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The 2019-2020 NBA season was one of the wildest seasons in league history. With the first part of the regular season ending in March due to COVID-19 and the restart with only 22 teams at the end of July, it made evaluating players and their overall rankings for the upcoming season an interesting task.
With the league set to tip off on December 22nd, here is my list of the top 50 NBA players heading into the season.
I have included players who either missed the entire season or missed time last year due to injury, while rating them fairly as training camps are underway.
I will be giving my thoughts and opinions on your favorite players. I went over players 26-50 in my previous article, so now here is my top 25.
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo – Milwaukee Bucks
Antetokounmpo finished the season being the third player in league history to be the MVP and Defensive Player of the year in the same season. It’s hard enough to average 30 points a game and it is even harder to average 15 rebounds a game. He did both in under 30 minutes per contest.
2. LeBron James – Los Angeles Lakers
James won his fourth Championship and fourth Finals MVP in his legendary career. He won his first assist crown. He would be number one if Antetokounmpo did not do what he did this past season.
3. Kevin Durant – Brooklyn Nets
Even though Brooklyn’s main piece missed the entire season due to an achilles injury, Durant is still the most dangerous player in the entire league. All he has to do is be able to recover from the most debilitating injury in the NBA and he will regain the top spot in the league.
4. Anthony Davis – Los Angeles Lakers
Everyone knows how good Anthony Davis is and now he has answered every question about whether he can be a major piece on a championship team. What prevents him from getting in the top three is the fear of him getting hurt. Outside of that, he is the most skilled player over 6 foot 9 in the entire league.
5. Stephen Curry – Golden State Warriors
Curry started last season getting off to a slow start and then he broke his hand six games into the season and never returned. But he didn’t need to return, as the Golden State Warriors never threatened to make the playoffs. Now that he will have a full calendar year since the injury, expect him to return to form and challenge for the top overall spot in the league next season
6. Kawhi Leonard – Los Angeles Clippers
Leonard finished the 2018-2019 season as the arguably the number one player in the league and he played like it when he was on the court for most of the season. But after going missing in the Clippers’ elimination game in the playoffs, he has taken a bit of a fall on my list. He is still the best two way player in the NBA.
7. James Harden – Houston Rockets
Harden continued to be the most dominant offensive force in the NBA this past season. He finished with his third straight season averaging over 30 points per game. Fans criticized his defensive effort, but during the playoffs players had a 41.9 effective field goal percentage.
8. Nikola Jokic – Devner Nuggets
The best center in the league just keeps getting better. Even though he fell a bit short of finishing the regular season averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds per game, he is the only big man in the NBA who is just as dangerous as a distributor as he is a scorer. No player in the NBA is more dangerous at the high post than Jokic.
9. Luka Doncic – Dallas Mavericks
How do you follow up an outstanding Rookie of the Year season? By ending your second season in the top five in the MVP voting. Doncic had 17 triple-doubles and missed another 13 by either falling two rebounds and/or two assists short. He shot 46 percent from the floor while leading the Dallas Mavericks to the playoffs.
10. Damian Lillard – Portland Trail Blazers
If you have to question why Lillard is a top 10 player, then you did not watch any of the bubble. He averaged 37.2 points and 9.6 assists, leading the Portland Trail Blazers to the playoffs. One of the most dangerous players at the end of games in the NBA, Lillard has not only earned this ranking but he could be a top five player at the end of next season.
11. Jimmy Butler – Miami Heat
Butler did everything he could in the NBA Finals against the Lakers. He almost single handedly won two games and kept the Miami Heat in three others. Already known as one of the best two way players in the game, Butler is now known as one of the best closers in the game.
12. Joel Embiid – Philadelphia 76ers
Embiid is still one of the best big men in the NBA. He finished with averages of 23 points and 11.6 rebounds per game. Why is not he not higher? He missed 22 games last season and has not played more than 64 games in any single season in his career.
13. Russell Westbrook – Washington Wizards
Westbrook did not finish the season averaging a triple double for the fourth season in a row, but his change to Houston increased his shooting percentage to a career high 47.2%. His injury in the bubble hurt Houston’s chance to make a deep playoff run, but his play in January and February proved that he still is an elite player. Now he takes his talents to Washington.
