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The talent level in the NBA is at an all-time peak, and with that comes its own set of problems with regard to deciphering and determining the best of the best. How does one choose the best sentence in a literary masterpiece? Or the most delicious bite at a three-Michelin-star restaurant? After a certain point it just becomes a matter of personal preference, and even then, the person making the decision could waver from day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute.

Thus, we arrive at the inherent torture of ranking the top 100 players in the NBA.

Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo couldn't be more different -- from body type to skill set to personality. Yet we're somehow supposed to correctly place them in order of greatness? Analytics are helpful. Accolades can be tiebreakers. But ultimately it comes down to your gut.

That's why, here at CBS Sports, we have gone with the consensus approach. Each of our NBA writers came up with their own list of the top 100 NBA players for the 2022-23 season, taking into account potential improvement and decline. Then, through a not-so-complex process, we arrived at one glorious list to rule them all. (Just to show you how difficult this is, no two of our writers had the top six players in the same order.)

The agony of an exercise like this is entirely the point. We love to say "so-and-so is a top-10 player in the league." Oh yeah? Let's see the list. You'll drive yourself crazy for days before realizing the player you wanted to put in there isn't even close.

Debates like this are part of the reason why we love sports. The games are entertaining and fandom is unlike any other social institution, but questions like this fuel our passion. Who is the best player in the NBA? The topic merits a lengthy and complex discussion, and hopefully we've done it justice with our list and analysis.

So here's to the sport we love, and the butterflies that can only come with a fresh season.

With that in mind, let's get to the list. (For a closer position-by-position look, CBS Sports also breaks down its rankings for point guards, shooting guards, small forwards, power forwards and centers.)

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Grant Williams Boston Celtics PF
Excluding his first trip to the postseason in 2015, only three defenders have ever held Giannis Antetokounmpo below 50 percent from the field across an entire seven-game series. Between them, Kawhi Leonard and Bam Adebayo have two Defensive Player of the Year awards and 10 All-Defense selections. Defender No. 3 is far less famous. Williams isn't nearly as accomplished as those other two. He isn't as versatile either, as Stephen Curry's off-ball movement effectively knocked him out of the Finals -- though, in fairness, Curry does that to almost everyone. But the NBA is going to run through Giannis for the next several years, and Boston is one of the only teams with a one-man brick wall to place between him and the basket. That alone warrants inclusion on this list. The fact that he can sink seven 3-pointers to win a Game 7 is the icing on the cake. -- Sam Quinn
Christian Wood Dallas Mavericks C
Wood had a strange season in Houston, but his production was certainly there as he put up 18 points and 10 rebounds per game while hitting 39 percent of his 3-pointers. He'll join Luka Doncic in Dallas this year, which should set him up for more opportunities both at the rim and behind the arc. Wood also has a sneaky floater game that landed him in the 89th percentile on runners, according to Synergy. There may be some occasional motivation issues on defense, but Wood has the potential to be an elite rim protector, allowing just 1.095 points per possession around the basket last season, per Synergy, good for the 73rd percentile. -- Colin Ward-Henninger
Russell Westbrook Los Angeles Lakers PG
Westbrook barely creeps into our top 100, and even that is purely a statistical recognition -- the guy averaged 18-7-7 last season. And yet, the Lakers want to trade him. Problem is, nobody wants him, at least not without charging a draft-pick tax the Lakers have heretofore been unwilling to pay. That might change as the season nears, but as of right now, the growing belief is that L.A. is going to try to make it work with Westbrook. -- Brad Botkin
Franz Wagner Orlando Magic SF
It is really, really rare to find a rookie who can come in and do everything from day one. Scottie Barnes is still learning how to shoot. Evan Mobley isn't much of a playmaker yet. Even Cade Cunningham had a slow start before figuring things out down the stretch. Wagner and Cunningham were the only rookies to finish in the top-7 among 2021 draftees in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks a season ago, yet Wagner did it while shooting five percentage points higher from the field and four from behind the arc. The defensive metrics are just as bullish: FiveThirtyEight's D-RAPTOR, Basketball Index's LEBRON both ranked him in the top 10 among rookies, while Dunks & 3's EPM places him in the 79th percentile among all players league-wide defensively. We instinctively gravitate towards upside with young players, and Wagner's is considerable, but there's something to be said for a player that manages to reach the NBA without a single weakness. What team couldn't use a 6-10 Swiss Army knife who drives, shoots, passes, rebounds and defends? -- Sam Quinn
Norman Powell Los Angeles Clippers SF
Clippers fans only saw a five-game glimpse of Powell last season, but they got a great indication of what he's capable of as a scorer. Combined with his 40 games in Portland last season, Powell averaged 19 points on 46/42/81 shooting splits, and should provide some relief and comfort for Kawhi Leonard and Paul George on the offensive end. Powell was the elite of the elite in terms of catch-and-shoot production, in the 92nd percentile last season during his time with the Blazers, per Synergy. He's also adept at putting the ball on the floor, landing in the 84th percentile in off-the-dribble jumpers. -- Colin Ward-Henninger
Joe Harris Brooklyn Nets SG
Care to guess how many non-Splash Brothers have ever made above 41 percent of their 3s on four or more attempts per game five years in a row? Surely Reggie Miller has done it, right? Nope. Ray Allen? Sorry. Kyle Korver? Guess again ... How about Harris? And only Harris, the hipster East Coast response to Golden State's revolution. Harris has led the NBA in 3-point percentage twice over the past four seasons: once with three superstars around him and once with none. He was well on his way to a third crown in four seasons before being felled by an ankle injury a season ago. If that ankle holds up this season, he's going to challenge for the league's highest mark once again. -- Sam Quinn
Bogdan Bogdanovic Atlanta Hawks SG
When Bogdanovic heats up, he can take over a game for stretches. He's proven to be a bit of overkill on what has been a wing-heavy Atlanta roster, but Kevin Huerter, a better player, had more trade value and thus was shipped out. Atlanta went hard after Bogdanovic and looked like it had a big-time guy, albeit in a small sample, two years ago. Last season Bogdanovic fell off across the board, but you'll certainly take 15 points a night on 37-percent 3-point shooting from a supplemental scorer. -- Brad Botkin
P.J. Tucker Philadelphia 76ers PF
Tucker isn't a guy whose numbers jump off the page, but he brings a little bit of everything to the floor, especially defensive versatility and floor-spacing. As a player capable of guarding multiple positions on defense, Tucker shot a career-high 41 percent from long range on the other end last season, and the Sixers are clearly hoping that his hot hand carries over into the new season. He's also one of the league's more dependable players, as he led the league in games played on three separate occasions. He appeared in all 82 regular season games in each of those seasons. He appeared in 81 games two other times. He's going to be out there, and that is very valuable in and of itself. -- Michael Kaskey-Blomain
Collin Sexton Utah Jazz SG
Sexton will get a fresh start in Utah after being traded from Cleveland, where he became somewhat of a forgotten man due largely to the coinciding emergence of All-Star guard Darius Garland. Sexton played in just 11 games last season after he tore his meniscus in November. The year before that, though, Sexton averaged over 24 points and four assists per performance and was widely viewed as one of the more promising young players in the NBA. In Utah, Sexton should again get the opportunity to produce at a high level for a Jazz team that now finds itself squarely in the midst of a rebuild, and in turn, remind the league at large just how good he is. -- Michael Kaskey-Blomain
Clint Capela Atlanta Hawks C
The consummate shot-blocking, rim-running center, Capela has been vital to the Hawks' success on both ends of the floor. He's averaged a double-double in five straight seasons, and was fifth in the league in offensive rebounding last year to go along with his 1.3 blocks per game. His presence as a lob threat is crucial in pick-and-rolls with Trae Young, evidenced by the team's 117.5 offensive rating last season with both players on the court. -- Colin Ward-Henninger
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Nikola Vucevic Chicago Bulls C
