NBArank 2022 – Ranking of the best players for 2022-23, from 5 to 1

NBArank is back for its 12th season, counting down the best players in the league.

Where are MVP candidates like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic, Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic? What about rookies and young stars ready to take the leap to the next level of NBA players?

To get the final NBArank prediction, we asked our panel of experts to vote for player pairs: LeBron James vs. Kevin DurantStephen Curry vs. Yes Morant, Luka vs. Jayson Tatum…and the list goes on.

We asked, “Which player will be better in 2022-23?” Voters had to predict what to expect from each player during the season.

We’ve already revealed players Nos. 100-26, Nos. 25-11, and a surprise Nos. 10-6. Today, our rankings conclude with the competition’s five best superstars.

Note: ESPN’s NBArank panel, made up of more than 200 reporters, editors, producers and analysts, was asked to rank players based on their predicted contributions – quality and quantity – for the 2022-23 season only.

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Golden State Warriors | PG

2021 NBA Rank: 5

If a Finals MVP was the piece of hardware missing from Curry’s argument as one of the greatest of all time, it’s settled now as Steph led the Warriors to their fourth title in six years on their way to earning the elusive accolade. Sources told ESPN that on his way to training camp, Curry looks in good shape and ready to pick up where he left off.

Why his ranking was unchanged

Curry is in the same position as at the start of last season. Averaging 25.5 points per game on 43.7% shooting, Curry was by no means having a sub-season — he was an early contender for MVP — but an ankle injury kept him off the floor for the last month of the regular season. In his absence, his teammates stepped up and propped up the Warriors to secure the West’s number three. Perhaps that – in addition to the rise of the MVP candidates below – is why he is in the same spot in our rankings.

A big question for 2022-23

Can Steph and the Warriors do it again? Despite the strength of their All-Star core and supporting cast, their title hopes rest primarily on Curry’s shoulders. As mentioned above, Curry would be ready to start this season as he finished last. And despite increasing talk about Curry’s age (he turns 35 before the end of the regular season) and how big his remaining window is, his performances suggest he can continue to play at this level for the foreseeable future.

Why He Could End Season No. 1?

Based on Curry’s 2021-22 season, there is no apparent reason to believe he could not finish as the No. 1 player in the league this season. Barring an extended absence, Curry should be able to put together a strong, complete season in which he could win another championship and possibly more individual hardware.

–Kendra Andrews

Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Philadelphia 76ers | C

NBA Ranking 2021: 7

After two straight narrow second places behind Jokic in MVP voting, Embiid is once again a favorite to claim the award as the anchor of what should be one of the better teams in the league.

Why he rose three places

Embiid was dominant last season, averaging 30.6 points per game, leading the league in scoring for the first time in his career – the first time a center has captained the league since Shaquille O’Neal in 1999-2000 and the first time a center had averaged at least 30 points per game over an entire season since Moses Malone in 1981-82.

Embiid also averaged a player’s fewest minutes to win the scoring title at 33.8 per game, beating the 34.2 Mark Curry in both 2016 and 2021. He has become a complete player offensively, capable of easy to score at all three levels, and is one of the most imposing rim protectors in the competition.

A big question for 2022-23

At this point in his career, the only question left for Embiid isn’t necessarily up to him: Can he get through a postseason healthy?

So far in his career, he’s had one dose of bad luck after injury, including a facial fracture and a sprained thumb during the Philadelphia playoffs in the spring. If Embiid is healthy and available, there may not be a more dominant player in the NBA today. After playing 68 games last season, Embiid is looking at both a healthy regular season and playoffs this time around. If he does, the sky is the limit.

Why He Could End Season No. 1?

After years of compensating for the shortcomings of a flawed roster around him, this season marks the first time Embiid has been surrounded by a team built to optimize its strengths. That will only increase Embiid’s chances of claiming that elusive MVP award and lead Philadelphia into the deep playoff run that is missing from his resume.

When those things happen, he can jump to the top of this list.

— Tim Bontemps

Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Mavericks | PG

2021 NBA Rank: 4

After spending his offseason starring for the Slovenian national team, Doncic should report to the training camp for the first time in a few years in competition form. If conditioning isn’t an issue, Doncic is one of the NBA’s most dominant forces.

Why he rose one spot

At 23, Doncic has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is one of the top superstars, a perennial All-NBA roster and an MVP candidate. He confirmed that status last season, when he was the only All-Star on a Dallas team to advance to the West Finals.

Despite a calf strain that sidelined him for the first three games of the first round, Doncic led Dallas ten times in points, rebounds and assists during the playoffs — the most ever in a single postseason, according to Elias. Sports Bureau.

