45.3 FG%, 34.3 PTS, 6.2 REB, 5.9 AST
Mitchell is purely gifted in that he’s listed just over six-feet tall but can really play point guard, shooting guard, as well as small forward if his team really needs him to. He was basically replicating his play from last year statistically but that extra year of experience helped earn him his first All-Star nod. The big question: is Mitchell a true franchise player?
22. C Joel Embiid (44 games played) – 2.0 3PM, 37.7 PTS, 19.0 REB, 5.0 AST, 2.1 BLK
Due to his shaky injury history, Embiid is probably one of those players who will always have to utilize the “load management” tactic. It would be pretty hard to argue he isn’t the best overall center in the NBA if you aren’t counting Anthony Davis. Whether positive or negative, it regularly seems there are alternate story-lines surrounding Embiid.
21. PG Trae Young (60 games played) – 4.5 3PM, 10.6 FTM, 39.1 PTS, 12.3 AST, 5.6 REB
Although he has drawn early-career comparisons to Steph Curry, it might be ill-advised to compare Young with any single player. Just as Curry paved the way for many sharpshooting point guards like him, Young is also the first of his kind since obviously no other player in history has attempted over nine 3-pointers per game in year two.
20. C Rudy Gobert (62 games played) – 69.8 FG%, 5.2 FTM, 21.3 PTS, 19.3 REB, 2.8 BLK
Gobert’s game might not be as flashy as most guys on this list but he reigns supreme when it comes to overall efficiency. He and Anthony Davis were the only two players in the league with at least six offensive win shares and four defensive win shares. I’m not huge on metrics but it shows Gobert is much more than just a rim protector.
19. PF/C Domantas Sabonis (62 games played) – 54.0 FG%, 72.3 FT%, 25.9 PTS, 17.4 REB, 7.0 AST
The Pacers have had a large void to fill with Victor Oladipo missing much of the last two years. Sabonis has assumed many of those responsibilities. He was part of the return from trading their former franchise player Paul George. Sabonis, a cognizant playmaker and franchise player himself, figures to be entering his prime in the next few years.
18. F/SG Brandon Ingram (56 games played) – 3.3 3PM, 38.7 3P%, 32.7 PTS, 8.4 REB, 5.8 AST
The trade to New Orleans has allowed Ingram to break of of his shell and unleash his natural scoring abilities. Those were also visible in Los Angeles but he needed more freedom with the ball in his hands. Ingram is now seen as a walking bucket, one who demands full attention from the defense. He’s in a much better situation with the Pelicans.
17. C/PF Bam Adebayo (65 games played) – 56.7 FG%, 23.1 PTS, 15.0 REB, 7.3 AST, 1.7 STL
Adebayo and Duncan Robinson were the two young Heat players to surprisingly emerge on the scene while both appearing in all 65 games. If you take any Bucks players out of the equation, Robinson/Adebayo was statistically one of the strongest duos in the Eastern Conference. Who would have ever thought?
16. F Jayson Tatum (59 games played) – 4.0 3P, 39.8 3P%, 32.9 PTS, 9.9 REB, 2.0 STL
Building off my commentary for the Miami players, Tatum and Kemba Walker had the best net rating of any non-Bucks player to play at least 1,000 minutes together in the Eastern Conference. That was all made possible because Walker didn’t mind being a part of the well-oiled engine instead of running the show like he did in Charlotte.
15. G Russell Westbrook (53 games played) – 51.8 2P%, 35.5 PTS, 10.4 REB, 9.0 AST, 2.1 STL
Although Harden’s heroics were perhaps more recognized, Westbrook was playing phenomenal basketball in the new year while averaging well over 30 points and shooting well over 50 percent since then. Harden and Westbrook is something we had seen before but way back when. This version of the Harden-Westbrook backcourt was on a new level.
14. SF/SG Khris Middleton (55 games played) – 3.7 3PM, 41.8 3P%, 32.0 PTS, 9.4 REB, 6.2 AST
Middleton has made back-to-back All-Star appearances. Although that’s one the only achievements by his name, defining him as any two-time All-Star would be an understatement. Through 65 games, Middleton was nearly on pace to join the infamous 50 FG%, 40 3P%, 90 FT% club. A championship would bring him the respect he deserves.
13. PG Chris Paul (63 games played) – 48.9 FG%, 90.0 FT%, 27.1 PTS, 10.4 AST, 7.5 REB
Paul has once again been amongst the league’s most clutch players this year and finds himself in good company with teammates Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Dennis Schroder and Danilo Gallinari. If not for CP3 though, those guys wouldn’t be in that group. Paul has played more minutes in the clutch than anyone and shoots 53.5 percent during that time.
12. G Devin Booker (62 games played) – 48.7 FG%, 91.6 FT%, 34.2 PTS, 8.6 AST, 5.5 REB
The Suns might still have a ways to go until playoff contention but they were on pace for over 30 wins for the first time since 2014-15 and the first time in Booker’s career. If scoring is his number one goal then Phoenix is the place to be. But I’m pretty sure winning is his priority as he rarely overshoots – has attempted 20+ shots in less than half of his games.
