There is a wide range of qualified candidates that can make the top-100 players in the NBA. The rankings were determined by a combination of data and subjective evaluation. Players were looked at for their skills and taken out of their team contexts. These rankings were specifically for the upcoming 2020-2021 season and do not take into perspective what their long-term outlook looks like.
Who will be the best player this season? Here’s a look at the upper tier of players in the league. These players are either the best “Robins” or borderline “Batmans.” Here are Nos. 30 to 11.
30. Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors
Plain and simple, Lowry makes teams better. He is a floor general that leads by example. He plays well as a scorer, passer, and defender. Despite standing at 6-foot-1, 195 pounds, he plays much bigger, especially on defense. He’s a regular threat to shutting opposing teams down and has been an integral part of the Raptors team defense that has ranked near the top in the league the last two seasons.
Lowry is a great shooter. Last season, he had his best scoring output (25.9) per 100 possessions in four seasons. Occasionally, he is a streaky three-point shooter, while he is very clutch in the postseason. Lowry will be in the mix to make his seventh straight All-Star team this season.
29. Zach Lavine, Chicago Bulls
Lavine showed that he has still not hit his ceiling yet at the age of 25. Last year, Lavine finished with a career-high 25.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.5 steals per game. Per 100 possessions, his stats balloon to 35.3 points per game. If Lavine was on a title-contending team, he would be one of the best No. 2 players in the league.
While Lavine shows signs of being a high-flying potential guard in the NBA, he is limited as a defender and rebounder. He’s not yet a knockdown shooter from outside, and his 38% shooting from three-point range is suspect given the volume of shots he takes. However, Lavine is asked to be a No. 1 scoring option, so some of his percentages could be skewed.
28. Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks
Middleton has worked hard to be a quality shooter in the league. Last year, Middleton averaged 20.9 points on 49.7% field goal shooting, including clips of 41.5% from three-point range and 91.6% from the free-throw line. His free throw percentage ranked third in all of the NBA.
Despite playing primarily as a point or shooting guard, Middleton’s 6-foot-8, 222-pound frame gives him intangibles to be able to play small forward. He’s very smart with and without the ball. While his body lacks the strength to cover shots in the paint, he still finds a way to knock down shots inside the arc.
27. CJ McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers
McCollum had another very productive “Robin” season. McCollum ranked 17th in the league in scoring (22.2 ppg). He is the perfect complement to Damian Lillard as an instinctive and fearless scorer. He possesses excellent range from 3-point range, but also from 16-feet to three-point land. Last year, McCollum took 13% of his shots from this distance and made over 50%.
McCollum is the prototype of what a player like Zach Lavine would look like on a contending team. Someone that works hard, shoots from deep, and plays team ball.
26. Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors
Nick Nurse turned a 6-foot-9, 230-pound small forward and had him play as one of the best swingmen in the game. Siakam is so long and super athletic. He runs the floor well and is a consistent factor on high-flying dunks. Siakam also is great with rebounding, defending, and is someone that is always on the floor.
Siakam averaged 35.2 minutes per game during the regular season, and that number grew to 38.0 in the postseason. Despite being overused, Siakam managed to average 22.9 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 3.5 assists. While his jump is limited, he makes up for the hit by shooting nearly 80% from the free-throw line.
25. Kemba Walker, Boston Celtics
Walker could be the most underrated point guard in the league. He’s an accomplished leader, clutch winner, and excels at breaking down opponents one-on-one. Walker finished last season with a line of 20.4 points, 4.8 assists, and shot over 80% from the free-throw line. He’s great at getting to the rim and converting in the lane.
Outside the arc, Walker could use some improvement. Walker took 53.2% of his field-goal attempts from three-point range but converted just 38.2% of the time. We saw some of those missed threes during crunch time in the playoffs. If he can shoot just a few more threes consistently, the four-time All-Star could be even deadlier.
24. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves
Towns are the second-best center in basketball. With a true center frame at 7-foot-0 and 248 pounds, Towns lives inside the paint. His ranking took a hit from last season due to playing in just 35 games, but when he was on the court, he showed that he can be a top-15 player in the league.