If you need a big who can put up a double-double on a regular basis and can stretch his game out to the 3-point line, then Vooch is your guy. His 0.899 points per possession on spot-up shots is eighth best in the league among centers (min. 100 possessions), and his efficiency as a pick-and-pop big -- 0.884 points per possession -- was fourth-best among centers last season (min. 100 possessions). And those numbers represent a down year for Vucevic, all of which show he can still be productive even when he's not performing at his peak. -- Jasmyn Wimbish
Nicolas Batum Los Angeles Clippers PF
After being jettisoned by Charlotte, the second act of Batum's career with the Clippers has been phenomenal. The pinnacle of a glue guy on both ends of the court, he's a 40-percent 3-point shooter who can also distribute and attack closeouts when necessary. Defensively, he was in the 81st percentile last season against isolation, proving that he's still an elite one-on-one defender as well. Batum is the efficient, savvy, veteran two-way role player that every contender seeks. -- Colin Ward-Henninger
Herbert Jones New Orleans Pelicans PF
As a rookie Jones took on the toughest defensive assignments on the planet, and he did it in the playoffs. Per BBall Index, Jones' matchup difficulty ranked as the toughest among all rookies and fourth-toughest league-wide. And he more than held his own. Metrics that take those assignments into consideration, in fact, suggest that Jones is already one of the best defenders in the league. Per BBall Index, Jones saved more points defensively than any rookie wing since 2009. He was also No. 1 in points saved among all defensive wings and No. 7 in the whole league. He's going to be an All-NBA level defender for years to come, but what makes him super intriguing is the development he showed on the offensive end. He can make plays with the ball in his hands, and his shooting curve is trending upward sharply. After shooting just 50 percent from the free-throw line his first two years in college, Jones hit 84 percent of his freebies as a rookie. Who knows if Jones will ever be a weaponized pull-up guy who can assume more creative responsibility, but you shouldn't rule it out. -- Brad Botkin
Seth Curry Brooklyn Nets SG
Curry is on this list for one reason: his ability to knock down shots. Along with his brother Steph, Seth has established himself as one of the league's most lethal marksmen from long range. A career 43 percent shooter from long range, Curry was in the top ten in 3-point percentage last season. He's the type of player that defenses simply can't leave open, and that makes him an ideal complement to star players prone to drawing a lot of attention. He has thrived alongside the likes of Luka Doncic, Joel Embiid, and Kevin Durant, and he should be in line for a big-time season playing with Durant, Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons in Brooklyn. -- Michael Kaskey-Blomain
Luguentz Dort Oklahoma City Thunder SF
You might not have noticed because he's been buried in the OKC rebuild, but Dort has become an impressive two-way player over the last few seasons. His defense is elite, as perimeter players hardly ever test him in isolation as they went just 4-for-20 against him last season, per Synergy. On offense, his 3-point shooting comes and goes, but he showed solid progress scoring out of the pick-and-roll last season, landing in the 70th percentile according to Synergy. If he can get more consistent with his catch-and-shoot 3s, Dort's ceiling will rise considerably. -- Colin Ward-Henninger
Kristaps Porzingis Washington Wizards PF
Porzingis played really well for the Wizards, so let's start there. On a per-possession basis, he blew away his previous career highs in points (38.1 per 100 possessions, vs. 34.4 per 100 in 2017-18), rebounds (15.2 per 100, vs. 14.1 per 100 in 2019-20), assists (5.1 per 100, vs 2.7 per 100 in 2019-20) and free throws attempted (11.8 per 100, vs. 8.7 per 100 in 2017-18). He put up those numbers in 17 games, though, for a lottery team that was playing out the string. A Porzingis skeptic might say that there is no doubting his ability to have an impressive month every now and then, but his track record suggests he can't sustain it. A Porzingis believer, on the other hand, might say that he just turned 27, should pair well with Bradley Beal and, finally healthy, is primed for a renaissance. -- James Herbert
Brook Lopez Milwaukee Bucks C
Lopez doesn't care about looking cool, whether he's waving his arms around on defense or having the time of his life at Disney World. He is a master of drop coverage, a style of pick-and-roll defense with big, glaring cons (vulnerable to pull-up jumpers, pick-and-pop 3s, floaters) and boring pros (limits rotations, good for defensive rebounding). He boxes out as well as anybody and doesn't care who grabs the board. An offense-first post player for virtually his entire life until Kenny Atkinson pushed him to the perimeter six years ago, Lopez is a case study in player development for veterans. He'll be 35 when next year's playoffs begin, and it's only a slight exaggeration to say that the Bucks' championship hopes rest on him holding up. -- James Herbert
Dillon Brooks Memphis Grizzlies SF
If you asked Brooks where he ranks among NBA players, just guessing that he probably wouldn't say 83rd. The 26-year-old wing's bark might exceed his bite from time to time, but there's no doubt that his confidence and two-way ability have helped fuel the young Grizzlies' rapid rise to contention. Brooks' offensive efficiency numbers are not good, but he's the ultimate heat-check guy, as he showed by dropping 30 points in a playoff elimination game against the Warriors. You know what you're getting with Brooks, and you simply have to live with the occasional "what are you doing?!?!" moments to reap the benefits of having him on the court. -- Colin Ward-Henninger
Kyle Kuzma Washington Wizards PF
After playing out of position in his final season with the Lakers two years ago, Kuzma was slid back down to his more natural position of power forward, and boy did it make a difference. It wasn't just the scoring (17.1 ppg) that saw an increase, which was just a touch below his career average, he improved as a rebounder and facilitator for the Wizards as well. Washington gave him more freedom to initiate offense, too. It wasn't uncommon to see Kuzma acting like a point-forward in transition after snatching a rebound and pushing the pace on the other end for a bucket or assist. As a result Kuzma's drives per game more than doubled to 8.2 a night while he shot nearly 50 percent on those attempts. -- Jasmyn Wimbish
Harrison Barnes Sacramento Kings PF
Death, taxes and Harrison Barnes putting up consistent and efficient numbers in the NBA. You may have forgotten about the versatile forward now that he's four years into playing for a Kings team that has struggled to even sniff the playoffs. However, that doesn't take away from the fact that Barnes is still a productive player in this league. His 1.197 points per possession in spot-up situations also ranked in the 91st percentile last season, and if you filter that down to just forwards around the league, that puts him fourth in the NBA, ahead of many guys ranked higher than him on this list. -- Jasmyn Wimbish
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Anfernee Simons Portland Trail Blazers SG
After years of hype on the internet and glowing quotes from Neil Olshey, the breakout happened! In 2021-22, the promise of Simons turned into real production. His stats in 30 games as a starter: 22 points and 5.5 assists in 34.3 minutes with a usage rate of 26 percent and a true shooting percentage of 60 percent. On the season, he made 51.4 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3s, which bodes well for his ability to play off Damian Lillard in the starting lineup. (Lillard was out for all of Simons' starts last season.) The defense needs to get better for that pairing to work at a high level on the other end, but at least the Blazers have more athleticism in the frontcourt now. -- James Herbert
Gordon Hayward Charlotte Hornets SF
Injuries have hampered Hayward during his two seasons in Charlotte so far, as he appeared in under 50 games both years. When he's healthy, though, he's still a productive player. He averaged 15.9 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game last season while shooting 45 percent from the floor and 39 percent from long range. As long as he can stay out on the floor, he should be able to produce at a similar clip for a Hornets team looking for its first playoff appearance since 2016. -- Michael Kaskey-Blomain
De'Andre Hunter Atlanta Hawks SF
The Hawks haven't committed to a Hunter extension because he hasn't proven he's a foundational player. He's been good. Year two, albeit in just 29 games, was his most promising as he grew as a self-creator and became a real weapon getting to his spot in the midrange, where he connected at a lights-out 54-percent clip, per Cleaning the Glass. That number fell off dramatically last season, but Hunter's 3-point mark did climb to 38 percent. With Trae Young and Dejounte Murray creating, Hunter's catch-and-shoot numbers this season will be pivotal to Atlanta's fortunes. -- Brad Botkin
Alex Caruso Chicago Bulls SG
Prior to Caruso missing 33 games due to two injuries and a bout with COVID-19, the Bulls had the seventh-ranked defense in the league last season, and that's no coincidence. Despite Caruso coming off the bench, he -- in tandem with Lonzo Ball -- was essential to Chicago playing stout defense, LaVine and DeRozan even said as much multiple times last season. If you're still not convinced, when Caruso was on the floor the Bulls allowed 8.5 fewer points per possession than when he was on the bench, and that ranked in the 96th percentile among guards in the league. When Caruso missed time due to injuries, Chicago's defense plummeted to 27th in the league. So, yeah, he's a pretty important guy to have in the rotation. -- Jasmyn Wimbish
