50 best basketball players today in 2021
BEST NBA PLAYERS: The Brooklyn Nets’ acquisition of James Harden during the 2020-21 NBA season added another layer to the super-team era in the Association. They now have three of the top 25 players in the league.
The defending champion Los Angeles Lakers are almost in the same category with two of the top-30 players. These are among the teams with the best chances of winning the title over the next several years.
However some in the new guard such as Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic have joined the old guard (Stephen Curry) in making names for themselves in 2021. Below, we look at the top 50 players in the NBA right now.
Without further ado, here are the top-50 NBA players right now.
50. Collin Sexton, Cleveland Cavaliers
Each time LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers, they have tried to build around a point guard. In 2011, it was Kyrie Irving. This time around, it’s Collin Sexton. Sexton is the clear-cut choice as the Cavaliers’ main building block. No other player is as young (22) or boasts the scoring prowess (24.3 points per game this past season) that he does. Could an All-Star appearance be in the cards in the near future?
49. Christian Wood, center, Houston Rockets
One of the most-underrated acquisitions during last year’s NBA offseason, Wood has proven to be a godsend for a Rockets team that will now have to find an identity in the post-Harden era. The former undrafted free agent from UNLV averaged 21.0 points and 9.6 rebounds while shooting a ridiculous 51% from the field this past offseason.
48. Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors
Taking a back seat to Kawhi Leonard in 2018-19, Lowry saw his scoring numbers (14.2) fall to the second-lowest since 2013 (11.6). But with Leonard taking his talents to Southern California, the 35-year-old Lowry and Pascal Siakam comprised a de facto 1-2 punch for a struggling Raptors squad. Despite said struggles, Lowry still averaged 17.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 7.3 assists while shooting 40% from distance during the 2020-21 campaign.
47. Jerami Grant, forward, Detroit Pistons
Acquired from the Oklahoma City Thunder last offseason, Grant is playing at a much higher level than anyone expected for one of the NBA’s worst teams. The former second-round pick averaged a resounding 22.3 points to go with 5.6rebounds on 35% shooting from distance last season. Still only 27, the sky seems to be the limit for this all-around player.
46. Gordon Hayward, forward, Charlotte Hornets
Hayward’s injury issues are by now well known. He missed all but one game of his first season with the Boston Celtics back in 2017-18 due to a horrible leg injury. Even during his first regular season with the Hornets, it did not appear that the former All-Star was back to 100%. Despite this, Hayward was still able to average 19.6 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.1 assists 47% shooting from the field.
45. Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
An amazing defensive player, the “Stifle Tower” has shown that he can stop almost anyone at the rim. His offense needs work if he is to stay on the court against smaller, faster teams. But as long as he plays his role, he’ll be fine. After inking an extension with Utah last offseason, Gobert averaged another double-double at 14.3 points and 13.5 rebounds while averaging 2.7 blocks per outing during the 2020-21 regular season.
44. DeMar DeRozan, San Antonio Spurs
Even without a three-point shot, the 31-year-old DeRozan has found a way to stay effective. An excellent mid-range shooter, he improved his rebounding and passing since coming to the Spurs in 2018. Even though he’ll never be a defensive force, count on DeRozan to put up 20/5/5 every night.
43. Jrue Holiday, Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks took a massive gamble in their blockbuster trade for Holiday. Trading three future first-round picks and giving the New Orleans Pelicans two pick swaps is an absurd price. However, that’s the cost of convincing your star to stay. Holiday, one of the NBA’s best two-way players, is a perfect fit in Milwaukee’s system. Alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, the Bucks have the star power and defensive prowess to make a run at the NBA Finals.
42. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, guard, Oklahoma City Thunder
Pretty much the centerpiece in the trade that sent Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers ahead of the 2019-20 season, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has morphed into a star and leader for the rebuilding Thunder. It’s pretty darn shocking what we’ve seen him do thus far in OKC. Prior to going down with a season-ending injury, SGA was averaging 23.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists on 51% shooting. At 22, he’ll be even better during the 2021-22 season.
41. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves
A former No. 1 pick, the 25-year-old Towns has lived up to his end of the bargain on the offensive end. He still needs to work on his defense but as long as he keeps working, he should be serviceable on that end. But any improvement would be for naught if the Timberwolves don’t put a competitive squad around Towns to complement his talents after another down 2020-21 season. Towns’ presence this low on our list of best NBA players is primarily due to the fact that he’s played just 85 games over the past two seasons.
40. Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors
The new No. 1 option in Toronto, Siakam has shown to be a capable offensive player, scoring either inside or out at will. Unfortunately, the forward took a step back for the struggling Raptors in 2020-21. He averaged less points and rebounds while shooting the same 45% from the field as the previous season.
39. Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks
A former second-round picks of the Pistons back in 2012. Middleton improved each of his first six seasons in the NBA before finally earning an All-Star appearance back in 2018-19. Over the course of the past three years, the Texas A&M product is averaging 19.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.1 assists on 45% from the field. The only issue here has been in the playoffs, where Middleton is shooting 40% over the Bucks’ past two trips to the postseason.
38. LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets
Shocking. That has to be the best way to describe Ball’s ascension into the top-50. The rookie No. 3 pick had one of the best initial regular seasons in NBA history. That’s not hyperbole. Ball, 19, averaged 15.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 6.1 assists on 35% shooting from the field while playing elite-level defense for a surprising Hornets squad.
37. De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings
The 23-year-old Fox averaged 25.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, 7.2 assists and 1.5 steals on 48% shooting from the field in his fourth NBA season, proving himself to be among the best NBA players at the point guard position. That’s magnified by the fact Fox has improved in each of his four seasons. The dude is a legit All-Star caliber player.
36. Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
Green, 31, seemed to be a shell of his former select during a down 2019-20 season. Apparently, that was due to the Warriors’ lack of standing as a playoff contender, because, he turned it around big time this past regular season. While Green averaged just 7.0 points, he also put up 7.1 rebounds, 8.9 assists and 1.7 steals in a brilliant all-around performance. Green has to be considered one of the top NBA Defensive Player of the Year candidates, too.
35. Malcolm Brogdon, guard, Indiana Pacers
Acquired in a sign-and-trade with the Bucks prior to the 2019-20 season, Brogdon has morphed into a star in Indiana. The 28-year-old guard averaged 21.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.9 assists on 39% shooting from distance for a disappointing Pacers team during the 2020-21 regular season.
34. Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies
At just 21, the runaway 2020 Rookie of the Year led the Grizzlies in scoring (19.1) and assists (7.4) while sitting at third with 3.4 win shares in his sophomore season. It might not have been the breakout performance Memphis was hoping for, but Morant looks like a true budding star.
33. Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans
All the talk in Nola has surrounded Zion Williamson. That’s fine. But Ingram has been extra special since they acquired him from the Lakers. In his second season with the Pelicans, this wing averaged 23.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.9 assists while shooting 38% from distance. After signing a max contract extension ahead of the 2020-21 campaign, Ingram is now continuing to play at a high level. That should continue in 2021-22.
32. C.J. McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers
Although Damian Lillard got a lot of credit for leading the Trail Blazers to a surprise Western Conference Finals appearance in 2019, that couldn’t have been done without McCollum. And despite a down 2019-20 season for the team, Portland views McCollum as a core piece. For good reason. The 29-year-old guard averaged 23.1 points and 4.7 assists on 40% shooting from three-point range during the 2020-21 regular season. He’s one of the best NBA players in the game right now.
31. Domantas Sabonis, Indiana Pacers
Initially a throw-in piece in the Paul George trade, the 25-year-old Sabonis is thriving in Indiana. Fresh off two consecutive All-Star appearances, the Oregon native is averaging 19.4 points, 12.2 rebounds and 5.8 assists on 54% shooting from the field over the past two seasons. Talk about a stellar all-around game.
30. Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
Still only 24 years old, Simmons has an opportunity to morph into an elite player. Despite a stellar defensive game and ball distribution skills, a lack of any type of perimeter shot has impacted him big time. Fresh off rumors about a potential trade, Simmons was in the midst of a down season before picking it up big time toward the end of the regular year. He ended the campaign averaging 14.3 points, 7.2 rebounds and 6.9 assists on 56% shooting while playing at a Defensive Player of the Year level.
29. Russell Westbrook, Washington Wizards
After some initial struggles in his first season as a member of the Wizards, Westbrook picked it up big time to help the team to the play-in tournament. He averaged 22.2 points, 11.5 rebounds and a league-leading 11.7 assists — besting Oscar Robertson for the most triples-doubles in Association history. At 32, this dude can still do it.
28. Nikola Vucevic, Chicago Bulls
A throwback to bigs of the past, Vucevic has been slowly expanding his offensive game. Now with the Chicago Bulls following a mid-season trade from the Orlando Magic, the two-time All-Star finished the 2020-21 regular season averaging 23.4 points and 11.7 rebounds. He also shot 40% from three-point range. What’s great about Vucevic’s recent performance, is that he’s nailed 422 three-pointers over the past five seasons after hitting a mere 30 over his first four campaigns.
27. Julius Randle, New York Knicks
Thought by some to be a one-dimensional player after the Los Angeles Lakers made him a top-10 pick back in 2014, the 26-year-old Randle has morphed into an elite-level all-around player for the improved Knicks. Earning his first All-Star appearance this past regular season, the forward averaged 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and 6.0 assists on 41% shooting from three-point range.
26. Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets
In highly unfortunate fashion, Jamal Murray went down to a torn ACL 48 games into the 2020-21 season. That came after the 2019-20 NBA Playoff hero averaged 21.2 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists 41% from three-point range. The hope here is that said knee injury doesn’t impact the 24-year-old guard too much moving forward.
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25. Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks
Having averaged almost 30 points per game as a sophomore, Young is shaping up to be the next shooter with limitless range. The better news? He didn’t have to as much scoring for an improved Atlanta Hawks squad during the 2020-21 regular season. Young, 22, averaged 25.3 points to go with a career-high 9.4 assists while shooting 34% from distance.
24. Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics
Brown has teamed up with Jayson Tatum to form an elite young wing duo in Boston. The former No. 3 pick has proven Danny Ainge right in refusing to include him in trades for the likes of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in the past. Unfortunately, Brown went down to a season-ending injury late during the regular year. He did so after averaging 24.7 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.4 assists on 48% shooting from the field.
23. Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers
The 28-year-old Davis has been a two-way presence since being the first pick back in 2012. His numbers had improved every year leading up to an injury-plagued 2020-21 regular season in which Davis averaged an eight-year low 21.8 points per game. The hope here is that injuries don’t end up derailing a career that seems headed for the Hall of Fame.
22. Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls
No longer just a dunker, LaVine has improved in almost every other facet of his game from his shooting averages to his per-game totals. Only 26, LaVine has a lot of time to improve other facets of his game to become one of the better all-around players in the NBA. It looks like new Bulls coach Billy Donovan has fully maximized LaVine’s potential. He averaged 27.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.9 assists on 51% shooting in 2020-21. Those are elite numbers. They also made him a first-time All-Star this past season.
21. Chris Paul, Phoenix Suns
Chris Paul demonstrated that he still has gas left in the tank during an absolutely brilliant 2020-21 regular season for the Phoenix Suns. Continuing to prove himself to be among the best NBA players of the era, the 36-year-old Paul averaged 16.4 points, 4.5 rebounds and 8.9 assists. He also shot 40% or better from three-point range for the fourth time in his career.
20. Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat
Speaking of max contract extensions, Adebayo re-upped with the Heat as his talents continue to flourish in South Beach. Some saw Bam as a major project coming out of Kentucky a few years back. An All-Star snub this past season, that’s no longer the case. Adebayo averaged 18.7 points, 9.0 rebounds and 5.4 assists on a resounding 57% from distance. He’s also expanded his game to the mid-range on offense. That’s scary stuff for opposing teams moving forward.
19. Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz
Since coming into the league in the 2017, Mitchell has proven to be a fast-rising star in the NBA. The 24-year-old is a nightly 20-4-4 threat and even as the focal point in the offense, his percentages have stayed consistent in his three years in the league. If he’s able to keep producing, it’s not out of the equation that Mitchell will become a top-10 player. Despite missing time to injury during the end of the 2020-21 campaign, Mitchell averaged 26.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists for an NBA-best Jazz squad.
18. Paul George, Los Angeles Clippers
One of the few truly elite two-way players in the league, George is a terror on both ends of the court. He can drop 20-25 points on a nightly basis while also shutting down the opposing team’s best player. Fairly durable throughout his career, George’s age (31) makes it difficult to see where his ceiling is at this point. After some initial struggles this past season, he averaged 23.3 points, 6.6 rebounds and 5.2 assists.
17. Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors
The other half of the vaunted “Splash Bros.,” the 30-year-old Thompson is one of the greatest shooters the NBA has even seen. Because of how great of a shooter he is, Thompson can score 30-plus in a quarter or even score 60-plus on fewer than 15 dribbles in the blink-of-an-eye. If he’s not destroying opposing teams offensively, he’s doing it on the defensive end as he’s an All-Defensive-type performer.
Unfortunately, we didn’t even get a chance to see Thompson play this past season. After suffering a torn Achilles, just on the brink of returning from a torn ACL, there are now long-term questions about Thompson’s future. If anyone can rebound from these two devastating injuries, though, it will be Klay Thompson.
16. Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns
Much like Towns, the 24-year-old Booker is an offensive force. Look no further than his 70-point performance against the Celtics a few years ago as evidence. He may not be a defensive stopper, but because he can easily put up 26-6-4 every night. Booker has seen his scoring drop a bit with Chris Paul in the mix, but the dude still shot a ridiculous 48% from the field this past regular season. That’s insane for someone most view to be mostly a perimeter threat.
15. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
As part of Boston’s three-headed monster, the 23-year-old Tatum has taken that next step of being the go-to option on offense. Leading the Celtics in scoring (26.4) and three-point shooting (39%) last season, he has shown that he can lead a playoff team. If he keeps playing the way that he is, he is a lock to be an All-Star every year.
14. Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans
If injuries had not cut short this generational talent’s rookie season, Williamson would have vied with Ja Morant for the NBA Rookie of the Year honors. The dude was on pace for the most efficient scoring season before the campaign was suspended back in March. Even after suffering a season-ending injury late in the 2020-21 campaign, Williamson made a name for himself. He averaged 27.0 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists on 61% shooting from the field. Just insane stuff from the 20-year-old.
13. Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets
Probably the best ball-handler of all-time, Irving’s mastery with a basketball is undeniable. He can score 50 or any given night and drop any defender that’s in front of him. After missing time earlier in the season for “personal reasons,” Irving caught lightning in a bottle. He joined the rare 50-40-90 club while averaging 26.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 6.0 assists during the regular season.
12. Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat
On his third team in three years, the 31-year-old Butler seems to have finally found a home in Miami. Leading the team in scoring (21.5), assists (7.1), steals (2.1) and free-throw attempts (8.0) per game in 2020-21, Butler has embraced the Heat’s winning culture with great success thus far.
11. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
No doubt one of the best clutch shot makers in recent history, the 30-year-old Lillard definitely knows what time it is when it comes to the game clock. It’s “Dame Time.” The three-time All-Star has led the Trail Blazers in almost every facet since being drafted in 2012 and it doesn’t seem like that is changing any time soon. His numbers were up in 2020-21 with Lillard averaging a whopping 28.8 points on 39% shooting from distance.
Top 10 Best Basketball Players:
10. Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
Having led the league in scoring at 30.5 points per game during the 2019-20 campaign, the 27-year-old Beal is a fantastic offensive option. He’s now taken that to a new level in the nation’s capital. Beal finished second in the Association in scoring in 2020-21 behind Stephen Curry, averaging an outstanding 31.3 points per game.
