50 Top NBA players of 2021: Historical performance has Zion Williamson on the rise(2)

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.

20. Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz

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Since coming into the league in the 2017, Mitchell has proven to be a fast-rising star in the NBA. The 24-year-old is a nightly 20-4-4 threat and even as the focal point in the offense, his percentages have stayed consistent in his three years in the league. If he’s able to keep producing, it’s not outside the realm of possibility to see Mitchell average 25-5-5 moving forward. In fact, he’s almost to those averages for a Jazz team with the best record in the NBA this season.

19. Paul George, Los Angeles Clippers

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One of the few truly elite two-way players in the league, George is a terror on both ends of the court. He can drop 20-25 points on a nightly basis while also shutting down the opposing team’s best player. Fairly durable throughout his career, George’s age (30) makes it difficult to see where his ceiling is at this point. After some initial struggles this season, he’s averaging 23.1 points on 48% shooting.

18. Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors

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The other half of the vaunted “Splash Bros.,” the 30-year-old Thompson is one of the greatest shooters the NBA has even seen. Because of how great of a shooter he is, Thompson can score 30-plus in a quarter or even score 60-plus on fewer than 15 dribbles in the blink-of-an-eye. If he’s not destroying opposing teams offensively, he’s doing it on the defensive end as he’s an All-Defensive-type performer.

Unfortunately, we won’t even get a chance to see Thompson play this season. After suffering a torn Achilles, just on the brink of returning from a torn ACL, there are now long-term questions about Thompson’s future. If anyone can rebound from these two devastating injuries, though, it will be Klay Thompson.

17. Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns

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Much like Towns, the 24-year-old Booker is an offensive force. Look no further than his 70-point performance against the Celtics a few years ago as evidence. He may not be a defensive stopper, but because he can easily put up 26-6-4 every night. Booker has seen his scoring drop a bit with Chris Paul in the mix, but the dude is still shooting a ridiculous 50% from the field. That’s insane for someone most view to be mostly a perimeter threat.

16. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics

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As part of Boston’s three-headed monster, the 23-year-old Tatum has taken that next step of being the go-to option on offense. Leading the Celtics in scoring (23.4) and three-point shooting (40%) last season, he has shown that he can lead a playoff team. If he keeps playing the way that he is, he is a lock to be an All-Star every year. That has been the case in 2020-21 with Tatum averaging 25.3 points, 6.9 rebounds and 4.4 assists.

15. Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans

New Orleans Pelicans star forward Zion Williamson
Mar 8, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) in action against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

If injuries had not cut short this generational talent’s rookie season, Williamson would have vied with Ja Morant for the NBA Rookie of the Year honors. The dude was on pace for the most efficient scoring season before the campaign was suspended back in March. He’s now off to an historical start, scoring the second-most points through 60 games of a players’ career, behind Michael Jordan. This season, Williamson is averaging 25.6 points and 6.9 rebounds on 62% shooting. Did we mention he’s just 20 years old?

14. Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets

Kyrie Irving injured
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Probably the best ball-handler of all-time, Irving’s mastery with a basketball is undeniable. He can score 50 or any given night and drop any defender that’s in front of him. After missing time earlier in the season for “personal reasons,” Irving has caught lightning in a bottle. He’s averaging 27.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 5.8 assists on 52% shooting, including what would be a career-best 42% mark from distance.

13. Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers

Anthony Davis #5 Best NBA Players in 2020
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The 27-year-old Davis has been a two-way presence since being the first pick back in 2012. His numbers have been improving every year and if he keeps up this pace, he is Hall of Fame-worthy. Davis’ penchant for continually improving each year and playing in Los Angeles with LeBron can only do wonders for his game and his marketability. Unfortunately, injuries have limited Davis to 23 games this season. His numbers are also down clear across the board. That drops AD in our latest rankings.

12. Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat

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On his third team in three years, the 31-year-old Butler seems to have finally found a home in Miami. Leading the team in scoring (19.9), assists (6.0), steals (1.8) and free-throw attempts (9.1) per game last season, Butler has embraced the Heat’s winning culture with great success thus far. It led to a shocking NBA Finals appearance for the upstart team, where Butler was brilliant and helped Miami push the series to six games despite injuries to multiple key players. Despite dealing with COVID-related issues, he’s continuing to play at a high level in 2020-21. Butler is averaging 21.8 points and what would be career-highs in rebounds (7.5) and assists (7.6).

11. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

Damian Lillard #10 Best NBA Players in 2020
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No doubt one of the best clutch shot makers in recent history, the 30-year-old Lillard definitely knows what time it is when it comes to the game clock. It’s “Dame Time.” The three-time All-Star has led the Trail Blazers in almost every facet since being drafted in 2012 and it doesn’t seem like that is changing any time soon. His numbers are up in 2020-21 with Lillard averaging a whopping 30.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 8.0 assists on 39% shooting from distance.

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