We’re back with an updated edition of our top 10 player rankings ahead of the NBA Playoffs as the 2021-22 NBA season draws to a close.
The Sporting News hasn’t produced a top 10 list in almost three months, with the most recent edition arriving just before the new year. A few things have changed since then, as one might expect.
We’re including players who are out due to injury this time, and with good cause. What if Kawhi Leonard returns for the playoffs and turns the Western Conference on its head?
How do season-ending injuries affect players like Damian Lillard and Bradley Beal’s overall ranking in the league? Incorporating everyone — regardless of their current status — provides a more complete picture of the NBA today.
These rankings are the result of a collaboration between TSN’s worldwide NBA staff, which includes 11 writers and editors from five continents.
Each voter assigned a point value to the top 10 players in the league, based on a sliding scale. The players were ranked according to their total points.
1) Giannis Antetokounmpo
Giannis has entered a new plane after a historic performance in the 2021 NBA Finals, where remarkable is the baseline expectation – it’s the highest accolade, but it may sometimes cause successes to be overlooked.
Could he repeat the feat in 2022? He received eight of the eleven first-place votes from our voters, indicating that they agree.
Giannis is averaging 30.1 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game for a Bucks club that is in contention for the East’s top spot, firmly establishing himself as a candidate for MVP and Defensive Player of the Year.
2) Kevin Durant
Durant is so much more than a scorer, but he continues to show us this season that he can score the ball in ways that no one else has ever done. This season, he’s had three games with 50 points or more, including a career-high 55 points against the Hawks on April 2.
This is where the “so much more than a scorer” phrase comes into play, as Kevin Durant is averaging a career-high 6.1 assists per game, demonstrating his willingness to wear any hat the team requires on any given night.
3) Nikola Jokic
Not only does Jokic lead the league in counting metrics (26.8 points, 13.7 rebounds, and 8.0 assists per game), but he also leads the league in advanced stats (Win Shares, BPM, PER, and On/Off margins).
The most crucial statistic is that the Nuggets are 47-32 thanks to Jokic’s efforts, despite missing Jamal Murray for the whole season and having Michael Porter Jr. play in only nine games.
Jokic makes it appear simple for himself while also making things simpler for his teammates. It’s no surprise that he received the most votes.
4) Joel Embiid
This season, Embiid has been the epitome of domination, averaging a career-high 30.2 points per game, 11.6 rebounds, and a career-best 4.2 assists per game.
Embiid continues to be a difference-maker on the defensive end, where he anchors things for Philadelphia, in addition to his offensive supremacy.
Embiid is aiming for an NBA title with Harden by his side. The only top-10 combination on this list is certainly capable of completing the task.
5) Stephen Curry
Curry’s MVP conversation slowed as his shooting fell, but it wasn’t enough to knock him out of the top five.
This is where I remind you that “cooling down” is a relative term for Curry, who is shooting 38.0 percent on 4.5 three-point attempts a game this season.
Stephen Curry‘s season has been cut short due to injury, but if he and a healthy Golden State team click in the playoffs, the team might be in line for a deep run.
6) LeBron James
Although LeBron has dropped out of the top five this season, a sixth-place finish for the league’s fourth-oldest player is nothing short of remarkable.
James might win the NBA scoring title in his 19th (!) season, as he’s presently averaging a career-high 30.3 points per game, albeit it hasn’t been enough for his Lakers, who could miss the playoffs entirely.
Regardless of the team’s troubles, LeBron continues to defy logic, gravity, and Father Time by performing at an All-NBA level in his 20th NBA season.
7) Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi Leonard hasn’t played since last June, but he’ll start at number seven this time. Do you realise how talented you have to be to obtain such a high ranking after not playing for nearly a year?
Los Angeles hasn’t ruled out Leonard returning for the postseason, which would instantly elevate the Clippers to one of the most dangerous lower seeded in NBA history.
8) Luka Doncic
Doncic’s season averages of 28.3 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 8.7 assists make it difficult to believe he had a slow start to the season. Luka Doncic is hitting his stride, and the Mavs have cracked the winning recipe, which bodes well for the postseason.
9) Chris Paul
Paul, who will turn 37 during the NBA Playoffs in 2022, is in his 17th season in the league. CP3 is averaging 14.9 points and a league-leading 10.7 assists despite losing time due to injury for a Suns team that has by far the best record in the league.
Paul and the Suns are set for another long run in 2022, after coming two victories short of the NBA title.
10) James Harden
Harden completes the top 10, reiterating his status as a top-10 NBA player regardless of locale.
James Harden‘s quest for a championship continues now that he’s a member of the Sixers, where he’s averaging 22.0 points and 9.8 assists while adjusting to new teammates and a new system.