Who’s the best player in the NBA? Ranking the top 30 players entering 2022

It’s that time again.

As we close the book on the year 2021, TSN is back with an updated list of our top 30 players in the NBA. Our first list came ahead of the 2021-22 season, but plenty has changed over the last few months.

Before getting to the rankings, this is a reminder that these are rankings of players that have taken the floor up to this point in the season, so Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, Jamal Murray, Ben Simmons, Klay Thompson and Zion Williamson are among the players that were ineligible to receive votes.

FANTASY BASKETBALL: Is it time to part ways with Leonard, Simmons or Williamson?

As always, the rankings were a collaborative effort, with 11 members of our staff ranking their top 30 players in the league, with a sliding scale of points attached to each ranking from 1-30. From there, players were sorted in order of point total.

Got it? Perfect. Let’s get to the rankings!

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10. James Harden, Nets

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Highest rank: 7

Lowest rank: 16

It’s no secret that Harden experienced his fair share of struggles to begin the 2021-22 campaign, a fact that led to our staff having a variety of ideas of where to place the former MVP. (Harden ranked as high as seventh and as low as 16th.)

MORE: Harden impresses in Christmas Day return

That said, Harden’s talent was too much for most to ignore, evidenced by his landing in the top 10. Harden closing the month of December with back-to-back showstopping performances in his hometown against the Lakers and Clippers could be a sign of things to come in 2022.

9. Paul George, Clippers

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Highest rank: 7

Lowest rank: 14

George has risen to the occasion this season.

MORE: How long will George be out?

In Kawhi’s absence, George has done his part to keep the Clippers afloat, averaging 24.5 points, 7.1 rebounds and a career-high 5.5 assists per contest. George will miss the first few weeks of the new year with a torn UCL in his right elbow but he should make an immediate impact upon his return to the floor.

8. Jimmy Butler, Heat

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Highest rank: 6

Lowest rank: 17

Early-season MVP talks may have subsided but Butler firmly lands in the top 10 despite also receiving a wide range of placements among voters. (Butler ranked as high as sixth and as low as 17th.)

When on the floor, Butler’s done it all for Miami this season, averaging 22.5 points, 6.1 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 2.2 steals while shooting over 50 percent from the field. The Heat have dealt with a bevy of injuries to start the season but 2022 looks to be more promising, as Butler stands at the forefront of what Miami hopes to be another Finals run.

7. Joel Embiid, 76ers

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Highest rank: 6

Lowest rank: 11

Embiid lands in the same spot as his preseason ranking and for good reason.

Philly’s All-NBA center remains as dominant as ever, averaging 20-plus points and 10-plus boards for a fifth consecutive season. Among Embiid’s most dominant performances this season are a 42-point, 14-rebound showing after a rough bout with COVID, a 43-point, 15-rebound performance capped off with a dagger and a 41-point, 10-rebound night against a divisional rival. Take Embiid’s defensive impact into account and you’ve got the league’s seventh-best player.

6. Luka Doncic, Mavericks

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Highest rank: 6

Lowest rank: 9

A consensus top-10 selection, Doncic lands at six once again.

Dallas’ wunderkind has been in and out of the lineup with nagging injuries to his knee, ankle and time in the league’s health and safety protocols but when he’s on the court, it’s easy to forget he’s still just 22 years old. In a largely down year for Doncic and the Mavericks, he has his team in line to earn a solidified playoff spot with near-triple-double averages of 26.5 points, 8.5 assists and 8.0 rebounds. Just imagine what happens when things look up for Doncic and the Mavs.

5. LeBron James, Lakers

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Highest rank: 3

Lowest rank: 5

At 37 years of age, LeBron is still a consensus top-five player in the NBA.

Let that marinate for a moment.

MORE: Key stats from the LeBron-MJ GOAT debate

Things haven’t been great for the Lakers this season but it’s no fault of James, who has been the one constant despite battling a few injuries early on in the season. Despite missing extended time, James is among the league leaders in 30-point games this season, recently becoming the youngest to surpass the 36,000 career points mark.

At this point, we should stop wondering if – or when – Father Time will slow James down and just enjoy the ride. We’ll never see anything quite like him ever again.

