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NBA

Who are the 30 best players in the NBA heading into the final stretch of the 2019-20 season?

Here we go again.

For the third time this season, our NBA.com Global Staff joined forces to come up with a list of the 30 best players in the league.

If you want, you can click here to read the first edition and here to read the second.

A reminder in case this is your first time seeing one of these lists:

  • Players who are currently out with long-term injuries aren't included. That's why you won't be seeing Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant, to name a few.
  • This is about right now, so there is some recency bias involved. Not that past performances weren't taken into account - Paul George probably wouldn't be ranked as high as he is if it was - but what's been happening lately is weighted more heavily.
  • Nine members of our NBA.com Staff were involved in these particular rankings.

With that in mind, onto the rankings!

Biggest risers

Neither Chris Paul nor Khris Middleton made our list the last time we did this. Paul now ranks 16th, whereas Middleton ranks 22nd.

Paul has been the league's best clutch performer this season and Middleton is averaging a career-best 20.4 points per game on .501/.438/.902 shooting splits. Both were more than worthy All-Stars.

As for Jayson Tatum and Ben Simmons, they both rank in the top-15 now after finishing 22nd and 25th, respectively, in the last one.

Tatum, in particular, has helped his case lately by averaging 26.6 points over his last 14 games. That includes a 39-point outing against Kawhi Leonard and the LA Clippers before All-Star Weekend, a game in which Tatum showed just how much he has matured since last season.

Largest drops

It's not a surprise that Kyrie Irving has dropped several spots considering he's only played in 20 games this season. He's been spectacular when he has played, but the Brooklyn Nets have a better record without him (17-16) than they do with him (8-12) this season.

It's a similar case with Karl-Anthony Towns. Not only have injuries limited him to 35 games this season, but he also went 17 straight games without a win at one point of the season. As absurdly talented as Towns is, winning matters.

Who fell out of the top 30?

There were only a couple of points separating Brandon Ingram from Domantas Sabonis for the final spot on this list.

Others who fell out: Gordon Hayward, Andre Drummond, De'Aaron Fox, Blake Griffin and Jrue Holiday.

Who climbed into the top 30?

Several players did. In addition to Paul and Middleton, Bam Adebayo, Ja Morant, Zion Williamson and Sabonis are now in the top-30.

Williamson was the most polarizing of those players. He was ranked as high as No. 14 on one list, but three members of our NBA.com Staff didn't have him on their lists at all.

Williamson is averaging 22.1 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 27.4 minutes per game so far this season. The superstar potential is clear, but some understandably docked him appearing in only 10 games.

10. Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors

Highest rank: 8

Lowest rank: 15

Even Siakam's biggest supporters couldn't have predicted him making this sort of leap this season.

Last season's Most Improved Player, Siakam has helped the Raptors fill the void left by two-time Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard with averages of 23.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. He's a two-way star, one who's going to be on this list for many years to come.

9. Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat

Highest rank: 8

Lowest rank: 11

Butler cracks our top-10 for the first time this season, as he ranked 13th coming into the season and 12th around Thanksgiving. With averages of 20.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 6.1 assists, he's been the driving force in Miami's climb up the Eastern Conference standings.

8. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets

Highest rank: 5

Lowest rank: 12

Jokic might have gotten this season off to a slow start, but his numbers are now on par with what he averaged last season when he finished fourth in MVP voting.

The fact that only two players in NBA history - Oscar Robertson and Michael Jordan - have ever recorded more triple-doubles than Jokic by their 25th birthday speaks to how unique of a player he is.

7. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

Highest rank: 5

Lowest rank: 8

Lillard has been playing some of the best basketball of his career lately. Since the turn of the new year, he is averaging 32.9 points, 8.5 assists and 4.7 rebounds on 48.0 percent shooting from the field and 44.0 percent from 3-point range.

Lillard suffered an injury prior to the All-Star break that could keep him out another week. When he returns, he'll try to lead one more playoff push - the Blazers currently sit four games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the No. 8 seed.

6. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

Highest rank: 4

Lowest rank: 8

After missing seven straight games with an ankle injury, Doncic returned before the All-Star break to lead the Mavericks over the Sacramento Kings with 33 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists.

It served as a reminder of what makes the 20-year-old a legit MVP candidate in only his second season.

5. James Harden, Houston Rockets

Highest rank: 4

Lowest rank: 8

Harden has cooled off since a historic start to the season, but he's still leading the league with an average of 35.3 points per game. He's only going to be more difficult for teams to defend now that the Rockets have gone all-in on small ball.

4. Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers

Highest rank: 4

Lowest rank: 7

All but one of us agreed on one thing: Davis is the best big man in the league. There's not much of a debate when you consider the impact he makes on both ends of the floor, as he doubles as one of the league's leading scorers and a Defensive Player of the Year candidate.

3. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

Highest rank: 1

Lowest rank: 3

The Lakers have been 9.6 points per 100 possessions better offensively with James on the court this season. They go from having the second-best offence in the league to the 29th-ranked offence when he takes a seat on the bench.

If that doesn't speak to how valuable he still is in his 18th season, I don't know what does.

2. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

Highest rank: 1

Lowest rank: 3

Antetokounmpo is averaging 30.0 points in 30.9 minutes per game this season. Do you know how many people have done that in NBA history? None. Antetokounmpo would be the first.

To put it into perspective, if he was playing as many minutes as Harden, Antetokounmpo would almost certainly be leading the league in scoring.

1. Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers

Highest rank: 1

Lowest rank: 2

"Let's see if the panel keeps him there in the next edition of the Top 30 following All-Star Weekend when he's missed more games due to load management."

That's what NBA.com's Carlan Gay wrote the last time we did this list. Leonard has missed only seven games since, posting averages of 27.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.2 assists in the games he has played.

We were split on him, Antetokounmpo and James being the best player in the league, but it's hard to argue with Leonard still being No. 1.

Here are the full results...

Rank Player (points) Previous
1. Kawhi Leonard (15) 1st
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo (16) 2nd
3. LeBron James (23) 3rd
4. Anthony Davis (43) 5th
5. James Harden (53) 4th
6. Luka Doncic (55) 6th
7. Damian Lillard (56) 9th
8. Nikola Jokic (70) T-10th
9. Jimmy Butler (90) 12th
10. Pascal Siakam (98) 13th
11. Joel Embiid (99) 7th
12. Jayson Tatum (127) 22nd
13. Rudy Gobert (130) 17th
14. Paul George (135) 8th
15. Ben Simmons (143) 25th
16. Chris Paul (149) NR
17. Russell Westbrook (155) 21st
18. Donovan Mitchell (179) 14th
T-19. Kyle Lowry (182) 26th
T-19. Bradley Beal (182) 15th
T-21. Trae Young (201) 19th
T-21. Khris Middleton (201) NR
23. Kemba Walker (202) 18th
24. Karl-Anthony Towns (209) T-10th
25. Bam Adebayo (225) NR
26. Zion Williamson (227) NR
27. Devin Booker (229) 20th
28. Kyrie Irving (236) 16th
29. Ja Morant (252) NR
30. Domantas Sabonis (254) NR

The views expressed here do not represent those of the NBA or its clubs.

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