Tyler Herro Miami Heat PG
Pat Riley made it clear: If Herro wants to be a starter, let alone regarded as highly around the league as he feels he deserves to be, then he needs to be a two-way player. Offensively, Herro, who hit 40 percent of his 3s and registered 0.96 points per possession as an off-the-dribble shooter last season, per Synergy, is Miami's most threatening pick-and-roll initiator. But the defense has to improve. He can't be a target or Erik Spoelstra is going to hesitate to play him down the stretch of key games or in the playoffs. -- Brad Botkin
Gary Trent Jr. Toronto Raptors SG
Trent has solidified himself as an elite high-volume 3-point shooter, knocking down 38 percent of his nearly eight attempts per game last season. He landed in the 79th percentile in catch-and-shoot situations, according to Synergy, and was even better when shooting off of screens. When necessary, Trent is also a serviceable isolation scorer, landing between Kyrie Irving and Ja Morant in efficiency, per Synergy, albeit on much lower usage. -- Colin Ward-Henninger
Julius Randle New York Knicks PF
Randle didn't follow up his All-Star season from 2020-21, but he was still a 20 and 10 guy for a Knicks team that stumbled after showing some promise two seasons ago. Randle's performance last season can also partly be attributed to New York's lack of quality shot creators, which put a significant amount of pressure on him to execute on offense. While he wasn't always efficient, his versatility in being able to score off the dribble, in spot-up situations and move without the ball in his hands is a valuable asset. -- Jasmyn Wimbish
Dorian Finney-Smith Dallas Mavericks SF
It truly is remarkable how much Finney-Smith has improved over the course of his career. He worked his way into becoming the Mavericks' best defensive player, able to check guards on the perimeter, make life difficult for bigger forwards, and get down in the post when needed. However, his offense is where he deserves the most praise. In each of his six seasons he's gradually improved as a shooter, stepping up his volume and efficiency each year. Corner 3s have become his specialty, and he knocked them down to the tune of 45 percent last season. And the 116.1 points per possession Dallas scores when he's on the floor is 6.3 points better than when he sits, which was the best margin on the Mavs last season. -- Jasmyn Wimbish
Aaron Gordon Denver Nuggets PF
Gordon did an admirable job of scaling his scoring back up to Orlando levels on a depleted Nuggets team last season, but with Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. set to return, we're about to see the version of him Denver always envisioned. Before Murray got hurt in 2021, Gordon was literally dunking nearly half of his shots after arriving in Denver. The Nuggets won the four fully healthy games those two played together by a 50 combined points, but more importantly, they did so with a defensive rating (107.5) that would've ranked third in the NBA over the full season. Gordon's athleticism unlocked a new level for Denver on both ends of the floor, allowing the Nuggets to lock up top opposing scorers without sending help on one end while feeding Gordon easy cutting baskets thanks to the help thrown at Murray and Porter on the other. Gordon is overmatched creating those shots himself. But put three star scorers around him and he suddenly becomes one of the NBA's very best role players. -- Sam Quinn
Jordan Poole Golden State Warriors SG
Most young players tighten up in the first playoff run. Poole used it to really explore the studio space in Golden State's beautiful offense. By the end of the Denver series he might as well have been throwing his skip passes off of a unicycle through a ring of fire. This is what makes Poole so uniquely terrifying on a roster that already employs the NBA's premier game-breaker. It's not just the supersonic first step or the Jupiter-range 3s. It's the sheer ambition with which Poole is willing to play offense. He is willing to try just about anything with the ball in his hands, and if last season was any indication, most of the time he's going to succeed. -- Sam Quinn
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Myles Turner Indiana Pacers C
Despite years of trade rumors, Turner remains a Pacer. Whether that will still be the case by the trade deadline remains to be seen, but for now he'll return as the team's starting center. Though his 3-point shooting has fallen to average levels in recent years, he is still an elite rim protector and one of the league's better stretch bigs. Over the last four seasons, he is the only player in the league with at least 250 made 3-pointers and 600 blocks. As spacing and rim protection become ever more important in the NBA, it's clear Turner can be a valuable player that is as long as he stays on the floor. He only played 89 games over the last two seasons combined, and he has played more than 70 games in a season just twice in his seven-year career. -- Jack Maloney
Tobias Harris Philadelphia 76ers PF
Consistency is the word when it comes to Tobias Harris. You know you're going to get around 18 points, seven rebounds and three assists from him every time he steps on the floor, and that's what he produced for Philadelphia last season. He was one of just 20 players last season to post over 18 points, six rebounds and three assists per performance, and he has also improved on the defensive end. With the addition of James Harden and the emergence of Tyrese Maxey, Harris probably isn't going to get quite as many looks on the offensive end as he has in the past, but he remains a reliable option for a Sixers team entering another season with lofty expectations. -- Michael Kaskey-Blomain
John Collins Atlanta Hawks PF
Neither Collins nor the Hawks seem all that thrilled about him still being in Atlanta; he was frustrated with his role last season and was the subject of near-constant trade rumors this summer. How that situation, and the arrival of Dejounte Murray, which figures to limit his touches even further, affects Collins will be a major storyline for the Hawks this season. He'll never win awards for his defense, but at his best Collins is a high-level offensive threat who can finish lobs in the pick-and-roll and space the floor. Last season he was one of nine players to average at least 15 points and seven rebounds, while shooting 35 percent from 3-point land. -- Jack Maloney
Jerami Grant Portland Trail Blazers PF
Grant was a great role player with the Nuggets, but then he struggled trying to become an alpha with the Pistons. Ideally, he'll land somewhere between those two roles in his first season in Portland, where his efficiency should increase with less burden to create his own offense next to Damian Lillard. Grant was in the 63rd percentile in catch-and-shoot situations last season, per Synergy, and that should only improve with better looks in the Blazers' system. Defensively, he was in the 95th percentile in isolation situations last season, per Synergy, proving that he can still lock down when he's called upon to do that, which is one of the main reasons the Blazers acquired him. -- Colin Ward-Henninger
Kyle Lowry Miami Heat PG
A hamstring injury hampered Lowry's first playoff run with the Heat, but he delivered as promised when he was healthy. At 36, he can still scale his offensive role up or down depending on what the team needs, and he's still one of the best help defenders in the game. His presence made Miami much faster and more switchable, and it lessened Jimmy Butler's playmaking burden. His challenge now is to prove that he can hold up for a full season, playing the same physically demanding style that made him a perfect fit. -- James Herbert
Al Horford Boston Celtics PF
That Horford was an important part of Boston's run to the Finals shouldn't have been surprising. He'd been excellent on both ends all season, and his decline since leaving the team in 2019 had been greatly exaggerated. But Horford wasn't just important. He was damn near transcendent. In the playoffs he shot 48 percent from 3-point range, and 52 percent when left wide open. He played all-NBA-caliber defense, not just making life difficult on Giannis Antetokounmpo and Bam Adebayo but sliding his feet against smaller players on the perimeter. When the Celtics needed it, he played huge minutes. In Year 16, can he do it again? -- James Herbert
Michael Porter Jr. Denver Nuggets SF
Last year was a wash for Porter, who missed all but nine games with back ailments that required multiple procedures. Porter's sophomore season was enough for Denver to reward him with a max rookie extension, and indeed Porter looked like one of the best shooters in the league firing at a 45-percent clip from 3 with a 64.7 effective field-goal percentage, per Cleaning The Glass. Porter is a stiff athlete (you can tell the back isn't normal), and you can argue whether he'll ever be able to consistently create his own offense off the dribble. But he's so tall and long that he can get his jumper off any time he wants even without space, and if he shoots anywhere close to what he did in 2020-21, he'll be a major weapon for years to come. -- Brad Botkin
R.J. Barrett New York Knicks SF
