50 Top NBA players of 2021: Historical performance has Zion Williamson on the rise(3)

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.

30. C.J. McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers

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Although Damian Lillard got a lot of credit for leading the Trail Blazers to a surprise Western Conference Finals appearance in 2019, that couldn’t have been done without McCollum. And despite a down 2019-20 season for the team, Portland views McCollum as a core piece. For good reason. The 29-year-old guard is averaging a whopping 26.7 points on 44% shooting from distance. His status as a top-50 player, however, is impacted by less-than-stellar defense and the fact that he just recently returned from injury after missing 25 games.

29. Domantas Sabonis, Indiana Pacers

Initially a throw-in piece in the Paul George trade, the 24-year-old Sabonis is thriving in Indiana. Fresh off two consecutive All-Star appearances, the Oregon native is averaging 20.4 points, 11.2 rebounds and 6.4 assists on 53% shooting from the field. Talk about a stellar all-around game.

28. Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers

Top NBA players: Ben Simmons
Aug 1, 2020; Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons (25) warms up before the game against the Indiana Pacers at Visa Athletic Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Still only 24 years old, Simmons has an opportunity to morph into an elite player. Despite a stellar defensive game and ball distribution skills, a lack of any type of perimeter shot has impacted him big time. Fresh off rumors about a potential trade, Simmons was in the midst of a down season before picking it up big time recently. Since February 1, he’s averaging 19.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.3 assists on 64% shooting. Perhaps, the former No. 1 pick has turned it around.

27. Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic

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A throwback to bigs of the past, Vucevic has been slowly expanding his offensive game. Nevertheless, the 30-year-old is the Magic’s best player. Thus far this season, the veteran big man is averaging what would be a career-high 25.0 points to go with 11.6 rebounds. He has also expanded his game to three-point range, shooting an absurd 42% from distance.

26. Chris Paul, Phoenix Suns

Feb 26, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) passes the ball against the Chicago Bulls during the first half of an NBA game at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
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Chris Paul demonstrated that he still has gas left in the tank last season. Under Paul’s tutelage, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Dennis Schroder enjoyed career years in 2019-20. Now in Phoenix, we’re we’re seeing what CP3 can do with other youngsters. The Suns are currently off to one of their best starts since the Steve Nash era with Paul averaging 15.9 points, 4.6 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game. He just doesn’t slow down.

Best NBA players: Top-25 NBA players of 2020-21 season

25. Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets

Nuggets' Jamal Murray reacts after scoring against Jazz in NBA Playoff game
Aug 25, 2020; Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA; Jamal Murray #27 of the Denver Nuggets reacts after a shot during the fourth quarter against the Utah Jazz in game five of the first round of the 2020 NBA Playoffs at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

Murray’s ascension into the ranks of the elite is primarily due to what we saw from him during the Nuggets’ playoff run. The former lottery pick averaged 26.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 6.6 assists in 19 postseason games. After some initial struggles this season, Murray has picked it up. Including an historical 50-point outing back in February, Murray is averaging 24.7 points on 51% shooting over the past five weeks.

24. Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks

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Having averaged almost 30 points per game as a sophomore, Young is shaping up to be the next shooter with limitless range. The Hawks may have struggled this past season, but it’s not the fault of this prodigy, who led the team in scoring (29.6) and assists (9.3) in just his second year. With the Hawks having added more talent in the offseason, Young hasn’t needed to do as much this season. He’s still averaging nearly 26.0 points and 9.4 assists while shooting 38% from distance.

23. Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics

Heat Jimmy Butler, Celtics Jaylen Brown Game 3 Eastern Conference Finals
Sep 17, 2020; Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA; Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) defends Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) during the fourth quarter in game two of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2020 NBA Playoffs at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Brown has teamed up with Jayson Tatum to form an elite young wing duo in Boston. The former No. 3 pick has proven Danny Ainge right in refusing to include him in trades for the likes of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in the past. Brown, 24, is averaging a resounding 24.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.2 steals on an electric 38% shooting from three-point range this season.

22. Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat

Heat Bam Adebayo against the Lakers
Dec 13, 2019; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo (13) dunks against Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) during the second half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Speaking of max contract extensions, Adebayo re-upped with the Heat as his talents continue to flourish in South Beach. Some saw Bam as a major project coming out of Kentucky a few years back. Coming off an All-Star appearance as a third-year player, that can no longer be considered the case. Adebayo has continued to show off this season, averaging 18.9 points, 9.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists on 56% shooting from the field. Despite this, he was an All-Star snub. Perhaps, Bam is the NBA’s version of Rodney Dangerfield.

21. Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls

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No longer just a dunker, LaVine has improved in almost every other facet of his game from his shooting averages to his per-game totals. Only 26, LaVine has a lot of time to improve other facets of his game to become one of the better all-around players in the NBA. It looks like new Bulls coach Billy Donovan has fully maximized LaVine’s potential. He’s averaging 28.4 points, 5.2 rebounds and 5.1 assists on 50% shooting. Those are elite numbers. They also made him a first-time All-Star this season.