14. Kyrie Irving – Brooklyn Nets
Irving has made more headlines off the court than on the court in his first season in Brooklyn. Even though he is one of the best ball handlers in the league and a dynamic scorer (30 points per game last season), Irving can not seem to stay healthy enough to make a major impact when his team has needed him. In the last three seasons, he’s only played in nine of his teams 32 total playoff games. If Irving can find his health, Brooklyn has a chance to win the Eastern Conference next season.
15. Paul George – Los Angeles Clippers
George’s first season in Los Angeles was not what everyone expected. His numbers across the board were some of his lowest single season stats since his second full season as a starter in the league. Then his performance in the Bubble did not help, as his Clippers team lost a 3-1 series lead against the Denver Nuggets. Even with his subpar season, George did hit a career high 41.2 percent from the three point line.
16. Ben Simmons – Philadelphia 76ers
Everyone knows that Ben Simmons still will not take shots outside of the paint. He only took 37 of his 649 attempts from outside of 10 feet this season. But the Fresh Prince did lead the NBA in steals and hit a career high 58% of his shots from the floor. If Simmons allows new head coach Doc Rivers to diversify his game next season, Simmons can finally make his mark as a potential top five player in the league.
17. Jayson Tatum – Boston Celtics
In only his third season, Tatum increased his numbers in all five major categories over the previous season. He improved his three point shooting, as he hit over 40% as he has become a pure three level scorer. He averaged 25.7 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists a game in the playoffs as the Celtics fell short of making the NBA finals.
18. Pascal Siakam – Toronto Raptors
It is very rare that a player has an argument to be the most improved player in the league two seasons in a row, but Siakam actually had a case. He increased all of his numbers from his 2018-2019 season including scoring seven more points per game. Even though his playoff numbers took a nosedive, it does not take away how good he really is.
19. Chris Paul – Phoenix Suns
Not very many people expected Chris Paul to not only finish the season in Oklahoma the City, but lead the Thunder to the playoffs. Paul became the leader of a team and proved to the entire league that at 34 years old that he was still one of premier point guards in the NBA. His play and leadership helped the Thunder to 44 wins in the regular season and was one possession away from beating his former team in the opening round of the playoffs. Now he brings that experience to a young, talented Phoenix squad.
20. Bradley Beal – Washington Wizards
The most underrated 30 point a game scorer in the league, Beal did not make the All-Star team even though he increased both his scoring and assist totals from the previous season. If his shoulder was healthy, there was a good chance he would have led the Wizards to a potential play-in game for the final spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
21. Devin Booker – Phoenix Suns
If it wasn’t for that Damian Lillard performance, the MVP in the Bubble would have been given to Booker. Even though his numbers are almost identical from the previous season, he shot a career high 48.9% from the floor and made his first All-Star team. Now the next step is for Booker to elevate his team to the playoffs.
22. Karl-Anthony Towns – Minnesota Timberwolves
Even though his season ended due to a wrist injury and he only played in 35 games, Towns still finished in the top 10 in three pointers made per game. He made a whopping 41.2% of his attempts from downtown. On top of that he averaged a career high 26.2 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. Towns is one of the most versatile players in the league and the most offensively diverse center.
23. Donovan Mitchell – Utah Jazz
Mitchell introduced himself to the NBA world during the Jazz’s first round series against the Denver Nuggets. But that is not the reason why he’s the 23rd best player in the league. Increasing all of his shooting percentages, making his first All-Star team and finishing third in the league in scoring in the clutch in the NBA? That’ll do.
24. Bam Adebayo – Miami Heat
Miami finally unleashed Adebayo this season and it paid off. He averaged 15.9 points, 10.9 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game in his breakout season. The defensive metrics love him as he finished in the top 50 almost every advanced statistical category. The scary part is he just turned 23 years old in July.
25. Kyle Lowry – Toronto Raptors
Lowry does not have the stats of the players in front of him, but most of them do not have the leadership he shows and demonstrates on a daily basis. He is getting older, but he made his sixth straight All-Star team and had his best scoring season (19.4 points per game) in three years.