For a 22-year-old who averaged 20-6-3 in his third season, Barrett is divisive. Some see a player on the verge of stardom at the league's most coveted position. Others see a player who doesn't create efficiently enough to dominate the ball and doesn't shoot well enough to play off the ball. Take this thought exercise: How would Barrett be perceived if he had spent the first three years somewhere like San Antonio instead of New York? If you like Barrett's game, you might say that he'd have far fewer Instagram followers, but be more popular among diehards, who would praise his defense more often than they would criticize his shooting. If you don't like his game, you might say that he'd simply get less attention, and that he'd have to at least finish a season with a league-average true shooting percentage before any serious discussions about star potential. -- James Herbert
Malcolm Brogdon Boston Celtics PG
Brogdon adds to Boston's embarrassment of two-way versatile riches. He'll come off the bench and give the Celtics yet another tough defender who can operate on- and off-ball in an offensive system that flows from one empowered actionist to the next. Brogdon ends up 17 spots lower in our ranking than Marcus Smart, but reasonable arguments can be made that Brogdon is a pretty equal player to Smart if his 3-point percentage recovers to career norms. -- Brad Botkin
Lonzo Ball Chicago Bulls PG
The days of talking about Ball's unorthodox shooting style seems like it was ages ago, and he's certainly done a ton of work on his jumper since then to make people forget about it. Though he was limited to just 35 games last season, Ball proved to be the ideal point guard the Bulls were sorely lacking. He's always been praised as a facilitator, fitting a pass through the tiniest of windows, but it was his significantly improved shooting numbers that really made him stand out in Chicago. Ball's 3-point shooting went from ranking in the 23rd percentile among point guards his rookie season (30.5 percent), to the 98th percentile in his first season with the Bulls (42.3 percent). He's currently doubtful for the start of the season, but the Bulls are hoping that when he returns he can build upon his success from last year. -- Jasmyn Wimbish
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Jalen Brunson New York Knicks PG
Brunson is small even by point guard standards. He's athletic enough, but by no means does he stand out in that regard. He's developed into a fairly good distance shooter, but when fed a star's shot diet during Luka Doncic's absences in Dallas, his efficiency tends to wane as one would expect of a former second-round pick who only just became a full-time starter. If you just listed out the traits, you'd be hard-pressed to explain Brunson's shiny new $104 million contract. And then you turn on a game and watch his footwork. That glorious, unrivaled footwork. Aside from Kyrie Irving, you may not find a guard with better balance in all of basketball. His deceleration is Harden-esque, but he's a far less linear driver than the 2018 MVP. He'll change directions at the drop of a hat, pivot you into oblivion and casually sink the wide-open mid-ranger right in your face. This is how an underwhelming prospect becomes a 20-point scorer. He's not bigger or faster than his contemporaries, but he's a heck of a lot craftier. -- Sam Quinn
OG Anunoby Toronto Raptors SF
Anunoby has increased his scoring output every season in the NBA, and has developed into a coveted 3-and-D wing with potential for much more. The 25-year-old saw slight declines in efficiency last season, but still landed in the 79th percentile in catch-and-shoot situations, per Synergy, while being an absolute menace in transition with his athleticism and strength. He uses those same qualities on defense, where he is quick enough to stick with guards and physical enough to body bigger players. If he continues on his current trajectory, Anunoby should be a high-efficiency, 20-point-per-game scorer in the near future. -- Colin Ward-Henninger
Deandre Ayton Phoenix Suns C
Now that his contract questions are in the past and he's fresh off of inking a four-year, $133 million deal with the Suns, Deandre Ayton can fully focus on the basketball court where he's central to Phoenix's success on both ends. Defensively, he provides versatility and rim protection for the Suns, and on the other end, he serves as a solid screener and a great finisher around the rim. Last season, Ayton was the only player in the entire NBA to average over 17 points and 10 rebounds per game while simultaneously shooting over 63 percent from the field. Look for him to build off of those stats this season. -- Michael Kaskey-Blomain
De'Aaron Fox Sacramento Kings PG
During another injury-plagued season, Fox saw declines in scoring, assists and 3-point percentage last year, but the Kings gave him a vote of confidence when they traded away Tyrese Haliburton to make Fox the unquestioned leader of the Sacramento backcourt. While most of his action came in the pick-and-roll, Fox was an elite isolation scorer last season, landing at seventh in the NBA for players with at least 100 possessions, per Synergy. The Kings averaged over 115 points per 100 possessions in 13 games with Fox and Domantas Sabonis on the court last season, so there's reason to believe the 24-year-old guard will have a return to form in 2022-23. -- Colin Ward-Henninger
Robert Williams III Boston Celtics C
Williams didn't win Most Improved Player last season, or even come close during the regular season, but during the playoffs it could be argued that no player improved their cache around the league more than Big Rob. He went from a relative unknown among casual fans to a household name, thanks to his thunderous alley-oops and remarkable defense during the Celtics' run to the NBA Finals. During the regular season, had he taken enough shots to qualify, his 73.6 field goal percentage would have led the league, and he finished second in blocks at 2.2 per game. Health is the one major concern for Williams; over the past four seasons he's played just 174 games due to an array of ailments. He's already off to an unfortunate start on that front this season as knee surgery has ruled him out for four-to-six weeks. -- Jack Maloney
Desmond Bane Memphis Grizzlies SG
Bane's shooting numbers speak for themselves, but his growth as a playmaker last season is just as essential to the Grizzlies moving forward. He averaged 4.4 assists per 36 minutes with Ja Morant off of the floor, nearly double the 2.3 he posted with his All-Star point guard, and Memphis is clearly prepared to entrust Bane with more ball-handling responsibility after letting Kyle Anderson walk. Their 20-5 record without Ja Morant might have been a bit unsustainable, but Bane's ability to scale up as a ball-handler without Morant was essential to keeping the Grizzlies afloat while their star was out. That's going to be a critical trait for them moving forward as Morant's aggressive playing style lends itself to extended absences. The financial realities of sustaining a contender are eventually going to prevent them from paying an elite backup point guard to help them weather those storms, so Bane's continued growth as an offensive initiator is perhaps the single most important story to watch in Memphis this season. -- Sam Quinn
Jarrett Allen Cleveland Cavaliers C
Fresh off his first All-Star appearance, Jarrett Allen could be in line for a monster season for Cleveland. Last year, Allen was one of just five players -- along with Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Christian Wood and Nikola Vucevic -- to average at least 16 points, 10 rebounds and a block per game. Out of those players, Allen had the highest field goal percentage by a pretty wide margin. He's a unique talent thanks to his size and athleticism, and at only 24 years old, there's still plenty of room for improvement. -- Michael Kaskey-Blomain
Tyrese Haliburton Indiana Pacers SG
Haliburton made 40.4 percent of his pull-up 3s last season, the fifth-best mark among the 32 players who attempted more than three per game. In 26 games as the Pacers' primary playmaker, he averaged 17.5 points on 62.9 percent true shooting, plus 9.6 assists. These numbers are amazing for a player who fell to No. 12 in the 2020 draft because of doubts about his upside. They also don't even come close to capturing the Haliburton experience: the ball fakes, the jump passes, the trickery he uses to create slight advantages, the touch. He's an ideal foundational piece for a franchise that is not a free-agency destination -- if the front office can get guys in the door to play with Haliburton, they won't want to leave. -- James Herbert
Tyrese Maxey Philadelphia 76ers PG
Tyrese Maxey was a bit of a revelation for the Sixers last season. After receiving inconsistent playing time during his rookie year, Maxey took over the starting point guard spot in Ben Simmons' absence, and he never looked back -- even after James Harden was added to the roster. His numbers swelled with his increased role, and he quickly established himself as an integral part of Philadelphia's offensive attack. From his first to his second season, Maxey's scoring jumped from eight to 17.5 points per game, and his assists doubled from two to 4.3. Most impressively, his 3-point shooting skyrocketed from 30 percent as a rookie to 42 percent last season. He was one of just seven players to average over 17 points per game while shooting at least 40 percent from long range. This improvement helped to solidify him as an excellent complement to All-Star center Joel Embiid, and his ability to play both on and off of the ball should greatly help his fit alongside Harden in Philadelphia's backcourt moving forward. -- Michael Kaskey-Blomain
Mikal Bridges Phoenix Suns SF
