As the best NBA players took to the court in the playoffs this past season hoping to lead their teams to the pinnacle of success, we’re reminded that basketball is a fleeting game.
Players who found themselves among the best just a short calendar year ago are not longer on the radar. Los Angeles Lakers veteran Russell Westbrook being an example. Meanwhile, youngsters such as Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards continue to make waves.
Below, we look at the 50 best NBA players of 2022.
Note: The article was originally written by Jarrod Castillo, since updated by the Sportsnaut team.
50. Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
Don’t be fooled by Green’s stuggles in the playoffs and early in the NBA Finals. The dude comes to play when it counts the most. Including playing stellar defense over the last two games of the Finals, Green averaged 10.0 points, 9.5 rebounds and 7.0 assists on 50% shooting. He’s that down home warrior and remains one of the best NBA players today.
49. Fred VanVleet, Toronto Raptors
It’s simply sensational what VanVleet has done since being an undrafted free agent out of Wichita State. The smallish 6-foot-1 guard is averaging 20 points, 4.4 rebounds and 6.7 assists on 37% shooting from distance over the past two seasons.
48. Tyrese Haliburton, Indiana Pacers
Acquired from Sacramento during February’s NBA trade deadline, Haliburton is among the best young point guards in the NBA. In limited action with the Pacers, the 22-year-old guard averaged 17.5 points, 4.3 rebounds and 9.6 assists while shooting 50% from the field. He should be able to team up with Chris Duarte to form a tremendous young backcourt duo for the rebuilding Pacers.
47. Jarrett Allen, Cleveland Cavaliers
A first-round pick of the Nets back in 2017, Allen displayed flashes of brilliance in Brooklyn before heading to Cleveland in the James Harden trade. Since joining the Cavaliers, he’s been an elite force for this up-and-coming squad. That included Allen averaging 16.1 points and 10.8 rebounds on 68% shooting during the 2021-22 regular season.
46. Cade Cunningham, guard, Detroit Pistons
Cunningham missed training camp and the start of his rookie season after the Pistons made him the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. However, he closed out said season strong by averaging 21.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 6.4 assists in his final 21 games.
45. RJ Barrett, New York Knicks
At just 22, Barrett is well on his way to becoming one of the better young players in the game. The former Duke standout averaged 20.0 points and 5.8 rebounds as a third-year player in 2021-22. He’s now the face of the Knicks’ franchise in New York with reports that New York will not move off the wing for Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell.
Related: Top 2023 NBA free agents
44. Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics
The reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year, Smart has gone from liability to being the heart of the defending Eastern Conference champions. In addition to playing great defense, he’s upped his game on the offensive end. Through hard work and dedication, Smart has become one of the best NBA players today. That’s not even in question.
43. Andrew Wiggins, Golden State Warriors
There’s now a lot of crow eating around the NBA. Seen as a former draft bust, Wiggins has morphed into one of the better two-way players in the game. His defense led to dominant performances against Luka Doncic and Jayson Tatum in the playoffs. Wiggins upped his game in the NBA Finals even more, averaging 18.3 points and 8.8 rebounds while playing elite defense.
42. Rudy Gobert, Minnesota Timberwolves
An amazing defensive player, the “Stifle Tower” has shown that he can stop almost anyone at the rim. Gobert’s offense needs work if he is to stay on the court against smaller, faster teams. But as long as he plays his role, he’ll be fine. He’s seemingly a good fit for his new Minnesota Timberwolves team following the blockbuster trade from Utah. That is to say, bringing something different to the table than Karl-Anthony Towns.
41. Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors
After missing north of 900 days to a torn Achilles and ACL, Thompson returned to help Golden State win its fourth title of this dynastic run. While not back to his pre-injury self, Thompson was still able to average 19 points on 39% shooting from distance during the playoffs. Yeah, he’s still good.
40. Miles Bridges, Charlotte Hornets
In the latter half of the 2020-21, Miles Bridges began to show signs that he was ready to have a breakout year coming into this past season. The former Michigan State standout then took it to a whole new level in 2021-22, averaging 20.3 points and 7.0 rebounds on 49% shooting. With that said, Bridges’ future in the NBA is now in question following multiple felony counts of domestic violence and child abuse.
39. Jrue Holiday, Milwaukee Bucks
As unassuming as they come, Holiday has combined a field general mentality with elite-level defense to become one of the better all-around point guards in the NBA. Since the start of the 2018-19 season, this late bloomer is averaging 19.1 points and 6.6 assists while posting a combined defensive win shares of 29.8.
38. Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns
At 23-year-old, Ayton is among the best young centers in the NBA. He’s averaged a double-double in each of his first four NBA seasons and is coming off a career-best performance that saw him average 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds. He also now returns to Phoenix after the team matched the four-year, $132.9 million offer sheet Ayton signed with the Indiana Pacers in free agency.