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9. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets
At 6-foot-11, the 32-year-old Durant is unlike any player the NBA has ever seen. He can back you down in the post and can drill deep daggers from deep — and can easily put up 30-10-5 on any night. He is also an excellent defensive player thanks to his height and wingspan, averaging more than a block per game. Returning from a torn Achilles that cost him the 2019-20 season, Durant sat out 37 of 72 games during the regular year. When on the court, he averaged 26.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 5.6 assists on a career-best 45% shooting from three-point range. The hope here is that injuries don’t derail Durant’s career moving forward.
8. Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers
Many argue Leonard is the NBA’s No. 1 perimeter defender, and lets his play do the talking. The two-time NBA Finals MVP has improved on every facet of his game, averaging 24.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.2 assists on 51% shooting from the field this past regular season. The fact that Leonard seemingly doesn’t care about regular season stats or accolades and would rather focus on postseason success just goes to show what type of player he is.
7. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
When he’s on the floor, the oft-injured 27-year-old Embiid is a game-changer. He can put up points in bunches while also shutting guys down on defense. There’s not a lot of players in the league that have the capability of doing what Embiid can on both ends of the court. He’s the 76ers’ best player by a mile, but he has to stay healthy. That was not the case this past regular season with Embiid missing 21 games to injury. Even then, he averaged 28.5 points and 10.6 rebounds on a career-best 51% shooting.
6. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
At only 22, Doncic is doing things for the Mavericks that haven’t been done since LeBron James. Nearly averaging a 30-10-10 in only his second year, the sky is the limit for Doncic and the Mavericks. He turned in another stellar campaign in 2020-21, averaging 27.7 points, 8.0 rebounds and 8.6 assists on 35% shooting from distance. If Doncic improves on defense, he’ll be one of the five-best NBA players moving forward.
5. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
Not the fleetest of foot, Jokic’s game has always been predicated on his methodical movement and amazing IQ. The three-time All-Star is only 25 but he can easily put up 20-10 with seven assists as the focal point of the Nuggets’ offense. Considering how early he is in his career, it’s not out of the question to see Jokic develop a more consistent three-point shot. A leader for the NBA MVP, Jokic averaged 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists during the 2020-21 regular season.
4. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
Although Antetokounmpo needs to improve his shooting — mainly from three-point range and the free throw line — there’s evidence to show that he’s working on that facet of his game. Considering he still has plenty of upside to explore, if he’s able to even passably shoot treys and freebies, Giannis can be the face of the league for at least the next five years. The two-time reigning NBA MVP averaged 28.1 points, 11.0 rebounds and 5.9 assists on 57% shooting from the field this past regular season.
Top 3 players in the NBA now
3. James Harden, Brooklyn Nets
Maybe one of the best offensive players in NBA history, Harden has shown that he can lead a team as the No. 1 option on that end of the court. At 31, Harden is seemingly able to find new and creative ways to get the ball in the basket every year, no matter how ungraceful it may look. Now a member of the Brooklyn Nets following a blockbuster early-season trade, he was absolutely brilliant when he was on the court during the regular season — averaging 24.6 points, 8.5 rebounds and 10.9 assists for the Nets.
2. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Curry’s status as a top player in the league is no longer in doubt after returning from an injury-plagued 2019-20 to dominate for the Warriors this past regular season. The dude won his second career scoring title by averaging 32.0 points per game, joining Michael Jordan in some elite company. The 33-year-old Curry also nailed an absurd 337 three-pointers in 63 games and now holds four of the top-five spots in three-pointers made in a season. Did we mention Curry is a three-time NBA champion and two-time MVP? Yeah!
1. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
Even at 36 and dealing with injuries recently, James is still finding ways to improve his game. Look no further than the fact that he averaged 25.0 points, 7.7 rebounds and 7.8 assists on 51% shooting from the field as an 18th-year player during the 2020-21 regular season. No mention of the best NBA players in history can be seen as legitimate without James being among them. He’s a four-time champion, 17-time All-Star and four-time MVP winner. Enough said.
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Author: Vincent Frank