If the 26-year-old Bridges does not improve at all, he'll remain one of the league's best non-stars. This is a First Team All-Defense guy who stands 6-foot-6 with a 7-1 wingspan and has made 39.4 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3s in the last two seasons. He has upside, though, because he has shown he can create off the bounce. Last season, Bridges scored 20 or more points 17 times, which matches the amount of times he'd done it in the three previous seasons combined. With his high release point, he looks a bit like Khris Middleton when he rises up for a midrange jumper. For all of the flashes he has shown, though, Bridges was assisted on 82 percent of his made field goals, which is about the same rate as Robert Covington and Daniel Theis, according to Cleaning The Glass. It's time to give him more reps with the ball in his hands. -- James Herbert
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Domantas Sabonis Sacramento Kings PF
De'Aaron Fox averaged 21.2 points per game before the Sabonis trade. He averaged 28.9 after it. There are a dozen factors that partially explain that jump, but here's a biggie: Sabonis is arguably the NBA's best screener. After back-to-back years as the league's screen assist leader, Sabonis finally ceded his title back to Rudy Gobert last season. Gobert's verticality terrifies his defender near the basket, but Sabonis' more diverse scoring game terrifies defenders everywhere, and that gives him the leeway to screen and re-screen at whatever angles he chooses knowing that defenders dare not help too far off of him. That's music to the ears of one of the NBA's fastest point guards, and together the two of them should form one of the NBA's best pick-and-roll duos this season. -- Sam Quinn
Klay Thompson Golden State Warriors SG
Can we be real? Thompson wasn't a top-50 player in his 32 games last season -- and he may not have been a top 100 player either -- but this ranking reflects an expected return to form after missing two full seasons with injuries. Despite his struggles, Thompson still averaged 20 points per game last season on 38.5 percent 3-point shooting. While his off-the-dribble game may make Warriors fans cringe at times, he was in the 86th percentile on pull-up jumpers last season, per Synergy. The dude can flat-out score, and if his defense can get somewhere close to where he was before he got hurt, he should be much higher in next year's Top 100. -- Colin Ward-Henninger
Scottie Barnes Toronto Raptors PF
Imagine rolling Pascal Siakam's size and scoring craft, OG Anunoby's defensive instincts and lateral quickness, Kyle Lowry's playmaking sensibilities and Kawhi Leonard's giant hands into a single young player. You'd essentially get Barnes. After years of fine-tuning their wing-heavy system and player development infrastructure, they were finally ready to take on their greatest project yet. Barnes came into the NBA with the basketball IQ of a veteran and the athleticism of an Avenger. He's the personification of everything the Raptors have gotten right about roster-building over the past decade, and his shot isn't even falling yet. There's plenty of evidence, ranging from his steadily improving free-throw percentage to his early-season hot streak from deep, that suggests it's about to. Once it does, the Raptors will have one of the NBA's most complete forwards. -- Sam Quinn
Cade Cunningham Detroit Pistons SG
Cunnings cracking the top 50 is certainly debatable. Such lofty recognition for a second-year guy who shot 31 percent from 3, while registering in the 16th percentile among points guards in Cleaning The Glass' scoring efficiency, comes courtesy of Cunningham's rookie progression. He had a historic March, one in which Cunningham joined Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson as the only rookies in NBA history to average at least 22 points seven assists and five rebounds for an entire month. The assumption is that the upward shooting trend that Cunningham showed at the end of year one rolls right into year two, but that's never a guarantee. -- Brad Botkin
Jaren Jackson Jr. Memphis Grizzlies PF
JJJ was superb defensively last season. Active and aware, he made multiple efforts and was consistently in the right place, and when he's in the right place, he's going to make plays. Jackson finished second to Myles Turner with 2.2 blocks per game, and scorers converted on just 41.7 percent of shots defended by Jackson, the fourth stingiest mark among all big men who contested at least 500 shots, per Jackson has the reputation of a dangerous shooter, and it's deserved; he can legit catch and shoot off movement and buried 40 percent of his 3s two years ago. Last season, however, that 3-point conversion rate dipped below 32 percent while his 47.8 effective field goal percentage went down as one of the worst big-man marks in the league, per Cleaning The Glass. -- Brad Botkin
Marcus Smart Boston Celtics PG
Smart has long been one of the best defenders in the league, and last season he was finally rewarded with the highest honor: Defensive Player of the Year. The first guard to win the award since Gary Payton in 1996, he possesses a rare combination of agility and strength for his 6-foot-3 frame, which allows him to switch across all positions. That, combined with his propensity for making important plays was a major reason why the Celtics have one of the best defenses in the league. His success embracing the true point guard role was just as important, however, as it opened up the Celtics' offense; in 443 minutes with Smart as the point guard surrounded by Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford and Robert Williams III, the Celtics had a 118.8 offensive rating. -- Jack Maloney
LaMelo Ball Charlotte Hornets PG
An All-Star in just his second season, Ball was one of just five players last season to average 19 points, seven assists and six rebounds. He was a top-10 assist man and shot 39 percent from 3 on better than seven attempts per game. Where does the improvement come from? Hopefully in the finishing department. Like his brother, Lonzo, Ball struggles to convert at the rim, where he connected on just 54 percent of his shots last season, per Cleaning The Glass, ranking in the bottom 20 percent among point guards. -- Brad Botkin
Andrew Wiggins Golden State Warriors SF
With Golden State, Wiggins has finally fulfilled his destiny as an elite perimeter defender and secondary scorer. We saw the ultimate version of that in the NBA Finals, when Wiggins was the Warriors' second-best player against the elite Celtics defense. With cleaner looks and the greenest of green lights, Wiggins knocked down a career-high 39 percent of his 3-pointers last season and landed in the 81st percentile in catch-and-shoot situations, per Synergy. He's become the type of 3-and-D-plus player every team is looking for, and at 27 he still has plenty of room to grow. -- Colin Ward-Henninger
Ben Simmons Brooklyn Nets PG
Even the biggest Simmons haters liked him at one point. It is impossible to watch highlights from his rookie year and not be wowed. He was a top-tier prospect because he combines creativity and athleticism like few ever have, and he has since developed into one of the league's best defenders. But can you get past everything else? Can he? As Simmons has grown bigger and stronger, he has also grown less comfortable shooting outside the paint. Just revisit the Sixers' infamous seven-game series against the Hawks in 2021, when he shot 15 of 45 from the free throw line and was alarmingly uninvolved in their fourth-quarter offense. Now, after a holdout, a trade, a back injury and mental health issues, the 26-year-old Simmons has the fresh start he wanted, on a team with extraordinary talent and enormous pressure to win. The Nets can give him spacing, and they can give him an offensive system in which he can improvise. But for this to work, though, he needs to play freely and fearlessly. -- James Herbert
Dejounte Murray Atlanta Hawks PG
The Spurs asked a lot of Murray last season, his first as an All-Star, and he delivered. His counting stats -- 21.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, 9.2 assists -- jump off the page, but it's more significant that his career-high usage rate (26.8 percent) was accompanied by elite defense and career-best efficiency (53.3 percent true shooting). Murray was already a confident midrange shooter, and he's getting more comfortable behind the 3-point line, making 34.5 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3s. Not great, but encouraging. Of the many different things that will be asked of him in Atlanta, continued improvement on that front is most important. -- James Herbert
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Evan Mobley Cleveland Cavaliers PF
If this 21-year-old makes All-Defense next season, it should surprise nobody. Right away, he was one of the more disruptive help defenders in the league. The Cavs even put Mobley -- and his 7-foot-4 wingspan -- at the top of their zone, using him just like Flip Saunders' Wolves did when Mobley was an infant. The great unknown, however, is what kind of strides Mobley will make on the other end. As a rookie he showed flashes of shot creation and nice high-low chemistry with Jarrett Allen. The upside is ridiculous. -- James Herbert
CJ McCollum New Orleans Pelicans SG
McCollum was sensational after being dealt by the Blazers, shooting 39 percent from 3 and a scorching 51 percent from his midrange office, per Cleaning The Glass. One of the actions I'm most excited about across the league is the potential McCollum/Zion Williamson pick and pop. With the threat of Zion steaming downhill basically demanding multiple defenders, McCollum stands to step into plenty of open triples. New Orleans lineups featuring McCollum boasted a 118.6 offensive rating, per Cleaning The Glass, which outpaced Utah's league-leading mark by a full point per 100 possessions. -- Brad Botkin
