Who will be the NBA’s best players in the 2022–23 season? Sports Illustrated’s annual Top 100 list is back, aiming to answer that question.
This year, the rankings were determined by NBA writers Chris Herring, Rohan Nadkarni and Jeremy Woo through a combination of data and subjective evaluation. The goal remains to evaluate players in a vacuum as much as possible, without overvaluing team context in taking stock of their quality.
To be clear, these rankings are specifically for the upcoming season and do not take into account players’ long-term prospects or career arcs beyond 2022–23. As has been the tradition here, rookies were not considered. So it’s best to consider these rankings as short-term value projections. This is not a representation of a player’s trade value or contract value, and it does not account for the impact of his salary relative to his production. The possibility of growth or decline is a factor, tied to players’ age and career stage. The list attempts to account for the entirety of a player’s impact: offense, defense, structural or otherwise, and tends to favor those with the most malleable skill sets.
Today, we unveil 30–11. On to the countdown ...
30. DeMar DeRozan, Chicago Bulls
(Previous rank: 42)
DeRozan made many people look like idiots with his incredible 2022 campaign, when he averaged a career-best 27.9 points per game at age 32, somehow hitting 82 game-winners in the process. (Don’t fact check that.) While the Bulls started hot, they cooled as injuries mounted, and DeRozan was forced to do more. In an improved East, Chicago is not a lock for a return to the playoffs. Can DeRozan make a fool of everyone for the second year in a row?
29. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder
(Previous rank: 30)
SGA should probably be one of the NBA’s emerging young stars. Instead he’s been stuck on an OKC team trying to lose its way into lottery relevance the last two years. Gilgeous-Alexander can shoot (we’re going to allow his one-year dip in 2022), get to the line and create for others. He’s also a lengthy defender. Hopefully sooner rather than later he gets to play for a team actively trying to win because of his talents.
28. Rudy Gobert, Minnesota Timberwolves
(Previous rank: 21)
An all-time rim protector, the mere sight of Gobert keeps some of the most relentless attackers in the league scurrying away from the paint. There is no doubting the impact Gobert has on an NBA defense. A fresh start with the Timberwolves gives him a chance to answer some questions not only about the efficacy of his game but also some bigger-picture ones about which centers can thrive in the modern NBA. No pressure, Rudy!
27. Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks
(Previous rank: 26)
Middleton is expected to miss the start of the season with the same knee injury that caused him to miss the Bucks’ second-round loss to the Celtics. That series showed just how much Milwaukee missed Middleton’s incredibly efficient, layered offense. Even a player as brilliant as Giannis Antetokounmpo can’t win it all by himself. Middleton, both during a Finals run and with his absence, has demonstrated he’s an invaluable piece to one of the best teams in the league.
26. Jrue Holiday, Milwaukee Bucks
(Previous rank: 28)
Holiday is a dogged defender with the ability to take opponents out of their desired game plan. He contains a highlight reel of high-leverage steals from the playoffs only few players can match. Though his offense can get rickety the more you ask him to do, Holiday’s two-way effectiveness can supercharge the right team. The Bucks are lucky to have him as a third option.
25. Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans
(Previous rank: 33)
In his first taste of playoff action, Ingram put up a casual 27/6/6 against the first-place Suns. Still only 25, BI is in position to become one of the most frustrating covers in the game because of the offensive skill surrounding him in New Orleans. In a career filled with constant roster upheaval, Ingram finally seems to be part of a group its front office is committed to, which should only help him continue to thrive on the floor.
24. Chris Paul, Phoenix Suns
(Previous rank: 18)
Every basketball team you put Chris Paul on is good. Yes, he may infuriate you. Yes, his recent injury issues in the playoffs are concerning. And yes, he may be getting too old to be the first option. Ultimately, you cannot deny the way Paul raises the floor of whatever team he’s on. Even if the Suns may be led by Devin Booker now, CP3 is as important to their success as anybody else in the organization.
23. Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers
(Previous rank: 24)
The seams started to show on Mitchell during his final year with the Jazz. Always a talented scorer, his iffy defense on the wing was a massive contributing factor to Utah’s playoff exit. What Mitchell has shown is he can be the best player on a great offense. He’ll have to show a different side to his game in Cleveland, as he pairs up with Darius Garland in a new-look backcourt that should be mutually beneficial to everyone involved.
22. Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics
(Previous rank: 27)
Brown is the do-it-all wing every team wishes it had in the postseason. Even with his shaky handle, Brown can score pretty much however you ask him to. He may never be a true No. 1 option, but it would be hard to find many better second ones. And on top of that, Brown offers championship-level defense on the perimeter, a key factor in Boston’s menacing switch-all scheme. There’s not a team in the league that Brown couldn’t improve.
21. Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
(Previous rank: 15)
Beal signed a five-year supermax extension with the Wizards this summer, which is disappointing in the sense that it’s possible we never get to see Beal’s supreme scoring ability on a team actually contending for a championship. Coming off his career-worst three-point-shooting season and the fewest games he’s ever played, this should be a bounceback year for Beal.
20. Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat
(Previous rank: 22)
Bam should probably be the Defensive Player of the Year favorite this season, as games played seemed to be the only reason he didn’t win in 2022. Simply put, there’s nobody in the league better at guarding all five positions on a basketball court than Adebayo. Offensively, Bam is coming off a career-best 19.1 points per night. After a quiet offseason, the Heat will need Adebayo to assert himself even more on that end of the floor.
19. Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans
(Previous rank: 20)
Williamson looks to be healthy headed into this season, and that’s really all that matters, because whenever he’s on the floor he produces. In 2021, Zion averaged 27.0 points per game on 61.1% shooting. Now rejoining a Pelicans team coming off an inspiring playoff run, Williamson is in a position to boost this roster to new heights.
18. Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers
(Previous rank: 9)
After the Lakers’ championship run, Davis hasn’t been able to capture the form he flashed his first year in Los Angeles. His three-point shooting has dipped precipitously (26% in 2021, 18.6% in ’22) and injuries have derailed his seasons (Davis has played in only 76 regular-season games since the ’20 Finals). Davis is still a top-tier defender and offensive threat. But he seems to be far away from the player who once seemed destined to be in MVP conversations.
17. James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers
(Previous rank: 7)
Did we ever see the real James Harden in Philadelphia? The Beard fought through a hamstring injury practically all of last season, and it culminated in a disappointing postseason effort, especially during Philly’s second-round exit. We know Harden can make magic in the pick-and-roll, especially with Joel Embiid. What he has to show this season is that he can sustain that ability for longer stretches of time.
16. Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks
(Previous rank: 17)
Young is one of the few players in the NBA who can be an offensive system unto himself. Put the ball in his hands, put a couple of shooters on the floor, and throw in a hard-rolling center and you have the foundation of a frightening attack. Though some of Young’s limitations were exposed in Atlanta’s first-round playoff loss, this season (with the Hawks’ addition of Dejounte Murray) should give Young an opportunity to explore different parts of his game.
15. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves
(Previous rank: 23)
Towns’s shooting touch from three is what basketball unicorn enthusiasts were dreaming of when that term was coined. The Timberwolves appeared to turn a page in 2022, making the playoffs for only the second time since ’04, and the first with Towns as the lead dog of the group. With success only comes more challenge, however, and now Towns has to add what is demanded of stars of his caliber: consistency.
14. Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies
(Previous rank: 25)
How will Morant follow up his explosive 2021–22 campaign, which earned him a Most Improved Player Award? The Grizzlies will be asking a lot from Ja, who won’t have running mate Jaren Jackson Jr. for the first couple months of the season, in addition to the departures of Kyle Anderson and De’Anthony Melton. With a tighter rotation, Morant may need to take another leap to ensure the Grizz’s continued ascension.
13. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
(Previous rank: 11)
There is a baseline level of excellence that comes with Damian Lillard that simply can’t be ignored. Last season was the first time a Lillard-led team missed the postseason since 2013—his rookie year. And that can largely be chalked up to injury, as Dame played in only 29 games for a Blazers team that seemed O.K. with conceding a rebuilding season. With a new cast of capable vets alongside him, and plenty of time to recover from abdominal surgery, Lillard should be right back to where he’s been for most of his career.
12. Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns
(Previous rank: 16)
Booker proved last season he could be the best player on a great team, as he led the Suns to a league-best 64 wins. Booker is a three-level scorer and improving individual defender. And after he helped push the Suns to the one seed in 2022, Booker should be extra motivated after Phoenix’s dispiriting second-round loss to the Mavericks. Without many tweaks to the roster in the summer, it’s clear the Suns are expecting Booker to carry a superstar burden for them moving forward.
11. Paul George, Los Angeles Clippers
(Previous rank: 12)
While George has often earned plaudits for his two-way play, he’s probably still not respected enough as a scorer. Though he played in only 31 games last season, George averaged the second-best scoring mark of his career, battling through injuries to both himself and his teammates. When healthy, PG is a high-volume threat from three and can defend most positions. His pairing with Kawhi Leonard is arguably the best one-two punch in the league.
Coming Thursday: Players 10-1