The top-100 players in the league finally come to a close as we examine the top-10 players for the upcoming season. These players are the stars of the superstars. They are All-NBA First Team selections, reigning champions, and the cream of the crop when it comes to the greatest players in the entire world.
The rankings in this group feature four of the last five Finals MVPs, the reigning scoring leader, and nine of the last ten regular-season MVPs. Some of these players have a lot to prove this year, while others shot up from last year's rankings. We have already covered the top 100-51 players, the top 50-31 players, as well as the top 30-11 players for the upcoming season. These are the top-10 players for the 2021-2022 season.
10. Anthony Davis
Davis remains a top-10 player in the league despite playing just 36 games last season. Davis was so integral to the Los Angeles Lakers’ success and it showed when he missed time with injuries. When Davis was out, the Lakers dropped from being the No. 1 seed in the West down to being the No. 7 seed. Granted, there were other players out, but Davis’ value to the team defense was so critical.
The year before, Davis was the runner-up for the Defensive Player of the Year award, while playing efficient offense. In limited time last year, Davis averaged 21.8 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks. His points were his lowest since 2013, while his rebounds were a career-low. Again, it’s important to note that Davis battled through injuries and still produced high volume numbers.
With Davis healthy, we should see more of a stat line to his first year in L.A., which included 26.1 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks. The combination of Russell Westbrook and Davis is also very exciting to see because this could be an unstoppable transition combo. Throw in LeBron James in there too and this could be a career season for Davis.
9. Damian Lillard
Watching Lillard lose in the first round of the playoffs in Portland has to be frustrating for him, but also for us as the fans because he is such an explosive player. Lillard averaged 28.8 points, 7.5 assists, and shot 45.1% from the field. Lillard has no range and was the most clutch player in the league last season.
By March last year, Lillard had scored 124 clutch points and shot a true-shooting percentage of 83.0%. That means that in clutch situations, Lillard was likely to make four shots out of five attempts each time. There was nobody that carried a team like Lillard at the end of games.
Moving forward, Lillard will continue to have a large role on offense. The Trail Blazers didn’t make any major moves beside the acquisition of Larry Nance Jr. We are in the prime years of Lillard, which means we have more amazing highlights in our future. The question is how can he continue to up himself from previous seasons?
8. James Harden
Harden is a former MVP, three-time scoring champion, and a top-3 point guard in the league with a valid argument for No. 2. Harden’s fit with the Nets is at the point guard position, which moved Kyrie Irving to shooting guard. With Harden running the offense, Irving boasted a career-best in points per game, while Harden contributed 24.6 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 10.9 assists per game in 36 appearances with the Nets.
Like other members on the Nets, Harden battled injuries that slowed him down to making just 44 appearances between the Nets and Houston Rockets. At 32 years old, Harden remains in the prime of his career. Had Harden not been hurt, he might have finished as the leader in assists. With playmakers in Irving (assuming he plays), Kevin Durant, and Joe Harris surrounding him, Harden is a prime contender to lead the league in assists this season. The Nets haven’t had a player lead the league in assists since Jason Kidd in 2004.
Harden has appeared to accept his role. After years of being the primary scorer, he can be the second or third option. This is Durant’s team, so Harden will be more of a facilitator. If that means his first trip to the NBA Finals since 2012, then it will be worth it.
7. Joel Embiid
The MVP-runner up had a stellar performance last year. Embiid averaged 31.1 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks. He shot 51.3% from the field, as well as 37.7% from three-point range. The issue with him not winning the MVP was that he played in 51 games and missed time due to injury. This has been a constant problem for Embiid, who has never played over 70 games in a season for the 76ers.
When healthy, Embiid is a top-2 center in the league, with a ceiling for being the best overall center in the league. Without Embiid, the 76ers didn't secure the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference last year. Moving forward, Embiid will hope to finally get out of the second round, something he has failed to do in two of the last three seasons.
With Ben Simmons likely out of Philadelphia, questions surround Embiid’s role with the team. Simmons was the primary ball handler, but now we don’t know what the offense will look like next season. It could all depend on what the package brings back. Then again, Simmons could not be traded and not play at all. Embiid will have to step up offensively with a heavier load, which could lead to another 30.0 points per game season.
6. Luka Doncic
By the time that Doncic ends his NBA career, he will likely surpass LeBron James as the richest man to play the game. At 22 years old, Doncic is already a $200-million man, but it is all earned. After a stellar third season, the Mavericks did the right thing by re-signing him long-term because what is yet to come is very exciting.