Fred VanVleet Toronto Raptors PG
VanVleet flies in the face of what we think it means to be an All-Star point guard in 2022. Case-in-point: he took only 133 shots in the restricted area all of last season. Ja Morant took 137 in January. That suits the Raptors just fine. Someone needs to take 3's on their roster full of giants, and only Stephen Curry and Buddy Hield managed to make more of them last season than VanVleet. He may be something of a misfit in Toronto's grand "what if everyone was 6-8?" experiment, but rest assured, VanVleet plays just as big as his teammates. He just finished second in the NBA in total deflections despite his tiny 6-2 wingspan. Everyone else in the top 10 has a wingspan of at least 6-7. If you need a point guard to engineer every facet of your offense? VanVleet probably isn't your cup of tea. But if you need one to do practically anything else? Toronto's tiny titan will make your team a whole lot better. -- Sam Quinn
Darius Garland Cleveland Cavaliers PG
Look out, Steph. Garland is coming for your throne. According to Stathead, Garland posted the 27th 30/30 season in NBA history: at least 30 shot attempts of at least 30 feet. It should surprise nobody to hear that 2016 Stephen Curry, at an obscene 46.7 percent, shot the highest percentage on those logo shots in that group. Coming in at No. 2? Garland at 44.3 percent. Curry never reached that figure outside of his 73-win masterpiece in that 2015-16 season. Damian Lillard and Trae Young have never gotten there, period. These bombs may not count for more points than your garden variety 3, but they drag defenders further and further away from the basket. Good luck defending a ball-handler and playmaker like Garland across the entire floor. You're gonna need it. -- Sam Quinn
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Oklahoma City Thunder SG
Gilgeous-Alexander's rise has flown a bit under the radar given his team's struggles in recent seasons, but make no mistake about it -- he's a legitimate star. His scoring has increased in each of his first four seasons, and he was one of just nine players last season to average at least 24 points, five rebounds and five assists per game. The other players on that list include the likes of Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Luka Doncic, Paul George and Ja Morant. That's the type of company Gilgeous-Alexander is keeping statistically, and as such his profile should continue to rise in the near future as the Thunder continue their climb back to contention in the Western Conference. -- Michael Kaskey-Blomain
Jamal Murray Denver Nuggets PG
It's been awhile since we've seen Murray, who missed the 2021 playoffs and all of last season due to a torn ACL, so I'll understand if you forgot how dangerous of an offensive weapon he can be. But let me remind you real quick. Back in the Orlando bubble Murray outdueled Donovan Mitchell, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in the playoffs. His two 50-point performances against the Jazz in the first round are the only two times a Nuggets player has eclipsed that point total in franchise history. Murray's scoring outburst over the course of the 2020 playoffs also tied him with Alex English for the most 40-plus point performances in Nuggets history. That's two more than Carmelo Anthony and three more than his back-to-back reigning MVP teammate Nikola Jokic. With those records already on his resume, there's no telling what Murray will do for the Nuggets now that he's fully healthy. -- Jasmyn Wimbish
Draymond Green Golden State Warriors PF
Just as some thought his elite status was fading, Green produced a bounce-back season that had him etched in as the Defensive Player of the Year until an injury derailed that campaign. Green's defensive versatility, tenacity and communication are as vital to the Warriors as Steph Curry's shooting, as larger players are simply unable to take advantage of him in the post (a meager 0.667 points per possession allowed, per Synergy) and perimeter threats have a hard time getting past him. Green's scoring has fallen nearly entirely off the map, but his playmaking -- both in transition and in the half-court -- allows Golden State's ball-movement-heavy, read-and-react offense to thrive. -- Colin Ward-Henninger
DeMar DeRozan Chicago Bulls SF
If the mid-range shot is dead then don't tell DeRozan. For the fourth-straight season DeRozan ranked first in the NBA in attempted mid-range shots, and his 49 percent success rate last season was 12th-best in the league. Over 71 percent of DeRozan's shot attempts last season came from mid-range, the highest of his career. And despite everyone knowing he's going to stop and pull up from 12 feet, opposing teams still can't stop him. After so much skepticism surrounded DeRozan's fit with the Bulls, he came in and carried Chicago to its first playoff appearance in five years, returned to All-Star form and proved that you can still be dominant in this league without shooting a bunch of 3s. -- Jasmyn Wimbish
Anthony Edwards Minnesota Timberwolves SF
Perhaps the only thing that would've made Edwards' standout sophomore season better last year was being named an All-Star, something he was certainly deserving of considering his performance. Edwards built upon his solid rookie season by improving his efficiency across the board, going from shooting 41 percent from the field and 32 percent from deep, to a far better 44 percent and 35 percent. He also improved as a facilitator, ranking in the 88th percentile among guards with a 17.3 assist percentage. Edwards has already taken one leap, and if he does it again this season, he should be a lock for the All-Star Game. -- Jasmyn Wimbish
Kyrie Irving Brooklyn Nets PG
Irving can do things on the court that no one else on this list can, but he frequently does things off of the court that no one else on this list would. He is the single hardest player to rank in all of basketball because of how infrequently he actually plays basketball. One game to win the championship? Irving might jump a dozen spots. But in the day-to-day reality of the NBA, where locker rooms represent fragile workplaces and availability is the best ability, teams have understandably shied away. The Lakers are the only team known to have pursued Irving this offseason. Any other player ranked this highly would garner several enormous offers. That Irving didn't is the simplest explanation for why he's not even higher on the list. -- Sam Quinn
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Bradley Beal Washington Wizards SG
Beal was limited to just 40 games for the Wizards last season due to injury issues, as he had season-ending surgery on his left wrist in February. In the games that he played his scoring dropped eight points per performance compared to the previous season and he shot a career-low 30 percent from long range. Some of those struggles could probably be pinned on the wrist and other ailments, so as long as he's healthy next season, Beal should be able to return to form. Plus, the enormous new contract he signed over the offseason should provide him with some added motivation. -- Michael Kaskey-Blomain
Rudy Gobert Minnesota Timberwolves C
Gobert's historically great defense has been taken for granted enough that we tend to overanalyze his anomalous playoff miscues that, in reality, mostly aren't his fault. He has continually protected the rim at an elite rate, second to only Myles Turner last season with 1.004 points per possession for opponents around the basket, per Synergy. Gobert is also one of the best drop pick-and-roll defenders in the league, where he's in the 81st percentile against both ball-handlers and rollers. Offensively, he's as efficient as they come as a lob and dump-off threat from the dunker spot, and his post-ups, while infrequent, have been quite effective at 1.098 points per possession. -- Colin Ward-Henninger
Bam Adebayo Miami Heat C
Adebayo is one of the league's premier defenders while functioning as one of Miami's main facilitators. He's an elite high-post hub who has shown deft touch in the 10-foot range and who will slip handoffs with great opportunism. Pencil Adebayo in for something near 20 and 10, but don't get your hopes too high about him becoming a super aggressive scorer. That's when he can leave you wanting more. -- Brad Botkin
Brandon Ingram New Orleans Pelicans SF
Any lingering doubt of Ingram's high-leverage scoring prowess just died in a playoff series against Phoenix in which he averaged 27 points per game. Those points are more than welcome, but they're no longer essential on a roster with C.J. McCollum, Zion Williamson and Jonas Valanciunas. His playmaking is more than ready to accommodate a better supporting cast. Ingram averaged a career-high 5.6 assists per game last season, which gave him useful reps passing out of double-teams and help, but the real question is whether or not he'll seize upon his considerable defensive upside. The presence of Herb Jones means he'll never have to take on the hardest opposing assignment, but with Williamson and McCollum to help carry the offensive load, there's no longer an excuse for anything less than maximum effort defensively regardless of who he's covering. The points will always be there for Ingram. The jump from All-Star to superstar is going to have to happen everywhere else. -- Sam Quinn
Zach LaVine Chicago Bulls SG
