The top-100 player’s list continues. We are getting closer to the top-10 players in the league for the 2021-2022 season. This list contains the top 20 and 30 players. These players will be in All-Star consideration, but could also make an appearance on the All-NBA or All-Defensive Team list as well. These players are either a team’s best option or the second-best superstar on their squad.
The rankings in this group feature champions, as well as four key players from last year’s NBA Finals. 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, as well as the top 50-31 players. These are the top 30-11 players for the upcoming season.
30. Julius Randle
Randle is a huge reason why the Knicks are relevant again. He is potentially the team’s best big man since the days of Patrick Ewing. Granted, Randle has a long way to go before being mentioned in that same conversation, but the reigning Most Improved Player was the key leader in leading the Knicks to the No. 4 seed in the East.
His stat line of 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, and an eye-popping 6.0 assists did not go unnoticed. His 41.1% shooting clip from three-point range was another reason he made his first All-Star appearance. Randle will need to get better in the playoffs, where he completely stunk it up. With a top-30 player on their roster, look for the Knicks to continue to rise in the standings.
29. CJ McCollum
The curse of McCollum and Damian Lillard will hopefully break this year when it comes to first-round playoff exits in Portland. With that said, the team's success does not slow the fact that McCollum remains a top player in this league. Despite never making an All-Star appearance, McCollum remains a top scorer, evidenced by his 23.1 points per game last year, which marked the sixth straight season of 20.0 points or more.
McCollum’s 40.2% shooting from three-point range was his highest since 2016-2017. With rumors surrounding Lillard’s exit, McCollum will need to play well to give him a reason to stay. Could this be the year McCollum finally makes an All-Star appearance?
28. Brandon Ingram
Speaking of improved players, Ingram was the 2020 Most Improved Player. He replicated similar success from that season by averaging 23.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 4.9 assists. Ingram is beginning to show his superstar prowess as he enters his age 24 season. It’s hard to believe that he is still this young as it has felt that he has been in the league forever.
Ingram, the No. 2 pick in 2016, is a league veteran. He is entering the second year of a major contract extension from last summer. It’s time for Ingram to be the superstar teammate that makes an All-Star game with Zion Williamson. If that happens, that means the Pelicans will be fighting for a playoff berth.
27. Zach LaVine
We thought we saw the best from LaVine when he averaged 27.4 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 4.9 assists. That included 50.7% from the field, 41.9% from three, and 84.9% from the free-throw line. We could see LaVine contend for a 50-40-90 club this season, especially with the talent that surrounds him.
This is the first time in LaVine’s career that he will have true talent around him. Not to mention, this is a contract year, so he will have an extra chip on his shoulder to show Chicago, and anybody else, he is worth big-time money.
26. Jrue Holiday
Holiday is making an effort at Jimmy Butler for being the best two-way player in the league. Holiday made the All-Defensive First Team for the first time last season, which is something he is known for playing. However, we were so caught up in his defense that we didn’t notice that his 50.3% shooting and 39.2% three-point shooting were both career highs.
Holiday was the missing piece that helped Milwaukee win its first championship since 1971. Then, he carried that success into the Olympics, playing a huge role in helping the United States win a fourth straight Gold medal. Holiday will look to ride the high in helping the Bucks repeat.
25. Khris Middleton
Many believe that Middleton was snubbed for this third straight appearance in the All-Star Game this past year. After the year he had, they might be right. Middleton had a great season after averaging 20.4 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 5.4 assists. Middleton is one of the best small forwards in the game. During the Bucks’ championship run, he proved that.
Middleton is getting close to a game similar to Scottie Pippen. When playing alongside Michael Jordan, Pippen was the perfect complement to Jordan. Middleton is exactly that to Giannis Antetokounmpo, but also an All-Star in his own right.
24. Zion Williamson
In his first true full season, Williamson showed displays of trending towards being one of the best power forwards in the league. His sophomore campaign was highlighted by starting in the All-Star Game, which made him the fourth-youngest player to ever accomplish the feat. His 27.0 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 61.1% shooting percentage dazzled fans in New Orleans.
Moving forward, Williamson enters his third season with no playoff experience. The Pelicans made some moves to bring in supplemental pieces. Assuming that Williamson is the best player on this squad, then he should be able to lead the team to a back-end playoff spot.
23. Bam Adebayo
When talking about the best two-way players in the league, Holiday might be the best overall guard, while Adebayo is pushing for the honor in the big men category. Adebayo is a pure hustle player that can score, rebound, block, and run.
Adebayo is coming off a career season where he averaged 18.7 points and 5.4 assists. We all know about his defensive efforts, which included 9.0 rebounds and 1.0 blocks, but he took his offense to another level. That also included playmaking.
22. Trae Young
Trae Young will probably read this somewhere and get offended for not being considered in the top-10, but it’s a win-win situation for all of us. Every time that Young is counted out, he comes back to hit twice as hard. Young has some work to do with his game, but his 25.3 points and 9.4 assists were flashy. Without Young leading the offense, the team doesn’t make the Conference Finals.
Young has a weak outside game though and is a defensive liability. He is either pure offense or nothing at all. When he shoots, he shoots a lot. Sometimes, that total can be as high as 50 points, but sometimes it could be in the teens. Young needs to be more efficient in the high volume of shots he takes.
21. Rudy Gobert
Just when you think Gobert can’t do anymore, he gets better. The 2.7 blocks narrowly beat out a career-high for blocks by 0.1, but it shows that he remains a top defender in the league, which is why he won his third Defensive Player of the Year Award. On offense, Gobert averaged 14.3 points and tied a career-high in rebounds with 13.5.
With Gobert as the centerpiece, the Jazz is a top defensive team every year. Gobert was tied for third in the league with 49 double-doubles. The Jazz will remain a contender for the No. 1 seed as long as Gobert stays healthy.