Doncic is coming off an All-NBA First Team appearance with a stat line of 27.7 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 8.6 assists. It’s only a matter of time before Doncic averages a triple-double in a season. He is almost like Russell Westbrook on steroids when it comes to his game. Now, he just needs to find a way to win in the playoffs.
In the last two seasons, the Mavericks have fallen to the Clippers in the first round. While Doncic’s stats are great, he will be regarded as a stat stuffer unless he carries his teams to new heights. In recent years, that has happened to Westbrook. Luckily, age is Doncic’s friend. For now, we could see Doncic in the MVP conversation this season.
5. Nikola Jokic
Speaking of MVPs, Jokic was a product of taking advantage of an opportunity. For starters, both LeBron James and Kevin Durant faced injuries that took them out of contention. Giannis Antetokounmpo, the reigning two-time MVP, was struggling to get the Bucks out of the No. 3 seed. Meanwhile, Jokic was averaging the best individual performance by a center we had ever seen.
Don’t take this the wrong way. Jokic earned that MVP. He averaged 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds, 8.3 assists, 1.3 steals, shot over 50% from the field, and nearly shot 40% from three-point range. It’s wild to think that we could see a center this year join the 50-40-90 club.
Keep in mind that the previously mentioned players are healthy. Had they stayed healthy, Jokic might not have won the MVP. He remains a top-5 player in the league, especially with a large workload with Jamal Murray out. Jokic needs his supporting cast to stay healthy. He can lead them to the playoffs but needs help getting the Nuggets to their first-ever NBA Finals.
4. Stephen Curry
With his “Splash Bro'' out for a second season, Curry took it to heart. He carried the team’s offensive load to winning the scoring title. Curry averaged 32.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 5.8 assists last season for the Warriors.
Curry had a historic April, averaging 37.3 points on 51.8% shooting That included an 11-game stretch of scoring at least 30 points in each game, which surpassed Kobe Bryant’s record for a player age 33 or older. Curry also made 78 three-pointers in that span, which was a new MVP record. He became the first player to average 35 points and shoot 50-40-90 in a calendar month. C
urry won the scoring title by holding off Bradley Beal with 46 points in the final game. Despite the Warriors losing in the play-in game after winning the No. 8 seed, the Warriors would have never been in that position had Curry not been playing. Moving forward, if the gang's all healthy, Curry could be in a position to win his third MVP if the Warriors dynasty is back.
3. LeBron James
Before getting hurt, LeBron was on pace to become the oldest MVP in league history. LeBron had the Lakers rolling. The team was the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. Then, when Anthony Davis and he were hurt, the team struggled. When on the floor, LeBron averaged 25.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 7.8 assists.
How LeBron stays this dominant in the league is spectacular. He has also transitioned his game towards facilitating. With Russell Westbrook in the house, it will be a telling tale about how LeBron fits in this offense. Will he continue to work as a point-forward, or go back to his natural position?
When LeBron controls the ball, good things happen. Until LeBron shows signs of wearing down, he remains a top-3 player in this league. Now, he looks to be the No. 1 player of all time if he can secure one more championship.
2. Kevin Durant
In 35 games, Durant averaged 26.9 points, 7.1 rebounds, 5.6 assists, and 1.3 blocks. Durant was rolling before he got hurt, averaging over thirty points per game. The Nets have never had a player win a regular-season MVP, nor a Finals MVP. There is a chance that Durant could win both of those in one season.
The Nets are favored to win the championship. Having both James Harden and Kyrie Irving help, but a lot of those odds are because Durant is on the team. Durant is an MVP contender for this year as well. He appears to be fully healthy. When healthy, he is the best overall scorer in the league.
Durant nearly led the Nets to the Conference Finals in a tough seven-game series against the champion Milwaukee Bucks. In the end, Durant came up short, which is why he is coming up short as being the best player in the league for the season.
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo
The best overall player in the league has to go to the reigning Finals MVP. Giannis missed out on joining Larry Bird as the only player to win three straight regular-season MVPs, but in the end, he got the better MVP trophy. His performance in the playoffs showed how unstoppable he can be. As he looks to repeat, we will see similar production out of him.
All stats were down compared to last year, but they remained prime quality numbers. Giannis averaged 28.1 points, 11.0 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.2 steals, and 1.2 blocks. The former Defensive Player of the Year was also fifth in the voting for DPOY and fourth in the MVP voting.
Giannis is hungry for more championships. He is on record saying that one is not enough. If he remains motivated, that is bad news for the rest of the league. Despite missing out on the MVP last year, he should be back in the conversation for earning it this year. That also includes the double win of MVP and DPOY. Can Giannis go for the triple crown by winning MVP, DPOY, and Finals MVP?