A nagging knee injury hampered LaVine last season, and COVID-19 took him out for Chicago's final playoff game against the Bucks. It wasn't the ending LaVine would've liked, but after all the concern about how he and DeMar DeRozan would coexist as two ball-dominant guards, things worked out pretty well for all parties involved. LaVine's stats across the board took a slight dip, but he was still among the most efficient shooters in the league. His 1.19 points per possession in spot-up situations put him in the 90th percentile in the league last season, making him one-half of a fearsome offensive duo for the Bulls. -- Jasmyn Wimbish
Jrue Holiday Milwaukee Bucks PG
Holiday finished seventh in Defensive Player of the Year voting last season, and made an All-Defensive Team for the fourth time in his career. (The only active guard with more All-Defense appearances is Chris Paul with nine.) Strong, quick and blessed with a 6-foot-7 wingspan, Holiday is one of the most destructive backcourt defenders in the league. Many, in fact, would argue that he is the best. His scoring comes and goes, especially in the playoffs, but he's a reliable facilitator and a perfect fit for this Bucks team. -- Jack Maloney
Pascal Siakam Toronto Raptors PF
Siakam made the All-NBA Third Team last season, but he's a better all-around player than he was when he made the Second Team in 2020. Siakam has grown as a passer, averaging a career-high 5.3 assists in 2021-22, and he has continued to refine his one-on-one game. Only 37 percent of his made field goals were assisted last season, which is about the same mark as Cade Cunningham and Kyrie Irving. And despite his heavy lift on offense and enormous minutes load (37.9 per game, tied with teammate Fred VanVleet for tops in the whole league), Siakam created havoc on the other end, where his foot speed, length and sheer activity level led to loads of deflections and transition opportunities. -- James Herbert
Khris Middleton Milwaukee Bucks SF
Middleton's nonchalant style of play and low-key demeanor off the court make him perhaps the most forgettable very good player in the league. In a strange way, it took his absence in the Bucks' second-round loss to the Celtics last season to remind everyone of his status and importance to this team. He's the definition of reliability in the NBA, as he's good for an efficient 20/5/5 every night. Since first becoming an All-Star in the 2018-19 season, he's played 323 games between the regular season and playoffs, and has failed to reach double figures in scoring just 12 times. -- Jack Maloney
Donovan Mitchell Cleveland Cavaliers SG
Mitchell had another terrific season last year, perhaps his best yet. He had the seventh-highest usage rate (32.2 percent) in the league, and his true shooting percentage was a career-best 57.2 percent. He was more efficient at the rim and from floater range than ever before, and the Jazz scored a scorching 117.6 points per 100 possessions with him on the court, so it hardly mattered that he only made 34.6 percent of his spot-up 3s, down from about 43 percent the previous two seasons. Mitchell wasn't particularly efficient in Utah's first-round loss against the Mavericks, but there's no question about his ability to dominate playoff games on the offensive end. The question is whether he can be a plus -- or even be neutral -- on the other end, particularly now that he's sharing the backcourt with another young, small, offense-first star. -- James Herbert
James Harden Philadelphia 76ers PG
Harden is coming off of what was viewed by most as a down season, and the former MVP still averaged 22 points, 10.3 assists and 7.7 rebounds per game between his time with the Nets and the Sixers. Along with Chris Paul, he was one of only two players to average over 10 assists per performance last season. Harden was hampered by a hamstring injury last offseason, so he admittedly didn't get to train at the level that he would have liked. He's healthy heading into the upcoming campaign, though, and thus he could be in store for a major bounce-back season. Even if he's lost a step at 33 years old, he's clearly still one of the most elite playmakers in the league. -- Michael Kaskey-Blomain
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Karl-Anthony Towns Minnesota Timberwolves C
There are no questions about what Towns can do when he's engaged. He is a walking double-double and one of the most gifted offensive big men the league has ever seen. Last season, he (again) shot 41 percent from 3-point land and he set the franchise's single-game scoring mark when he dropped 60 points on the Spurs. The questions, rather, were about his defense and ability to impact winning at the highest level. He'll have a chance to answer both this season as the arrival of Rudy Gobert will bring new defensive challenges and for the first time in his career serious expectations of postseason success. -- Jack Maloney
Jaylen Brown Boston Celtics SG
On another team the six-year veteran who averaged 23.6 ppg last season would be the main man and his team's potential lead scorer every night, though on the Celtics, he excels as an overqualified secondary option. Among players with at least 100 isolation possessions last season, he was the 10th-most efficient at 1.045 points per possession. And his scoring prowess is evidenced by the fact that last season he was one of just seven players to log a 40-point game in both the regular season and the playoffs. Brown's penchant for bizarre turnovers and lapses off the ball defensively can be frustrating, but they shouldn't overshadow everything else he brings to the table. -- Jack Maloney
Chris Paul Phoenix Suns PG
For as much flak as Paul and the Suns got at the end of last season, that doesn't take away from the fact that CP3 is still one of the top point guards in the league. He might be past his prime as the 37-year-old floor general is about to enter his 18th season, but he led the league in assists per game last year (10.8) for the fifth time in his career, and the first time since his run with the Clippers. The pressure will be on this season for Paul and the Suns to prove that they can bounce back from their second-round exit. But given that Paul has managed to maintain consistency at this stage in his career, my guess is the loss to the Mavericks was just a bump in the road and not a sign of Father Time creeping in. -- Jasmyn Wimbish
Zion Williamson New Orleans Pelicans PF
The anticipation surrounding Williamson's long-awaited return has to be among the most exciting aspects of the upcoming season. The last time we saw this freight train on the floor he was earning his first All-Star bid and living up to all the hype that has surrounded him since high school. Williamson's sophomore year put him in historic territory, becoming just the third player in league history to average 25 or more points a game while shooting over 60 percent from the field. Williamson joined Hall of Famers Charles Barkley and Kevin McHale to accomplish this feat, and what's even more impressive is he did it at the age of 20, nine years younger than when McHale did it, and six years younger than Barkley was at the time. -- Jasmyn Wimbish
Anthony Davis Los Angeles Lakers C
Injuries by far have been Davis' biggest obstacle over the past two seasons, but the inexplicable decline of his jump shot isn't far behind. After posting downright Durant-ian shooting numbers in the bubble, Davis has hit just 22.9 percent of his 3-pointers and 35.9 percent of his mid-range looks since. A healthy Davis can still be an All-Star without his shot. If nothing else, he remains the NBA's most dangerous lob threat, and his defense speaks for itself. But the Lakers need the MVP candidate they got in 2020, not the roller coaster they had in 2021 and 2022, if they hope to re-enter the championship picture. If Davis wants to regain his typical stature on these sorts of lists, it starts with him making his shots. -- Sam Quinn
Devin Booker Phoenix Suns SG
Phoenix's playoff collapse to Dallas in the Western Conference semis hit folks hard in the Valley of the Sun, and Booker didn't exactly cover himself in glory during the final two games of that series when he was a combined 0-8 from 3 and was a -60. But despite all that, Booker has staked a claim as the best shooting guard in the league. He finished eighth in the league in scoring last season with a career-high 26.8 points per game, made All-NBA First Team for the first time in his career and carried the Suns during the second half while Chris Paul was out hurt. When he ran pick-and-roll last season he generated 1.065 points per possession, which was the fifth-highest mark in the league among players with at least 500 possessions. -- Jack Maloney
Trae Young Atlanta Hawks PG
After bursting onto the national stage with a brilliant 2021 playoff run, Young carried the momentum into last season, when he joined Tiny Archibald as the only players in NBA history to lead the league in total points and assists in the same season. The playmaking maestro was second only to Chris Paul in points per possession out of the pick-and-roll including assists, according to Synergy, and an underused aspect of his game may be unlocked this season with an All-Star guard next to him in Dejounte Murray. In limited attempts, Young was in the 98th percentile last season in catch-and-shoot situations, per Synergy, and he should get plenty more of those looks with Murray at his side. -- Colin Ward-Henninger
Damian Lillard Portland Trail Blazers PG
