50 Top NBA players of 2021: Historical performance has Zion Williamson on the rise(4)

50 best basketball players today in 2021

BEST NBA PLAYERS: The Brooklyn Nets’ acquisition of James Harden earlier in the 2020-21 NBA season added another layer to the super-team era in the Association. They now have three of the top 25 players in the league.

The defending champion Los Angeles Lakers are almost in the same category with two of the top-10 players. These are among the teams with the best chances of winning the title. It’s in this that we look at the 50 best NBA players right now.

40. DeMar DeRozan, San Antonio Spurs

DeMar DeRozan
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Even without a three-point shot, the 31-year-old DeRozan has found a way to stay effective. An excellent mid-range shooter, he improved his rebounding and passing since coming to the Spurs in 2018. Even though he’ll never be a defensive force, count on DeRozan to put up 20/5/5 every night.

39. Jrue Holiday, Milwaukee Bucks

Top NBA players: Jrue Holiday, Milwaukee Bucks
Jan 13, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday (21) dribbles the ball while defended by Detroit Pistons center Isaiah Stewart (28) in the second half at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Bucks took a massive gamble in their blockbuster trade for Holiday. Trading three future first-round picks and giving the New Orleans Pelicans two pick swaps is an absurd price. However, that’s the cost of convincing your star to stay. Holiday, one of the NBA’s best two-way players, is a perfect fit in Milwaukee’s system. Alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, the Bucks have the star power and defensive prowess to make a run at the NBA Finals.

38. De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings

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Although a case can be made that 27-year-old Buddy Hield is the Kings’ best player, that title still belongs to De’Aaron Fox. The 23-year-old Fox is averaging 23.7 points, 3.4rebounds and 7.6 assists. After some initial struggles, he’s picked it up big time recently for the impoverished Kings. Fox is averaging 26.2 points and 8.9 assists on 47% shooting from the field since Jan. 30.

37. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, guard, Oklahoma City Thunder

Best NBA Players: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Jan 10, 2021; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) is fouled by Brooklyn Nets guard Caris LeVert (22) during the first half at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Pretty much the centerpiece in the trade that sent Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers ahead of the 2019-20 season, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has morphed into a star and leader for the rebuilding Thunder. It’s pretty darn shocking what we’ve seen him do thus far in OKC. Through the first 33 games of the 2020-21 season, the former first-round pick is averaging 23.6 points, 4.8 rebounds and 6.0 assists on 51% shooting. He’s also already one of the top perimeter defenders in the game.

36. Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks

Jan 4, 2020; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton (22) warms up before game against the San Antonio Spurs at Fiserv Forum. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

A former second-round picks of the Pistons back in 2012. Middleton improved each of his first six seasons in the NBA before finally earning an All-Star appearance back in 2018-19. Over the course of the past three years, the Texas A&M product is averaging 19.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.1 assists on 45% from the field. The only issue here has been in the playoffs, where Middleton is shooting 40% over the Bucks’ past two trips to the postseason.

35. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves

Karl-Anthony Towns injury
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A former No. 1 pick, the 25-year-old Towns has lived up to his end of the bargain on the offensive end. He still needs to work on his defense but as long as he keeps working, he should be serviceable on that end. But any improvement would be for naught if the Timberwolves don’t put a competitive squad around Towns to complement his talents. Thus far in 2020-21, that has not been the case with Towns sidelined for 20 games due to injury and COVID-19. His numbers are also down across the board.

34. Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors

Pascal Siakam #20 Best NBA Players in 2020
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The new No. 1 option in Toronto, Siakam has shown to be a capable offensive player, scoring either inside or out at will. Averaging career-highs across the board last season, the 26-year-old has the skill to be a perennial All-Star. While it’s been a slow start for Toronto this season, Siakam is still averaging 19.8 points, 7.4 rebounds and 4.7 assists per outing.

33. Malcolm Brogdon, guard, Indiana Pacers

Top NBA players: Malcolm Brogdon, Pacers
Jan 9, 2021; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon (7) shoots the ball over Phoenix Suns forward Dario Saric (left) in the third quarter at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Acquired in a sign-and-trade with the Bucks prior to the 2019-20 season, Brogdon has morphed into a star in Indiana. Now that Victor Oladipo is in Houston, he’ll take on that lead role moving forward. As it is, the 28-year-old guard is averaging a career-high 21.7 points to go with 4.7 rebounds and 6.0 assists on a resounding 46% shooting from the field this season. Whew.

32. Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies

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At just 21, the runaway Rookie of the Year led the Grizzlies in scoring (17.8) and assists (7.3) while sitting at third with 3.4 win shares in his debut season. Unfortunately, Morant suffered an ankle injury early in his sophomore campaign after averaging a whopping 36 points over the course of the first two games. It’s led to some struggles with the youngster shooting just 44% from the field on the season. That drops Morant down some in our updated rankings.

31. Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans

Pelicans Brandon Ingram against Jazz during NBA restart.
July 30, 2020; Lake Buena Vista, USA; New Orleans Pelicans’ Brandon Ingram, right, looks to pass around Utah Jazz’s Jordan Clarkson (00) during the first half of an NBA basketball game. Mandatory Credit: Ashley Landis/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports

All the talk in Nola has surrounded Zion Williamson. That’s fine. But Ingram has been extra special since they acquired him from the Lakers. In his first season with the Pelicans, this wing is averaging 23.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists while shooting 37% from distance. After signing a max contract extension ahead of the 2020-21 campaign, Ingram is now continuing to play at a high level. The forward is averaging 23.9 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.7 assists on 48% shooting from the field.