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Ranking the top 25 Players in the NBA going into 2021

NBA

The 2020 NBA season is finished and it already feels like it’s been too long that there’s no basketball.

This postseason did not fall short in terms of memorable moments either. Donovan Mitchell and Jamal Murray duke it out in round one, the Nuggets come back from being down 3-1 twice in the same playoffs, Jimmy Butler’s ascension to superstardom, and of course, LeBron James and Anthony Davis putting it all out on the floor, winning the franchise’s 17th NBA championship.

With everything that happened in playoffs, player rankings have definitely shifted around. This article will outline who the top 25 players in the NBA are in order.

Now, as a disclaimer, this is just my opinion. I may rank players higher than you would have them and vice versa. The beauty of sports is being able to debate who is right and why.

Without further ado, here are my top 25 players in the NBA going into the 2021 season.

Honorable Mentions

These players are incredible basketball players that just missed the top 25 mark according to rankings.

These five NBA players just missed the cut, but you can make an argument for each and every one of them to be put in the top 25.

Now that you have an idea for what the benchmark is to be a top 25 player, here they are.

#25. Kyle Lowry, (PG – Toronto Raptors)

Lowry makes winning plays on the court on offense. He facilitates the team’s offense and also scores the ball himself. He was the team’s second-leading scorer in the 2020 playoffs averaging 17.7 PPG.

Defensively is where Lowry separates himself from other star point guards in the NBA. Despite a lack of size, Lowry’s defensive IQ and positioning are among the best in the NBA. He led the NBA in charges drawn this season with 34 in 58 games played.

Lowry’s ability to be effective on both ends of the floor combined with his leadership and intangibles truly makes him a top 25 player in the NBA.

#24. Bradley Beal (SG- Washington Wizards)

Don’t let the fact that Beal didn’t make the all-star game cloud your judgment about the kind of player he is.

Beal had the highest scoring average ever for someone who wasn’t selected to an All-Star game in 2020. 

Beal averaged 30.5 PPG, 4.2 RPG, and 6.1 APG on 45.5% FG in 2020. Granted he was playing on one of the worst teams in the NBA, but still, it would be foolish to discredit what Beal was able to do from an individual standpoint.

Beal can Ball. He’s ranked #24 for me.

#23. Chris Paul (PG – OKC Thunder)

CP3 was incredible for the Thunder this past season, leading them to a postseason berth that nobody expected. Prior to the start of the season, they were given a 0.2% chance to make the playoffs. Not only did they make it, but they were also the fifth seed and almost knocked off the star-studded Rockets in the first round.

Chris Paul averaged 17.6 PPG, 5.0 RPG, and 6.7 APG on 48.9% FG. After this season, Chris Paul is most definitely a top 25 player in the NBA still.

#22. Karl-Anthony Towns (KAT) (C/PF – Minnesota Timberwolves)

Although the Timberwolves haven’t seen much success as a team, KAT has been one of the most dominant big men in the NBA. Towns has the total package for a Center in the NBA. He can shoot the ball, he’s mobile, long, he rebounds, and he’s a decent shot blocker.

KAT will play his first full season with D’Angelo Russell and the 1st overall pick (if they keep it) in 2021, and I think that this could be the Timberwolves year to emerge as a playoff team. This team would be led of course by the 22nd best player in the NBA, Karl-Anthony Towns.

#21. Devin Booker (SG- Phoenix Suns)

Devin Booker showed out in the bubble, leading the Suns to an 8-0 record putting them on the brink of making the playoffs for the first time in 10 years. Although they came up short, Devin Booker illustrated his potential in the NBA.

Booker can score from anywhere on the floor and he does it efficiently as well. As an individual scorer, Booker is one of the best in the NBA. Next season will be his breakout season.

Booker averaged 26.6 PPG, 4.2 RPG, and 6.5 APG, shooting 48.9% from the field in 2020.

#20. Trae Young (PG- Atlanta Hawks)

Trae Young has been sensational in the NBA, putting up absurd numbers with the Hawks over the last couple of seasons. Young averaged 29.6 PPG and 9.3 APG on 43.7% FG last year on the Hawks; very impressive numbers from a second year player.

Since Young has entered the NBA, he has the most assists among any player in the NBA. Young should be able to widen the gap next year with Clint Capela and John Collins playing in the pick and roll next year.

Young’s explosive scoring has earned him the #20 spot.

#19. Joel Embiid (C – Philadelphia 76ers)

The Process was swept out of the playoffs in the bubble, but it’s not like he should be at fault for any of the losses. Embiid was sensational in the playoffs, averaging 30.0 PPG, 12.3 RPG, and 1.3 BPG on 45.9% FG.

Embiid showed that even on the biggest stage, he is one of the most dominant players in the league. His issue will be staying healthy. If he can do that, he is easily a top 25 player in the NBA.

#18. Klay Thompson (SG- Golden State Warriors)

It’s always hard to predict how players are going to bounce back from major injuries. Klay, however, has had two offseasons and a full season to recover from his ACL injury and should be good to go when the season starts.