He is arguably the greatest offensive weapon in the NBA – a threat to score and assist titles that tear defenses apart with a blend of strength, skill and smarts. He’s also a ruthless competitor, as evidenced by his unforgettable Game 7 demolition of the best-seeded Suns, when he single-handedly matched Phoenix’s first-half score total.

A big question for 2022-23

How far can Doncic lead a team that has no other All-Star? The Dallas roster was dealt a major blow when Jalen Brunson, the Mavs’ second-best player last season, fled to New York in free agency. Mavs management believes Brunson’s void can be filled with the return of Tim Hardaway Jr. from injury and the arrival of Christian Wood via exchange.

But in a league filled with star duos, Doncic carries just as much of a burden as anyone else. Doncic has led the league in usage percentage for the past two seasons, a trend that is likely to continue in 2022-23.

Why He Could End Season No. 1?

Doncic has finished fourth, sixth and fifth respectively in the MVP voting for the past three seasons. This could be the season where Doncic climbs to the top of the vote, especially if he gets off to a strong start and Dallas claims a top four spot in the competitive West.

The Mavs went 32-12 – a pace of 60 wins – with Doncic in uniform after returning from a three-week absence to heal his sprained ankle and work on his fitness.

— Tim MacMahon

Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images

Denver Nuggets | C

2021 NBA Rank: 6

Despite Jokic averaging 31.0 points, 13.2 rebounds and 5.8 assists, the Nuggets were no match for Golden State in the first round. But now Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. expected back this season, Denver hopes to be back in the fray led by the two-time reigning MVP.

Why he rose four places

How did Jokic follow up on an MVP season? He got better. Jokic became just the 13th player in NBA history to win multiple MVP awards and did so with a historic campaign. He is the first player to average 25 points, 13 rebounds and 7 assists in a season and the first to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and field goals.

Jokic defeated Embiid for MVP by posting the highest season-long PER (32.8) in NBA history. Jokic racked up 19 triple-doubles — the most by a center since Wilt Chamberlain — and led Denver to one win more than the previous season, despite missing Murray and Porter Jr.

A big question for 2022-23

The Nuggets are whole again, but can Jokic and a new roster recapture the form that helped Denver reach the West Finals in the 2020 bubble? Murray missed the entire season last season due to a torn ACL and Porter Jr. was out since early November due to back surgery.

The Nuggets welcome both back, but also went through some off-season changes, adding Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Bruce Brown and trading Monte Morris to the Washington Wizards to free up playing time for up-and-coming sophomore point guard Bones Hyland.

Why He Could End Season No. 1?

If he was able to put together a historic season without Murray and Porter Jr., what can he do with it on the field? Jokic made 191 post-ups last season, the most in the league. With a full complement of employees around him, Jokic won’t get the same kind of defensive attention.

While his score could drop, assists and other categories could increase this season. And if he can go three-peat as MVP, Jokic would be doing what only Larry Bird, Chamberlain and Bill Russell have achieved – that sounds like a recipe to become the No. 1 player in the league.

— Ohm Youngmisuk

Al Bello/Getty Images

Milwaukee Bucks | PF

NBA Ranking 2021: 2

As Antetokounmpo enters his 28-year season, his list of accolades already makes him one of the most decorated winners in the history of the league. So the question remains how he’s going to add to that list. Can he win a third NBA MVP? The Bucks are among the favorites to win another NBA championship, but can Antetokounmpo secure another Finals MVP? Expectations are high every season, but Antetokounmpo usually finds a way to exceed them.

Why he rose one spot

Antetokounmpo’s sheer consistency and dependable dominance every night has only strengthened his claim to the status of the best player in the world over the past year. Undoubtedly, no player in the league can match his impact on both sides of the floor.

Following on from winning his first Finals MVP, Antetokounmpo challenged for the scoring title, averaging 29.9 points (third in the NBA), while grabbing 11.6 rebounds, handing out 5.8 assists with 1.1 steals and 1.4 blocks per game. Although Milwaukee was without second-best player, Khris Middleton, during their second-round playoff series against Boston, the Bucks expanded the series to seven games at the likes of Antetokounmpo, who averaged 31.7 points, 14.2 rebounds. and had 6.8 assists in the postseason. .

A big question for 2022-23

What new ability will Antetokounmpo bring to the table? After each low season, Antetokounmpo shows up with a new skill in his arsenal. Over the years, he has refined his vision as a passer, improving a winger that keeps the defense guessing, and has become more unstoppable in attack on the paint and in the post. Can Antetokounmpo get any better?

–Jamal Collier

NBA Rankings 2022: Nos. 100-26 | Nos. 25-11 | Nos. 10-6 | Nos. 5-1

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