Towns averaged 26.6 points, 10.8 rebounds, and shot 50.8% from the field. He passes well for a big, averaging 4.4 assists. Defensively, he showed great promise as a shot-blocker after averaging 1.2 blocks. The Timberwolves are hoping that the young “Big 3” can keep up with the rest of the Western Conference. That will only happen if Towns stays healthy.
23. Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets
In the postseason, Murray showed glimpses of a top-10 talent. Murray scored 50 points twice, as well as a game of 42 points, in the first round of the playoffs against the Utah Jazz. In the Western Conference Finals, Murray scored over 20 points in four of the five games. These were large strides from his regular-season numbers.
In the regular season, Murray averaged 18.5 points per game, 4.0 rebounds, and 4.8 assists. Murray is one of the main centerpieces in the Nuggets offense, being used 25.1% of the time. The Nuggets are +5.5 when he is on the floor. All in all, Murray will be in the running for Most Improved Player and his first All-Star appearance this year.
22. Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat
Adebayo is the true vision of starting from the bottom and rising through the league. Before his third season, Adebayo was nowhere to be seen in most top-100 rankings. Now heading into his fourth season, Adebayo ranks at No. 22 on the list. In his first All-Star appearance, Adebayo averaged 15.9 points, 10.2 points, and was a defensive motor. According to the advanced stats, Adebayo accounted for just as many offensive win shares (4.6) than defensive win shares (3.9). It’s incredible how much the numbers prove that Adebayo is essential on both sides.
In the NBA Finals, Adebayo proved his toughness as he played through injury. His one downfall is his turnovers. He turns the ball over more than 17% of the time, which is just too high. Still, for a 6-foot-9 forward, he does a lot of the little things right.
21. Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz
Mitchell needs to improve his field goal percentage if he wants to be considered a top-10 player in the league. He is already a top-tier scorer, defender, and playmaker. He helps the team play fluid and quick. Mitchell also showed how great he is as a scorer, finishing with point totals of 57, 30, 20, 51, 30, 44, and 22 during the team’s seven-game series with the Nuggets.
While Mitchell is a max-contract level player, which he recently signed with the Jazz, he must improve his shot selection to maximize the shots he takes. Mitchell ranks in the top-10 for field goal attempts but shot 36.6% from the three-point range. If he gets to the rim and draws contact, he shoots 86.6% from the free-throw line. Remember, at 24 years old, he is still developing.
20. Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
For similar reasons to Mitchell, Beal ranks as a borderline top-20 player due to shot selection. Beal led the league in field goal attempts by taking 22.9 per game on average. What gives Beal the edge is that his 10.4 field goals made per game ranked third in all the NBA. It’s almost unfair to rank Beal so low because, with John Wall out the last two seasons, Beal had to do more.
With Russell Westbrook coming in to play alongside Beal, there are two very high ceilings and floors. When Wall played, Beal was averaging around 20.0 points per game, while his shooting percentages were about 3-4% higher. When Beal was alone, he averaged 30.3 points in a season. Let’s see if Westbrooke makes Beal better.
19. Paul George, Los Angeles Clippers
George can be an All-Star swingman that can be an elite scorer and defender. He makes great use of his long wingspan, hands, and owns great footwork to create his shot offensively. Even in a down year, Georgia is a top-20 player in the league.
Last year, George averaged 21.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 3.7 assists. His points were the lowest in five seasons, while his rebounds were lowest in four seasons. However, those are quality numbers that most players wished they averaged in a season. George is one season away from making the All-NBA First-Team.
18. Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns
In some media outlets, Booker is a dark horse to win the MVP this season. Booker averaged 26.6 points and 6.6 assists last season and gets the luxury of playing next to Chris Paul this season. In 2018, James Harden won the MVP while playing with Paul and we could see some comparable performances this season.
Booker had his highest offensive rating (115) per 100 possessions in his career last year. He is truly an offensive genius with the ball, equating to 6.0 offensive win shares, and is used 30% of the time in the offense. If Booker can average close to 30.0 points per game next season, look to see Booker land some MVP votes.
17. Chris Paul, Phoenix Suns
Even at the young age of 35, Paul remains a contender to be a top-15 player in the league. He’s an all-around point guard. He’s selfless, creative with the ball, and an accurate scorer. Off the floor, he’s an incredible leader, evident with his job when he played with the Oklahoma City Thunder this past year. Needless to say, he makes the team better.
