NBA

Who are the best players in the NBA entering the 2020-21 season?

A new season means new player rankings.

As always, this is a collaborative effort, with eight members of our NBA.com Global Staff submitting their list of who they believe are the 30-best players heading into the 2020-21 season. We then used a point system to come up with the following list.

The last time we did this was after the Los Angeles Lakers were crowned champions of the 2019-20 season. Not much has changed since then thanks to a shorter-than-normal offseason, but that doesn't mean our ranking isn't different, because we've included Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving this time, three top-30 players who didn't crack our last list due to season-ending injuries.

The only notable player not included this time: Klay Thompson, who is expected to miss the entire 2020-21 season with a torn Achilles.

With all that in mind, onto the list.

Notable omissions

Coming up with a top-30 is harder than you'd think.

Here are some notable players who just missed the cut:

  • Russell Westbrook, Washington Wizards
  • Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks
  • Jrue Holiday, Milwaukee Bucks
  • Blake Griffin, Detroit Pistons
  • Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans
  • Kristaps Porzingis, Dallas Mavericks
  • Kemba Walker, Boston Celtics
  • Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
  • CJ McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers
  • De'Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings
  • DeMar DeRozan, San Antonio Spurs
  • D'Angelo Russell, Minnesota Timberwolves

Of those players, Westbrook, Middleton, Ingram, Porzingis, Fox and Russell were the only ones to receive votes from our NBA.com Staff heading into 2020-21.

Additionally, Middleton, Westbrook and McCollum made our last top-30 list. Middleton ranked 21st, Westbrook ranked 22nd and McCollum ranked 28th.

10. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

Highest rank: 8

Lowest rank: 10

Lillard put the NBA on notice in the season restart, carrying the Blazers to the playoffs with averages of 37.6 points and 9.6 assists on .497/.436/.888 shooting splits over their eight seeding games, earning him Bubble MVP.

With a better supporting cast this season, Lillard could work his way into the MVP discussion if the Blazers sneak their way into the top four of the Western Conference this season.

9. James Harden, Houston Rockets

Highest rank: 7

Lowest rank: 10

Arguably the best offensive player in the NBA, Harden has led the league in scoring in three consecutive seasons, peaking in 2018-19 with 36.1 points per game. Say what you want about his postseason history, but the Rockets have made the playoffs eight straight seasons with Harden at the helm, giving them the longest active streak in the NBA.

8. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets

Highest rank: 7

Lowest rank: 10

The way Jokic ended last season sure made everyone forget how he started it. He took his game to another level in the playoffs yet again, leading the Nuggets to the Western Conference Finals with 24.4 points, 9.8 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game.

Is there any question as to who the best centre in the league is anymore?

7. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

Highest rank: 6

Lowest rank: 11

A six-time All-Star, three-time champion, two-time MVP and one-time scoring champion ... Curry's resume speaks for itself. The question with him is health. After missing all but five games last season with a broken hand, Golden State's hope of returning to the playoffs this season in a crowded Western Conference hinges on Curry staying on the court.

6. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

Highest rank: 6

Lowest rank: 11

In his sophomore season, Doncic posted 28.8 points, 9.4 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game. According to Stathead, only two players in NBA history have ever posted those numbers before.

Those players? Russell Westbrook and Oscar Robertson.

Doncic followed that up by breaking a number of records in his first taste of postseason basketball.

He's only 21, but Doncic is well on his way towards being an all-time great.

5. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets

Highest rank: 4

Lowest rank: 5

The last time we saw Durant, he was arguably the best player in the NBA. Even if he's 90 percent of the player he was prior to tearing his Achilles, he'll likely be worthy of this spot.

You have to take everything that happens in preseason with a grain of salt, but Durant's debut with the Nets sure was promising.

4. Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers

Highest rank: 2

Lowest rank: 5

Coming off of one of the greatest individual postseason runs in NBA history, we had Leonard as the best player in the league heading into the 2019-20 season. He put together a career year with the Clippers in averaging 27.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and 4.9 rebounds per game, but it all came crumbling down in the playoffs, blowing a 3-1 lead to the Nuggets in the second round.

That might've cost Leonard a few spots on this list, but he's still arguably the best two-way player in the league.

3. Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers

Highest rank: 2

Lowest rank: 4

Davis didn't disappoint in his first playoff run with the Lakers. The biggest surprise? His jump shot. After making 34.9 percent of his field goal attempts from midrange during the regular season, Davis shot 49.6 percent from that distance in the playoffs. Davis also improved his 3-point percentage, from 33.0 percent in the regular season to 38.3 percent in the playoffs.

If that's a sign of what's to come ... uh oh.

2. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

Highest rank: 1

Lowest rank: 3

Not only did Antetokounmpo win his second MVP award last season, he became the third player in NBA history to be named the league's MVP and DPOY in the same season, joining two legends in Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon.

Regular season Giannis is arguably the best player in the league, but it's hard to see him taking the top spot until he has more success in the playoffs.

1. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

Highest rank: 1

Lowest rank: 4

Who else were you expecting?

We didn't have James as the No. 1 player in the league entering the 2019-20 season, but he proved us and everyone else who doubted him in any way, shape or form wrong last season in leading the Lakers to the championship with averages of 29.8 points, 11.8 rebounds and 8.5 assists per game in the Finals.

James enters his age 36 season ranked ninth all-time in regular season minutes and first all-time in postseason minutes. Father Time should've caught up to him at this point, but he hasn't shown any signs of slowing down.

The final list

Rank Player (points) Previous ranking
1. LeBron James (11) 1st
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo (17) 2nd
3. Anthony Davis (23) T-3rd
4. Kawhi Leonard (30) T-3rd
5. Kevin Durant (39) Not Ranked*
6. Luka Doncic (54) 5th
7. Stephen Curry (63) Not Ranked*
8. Nikola Jokic (66) 6th
9. James Harden (68) 8th
10. Damian Lillard (75) 9th
11. Jimmy Butler (93) 7th
12. Jayson Tatum (100) 10th
13. Joel Embiid (104) 12th
14. Chris Paul (119) 11th
15. Bam Adebayo (124) 13th
16. Ben Simmons (138) T-16
17. Donovan Mitchell (140) 14th
18. Kyrie Irving (148) Not Ranked*
19. Devin Booker (161) 19th
20. Jamal Murray (164) 15th
21. Bradley Beal (167) 20th
22. Paul George (170) 24th
23. Karl-Anthony Towns (177) 27th
24. Pascal Siakam (192) T-16th
25. Trae Young (203) 26th
26. Kyle Lowry (205) 18th
27. Ja Morant (228) 29th
28. Jaylen Brown (230) 23rd
29. Rudy Gobert (230) 25th
30. Zion Williamson (232) 30th

* Not ranked due to injuries.

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