When Klay is healthy, he is one of the very best two-way players in the NBA. Takeover ability on offense and elite defensive capabilities puts Klay Thompson at #18.

#17. Zion Williamson (PF/SF – New Orleans Pelicans)

Zion has only played 24 games in the NBA, but he exhibited his potential to have an incredible career in the NBA. Zion averaged 22.5 PPG and 6.3 RPG on 58.3% FG as a rookie! Incredible productivity from a 19 year old.

This will be our first full season seeing Zion and with a full year of NBA training under his belt which makes for a potential dominant season from the Pelican’s star. As long as he avoids injury, Zion will undoubtedly be a top 25 player in the NBA next season.

#16. Ja Morant (PG- Memphis Grizzlies)

Ja Morant was incredible in his rookie campaign with the Grizzlies and eventually won the rookie of the year award. Morant averaged 17.8 PPG and 7.3 APG on 47.7% FG last season with the Grizzlies.

With a year of NBA experience under his belt, Morant will continue to get better. I expect Morant to lead the Grizzlies to the playoffs next season and emerge as a top point guard across the NBA. Top 25 for sure.

#15. Kyrie Irving (PG- Brooklyn Nets)

Prior to going down with an injury in 2020, Kyrie was on an absolute offensive tear with his new team.

He was averaging a career-best, 27.4 PPG to go along with 5.2 RPG (also career-high), and 6.4 APG, on 47.8% FG. Prime Kyrie!

The addition of Kevin Durant leads me to believe that his scoring numbers will go down, but that does not take away from his incredible offensive ability. If Kyrie was a better defender, he would be higher on this list. His defensive struggles land him at #15.

#14. Jamal Murray (PG/SG – Denver Nuggets)

Recency bias definitely plays a part in this ranking, but when you’re looking at what Jamal Murray did in the 2020 playoffs, it would be hard to rank him any lower.

Murray averaged 26.5 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 6.6 APG, on 50.5%FG and 45.3% 3FG!

The bubble was the Jamal Murray breakout party in the Western Conference. He led the Nuggets to the Western Conference Finals while scoring 50 points twice and 40 points twice. He also scored 36 points and 40 points on 65% FG and 58% FG respectively, in Game 7’s. Talk about clutch.

Jamal Murray has emerged as an NBA superstar.

#13. Jayson Tatum (SF – Boston Celtics)

Tatum’s entire 2020 campaign illustrated what he is capable of in the NBA.

The game comes to Tatum with such ease on the offensive end, and his length and size also allow him to be disruptive on defense. As great as Tatum played in the regular season, he elevated his game in the playoffs.

Tatum averaged 25.7 PPG, 10 RPG, 5 APG on 43.4% FG as the primary scoring option on one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.

Tatum deserves his spot in the top 15 now, and I expect him to stay in the top 15 for many years to come.

#12. Donovan Mitchell (SG/PG – Utah Jazz)

Spida Mitchell has been nothing short of incredible for the Jazz throughout his young career. This year in the playoffs, Mitchell put on his best performance yet, averaging 36.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 5.0 APG, on 52.9% FG and 51.6% 3FG!

Incredible numbers for Mitchell who truly did it all in his first-round matchup against the Nuggets. The Jazz star makes excellent decisions on both ends of the floor and has takeover ability, even on the biggest stages.

Mitchell lands at #12 going into 2021.

#11. Damian Lillard (PG/SG – Portland Trail Blazers)

Lillard is already known to be on the league’s most explosive scorers and that alone ranks him this high. He is one of maybe three players in the NBA that you have to pick up from 35 feet out.

His unlimited range and clutch factor makes Lillard always one of the most dangerous players on the floor.

If it wasn’t for Lillard’s defensive struggles he would rank in the top 10. For now, he sits at #11.

#10. Nikola Jokic (C – Denver Nuggets)

Jokic was phenomenal in the 2020 playoffs, averaging 24.4 PPG, 9.8 RPG and 5.7 APG, shooting 51.9% FG and 42.9% 3FG.

Jokic showcased his impact on the court by being the primary playmaker for the Nuggets and facilitating offense. Even on plays that Jokic doesn’t score or assist on, he is still involved in one way or another. To have that kind of offensive ability at the Center position is rare and extremely valuable.

Jokic has inserted himself into the top 10.

#9. James Harden (SG/PG – Houston Rockets)

Harden is arguably the greatest offensive player ever by pure metrics. He scores from everywhere and he scores often. The only reason why Harden is so low on this list is because as we’ve seen year after year, it seems as though Harden’s play style isn’t conducive for playoff success.

No matter how great of a player you are in the regular season, at some point, playoff success has to weigh in on player rankings.

Not taking anything away from Harden though, he is a fantastic player. In fact, 9th best in the NBA.

#8. Stephen Curry (PG/SG – Golden State Warriors)

Curry barely played in 2020 due to a hand injury that kept him out most of the season, so it’s easy to forget how good this guy really is.

