50 Top NBA players of 2021: Historical performance has Zion Williamson on the rise(1)

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.

Top 10 Best Basketball Players:

10. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Not the fleetest of foot, Jokic’s game has always been predicated on his methodical movement and amazing IQ. The three-time All-Star is only 25 but he can easily put up 20-10 with seven assists as the focal point of the Nuggets’ offense. Considering how early he is in his career, it’s not out of the question to see Jokic develop a more consistent three-point shot. Through 49 games this season, the Joker is averaging a near triple-double (26.3 points, 11.0 rebounds and 8.6 assists).

9. Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards

Courtesy of USA Today Images
Courtesy of USA Today Images

Having led the league in scoring at 30.5 points per game last season, the 27-year-old Beal is a fantastic offensive option. He’s now taken that to a new level in the nation’s capital. Beal currently leads the NBA in scoring at 31.3 points per game while adding 5.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists.

8. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets

Kevin Durant #4 Best NBA Players in 2020
© Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

At 6-foot-11, the 32-year-old Durant is unlike any player the NBA has ever seen. He can back you down in the post and can drill deep daggers from deep — and can easily put up 30-10-5 on any night. He is also an excellent defensive player thanks to his height and wingspan, averaging more than a block per game. Returning from a torn Achilles, Durant was back to his place among the game’s best prior to suffering a hamstring injury that has cost him the past 23 games. He’s still averaging 29.0 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists while shooting an otherworldly 43% from three-point range.

7. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers

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When he’s on the floor, the oft-injured 27-year-old Embiid is a game-changer. He can put up points in bunches while also shutting guys down on defense. There’s not a lot of players in the league that have the capability of doing what Embiid can on both ends of the court. He’s the 76ers’ best player by a mile, but he has to stay healthy. That has not been the case this season. Despite averaging 29.8 points, 11.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists this season, Embiid also just recently returned from a 11-game absence due to a knee injury. That’s the biggest knock on him right now.

6. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

Stephen Curry Kyle Lowry NBA Finals Game 4 Warriors Raptors
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Curry’s status as a top player in the league is no longer in doubt after returning from an injury-plagued 2019-20 to dominate for the Warriors. The dude dropped 62 points in a game against the Blazers earlier this season. A three-time champion, Curry is averaging 29.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and 6.0 assists on 41% shooting from distance this season. An all-time great, Curry is not showing signs of slowing down.

5. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

© Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

At only 22, Doncic is doing things for the Mavericks that haven’t been done since LeBron James. Nearly averaging a 30-10-10 in only his second year, the sky is the limit for Doncic and the Mavericks. He’s turned in another stellar start to the 2020-21 campaign, averaging 28.6 points, 8.1 rebounds and 8.8 assists. This kid is special.

4. James Harden, Brooklyn Nets

Mar 31, 2021; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Brooklyn Nets shooting guard James Harden (13) warms up before the game against the Houston Rockets at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe one of the best offensive players in NBA history, Harden has shown that he can lead a team as the No. 1 option on that end of the court. At 31, Harden is seemingly able to find new and creative ways to get the ball in the basket every year, no matter how ungraceful it may look. Now a member of the Brooklyn Nets following a blockbuster early-season trade, he’s been absolutely brilliant for his new team. Harden is averaging 25.4 points, 8.7 rebounds and 11.0 assists on a ridiculous 47% shooting in 34 games with Brooklyn.

Top 3 players in the NBA now

3. Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers

50 Best NBA Players: Kawhi Leonard Checks in at No. 2
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Many argue Leonard is the NBA’s No. 1 perimeter defender, and lets his play do the talking. The two-time NBA Finals MVP has improved on every facet of his game, averaging 25.7 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.9 assists on 51% shooting from the field this season. The fact that Leonard seemingly doesn’t care about regular season stats or accolades and would rather focus on postseason success just goes to show what type of player he is.

2. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo #1 Best NBA Players in 2020
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Although Antetokounmpo needs to improve his shooting — mainly from three-point range and the free throw line — there’s evidence to show that he’s working on that facet of his game. Considering he still has plenty of upside to explore, if he’s able to even passably shoot treys and freebies, Giannis can be the face of the league for at least the next five years. The two-time reigning NBA MVP is averaging 28.8 points, 11.4 rebounds and 6.2 assists on 57% shooting from the field this season.

1. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

50 Best NBA Players: LeBron James Ranks No. 1
Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Even at 36, James is still finding ways to improve his game. Look no further than the fact that he averaged a career-high 10.2 assists in his 17th season. His career numbers (27-7-7) are unheard of in this day and age. The fact that James seems to be doing it almost effortlessly makes it seem like he can play for another five-plus years. Although his defense has taken a step back as he’s gotten older, James is still a formidable player in that regard when called upon. The biggest issue here is recent injuries. James has missed substantial time to injury this season and sat out 27 games during his initial season with Los Angeles back in 2018-19. Is Father Time finally catching up with him?

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