Ranking the top 25 NBA players at Disney World
The NBA season is close to resuming. All 22 teams that are participating in the league's restart have made their way to Florida. After a brief training camp and three scrimmages, each team will play eight seeding games. Then the real fun will begin with the playoffs.
With so many talented players among the 22 teams playing in the NBA's bubble in Disney World, we rank the top 25.
(All photos from USA Today Images)
These 11 talented players didn't quite make the cut:
Bam Adebayo, DeMar DeRozan, De’Aaron Fox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Tobias Harris, Buddy Hield, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Lowry, CJ McCollum, Ja Morant, Kristaps Porzingis
25. Jrue Holiday
Holiday has become arguably the best defensive guard in the NBA and is averaging 19.6 points and 6.9 assists per game. He’s also helped keep a young team afloat while it waited on No.1 overall pick Zion Williamson to get healthy. The Pelicans are well within striking distance of the Grizzlies, especially with the play-in tournament.
24. Zion Williamson
If this list were the players I’m most excited to see, Williamson would be much higher. The rookie only played 19 games, but he made a huge impact on both ends of the floor, averaging 23.6 points a game and showing his defensive versatility. Every time he laces them up at Disney World, it’ll be must-see TV.
23. Domantas Sabonis
While the Pacers will be shorthanded if they're without All-Star guard Victor Oladipo, Sabonis and his teammates won’t be a pushover. Sabonis made his first All-Star team this season and has a unique combination of size, skill and toughness, averaging 18.5 points, 12.4 rebounds and five assists.
22. Kemba Walker
Walker’s scoring numbers are down a bit this season (21.2 points a game), but that’s more the product of being surrounded by the most talent he’s ever played with. This is still a guy that can go for 50 — or even 60, as some Sixers fans will remember — on a given night.
21. Rudy Gobert
The reigning two-time Defensive Player of the Year earned his first All-Star appearance this season. Gobert is an elite rim protector (2.0 blocks a game) and is super efficient from the field (69.8 percent). He understands his offensive role as a screener and roller.
20. Donovan Mitchell
This is probably closer than Mitchell would like to be to Gobert *ba dum tsh*. The third-year guard made his first All-Star team as well this season. He’s the focal point of the Jazz’s offense and has emerged as one of the elite scorers in the league, averaging 24.2 points a game.
19. Jaylen Brown
Brown has become one of the better two-way wings in the league. He’s averaging career highs in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals. He’s also had his most efficient NBA season, taking (15.4 attempts a game) and making (49 percent from the field) shots at the best clips of his career.
18. Pascal Siakam
With Kawhi Leonard departing, Siakam took over as the Raptors’ go-to scorer, averaging 23.6 points a game. Siakam is yet another player that made his All-Star debut this season. Remember when Bryan Colangelo passed on him twice in the draft?
17. Devin Booker
Booker has become one of the more dangerous offensive threats in the league. He’s a top-10 scorer at 26.1 points a game and has improved as a playmaker over the last two seasons. It may not be a long stay for the Suns, but it will be enjoyable to watch Booker play a few more games.
16. Khris Middleton
In the shadow of reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, Middleton is sneakily having an excellent season. He’s the perfect complement to the Greek Freak, averaging 21.1 points a game and having a legit shot at a 50-40-90 shooting season. He’s also an underrated defender on the wing.
15. Jimmy Butler
Butler gets the slight nod over Middleton because of how he’s reshaped the fortunes of the Miami franchise. Say what you want about Butler, but in a ball-dominant role surrounded by shooters, he has thrived. In his first season in South Beach, Butler is averaging 20.2 points, 6.6 rebounds and 6.1 assists.
14. Ben Simmons
Simmons is a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidate and was playing the best basketball of his career before suffering a nerve impingement in his lower back. Given his playoff struggles on the offensive end, he comes in at No. 14. Perhaps unlocking his skills as a screener and roller will help.
13. Jayson Tatum
Tatum had been in a ridiculous groove before play was suspended. Over his last 16 games, Tatum was averaging 29.2 points a game while shooting 46.8 percent from three. Couple that with his improvements defensively and Tatum will be dangerous come playoff time.
12. Chris Paul
When Paul was traded as a part of a salary dump by the Rockets, most thought the veteran point guard wouldn’t be long for Oklahoma City. He’s led the surprising Thunder to a 40-24 mark and the West’s fifth seed. While he’s never made it to the Finals, CP3 has played in over 100 playoff games and has performed well.
11. Paul George
George’s first season with the Clippers has been mired by injury. When George is fully healthy, he’s one of the best two-way wings there is. If he can find his groove, he could help form arguably the best 1-2 punch in the NBA with Kawhi Leonard.
10. Russell Westbrook
The Westbrook-James Harden pairing didn’t seem ideal, but the duo has likely done better than most expected. Westbrook is averaging 27.5 points, eight rebounds and seven assists a game while continuing to display the highest motor in the NBA. Hopefully he's healthy enough to play after he revealed Monday that he tested positive for COVID-19.
9. Joel Embiid
If we’re going off “when they’re at their best,” it’s hard to put many players ahead of Embiid. When he’s healthy and engaged, there isn’t a better two-way big man in the league. With that said, Embiid struggled with health, consistency and the Sixers’ fit this season. If he plays like the dominant player we've seen at times, the Sixers are a team nobody should want to face.
8. Nikola Jokic
After a slow start, Jokic picked up his play in early December and hasn’t looked back. Easily the best passer among bigs in the NBA, Jokic has averaged 6.9 assists a game while shooting 52.8 percent from the field.
7. Anthony Davis
We all knew Davis was great but playing with LeBron James has put him on another level. While his traditional numbers may be down (26.7 points, 9.4 rebounds per game) as a result of playing with the best player of this generation, he’s been one hell of a 1A. with James.
6. James Harden
There simply isn’t a better scorer in the NBA. Harden looks well on his way to capturing the scoring title for the third straight season (34.4 points a game). Harden has yet to report to Disney World for undisclosed reasons.
5. Damian Lillard
If Harden is the best scorer, Lillard is easily No. 2. There was a six-game stretch where Lillard averaged 48.8 points and 10.2 assists a game. He gets the nod over Harden because of how he carried the Blazers to the Western Conference Finals last season and his dagger over George and the Thunder.
4. Luka Doncic
While the youth and lack of playoff experience are question marks, Doncic is a legitimate MVP candidate in his just his second NBA season. The 21-year-old is averaging nearly a triple-double with 28.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 8.7 assists per game.
3. Giannis Antetokounmpo
For the top three, you could make the argument for any of them to be No. 1. Antetokounmpo is the reigning MVP. Not only does he have a chance to repeat, but he should be in consideration for the Defensive Player of the Year. The only reason he’s three is that Nos. 1 and 2 have the one thing the Greek Freak wants.
2. LeBron James
The fact that LeBron is 35 and still arguably the best player on the planet is insane. Anything he’s lost athletically — which doesn’t appear to be much — he’s gained in savvy. Playing with Davis, James might average double digit assists for the first time in his career. A rested LeBron should scare every team in the league.
1. Kawhi Leonard
Leonard had a playoff run for the ages last season. Nothing in his game this season suggests we won’t see a similar output. The All-Star Game MVP this season, Leonard has a fully-loaded roster in L.A. and still looks like the best two-way player in the league.