Body of work lands Lillard in the top 15 despite what was basically a throwaway 2021-22 season. Lillard wasn't healthy, which effectively created a gap year in Portland, but now the Blazers have revamped the roster to support Lillard defensively. Dame's last two full seasons saw him score 28 and 30 points per game, respectively, on 39 and 40 percent 3-point shooting on over 10 attempts per game. Moreover, Lillard has been at his best in crunch time. In 2020-21, his 162 total clutch points led the league, and he did so on 51 percent shooting while leading the Blazers to a plus-100 mark. -- Brad Botkin
Ja Morant Memphis Grizzlies PG
Perhaps no player in the league made a larger leap than Ja Morant last season. He went from an extremely promising young player to a bonafide star. He made his first All-NBA team, his first All-Star team, was named the league's Most Improved Player and finished in the top 10 in MVP voting. The Grizzlies also took a major step forward last season, and that's no coincidence. Morant lifted the whole team with his play, and while he was far from the only key contributor, he was certainly the engine. He has clearly established himself as one of the best guards in the entire league, and at still just 23 years old, it's scary to think about how high his ceiling truly is. -- Michael Kaskey-Blomain
Paul George Los Angeles Clippers SF
Having exorcised all his playoff demons, George was tasked with carrying the brunt of scoring and playmaking duties with Kawhi Leonard out of the Clippers lineup last season. As a result, his efficiency dropped considerably in an injury-plagued season in which he only played 31 games. When he's healthy, however, PG is one of the most impactful two-way players in the NBA, averaging 23 points, six rebounds, five assists and 1.5 steals on 45/40/88 shooting splits in three seasons with L.A. In a limited sample size last season, George held opponents to 2-for-16 shooting in isolation situations, per Synergy. -- Colin Ward-Henninger
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Jimmy Butler Miami Heat SF
No more sleeping on Butler as a superstar. You could argue there aren't more than seven or eight guys you'd rather have on your side in a playoff series. Since arriving in Miami, Butler has taken a more pass-heavy approach in the regular season before turning up the scoring in the playoffs. Butler puts his defenders on ice with pump fakes and footwork, and he drew a foul on over 20 percent of his shot attempts last season, per Cleaning The Glass. And when you convert 87 percent of your free throws, well, that's creeping into prime James Harden territory. -- Brad Botkin
Jayson Tatum Boston Celtics SF
After spending a few years knocking on the door of the league's elite club, Tatum's performance last season finally gained him entrance. He registered career-highs across the board, finished seventh in scoring, led the league in defensive win shares, made First Team All-NBA and took the Celtics to within two wins of their first title since 2008. As the Finals showed, however, he still has plenty of room to grow, particularly in regards to his decision-making on offense and his ball-handling though he clearly was hampered in the latter stages of the playoffs with a fractured wrist. Still only 24 years old, and now with even more valuable experience under his belt, Tatum should come back even better this season; that's great news for the Celtics and terrible news for the rest of the league. -- Jack Maloney
Kawhi Leonard Los Angeles Clippers SF
It's been a while since we've seen Leonard, so I encourage you to revisit his 45-point masterclass against Dallas in the 2021 playoffs. Like other top-tier scorers, Leonard routinely makes the kind of shots that demoralize a defense. He can create space with his dribble, but space doesn't seem all that important for him. One of the greatest tough-shot makers who has ever lived, as long as Leonard can get the shot off, it feels like it's going in. The most amazing thing about him, though, is that even if he never created any offense whatsoever, he would still be with more than $20 million per season. Leonard is a deadeye spot-up shooter, a renowned board man, a terror in passing lanes and, when the situation demands it, a lockdown one-on-one defender. In that same game against Dallas, he defended Luka Doncic as well as anyone ever has. Given what happened after the first serious injury of his career, I don't doubt his ability to come back from a torn ACL. -- James Herbert
LeBron James Los Angeles Lakers SF
Let's all take a moment to marvel at the fact that James was in position to win the NBA scoring title until the final week of the regular season. He is 37 years old, he dealt with injuries to his knee, ankle and abdomen during the season, and according to Bball-Index, the nonsensical Laker lineups he was featured in ranked in just the 26th percentile in terms of perimeter shooting. James has lost his spacing, his youth, even his health, and he still came just a few games away from leading the NBA in scoring. What more is there left to say? Father Time's undefeated record is in serious jeopardy as long as King James still wants to play basketball. -- Sam Quinn
Joel Embiid Philadelphia 76ers C
Embiid was again arguably the most dominant player in the league last season, as he became the first center to lead the league in scoring since Shaquille O'Neal in his prime, and there's no reason not to expect the same from the Sixers big man during the upcoming campaign. Having a legitimate offensive threat like James Harden alongside him could work to help open things up a bit for Embiid, who can literally do it all on the offensive end. Embiid is also an elite defender at the center spot. Embiid was the runner-up for the MVP for the second consecutive year last season, and as long as he can remain healthy he should be right back in the thick of that conversation again. -- Michael Kaskey-Blomain
Luka Doncic Dallas Mavericks PG
In each of the last two seasons Doncic has finished first in the league in usage percentage, and in three of his four NBA seasons his usage percentage has been above 35 percent. That's rare air, as it puts him tied for second all-time for most seasons with such a rate, along with the likes of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and James Harden. With the Mavs losing Jalen Brunson and not adding an additional ballhandler behind their two lead guards, Doncic's usage could reach the levels of what we saw with Russell Westbrook in his 2017 MVP season. It'll be a tall ask of the 23-year-old superstar, but we've seen Doncic elevate his game to astronomical levels when he's needed most. -- Jasmyn Wimbish
Nikola Jokic Denver Nuggets C
Last season, Jokic led the league in touches for the fourth straight year. Unlike virtually everybody else who gets the ball that much, though, he doesn't hold onto it for long. Jokic calls himself slow and patient, but his moves are quick and decisive. He is a dominant enough scorer to command double-teams, but far too deadly a passer for that strategy to be effective. With their second- and third-best players sidelined, the 2021-22 Nuggets scored 117.3 points per 100 possessions when Jokic was on the court, a mark that would have led the league that season -- or any other one. And while some players decline defensively with increased usage, Jokic has gone the other way, becoming more Marc Gasol-like every year. The reigning back-to-back MVP finished eighth in total deflections and consistently baited players into low-percentage shots. -- James Herbert
Kevin Durant Brooklyn Nets PF
Trade demands and Twitter activity aside, Durant is still arguably the best pure scorer in the game. He ranked in the 79th percentile or higher in isolation, pick-and-roll, spot-up and post-up scoring last season, according to Synergy Sports -- the true definition of a bucket-getter. What takes Durant to the next level, however, is his continually improving playmaking ability. He averaged a career-high 6.4 assists per game last season, and led all forwards in points per possession including assists (min. 1,000 possessions), according to Synergy. At nearly 7-feet tall, Durant (who turns 34 on Sept. 29) is as unstoppable as offensive players come. -- Colin Ward-Henninger
Stephen Curry Golden State Warriors PG
Curry proved he's still arguably the best player in the world in terms of pure impact. Even in what goes down as the worst shooting season of his career to this point, the 34-year-old turned the Boston Celtics inside out and led the Warriors to another NBA title with Andrew Wiggins as his lone All-Star teammate. It's hard to imagine Curry shooting 38 percent from 3 again. It's even harder to imagine him shooting 43.7 percent overall, which was somehow a worse mark than even Russell Westbrook. Assuming a return to normal Curry percentages, another MVP-level season should be in store. -- Brad Botkin
Giannis Antetokounmpo Milwaukee Bucks PF
Forget Greek Freak. How about just freak? Antetokounmpo is the only player in NBA history to officially average 29 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and one block per game over a full season and last season was the second time he's done that. Granted, Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, both would have held that honor if blocks were an official stat back then. Still, it's clear that Antetokounmpo, 27, is a generational talent. Perhaps even more impressive than his skills and physical gifts is that he approaches the craft with a unique level of dedication and determination. Even after he has won back-to-back MVP Awards, a title and been crowned by many, including us, as the best player in the world, it would appear that he's still on the rise. -- Jack Maloney