11. SG Bradley Beal (57 games played) – 3.9 3PM, 45.5 FG%, 39.6 PTS, 7.9 AST, 5.5 REB
Not only did Beal record 50 points in back-to-back games – but it was also the first time it had been done in consecutive nights since Kobe Bryant in 2007. Beal’s workload the last couple of years (36+ minutes per game in each of last three seasons) hasn’t been the most manageable but he has managed just fine while missing very few games.
10. F Pascal Siakam (53 games played) – 2.9 3PM, 45.9 FG%, 31.8 PTS, 10.1 REB, 4.8 AST
Siakam was named the league’s Most Improved Player last season. Although it doesn’t work that way, his improvement this year could have made him a noteworthy candidate for that award again. Siakam was barely a relevant role player two years ago before winning a championship in 2019. He was well on his way toward an All-NBA selection this year.
9. PG Damian Lillard (58 games played) – 5.0 3PM, 39.4 3P%, 37.3 PTS, 10.1 AST, 5.6 REB
Going from a conference finals trip to fighting an uphill battle for eighth seed in one year had to be disappointing for Lillard. That leads to the question: was the Blazers’ postseason run last year more of a fluke than an actual destiny? The Blazers can’t afford to be stuck in the middle of the pack as the unstoppable point guard nears 30 years old.
8. G/SF Luka Doncic (54 games played) – 9.9 FTM, 46.1 FG%, 41.7 PTS, 13.5 REB, 12.7 AST
Doncic was the 21-year-old sensation behind the most efficient offense in NBA history. He was leading all players with 14 triple-doubles. However, it was his triple-double-ish stats that won games for the Mavericks, meaning eight rebounds and assists would get the job done too. Doncic’s team success made him almost unarguably a top-five MVP candidate.
7. SF/SG Jimmy Butler (54 games played) – 10.8 FTM, 28.9 PTS, 9.5 REB, 8.7 AST, 2.4 STL
Miami is the third different team where Butler has averaged 20 points per game. He is extremely confident with the ball in his hands at the end of games but he’s never been the type to push himself to the brink when it comes to scoring load. He leaves that for other areas such as defense and intangibles.
6. C Nikola Jokic (65 games played) – 1.7 3PM, 52.8 3P%, 30.9 PTS, 15.6 REB, 10.5 AST
This Nuggets team has gradually improved over the past five years and is at the point where anything less than a conference finals appearance would be unsatisfactory. The problem with that is the Lakers, and the Clippers, and the Rockets, and the Jazz, etc. Jokic is the foundation here and they will go as far as he and Jamal Murray take them.
5. G James Harden (61 games played) – 12.8 FTM, 5.6 3PM, 43.5 PTS, 9.3 AST, 8.0 REB
We can look at one or two seasons but the fact is Harden has strung together several seasons of incomprehensible scoring numbers. His rare playing style makes him unique in some fashion and he has no problem whatsoever lasting the grind of 82 games in the regular season. All eyes are on what Harden will or won’t change in the playoffs.
4. PF/C Anthony Davis (55 games played) – 51.1 FG%, 84.5 FT%, 37.0 PTS, 13.0 REB, 3.4 BLK
Now that Davis is a Laker, it’s his turn to be Shaquille O’Neal’s successor. He’s not quite the man in the middle on offense though. Rather, he’s taken the regime of Tim Duncan or Kevin Garnett, one that screams: “I’m playing power forward but I know every other center is scared of me.” This season ended too soon for everyone but especially for A.D.
3. SF Kawhi Leonard (51 games played) – 3.1 3PM, 88.9 FT%, 39.3 PTS, 10.7 REB, 7.3 AST
You think Leonard takes his matchups with LeBron James personally? Leonard’s offensive game will probably never quite match the totality of LBJ’s but his rugged competitiveness and urge to never back down is what separates him from the rest of the bunch. Leonard was anxiously awaiting another playoff series between the two.
2. SF/PG LeBron James (60 games played) – 3.0 3PM, 49.8 FG%, 35.1 PTS, 14.5 AST, 10.7 REB
The notion that defenses have to “live with James shooting the outside jumper” is still around and will never vanish, even with how far his jumper has come. James was knocking down a pair of 3-pointers per game for the second straight year. The combination of him relying on his outside jumper with him leading the league in assists is downright scary.
1. F Giannis Antetokounmpo (57 games played) – 2.2 3PM, 54.7 FG%, 43.8 PTS, 20.3 REB, 8.5 AST
There is no player outside of Andre Drummond that’s more consistent at crashing the defensive glass than Antetokounmpo. His rebounding makes him a threat to attack full-court leaving the defense few options. Would it make sense to say he’s rebounding the ball a bit too much? Playing off the ball more could actually bolster his 3-point stroke.