We are ranking the best players in the NBA for the 10th year.
Who will be the best players this season?
To get NBArank’s final prediction, we asked our expert panel to vote for player pairs: LeBron James vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo. Stephen Curry vs. James Harden. Zion Williamson vs. Ja Morant.
We asked: “Which player will be better in 2020-21?” Voters had to predict what they expected of each player in the regular season and 2020-21 postseason.
Here are the top 10 players, from No. 10 to No. 1.
More: Players 100 to 51 | 50 to 11 | Future Candidates No. 1
NBArank: 10 to 1
Text by Kevin Pelton
Denver Nuggets | C
Previous range: 7
Projected RPM for 2020-21: 4.3 *
A slow start to the season was a distant memory when Jokic appeared in top form for the seeded games and helped lead the Nuggets to their first conference finals since 2009. Along the way, Jokic showed how he helps his multi-team team. ways. Against the Utah Jazz, who wanted to make him a scorer, Jokic averaged 26.3 points. That was down to 24.4 against the LA Clippers, but Jokic dominated the cup (13.4 rebounds) and averaged 6.6 assists. Although foul problems limited Jokic against the eventual champion Lakers, he still made 58% of his 2-point attempts in an efficient series.
* Actual Plus-Minus (RPM) is the estimated impact of a player on the court on team performance, measured in net point difference per 100 offensive and defensive possessions.
More: What Sets Nikola Jokic Apart From Other Superstars?
Houston Rockets | SG
Previous range: 4
Projected RPM for 2020-21: 6.8
Harden dropped five spots in the rankings after finishing in the top four in a row, and it’s hard to say how much his uncertain future in Houston reflects after a brief retention in training camp and a trade request. During the regular season, there’s no question that Harden has been far more valuable than ninth in the league, finishing in the top three in MVP voting in five of the past six seasons. Clearly, our panel put more weight on Harden’s uneven postseason performances. Still, the Rockets will rightly expect an excellent package of players and picks if they trade Harden.
More: Teams That Can Make Real Offers For Harden
Golden State Warriors | PG
Previous range: 6
Projected RPM for 2020-21: 6.0
This is the lowest level Curry has ranked since he became a star in the 2013 postseason. The problem is availability, as a broken right hand by Curry limited him to five games last season and he missed 44 games combined in the two previous campaigns. If he can stay healthy, we’ll find the floor for a Curry-led offense lacking a second-plus scorer after Klay Thompson’s Achilles injury ended his season before it started. Without Thompson and Kevin Durant, the Warriors will depend more on Curry for shot creation than ever.
More: Curry enjoys the chance to start “at ground zero again”
Portland Trail Blazers | PG
Previous range: 9
Projected RPM for 2020-21: 3.4
Lillard’s scoring prowess saved what seemed like an injury-lost season for the Blazers. He put together one of the best stretches in NBA history from late January through February, averaging 48.8 points and 8.2 3-pointers per game on 57% shooting as Portland defeated four playoff teams. Lillard was almost as good on the bubble, winning the Player of the Games by Seeding for his 37.6 points and 9.6 assists as the Blazers held the eighth seed. With a healthier roster strengthened this offseason, Portland hopes to not be as dependent on Lillard again in 2020-21, but he has proven capable of carrying the load.
More: Lillard Named NBA Bubble MVP
6. Kevin Durant
Brooklyn Nets | Pf
Previous range: NR (injured)
Projected RPM for 2020-21: 2.4
How good Durant is 18 months after suffering an Achilles tear during his last game with the Warriors is one of the swing questions this season. Players who came out of the same injury have been noticeably less effective than projected on their return, and KD is likely already experiencing some decline in their 30s. At the same time, the last time we saw Durant completely healthy in the first two rounds of the 2019 playoffs, he was making a case as the most dominant individual force in the league, and reports from the players who have played him over the years. rehabilitation have been encouraging.
More: Durant “up for anything” in Nets’ new smallball lineups
LA Clippers | SF
Previous range: 2
Projected RPM for 2020-21: 4.1
Leonard’s first season in Los Angeles (and the Orlando bubble) didn’t have the same kind of storybook ending as 2019 in Toronto. The Clippers, hot picks to win the title, were stunned in the second round after holding a 3-1 series lead over the Nuggets. Leonard was complicit, as he shot 6-for-22 in the decisive Game 7. Still, Leonard is poised to surpass his fifth spot in the rankings. He finished fifth in the MVP vote despite his load. injury – management and finished second per game in my wins above replacement player (WARP) metric in the playoffs.
More: Leonard ready to “come back after him” after playoff loss
Dallas Mavericks | PG
Previous range: sixteen
Projected RPM for 2020-21: 3.4
The next big superstar gave notice to the league in his second season, becoming the youngest player to win All-NBA First Team honors based on age on opening night. Doncic impressed in his playoff debut against the LA Clippers, knocking down a 28-foot step-back winner in overtime and averaging 31.0 points, 9.8 rebounds and 8.7 assists in the six-game series. Next up for Doncic: Lead the Mavs to a series win for the first time since their 2011 championship. Based on what we’ve seen from Doncic, it’s a question of when, not if.
More: How Luka Stacks Up To All-Time NBA Greats
Milwaukee Bucks | Pf
Previous range: 1
Projected RPM for 2020-21: 7.5
There’s a reason so much of the league spent this offseason racking up salary cap space in preparation for Giannis’ possible unrestricted free agency next summer. He has nothing left to prove in the regular season after winning back-to-back MVPs and Defensive Player of the Year before age 26, all while leading the Bucks to the best NBA record in both seasons. However, Giannis didn’t have the same impact against the Miami Heat in the playoffs before a new ankle injury prematurely ended his series. To return to No. 1, Antetokounmpo must improve his score against defenses designed to keep him out of the paint.
Listen: “The Giannis Draft” on the Woj Pod
Los Angeles Lakers | Pf
Previous range: 5
Projected RPM for 2020-21: 4.0
For the first time in NBArank’s 10-year history, his teammates finished 1-2. It’s a testament to how well AD played in the Lakers championship race that created a debate about who should win the Finals MVP. It was Davis who hit the biggest shot of the playoffs, a triple to win Game 2 of the Western Conference finals. And the Lakers played better with Davis alone on the court in the postseason (plus 5.0 points per 100 possessions, via NBA Advanced Stats) than with LeBron James alone (plus 0.5), a regular season investment.
More: What it took for Anthony Davis to get to this moment
1. LeBron James
Los Angeles Lakers | SF
Previous range: 3
Projected RPM for 2020-21: 6.1
To quote “The Wire”, “The King is still the King”. After controversially releasing the number one spot to Giannis following his injury-marked first season in Los Angeles, LeBron regained the NBArank throne that he has held for nine of the past 10 years by winning his fourth title and Finals MVP at age 35. James continues to evolve, leading the league in assists and giving up some points to Davis. With the brief change before opening night, James is unlikely to match 67 (of 71) games played last season. However, when playoff time comes, there’s still no one you’d rather start your team with than LeBron.
LeBron: The best thing about the contract is the potential future with his son
ESPN Forecast survey conducted in coordination with Microsoft Research and The Wharton School.