Basketball

Ranking the Top 100 NBA Players Pre-All-Star Break: 25 – 11

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There have been delays, postponements, quarantines, and no fans in attendance, but the NBA has managed to make it to the half-way point of the season: All-Star Weekend. Despite the wildly unusual season, the league has still seen its fair share of star power and outstanding performances. Looking primarily at the numbers, we’ve ranked our Top 100 NBA players so far this season.

While it is understood that numbers don’t always tell the full story, we’ve taken several different stats into consideration along with our own version of the eye-test to determine our Top 100 NBA player rankings. While the obvious stats like PPG, APG, RPG, SPG, and BPG are considered, we also looked at their total accumulated stats on the season to form a better picture of who’s been both performing and consistently available. Along with traditional player stats, things like team win percentage, total games played, and a few advanced metrics such as PER, Win Shares, and Box Plus/Minus were considered.

Usage Rate is an interesting metric that we’ve implemented as a tie-breaker of sorts. If two players are averaging very similar stats but one has an extremely high usage rate, the player performing at a similar level with less usage will earn a slight advantage in our Top 100 NBA player rankings, though it is not being used to tank superstars with perennially high usage rates like James Harden, Luka Doncic, or Stephen Curry.

Keep in mind that many of the players that did make our Top 100 NBA players list will take a hit in the rankings due to time missed. Their per-game stats may prove to be elite, but this list is an attempt to encapsulate total availability and production so far this season.

Now that we’ve established an overview of our ranking model, let’s get straight to it.

Rankings

100 – 76 | 75 – 51 | 50 – 26 | 10 – 1

#25 Ben Simmons

The unconventional point guard from Philly opens the final quarter of our Top 100 NBA players as the 25th ranked player this season. He’s averaging an eye-popping 7.9 rebounds and 7.6 assists per game, elite stats for the 6’10 guard. However, despite another All-Star selection, Simmons is averaging a subpar 16.1 PPG, landing him outside the Top 65 in the league this season. Along with his non-aggressive scoring, Simmons has hit only two 3-pointers at a 28.6% clip as well as only 67.1% of his free throw attempts. This clearly doesn’t sink his overall ranking very far, but it prevents him from rising to his full potential, which lies who knows how far above #25 in the league.

#24 Jimmy Butler

Butler ranks in the Top 20 in per-game production, but unfortunately, he’s already missed 14 games this season. Averaging 20.5 PPG, 7.8 APG, 7.5 RPG, and 1.9 SPG, you won’t find many more well-rounded players in the NBA today. On a per-game basis, Butler is ranked 9th in assists and 2nd in steals. Butler’s biggest downfalls come in the Heat’s overall struggles this season, as he’s lacking in Win % and Win Shares compared to other players higher on the list, along with missing several games already this season as well.

#23 Paul George

After a forgettable, or memorable depending on your perspective, playoff collapse last season, Paul George claimed that he would return to his 2019 MVP Finalist form for the 2021 season. So far, George hasn’t been quite the Top 10 player he once was, but he’s been a deserving All-Star, to say the least. George is averaging 23.7 points on roughly 50-45-89 shooting splits, still very much in contention for the elusive and exclusive 50-40-90 club. George has missed 11 games this year, preventing his overall ranking from rising any higher. He also ranks in the Top 20 in the league in box plus/minus at +5.3 BPM.

#22 Anthony Davis

Perhaps one of the most shocking parts of this list is the #22 beside Anthony Davis’s name, but hear me out. First of all, Davis has missed 14 games this season, nearly 38% of the Lakers’ total games this season. It’s hard to justify ranking anyone inside the Top 10, a place Davis is used to being, when they’ve played only 62% of their teams’ games. Secondly, Davis wasn’t exactly the Top 5 player we’ve grown accustomed to seeing him be over the last few seasons even when he did play this season. He ranks 11th overall in per-game stats with 22.5 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.8 BPG, and 1.3 SPG, all incredible stats from the former All-Star, just not the same caliber stats that Davis has contributed in the past. He’s also below league average in 3P% at just over 29% and barely over league average in both FG% and FT% at 53% and 72% respectively.

#21 Kyrie Irving

Another shocking entry on our Top 100 NBA player rankings, Kyrie Irving lands just outside the Top 20. He’s averaging 27.2 PPG (2nd in the league), 6.0 APG, 4.8 RPG, and 1.1 SPG, good enough for 16th in the league on a per-game basis according to our model. Though he’s playing over 35 minutes per game, Kyrie has only played in 26 games this season thanks to an unusual stretch of time in which Irving was almost completely off the grid. Regardless, Irving is a perennial All-Star point guard playing on the best team in the East, and once again he’s solidified his place among the best of the best.

#20 Fred VanVleet

From undrafted to key piece of an NBA Championship Team, VanVleet is adding Top 20 player to his improbable resume. The 26-year-old guard is averaging 20.1 PPG, 6.6 APG, 4.4 RPG, and 1.7 SPG. He ranks 12th in total assists, 8th in 3-point shots made, 6th in SPG, 2nd in total steals, and 2nd in minutes played per game while also shooting 38.3% from the field and 89.4% from the free-throw line. Quietly but surely, VanVleet is putting up a monstrous season. He ranks 20th in per-game stats and 14th in total stats, dragged back to reality only slightly by his position in our advanced stat rankings which falls outside of the Top 50.

