Basketball

2022 Preseason Top 100 NBA Players: 10-1

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The NBA season is fast approaching and we’re itching to see who takes the next step in their production next season! We’ve reached the elite of the elite, the cream of the crop, the final tier. It’s time to discuss the Top 10 players in the 2021-22 season.

Rankings

100-81 | 80-61 | 60-51 | 50-41 | 40-31 | 30-21 | 20-11

10) Jayson Tatum | 6-8 – F – Boston Celtics

Multiple 50-point games. Nearly 40% from distance on his career. New career-high in points, rebounds, and assists every season of his career so far. These are just a few facts about the two-time All-Star, Jayson Tatum.

He enters his 5th season after averaging over 26 PPG last season on nearly 46% shooting. The Celtics are entering their window in which Tatum and Brown are reaching the peaks of their career, and I believe this is the season we see Tatum take the jump into Top 10 players through both his individual production and team wins.

9) Joel Embiid | 7-0 – C – Philadelphia 76ers

Before he got injured last season, Embiid was having an MVP-level season. He averaged 28.5 PPG, 10.6 RPG, and 1.4 BPG across 51 games played last season and still finished as an MVP finalist. Ben Simmons appears to be on his way out of Philly, opening up even more scoring opportunities for Embiid and likely allowing him to play with four shooters surrounding him.

After two consecutive injured seasons to start his career and four All-Star appearances later, it’s easy to forget that Embiid is only 27 years old and right in the middle of his prime. Don’t be surprised to hear his name in the MVP discussion yet again this season.

8) Damian Lillard | 6-2 – G – Portland Trailblazers

Lillard hasn’t played with an All-Star, All-NBA, 6MOTY, COTY, ROTY, or All-NBA Defensive player since 2015. The Blazers have made the playoffs every single one of those seasons. This is a testament to the level of production and pressure Lillard carries on his shoulders each and every season.

In 2021, he averaged 28.8 PPG and 7.5 on 45.1% FG and 39.1% 3P shooting. There is a good chance that Lillard doesn’t finish next season in Portland, in which case there’s no predicting where his production ends up. For now, we’re assuming that he’ll have another season worthy of MVP discussion in Portland.

7) LeBron James | 6-9 – F/G – Los Angeles Lakers

Has the King finally fallen? No, not really. In retrospect, a 37-year-old player entering his 19th season should not be a Top 10 player in the NBA. Not only is LeBron that player, but he also has a shot at finishing as a Top 3 player.

However, he also has a real chance of dropping out of the Top 10 entirely from a production standpoint, especially with a younger Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis on the roster capable of shouldering most of the load. LeBron will still be LeBron, but don’t be surprised if this is the long-dreaded season that NBA fans finally start to see the decline of the King.

6) James Harden | 6-5 – G – Brooklyn Nets

Harden is another player easily capable of a Top 2-3 caliber season. He’s led the league in assists once and scoring three times, even coming within two rebounds of averaging a triple-double back in 2017. Last season, across 36 games with Brooklyn, Harden averaged 24.6 PPG and 10.9 APG.

This season with a fully healthy Kevin Durant on the roster, it might be difficult for Harden to crack the Top 5 from a production standpoint, though not impossible. He is the main ballhandler and playmaker on a team loaded with offensive talent. Analysts like to use the term “there’s only one basketball,” but there will be plenty of usage and production available to fully support Harden and his teammates.

5) Luka Doncic | 6-7 – G – Dallas Mavericks

It feels like Luka has been an All-Star for several years already, but he’s still only 22 years old entering his 4th season in the league. Last season he averaged 27.7 PPG, 8.6 APG, and 8.0 RPG at 21 years of age. He’s already been named to two All-Star teams and given the championship-contending Clippers a run for the money in two consecutive playoff series, essentially by himself.

The Slovenian guard is a scoring machine with an uncanny ability to navigate pick and rolls and find open teammates, all traits of elite offensive talent. Doncic can only keep getting better from here. If Doncic isn’t a serious MVP candidate this season, he undoubtedly will be soon.

4) Nikola Jokic | 6-11 – C – Denver Nuggets

The reigning MVP will look to continue his incredible offensive run next season. In 2021, he averaged 26.4 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 8.3 APG, and 1.3 SPG while shooting .566-.388-.868 splits from the field, 3-point line, and free throw line respectively. The pass-first big man finally decided to look for his own shot last season, putting his offensive arsenal on full display.

He put up a career-high 10.2 field goal attempts per game while shooting the second-highest FG% of his career, leading to a new career-high in scoring. All of this while still averaging double-digit rebounds and a new career-high in assists is truly remarkable. I don’t know if there’s room for improvement from last season, but I’m excited to see it if there is.

3) Stephen Curry | 6-3 – G – Golden State Warriors

Curry is entering his 13th season after leading the league in scoring for the second time in his career. He averaged a career-high 32 PPG to go along with 5.8 APG and 5.5 RPG all while shooting 42.1% from beyond the arc. There are players on this list that don’t shoot that well from the field, much less beyond the 3-point line.

The former MVP and 7x All-Star is the undisputed best point guard in the NBA currently and even has an argument for the best point guard of all time. Now he gets his running mate Klay Thompson back along with the plethora of defensive forwards Golden State has acquired. Curry is still the leader of this team from a scoring and playmaking standpoint, so don’t expect his production to decline much this season.

2) Kevin Durant | 6-10 – F – Brooklyn Nets

James Harden may run the offense in Brooklyn, but make no mistake, this is Kevin Durant’s team. Durant is the #1 scoring option on arguably the best team in the NBA and clear title favorite. He doesn’t need much introduction after 13 straight seasons averaging at least 20 PPG, including two seasons of scoring over 30 PPG in OKC.

The former MVP recovered nicely from his Achilles injury two seasons ago, posting a respectable 26.9 PPG, 7.1 RPG, and 5.6 APG in his first season with the Nets, even though he only played in 35 games. This season, he’ll likely be closer to 60 games played, and he’ll have even greater scoring opportunities if Kyrie Irving does end up missing every single home game.

KD might just be the odds-on favorite to win MVP this season.

1) Giannis Antetokounmpo | 6-11 – G/F/C – Milwaukee Bucks

The Greek Freak has accumulated five All-Star appearances, five All NBA teams, four All-Defensive teams, Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Most Improved Player, All-Star Game MVP, two regular-season MVPs, an NBA Title, and a Finals MVP award in his eight seasons in the league. Oh, and he’s only 26 years old.

Not much else needs to be said, but we’ll say it anyway. Antetokounmpo is still only discovering his prime. As scary as it is, he may still have room to improve on the illustrious career he’s already put together. Over the last four seasons, he’s averaged 28 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 5.5 APG, 1.3 BPG, and 1.2 SPG.

The only weak point in his game is his ability to shoot from distance, and his 3-point percentage is still just under 30% – not good but not the worst it could be. The reigning Finals MVP is coming off of one of the best Finals performances in NBA history. He has a championship roster built around him with the perfect complementary pieces. The only thing that can stop Antetokounmpo this season is himself. Watch out for another career year from this bonafide superstar.

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