NBArank’s top-5 finale: Euro-tripping through the league’s top stars

NBArank is back for its 12th season to count down the best players in the league.

Where are the MVP candidates eg Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luca Donic, Joel Embiid And Nikola Jokic? What about rookies and young stars ready to make the leap into the upper echelon of NBA players?

To get the final NBArank predictions, we asked our expert panel to vote on a pair of players: LeBron James Vs Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry Vs Go MorantLuca Vs Jason Tatum … and the list goes on.

We asked, “Which player will be better in 2022-23?” Voters had to predict what they expected from each player during the season.

We have already revealed the players. No. 100-26, No. 25-11 And An astounding 10-6. Today, our rankings conclude with the league’s top five superstars.

Note: ESPN’s NBArank panel, which is comprised of more than 200 reporters, editors, producers and analysts, pulls players’ projected contributions — ranked based on quality and quantity — for the 2022-23 season only. It was asked to stop.

Golden State Warriors | PG

2021 NBArank: 5

If there was a piece of Finals MVP hardware that was missing from Curry’s argument as one of the all-time greats, it’s now taken care of, as Steph led the Warriors to their fourth title in six years. Received outstanding praise for delivering to Heading into training camp, Curry is looking in shape and ready to pick up where he left off, sources told ESPN.

Why is there no change in its classification?

Curry is in the same position he was in at the start of last season. After averaging 25.5 points per game on 43.7% shooting, Curry by no means had a subpar season — he was an early MVP contender — but an ankle injury kept him off the floor for the final month of the regular season. . In his absence, his teammates stepped up and kept the Warriors safe to clinch West’s No. 3 seed. Perhaps that — in addition to the rise of MVP contenders below — is why he’s in the same spot in our rankings.

A big ask for 2022-23

Can Steph and the Warriors do it again? Despite the strength of their all-star core and supporting cast, their title hopes rest primarily on Curry’s shoulders. As mentioned above, Curry is said to be ready to start this season the same way he finished the last. And despite the growing talk about Curry’s age (he’ll turn 35 before the end of the regular season) and how big his remaining window is, his performance suggests he’ll be playing at this level for the foreseeable future. Can continue.

Why He Could Finish the Season No. 1

Based on Curry’s 2021-22 campaign, there’s no clear reason to believe he can’t finish this season as the No. 1 ranked player in the league. Barring an extended absence, Curry should be able to put together a strong, full season that could see him win another championship and possibly more individual hardware.

— Kendra Andrews

Philadelphia 76ers | C

2021 NBArank: 7

After finishing two straight behind Jokic in MVP voting, Embiid is once again the favorite to claim the award on what must be one of the better teams in the league.

Why did it go up three places?

Embiid was dominant last season, averaging 30.6 points per game to lead the league in scoring for the first time in his career – the first time a center led the league in scoring since Shaquille O’Neal in 1999-2000 and the first time The center averaged at least 30 points per game every season since. Moses Malone In 1981-82

Embiid also averaged the fewest minutes of any player to win the scoring title with 33.8 per game, beating Mark Cressett’s 34.2 in both 2016 and 2021. He has become a complete player offensively, able to score with ease at all three levels, and one of the league’s most imposing rim protectors.

A big ask for 2022-23

At this point in his career, the only question left for Embiid isn’t necessarily one that depends on him: Can he make it through the postseason healthy?

To this point in his career, he’s had one bad injury after another, including a facial fracture and sprained thumb during Philadelphia’s playoff run in the spring. When Embiid is healthy and available, there may not be a more dominant player in the NBA today. After playing a career-high 68 games last season, Embiid is eyeing both a healthy regular season and playoffs this time around. If he does, the sky’s the limit.

Why He Could Finish the Season No. 1

After years of making up for the shortcomings of a poor roster around him, this season marks the first time Embiid has been surrounded by a team built to improve. of that Strengths That would increase Embiid’s chances of claiming that coveted MVP award and leading Philadelphia to a deep playoff run that is missing from his resume.

If those things happen, he could be at the top of the list.

— Tim Bontemps

Dallas Mavericks | PG

2021 NBArank: 4

After spending his offseason with the Slovenian national team, Donic should report to training camp in game form for the first time in a few years. When conditioning isn’t a concern, Donk is one of the NBA’s most dominant forces.

Because he ascended to a place.

At 23 years old, Donk has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he belongs in the upper echelon of superstars, a perennial All-NBA selection and MVP candidate. He cemented that status last season, when he was the only All-Star on a Dallas team that went to the West Finals.

Despite a calf strain that sidelined him for the first three games of the first round, Doncic led Dallas in points, rebounds and assists 10 times during the playoffs – in a single postseason, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The most ever.