#19 Kevin Durant

Despite Top 10 per-game production, Durant falls to 19th on our overall Top 100 NBA player rankings in large part due to him only playing 19 games this season. When you step back and realize that he has played in barely 50% of his team’s games, Durant’s Top 20 ranking is actually a testament to how great he is when actually on the court. He averages 29 PPG (5th in the league), 7.3 RPG, 5.3 APG, 1.4 BPG, and 0.7 SPG across 35.7 MPG. He’s among the league leaders in usage rate but manages to remain incredibly efficient with a PER of 25.2 (14th in the NBA) and a box plus/minus of 5.4 (18th) along with shooting at roughly 52-43-87 splits.

#18 Bam Adebayo

Arguably one of the biggest All-Star snubs this season, Adebayo continues to expand his all-around game year after year. He’s averaging 19.2 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 5.4 APG, 1.0 BPG, and 0.9 SPG across 33 games played this season. The Miami Heat forward is ranked in the Top 30 in total assists (27th), total blocks (27th), box plus/minus (22nd), RPG (17th), free throws made (16th), total rebounds (13th), and Win Shares (11th). If that’s not the definition of a well-rounded player, I’m not sure what is. An interesting side note for Bam, he’s shooting 33.3% from distance this season, albeit on only six attempts. If the young big man can continue developing his 3-point shot moving forward, he’s going to be a truly unstoppable force in the league.

#17 Domantas Sabonis

Sabonis, the son of Hall of Famer Arvydas Sabonis, is once again proving to be one of the most underrated players in the league. Not on our Top 100 NBA player rankings, though. The 24-year-old forward is putting up 20.8 points, 11.1 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 1.0 steals, and 0.6 blocks per game while playing the 4th most minutes per game at 36.5. He ranks in the Top 10 in both RPG (10th) and total rebounds (9th) this season, along with Top 25 rankings in both per-game and total assists. The Pacers as a whole have struggled slightly this year, perhaps partially due to some roster turnover during the Harden-to-Brooklyn trade, but Sabonis is leading them into playoff contention once again.

#16 Zion Williamson

The high school sensation has already silenced any doubts about his ability to play at the NBA level in only his 2nd season. Across 34 games so far, Williamson is averaging 25.6 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 3.4 APG, 0.9 SPG, and 0.7 BPG. The truly staggering part of the 20-year-old’s game however is his incredible efficiency. No, he does not shoot free throws (69.5%) or 3-pointers (31.6%) very well, but who needs to when you can bully your way to the rim against nearly any opposing big man in the league? Williamson has a PER of 26.8 this season, good for 7th in the league, along with an outstanding 61.4% field goal percentage. Despite his below-average FT%, Williamson still ranks 6th in the league in free throws made, a testament to how unguardable he already is.

#15 Rudy Gobert

Rudy “The Stifle Tower” Gobert is showing once again why he’s a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate. He’s 2nd in the league in blocked shots with 2.7 per game and 98 total on the season, trailing only Indiana’s Myles Turner in both categories. Gobert is also contributing 14.2 PPG and 13.1 RPG (3rd in the league) while shooting upwards of 64% from the floor. Being the defensive anchor on what is currently the best team in the league doesn’t hurt his resume either, as he’s also contributed 5.1 Win Shares already this season, good for 6th in the league.

#14 Julius Randle

The first time All-Star is no stranger to being able to score the ball, but Randle has expanded his game this season in New York. Along with averaging 23.2 PPG, he’s also on pace to set new career-highs in RPG (11.1), APG (5.5), and SPG (0.8). Now that’s what I call a career season. Randle has played in all 37 of the Knicks’ games this season and ranks 2nd in the league with 36.7 MPG. He also ranks 21st in total assists, 11th in free throws made, and 5th in total rebounds this season, all helping to land his total-stat ranking at #12 in our model.

#13 Trae Young

The 22-year-old point guard just missed out on his 2nd consecutive All-Star appearance, but he didn’t miss out on the Top 15 in our Top 100 NBA player rankings. He’s averaging 26.4 PPG, 9.4 APG, 4.2 RPB, and 0.9 SPG. His assist numbers rank 3rd on a per-game basis and 2nd on a season-long basis, demonstrating the potential Young still has as a playmaker. Unfortunately, with those elite assist numbers come high turnover numbers. Young averages the 2nd most turnovers per game in the NBA behind only Russell Westbrook, but he also has a higher usage rate than the Wizards point guard. Regardless, Young has made his presence felt this season and continues to build upon what is shaping up to be a multi-All-Star-appearance type of career.

#12 Nikola Vucevic

Vucevic is perhaps the most underappreciated player in the NBA today. He’s as consistent as they come and continues to develop his game outside of scoring in the paint and rebounding, though he does rank 3rd in the NBA in total rebounds and 4th in total field goals made this season. The 30-year-old center in Orlando not only averages 24.6 PPG and 11.6 RPG, but he’s also putting up 3.7 APG, 1.0 SPG, and 0.6 BPG while shooting 48-41-85 splits from the field, 3-point arc, and free throw line respectively. He’s done an amazing job at expanding his shooting range, putting even more pressure on defenses. For reference, Vucevic (96) has hit more 3-point shots this year than Trae Young (85), and he’s done so while shooting more efficiently, hitting at a 41.2% clip from distance compared to Young’s 37.8%.

#11 Zach LaVine

LaVine was selected to his first All-Star game in 2021, and for good reason. The 25-year-old combo guard used to be known as a high-flyer who could knock down some threes. His 28.7 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 5.1 APG, 1.1 SPG, and 0.4 BPG challenge the role-defining label of “dunker.” He ranks 5th in the NBA in both field goals made and 3-pointers made this season, hitting at a 52.5% and 43.5% rate respectively. LaVine has nearly single-handedly kept the injury-plagued Bulls in playoff contention for the first half of the season with incredible shooting performance after incredible shooting performance.

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