When Curry is on the floor, the landscape of the entire game changes. He is a threat to score from anywhere (literally anywhere) on the floor, and he runs an offense better than anyone in the league right now.

The 2x MVP and 3x Champ will show the world how great he is in 2021. He ranks in at #8.

#7. Jimmy Butler (SG/SF – Miami Heat)

This may be a product of recency bias, but after what we saw from Jimmy Butler in the 2020 postseason, it would be very difficult to rank him any lower.

Sure, his numbers won’t compare to anyone else in the top 10, (maybe even top 15 for that matter), but are there 7 players in the NBA that I’d rather have on my team come playoff time? I don’t think so.

Jimmy is a winner and I think he’s the 7th best player heading into 2021.

#6. Giannis Antetokounmpo (PF/SF – Milwaukee Bucks)

This ranking may seem crazy considering Giannis just won back to back MVP’s, but you have to assess him the same way you assess Harden. His lack of playoff success leads me to believe that his play style cannot produce wins in the playoffs against the very best teams.

With that being said, Giannis is still one of the most dominant players in the NBA and any team would love to have him. His takeover ability on both ends of the floor makes him a force to be reckoned with every time he steps onto the hardwood.

If he wants to rank any higher he has to become a legitimate threat from the perimeter. If you can’t make a jump shot, you can’t crack my top 5.

The Greek Freak finishes at #6.

#5. Anthony Davis (PF/C – L.A Lakers)

Anthony Davis had an incredibly impressive season with the Lakers and showed the world that as long as he stays healthy, he is a top 5 player in this league.

He is a truly unstoppable scoring machine. At 7-feet, Davis can is lethal from the mid-range, excellent on the inside, and can even shoot three’s at 38.3% to stretch the defense out!

Anthony Davis is what Giannis would look like if he developed a jump shot. AD is a top 5 player.

#4. Luka Doncic (SG/PG – Dallas Mavericks)

Luka’s impressive two-year career gives him the trajectory to be an NBA legend by the time his career is over. The 21-year-old averaged 28.8 PPG, 9.4 RPG, and 8.8 APG in just his second season in the NBA, incredible!

Luka isn’t afraid of the big stage either. In his first ever playoff series, Luka averaged 31 PPG, 9.8 RPG, and 8.7 APG on 50% FG against one of the premier defenders in the NBA, Kawhi Leonard! Incredible.

Offensively, there isn’t a thing that this guy can’t do. I expect Luka to emerge as the best player in the league within the next five years. For now, he’ll sit comfortably at #4.

#3. Kawhi Leonard (SF – L.A. Clippers)

Although the Clippers were massively disappointing in the 2020 postseason, it wouldn’t be right to disregard Kawhi Leonard’s greatness.

Leonard has shown that he can take over games on the biggest stages by being the best player on both ends of the floor. His efficiency as a player has made him one of the most valuable that the game can offer.

If I need a player on my team going into the playoffs, the argument can be made that Kawhi could be #1. His lack-luster 2020 playoff performance, however, drops him down to #3.

#2. LeBron James (SF- L.A. Lakers)

LeBron James continues to add to his legacy even at age 35. Coming off of an NBA Championship with the Lakers, LeBron has proven that he is still one of the very best players in the NBA.

He was phenomenal in the 2020 season, putting together an MVP-caliber regular season and coupling it with an NBA Finals MVP it would be hard to argue that there isn’t a better player on planet earth right now going into next season.

However, with all factors being considered, it can be expected that LeBron takes a slight step back. In December LeBron will turn 36 and will need his rest more than ever before. Last season, he was given a full offseason and had time to recover and prepare. He also had a two month lapse in the NBA season where he could rest and recover.

Without another full offseason, it’s hard to say whether LeBron will come back just as explosive and impactful as this season.

For now, LeBron remains the second ranked player going into 2021.

#1. Kevin Durant (SF – Brooklyn Nets)

Kevin Durant will be the best player coming into the 2021 season.

Yes, Kevin Durant is coming off of a career ending injury for some (torn achilles), but still, even with it being unknown how the injury will affect Durant, I want KD taking the last shot if I’m trying to win the championship.

Fully healthy, Kevin Durant is the best scorer that the NBA may have ever seen. He is truly an unstoppable offensive scoring machine with virtually no flaws in his offensive game.

He’s a seven-footer who can handle the ball like a guard, shoot it better than 90% of the league, and score from anywhere on the floor.

Going into 2021, Durant should be fully recovered from his injury and ready to take the league by storm with Kyrie.

With LeBron winning another Championship, the chatter about LeBron being the best in the league will motivate Durant to dominate with the Nets.

It may be a bold take, but I’ve seen what Durant can do on the basketball floor. Nobody else in the NBA can takeover a game quite like he can. Kevin Durant will be the best player in the NBA next season.

Although making rankings are fun, it certainly does not dictate how exactly the season will go. Players will underperform and drop and players will overperform and rise. Rankings will change weekly. These are not set in stone. They do, however, give a rough outline of where each player ranks among the leagues best.

These are the top 25 players in the NBA heading into the 2021 season.

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