He’s the best offensive weapon in the NBA – a scoring threat and title-winning assist who picks apart defenses with a combination of strength, skill and savvy. He’s also a ruthless competitor, as evidenced by his unforgettable Game 7 demolition of the top-seeded Suns, when he single-handedly matched Phoenix’s scoring total in the first half.

A big ask for 2022-23

How far can Donk lead a team that doesn’t feature another All-Star? When Dallas’ roster suffered a significant blow Jaylen Brunson, the Mavs’ second-best player last season, bolted to New York in free agency. Mavs management is confident Brunson’s scoring void can be filled. Tim Hardaway JrReturning from injury and Christian WoodThere is income through trade.

But in a league full of star pairings, Donk carries as much of a burden as anyone. Donk has led the league in usage rate the past two seasons, a trend that is likely to continue into 2022-23.

Why He Could Finish the Season No. 1

Donk finished fourth, sixth and fifth in MVP voting the past three seasons, respectively. This could be the season Doncic climbs to the top of the belts, especially if he gets off to a strong start and Dallas claims a top-four spot in the competitive West.

The Mavs went 32-12 — on pace for 60 wins — with Donk in uniform after returning from a three-week absence to rehabilitate his sprained ankle and work on his conditioning.

— Tim McMahon

Denver Nuggets | C

2021 NBArank: 6

Despite Jokic averaging 31.0 points, 13.2 rebounds and 5.8 assists, the Nuggets were no match for Golden State in the first round. But with Jamal Murray And Michael Porter Jr. Expected to return this season, Denver hopes to be back in contention, led by its two-time reigning MVP.

Why did it increase four places?

How did Jokic follow up an MVP season? He got better. Jokic became just the 13th player in NBA history to win back-to-back MVP awards and did so with a historic campaign. He is the first player to average 25 points, 13 rebounds and 7 assists in a season and is the first player to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and field goal percentage.

Joc beat out Embiid for MVP by recording the highest PER in a season (32.8) in NBA history. Jokic collected 19 triple-doubles — the most by a center since then Wilt Chamberlain — and gave Denver one more win than last season despite missing Murray and Porter Jr.

A big ask for 2022-23

The Nuggets are complete again, but can Jokic and a new-look roster recapture the form that helped Denver reach the West Finals in the 2020 bubble? Murray missed all of last season with a torn ACL, and Porter Jr. has been out since early November with back surgery.

The Nuggets welcome both back but also make some changes in the offseason, namely additions Cantavis Caldwell Pope, Bruce Brown and trade Monty Morris to do Washington Wizards Clearing playing time for the rising second-year point guard Bones Hyland.

Why He Could Finish the Season No. 1

If he was able to put together a historic season without Murray and Porter Jr., what could he do with them on the court? Jokic was double-teamed 191 times on post-ups last season, the most in the league. With a full complement of contributors around him, Jokic won’t face the same kind of defensive attention.

While his scoring may be down, assists and other categories could increase this season. And if he can three-peat as MVP, Jokic will only be joined by Larry Bird, Chamberlain and Bill Russell Done — that sounds like a recipe for being the No. 1 player in the league.

— Om Young Masuk

Milwaukee Bucks | PF

2021 NBArank: 2

As Antetokounmpo enters his age-28 season, his list of accolades already makes him one of the most decorated winners in league history. So the question is, how will he add to this list? Can he win a third NBA MVP? The Bucks will be the favorites to win another NBA championship, but can Antetokounmpo secure another Finals MVP? Expectations are high every season, but Antetokounmpo usually finds a way to exceed them.

Because he ascended to a place.

With pure consistency and reliable dominance from Antetokounmpo every night, his claim to being the best player in the world has only been strengthened in the past year. Of course, no player in the league can match his impact on both ends of the floor.

En route to winning his first Finals MVP, Antetokounmpo challenged for the scoring title, averaging 29.9 points (third in the NBA), while grabbing 11.6 rebounds, dishing out 5.8 assists with 1.1 steals and 1.4 blocks per game. Although Milwaukee was without its second best player, Chris Middletonduring their second-round playoff series against Boston, the Bucks extended the series to seven games at the will of Antetokounmpo, who averaged 31.7 points, 14.2 rebounds and 6.8 assists in the postseason.

A big ask for 2022-23

What new skills will Antetokounmpo bring to the table? After each offseason, Antetokounmpo emerges with a new skill in his arsenal. Over the years, he’s refined his approach as a passer, an outside jumper who keeps defenses guessing and can’t stop much from attacking the paint and the post. Is it possible for Antetokounmpo to get even better?

— Jamal Koller

NBArank 2022: No. 100-26 | No. 25-11 | No. 10-6 | No. 5-1

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