NBArank 2022 – Ranking the best players for 2022-23, 10 to 6


NBArank is in its 12th season of calculating 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 step up to the upper echelon of NBA players?

Where is LeBron James entering his 20th season?

To get the ultimate NBArank prediction, we asked our panel of experts to vote on a pair of players: LeBron vs. Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry vs. Ja Morant, Luka vs. Jayson Tatum… and the list goes on.

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

We have already revealed players with numbers 100-26 and 25-11. Today, our ranking continues with the league’s top 10 superstars.

Note: ESPN’s NBArank team of more than 200 reporters, editors, producers and analysts were asked to rank their projected contributions — both quality and quantity — for the 2022-23 season alone.

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Phoenix Suns | SG

2021 NBArank: Number 15

Booker, 25 years old and already a three-time All-Star and All-NBA selection, and his smooth offensive game should compete for top shooting guard status in the league for years to come.

Why did he rise five places?

Booker’s breakout year — an NBA Finals run, followed by an Olympic gold medal and leading Phoenix to a league-best 64 regular-season wins — ended with a quick decline. Booker combined to shoot 9-for-31 in Games 6 and 7 against Dallas, leading the Suns to a surprise exit from the second round of the playoffs.

But Booker’s 26.8 points per game last season ranked 12th in the league and further cemented his reputation as one of the game’s deadliest scorers. However, he will take the next step by using those scoring skills in crunch time. Last season, Booker shot 48.5% overall and 42.1% from 3 in the first nine minutes of quarters. In the last three minutes of the quarter? He shot 41.8% from the field and 31.8% from deep.

A big question for 2022-23

The Suns won 74.6% of their regular season games over the past two seasons. Booker’s rise to All-Star status hasn’t diminished the weight of expectations. He needs to win big in the playoffs to further cement his place in the game.

The question is, in today’s NBA, where the elite level of superstardom is reserved for players who dominate both ends, what room for growth does Booker have? Offensively, he relies on finesse, angles and footwork to do his damage. Defensively, he is certainly known as a master player who can operate within team schemes. Can he get stronger with his stops and his scores to keep moving up the game’s best list?

— Dave McMenamin

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Memphis Grizzlies | PG

2021 NBArank: No. 31

Morant may be the NBA’s most entertaining player, a high-flying acrobat with poise and confidence that creeps toward arrogance. He has made the Grizzlies must-see TV.

Why he rose 22 places

Morant made a huge leap from promising franchise cornerstone to bona fide superstar last season. His scoring surged to 27.1, more than eight points per game, elevating Morant to the top tier of offensive weapons and earning him his first All-Star berth and Most Improved Player award.

He’s a pure point guard who is a dominant interior scorer despite his 6-foot-3 frame, as Morant possesses a breathtaking combination of explosiveness, finesse and fearlessness. He averaged 16.6 points in the paint last season, making him the only guard to lead the league in that category over the past 25 seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information Research.

A big question for 2022-23

How much better can Morant get? The 23-year-old has room for drastic improvement at defensive end, where his thin frame makes him a target and he has a tendency to lose focus.

Offensively, he’s already a nightmare for opponents, but imagine how tough Morant will be if his 3-point shot (34.4% last season) continues to improve. If Morant continues to pay guards to go under screens, he will be unstoppable.

— Tim McMahon

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Brooklyn Nets | SF

2021 NBArank: Number 1

No player has driven the NBA’s summer conversation more than Durant after backing out of a trade request from Brooklyn. One of the most interesting questions in the league is how he fits back into the Nets culture after calling for the firing of coach Steve Nash and general manager Sean Marks.

Why did he drop seven places?

When Durant played, he was one of the best players on the planet. The problem for the former MVP is that he can’t stay on the floor.

A knee injury cost him almost two months worth of games and forced him to miss a large portion of the season for the second year in a row. Durant has played in 90 of 152 regular season games over the past two seasons. Durant, who will be 34 years old when the season tips off, needs to prove he can stay healthy for the Nets to return to the East’s elite.

A big question for 2022-23

Health aside, the Nets’ biggest question is whether Durant will commit to the team. After a season full of emotional ups and downs for the organization, Durant’s trade request and the uncertainty surrounding Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons make the Nets one of the NBA’s most fascinating stories. But what happens when times get tough? Will old frustrations rise?

— Nick Friedel

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Boston Celtics | SF

2021 NBArank: Number 14

Coming off his first All-NBA appearance, winning the Eastern Conference Finals MVP, making his first trip to the NBA Finals and playing for a team contending for the league’s best record, Tatum looks set to make another leap. Sixth season.

Why did he rise seven places?

After Tatum didn’t make any of the three All-NBA teams when the Celtics finished seventh in the East in 2020-21, he was a deserving first-teamer last season after leading Boston’s dramatic turnaround from under .500 in late January. Finished second in the East and advanced to the finals for the first time since 2010.

At the same time, Tatum averaged a career-high 26.9 points per game, consistently raised his 3-point attempt rate and remains one of the best two-way wing players in the league.

A big question for 2022-23

Tatum made some strides as a passer last season — coach Ime Udoka stressed since arriving last summer — but continuing to improve part of his game is what allows him to have a player in the back half of the top 10 for someone competing for the top spot on this list.

While his assists remained constant from year to year during the regular season, they increased during the playoffs, including an average of seven per game during the Finals. He will look to bounce back from a disappointing showing in his series against the Golden State Warriors, where he shot 30.8% from 2-point range in six games.

— Tim Bontemps

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Los Angeles Lakers | SF

2021 NBArank: Number 3

For James, it was season no. 20, and the all-time greats have a lot at stake. He needs 1,323 points to pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, but the Lakers’ success — or lack thereof — will largely determine how that moment reverberates.

Why did he drop three places?

For the second time in four seasons as a Laker, James missed the playoffs — after missing the postseason just twice in his first 15 years in the league. James’ 30.3 points per game average was unprecedented for 19 years of experience, but 26 games were marred by various injuries and a dysfunctional roster around him, resulting in one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history.

James has already redefined the concept of how long a player’s prime lasts, so it would be foolish to write him off too early, but the fact that the Lakers had a game can’t be ignored. Negative The net rating with James last season was reason enough to knock him out of the top five in the rankings regardless of his impressive offensive output.

A big question for 2022-23

In the midst of dropping 42 points during a cameo appearance in L.A.’s famed True League in July, James told ESPN, “I’m 100 percent healthy.” It’s a solid starting point for James to turn things around.

The question is, can James stay healthy while Anthony Davis stays healthy, giving the Lakers a chance to replicate the success that led to the title in 2020? If both James and Anthony can play the majority of LA’s games, the Lakers will have a viable path back to the postseason, despite the challenges of working with Russell Westbrook and the guidance of a new coach, Darwin Hamm.

— McMenamin

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NBArank 2022: No. 100-26 | No. 25-11 | No. 10-6 | No. 5-1 (next Friday).


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