20. Russell Westbrook
Mr. Triple-Double remains a top-20 player in this league. Many would believe that he would be even higher given that he averaged a triple-double for the fourth time in his career. From 1961 to 2017, nobody averaged a triple-double. Westbrook has done it four times in the last five seasons. We would have once drooled over the stat pool that was his stat line of 22.2 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 11.7 assists.
However, Westbrook’s team performances have been cursed. The Thunder, Rockets, and Wizards have been playoff busts. Westbrook has been reduced to a stat stuffer. As he movies to Los Angeles, with another ball-dominant player in LeBron James, questions surround the fit. The stats may not be what they once were, but it could be worth it if the Lakers make the NBA Finals.
19. Ben Simmons
When is the last time a top-20 player was under this much scrutiny since Ben Simmons? The runner-up in the Defensive Player of the Year rankings is a three-time All-Star. Just because his offense is not prestigious, that does not mean he is a scrub. Simmons averaged 14.3 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 6.7 assists. He might be the best rebounder among point guards, as well as a top-3 playmaker.
The problem is that Simmons can’t shoot. In his first two years in the league, he didn’t make a three-point shot. Simmons appears to be out of Philly, but the new question is where? There are plenty of teams that would love to have this production on their squad.
18. Bradley Beal
Beal nearly won the scoring title last year before Steph Curry went full historic mode. The 31.3 points were the second straight year that Beal averaged more than 30.0 points per game. Beal is a product of a team where he has to score in high volumes for the Wizards to put up points. If you place Beal on another team, would he score this much?
We are about to find out. With the move of Westbrook, the Wizards filled the team with depth. There are real NBA contributors on this team for the first time in two years. We are going to learn a lot about Beal’s style of play after this season.
17. Kyrie Irving
If Irving plays, he is a top player in the league. Who would have thought we would be saying this a second straight year? Last year, Irving flirted with leaving. Now, with mandatory vaccine rules, Irving could miss time again.
When in the lineup, Irving is a top-3 shooting guard in the league. Irving averaged 26.9 points and averaged 50.6% from the field, 40.2% from three, and 92.2% from the free throw to make the 50-40-90 club for the first time in his career. Assuming he plays the whole year, the Nets remain one of the best teams in the league.
16. Donovan Mitchell
Mitchell gets better every year and it seems easy. His 26.4 points were a career-high for the third consecutive year. That includes his assist total at 5.2 per game. Mitchell is a dark horse to lead the league in scoring this year. The comparisons to Dwyane Wade are very real and the way history tells, we could see Mitchell have a year like D-Wade during his prime years in Miami.
What makes the connection between Mitchell and Wade even more interesting is that Wade is a minority owner of Utah. The two spend time together and you have to believe that Mitchell is doing what he can to become Wade or be even better. Mitchell was a prime reason the Jazz were a No. 1 seed last year. He will be a reason they contend this season too.
15. Jimmy Butler
Butler remains one of the best two-way players in the league. Butler averaged 21.5 points, 6.9 rebounds, 7.1 assists, and a league-best 2.1 steals per game. Butler does just about everything in the game. What is most amazing about Butler’s game is that he has steadily grown into a great passer.
The 7.1 assists were a rise from 4.0 two years ago, and 6.0 last year. Forget having a point guard, even though they have a great one in Kyle Lowry, Butler is closing in on replicating LeBron’s point-forward mantra from 2019-2020.
14. Jayson Tatum
Tatum finished with a career-high in points, rebounds, and assists last year. His 26.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 4.3 assists were a building block towards becoming a full-fledged superstar in this league. Tatum had flashes of looking like Kevin Durant lite last season and that is an All-Star at its floor.
As the Celtics move forward, Tatum is pushing the envelope up the All-NBA rankings. Tatum is the clear face of the Celtics. For Boston to return to greatness, the team needs Tatum to be great himself. We could see Tatum push towards having a season like Durant from his younger days.
13. Chris Paul
Paul will turn 37 years old in May and it appears that time will not slow him down. Playing in the NBA Finals is a new high for Paul, but he remains without a championship ring. Paul just signed a four-year extension to stay with the Suns. Realistically, the countdown is one before Paul turns into a Hall of Fame guard with no ring.
Last year, Paul averaged a great year with 16.4 points, 8.9 assists, and 1.4 steals. More importantly, he helped Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton turn into big-time players. With a full year under their belt, we should expect more from all three together as a trio. If all three players make the All-Star Game, it will be a testament to their talent, but also how Paul brings the best out of his teammates.
12. Devin Booker
Booker’s overall shooting stats were a tad down, but it felt like Booker as a player improved greatly. His line of 25.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 4.3 assists were on point to previous years. His assist total was down because Booker didn’t have to run the point with Paul in the mix. What improved was his defense that helped the Suns rank near the top as a unit.
Booker turned into a two-way player last year. The defense improvement, along with his offensive skill set, there were some hailing Booker as the next Kobe Bryant. Even if Booker plays like Kobe Bryant lite, that’s a heckuva player that is a borderline top-10 player in the league.
11. Paul George
George looked like his old self that was a multi-All Star selection in Indiana. His 23.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, 5.2 assists, and 1.1 steals were the perfect complement to Kawhi Leonard. Even with Leonard healthy, George was a top-15 player. With Leonard out for the whole year, we could see a season like George’s 2018-2019 year in Oklahoma City.
That season saw George average 28.0 points, 8.2 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and 2.2 steals. With George as the best option on the team, he will have more pressure to produce. With more responsibility comes more production. With a superstar like George, the Clippers will rely heavily on him to lead the team to the playoffs with hopes that Leonard will come back healthy.