As Paul transitions to his older years, he manages to find a way to evolve his game. Last year was the first time in four seasons he qualified for the All-Star game. Despite averaging just 17.6 points per game, he maximized his scoring opportunities. Per 100 possessions, that number grew to 27.1 points, as well as 10.4 assists. Paul will be one of the reasons the Suns make the postseason this year.
16. Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
Simmons is a rare breed playing as a true point-forward. At 6-foot-10, 230 pounds, Simmons is the biggest point guard in the league. He possesses great court vision and has a ceiling as high as averaging a triple-double. Last year, Simmons finished with 16.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, 8.0 assists, and 21 steals.
What holds Simmons back is his outside shot. From three-point range, Simmons shot 28.6% from the field. Simmons shoots from inside the arc 98.6% of the time. That limits his game and keeps defenders with the upper hand. If he truly wants to be a top-10 player, he will need to develop a three-point shot.
15. Russell Westbrook, Washington Wizards
Westbrook can dominate the whole game and is a constant triple-double threat. He’s even once averaged a triple-double en route to winning an MVP award. He’s perhaps the most explosive athlete in the NBA. He dishes out copious amounts of assists, gets dirty rebounds, and piles on the steals. In one-on-one situations, he can blow right past his defender. Last year, Westbrook ranked second in the league with 10.6 field goals made per game, which was much higher than his teammate James Harden.
That included ranking second in the league with 22.5 shots taken per game. With such high volume, it can lead to poor shot selection, especially from outside. His three-point field goal percentage (25.8%) was one of the worst in the league. This is Westbrook’s third team in three seasons, so there are also questions about being able to handle playing with him.
14. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
Tatum has top-10 player potential after what he showed off last season. His line of 23.4 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 1.4 steals are solid. We almost forget that Tatum is just 22 years old because he came into the league and started producing at a high level right away.
Even at such a young age, Tatum possesses everything you want from a true No. 1 on your team. At 6-foot-8 and 204 pounds, there are concerns that Tatum is fragile. However, even with his physique, he is a great rebounder. He can shoot from outside the arc (40.3%) but does better when the ball is distributed to him. This will be Year 4 for Tatum, which means we could see the beginning of his true prime years.
13. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
At 7-foot-0, 250-pounds, we can say with 100% certainty that Embiid is right up there as the best center in the league. For now, he stands at No. 2 on our center rankings after averaging 23.0 points and 11.6 rebounds. Offensively, Embiid is a gifted offensive specimen. Per 100 possession, Embiid has averaged over 36.0 points four straight seasons. For someone that is used 32.9% of the time, Embiid only averaged a turnover of 13.8% of the time.
Embiid has an elite and dominating skill set. In the paint, he converts at a very high level. His mid-range jump shot is also very impressive. Durability is always a question when it comes to Embiid. He is going to be 27 years old and the “The Process” is starting to wear off. It’s time to see if Embiid can lead the 76ers far into the playoffs.
12. Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets
Even though Irving played just 20 games last season, he was on pace to have a career season. He averaged 27.4 points, 6.4 assists, and shot over 92% from the free-throw line. While the Nets may have not produced as a team, Irving showed why teaming up with Kevin Durant this season should scare the rest of the league.
Irving is one of the best distributors in the league. In his career, he has assisted on 30.9% of all offensive plays, including a career-high 36.7% last season. What’s more impressive is that Irvin only turned the ball over 10.1% of the time. It might have been a small sample size, but his reputation has spoken for itself.
11. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
Jokic is the best center in the NBA. He’s the most skilled, efficient big man on the planet. He’s an elite shooter standing at 7-foot-0 and 250 pounds. He’s more than capable of stretching the floor and can put the team on his back when the Nuggets need a critical basket. On top of all that, he is a great passer. Jokic averaged 7.0 assists as a center last season. Who does that?
“The Joker” assisted on 35% of the team’s offensive plays last season. Combine that with his 19.9 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 1.2 steals, this could be one of the best centers we have ever seen. Even though Jokic is not much of a rim protector, he thrives in his role with Denver. In the modern NBA, Jokic proves that even big guys should be respected from downtown.