4. Nikola Jokic, Nuggets

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Highest rank: 2

Lowest rank: 4

The reigning MVP moves up a spot to land at fourth this time around.

Despite the fact that the Nuggets have been decimated by injury, Jokic has kept them competitive and around the .500 mark for the entirety of the 2021-22 season. Somehow, he seems to be even better than he was during his MVP campaign of 2020-21.

MORE: Jokic is breaking records and strengthening his MVP case

Jokic has the innate ability to control the game from the center position, excelling as a scorer, rebounder and playmaker, facts evidenced by his averages of 25.9 points, 13.8 rebounds and 7.2 assists per contest.

With the uncertainty within the middle of the pack in the Western Conference, Jokic could fuel a deep run if Denver gets healthier at the right time.

3. Stephen Curry, Warriors

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Highest rank: 1

Lowest rank: 5

The NBA’s 3-point King lands at No. 3.

Curry, who is somehow also getting better with time, has been at the forefront of the Warriors’ resurgence back towards the top of the NBA. After two seasons of missing the NBA Playoffs, Golden State looks like one of the teams best suited to win an NBA title and Curry is a big reason why.

MORE: Curry’s remarkable journey to the 3-point record

It’s always more than just shooting, but it’s impossible to overlook the fact that Curry is sinking over five triples per game and battling with Durant for the league’s scoring title.

The year 2022 could see Curry add more hardware, be it another MVP trophy, another NBA title, or both. 

2. Kevin Durant, Nets

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Highest rank: 1

Lowest rank: 3

Not much has changed at this point, KD again lands at No. 2.

After coming up short in 2021, Durant has been on a mission this season, as expected. Despite Harden missing significant time and Irving’s inability to join the team up to this point in the season, the Nets have remained at the top of the Eastern Conference thanks to Durant’s dominance.

MORE: Relive Durant’s 51-point performance

When you talk about the MVP race, Durant has as strong a case as anyone, and it should only get stronger.

Even in his 14th season, Durant is still improving, while he continues to display an elite ability to put the ball in the hoop. By season’s end, Durant could make his claim to overtake the No. 1 spot.

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks

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Highest rank: 1

Lowest rank: 3

Who better, who else?

Antetokounmpo again lands at No. 1 as he’s parlayed the momentum of an all-time Finals performance into a dominant start to the 2021-22 season. In today’s game, there isn’t a player that can dominate on both ends of the floor like Giannis can.

MORE: Giannis is on track to reach rare level of greatness

In a year where availability has been at a premium for most teams, Milwaukee has dealt with a number of setbacks to key players, Antetokounmpo included. That said, at full strength, the Bucks still look primed to defend their crown and it all starts with Giannis.

He’s already accomplished this much at 27, who’s to say “back-to-back champion” isn’t next?

The Final List

Rank Player Team Previous Rank
1 Giannis Antetokounmpo Bucks 1
2 Kevin Durant Nets 2
3 Stephen Curry Warriors 4
4 Nikola Jokic Nuggets 5
5 LeBron James Lakers 3
6 Luka Doncic Mavericks 6
7 Joel Embiid 76ers 7
8 Jimmy Butler Heat 12
9 Paul George Clippers 15
10 James Harden Nets 8
11 Chris Paul Suns 13
12 Damian Lillard Trail Blazers 9
13 Devin Booker Suns 14
14 Jayson Tatum Celtics 11
15 Anthony Davis Lakers 10
16 Donovan Mitchell Jazz 18
17 Trae Young Hawks 17
18 DeMar DeRozan Bulls Not Ranked
19 Ja Morant Grizzlies 28
20 Rudy Gobert Jazz 23
21 Bam Adebayo Heat 20
22 Khris Middleton Bucks 22
23 Zach LaVine Bulls Not Ranked
24 Draymond Green Warriors Not Ranked
25 Bradley Beal Wizards 21
26 Karl-Anthony Towns Timberwolves 26
27 Jrue Holiday Bucks 27
28 LaMelo Ball Hornets Not Ranked
29 Jaylen Brown Celtics 25
30 Domantas Sabonis Pacers Not Ranked



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