37. Domantas Sabonis, Sacramento Kings
Acquired by Sacramento in the blockbuster Tyrese Haliburton trade, Sabonis remains one of the most-skilled bigs in the game. The two-time All-Star is averaging 19.2 points, 12.2 rebounds and 5.6 assists since the start of the 2019-20 campaign. Unfortunately, issues on defense keep Sabonis limited on our list of best NBA players right now.
36. Dejounte Murray, Atlanta Hawks
Coming into his own at 25 years old, Murray took on a lead role for the Spurs in 2021-22 after the trade of DeMar DeRozan. The veteran guard was outstanding — averaging 21.1 points, 8.3 rebounds and 9.2 assists on 46% shooting. He’s now joining Trae Young as a member of the Atlanta Hawks after a blockbuster trade — creating one of the most-dynamic backcourts in the NBA.
Related: 2023 NBA Rookie of the Year rankings
35. De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings
De’Aaron Fox has proven himself to be among the best NBA players at the point guard position. That’s magnified by the fact Fox has improved in each of his four seasons. Unfortunately, the Sacramento Kings have not been in the postseason since 2006. Things could be looking up with Fox having turned it around late last season (29.1 PPG in final 14 games).
34. Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets
In highly unfortunate fashion, Jamal Murray went down to a torn ACL 48 games into the 2020-21 season. That came after the 2019-20 NBA Playoff hero averaged 21.2 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists 41% from three-point range. Said injury cost him the entire 2021-22 campaign, leading many to forget just how talented the 25-year-old guard is.
33. James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers
Harden’s struggles this past season magnify how hard it is for a 32-year-old guard to continue playing at a high level. He averaged 11-year lows in points per game while shooting a mere 40% from the field. This has the former MVP much lower on our most-recent list of the best NBA players.
32. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves
A former No. 1 pick, the 26-year-old Towns has lived up to his end of the bargain on the offensive end. He’s coming off the best overall performance of his career this past regular season, averaging 24.6 points, 9.8 rebounds and 3.6 assists on 41% shooting from distance. However, struggles in the playoffs have led to renewed questions about whether KAT is a franchise cornerstone.
31. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, guard, Oklahoma City Thunder
Signed to a max contract extension ahead of the 2021-22 season, Gilgeous-Alexander saw injuries impact him again. He missed 26 games to injury, leading to a two-season total of 63 absences. When on the court, SGA is an elite player. He’s averaging 24.2 points, 4.9 rebounds and 5.9 assists during that span.
30. Darius Garland, Cleveland Cavaliers
Darius Garland is a true star in the making for an ascending Cleveland Cavaliers team that just barely missed out on the playoffs this past season. One of the best NBA players under the age of 23, Garland averaged 21.7 points and 8.6 assists on 46% shooting as a third-year player for the up-and-coming Cavs. Yeah, he’s earned that max contract extension.
Related: Updated NBA power rankings
29. Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat
A first-round pick out of Kentucky back in 2017, Adebayo was seen as raw heading into the NBA. In fact, the big man averaged a mere 8.0 points in his first two seasons. It’s been a completely different story with the center over the past three seasons with Bam averaging 17.8 points, 9.8 rebounds and 4.7 assists on 56% shooting.
28. Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks
While Khris Middleton gets a bad reputation for being inconsistent, he is arguably one of the most-underrated players in the NBA. Since the start of the 2017-18 season, Middleton is averaging 19.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists while playing elite-level defense. His injury in the 2022 NBA Playoffs was also felt big time with Milwaukee falling in the conference semifinals.
27. Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers
The 29-year-old Anthony Davis has been a two-way presence since being the first pick back in 2012. Sadly, injuries have impacted the NBA champion big time over the past two seasons with Ant missing 72 games during that span. This drops him down a bit in our latest rankings of the best NBA players.
26. Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans
Ingram’s emergence into a legit star culminated in the Pelicans’ surprise run to the playoffs this past season. The former Los Angeles Lakers No. 2 pick averaged 27.0 points, 6.2 rebounds and 6.2 assists on 41% shooting from distance in a hard-fought first-round loss to Phoenix. At 24, this forward is on the verge of becoming elite.
Best NBA players: Top-25 NBA players of 2022
25. Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves
The No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, this kid averaged 21.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists on 36% shooting as a sophomore in 2021-22 en route to leading Minnesota to a surprising playoff appearance. He’s now the face of the Wolves’ franchise and one of the elite young NBA Players in the game.
24. Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors
Since given the opportunity to be the full-time starter in Toronto, Pascal Siakam has shown that he is among the best power forwards in the league today. After some struggles earlier during the 2021-22 season, Siakam picked it up down the stretch — averaging 24.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists on 51% shooting over his final 38 games.
23. LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets
Coming off a season in which he became the first Charlotte Hornet to win the Rookie of the Year since Emeka Okafor in 2005, Lamelo Ball did not become victim of a sophomore slump in 2021-22. En route to earning his first All-Star appearance, the former No. 3 overall pick averaged 20.1 points, 6.7 rebounds and 7.7 assists on 39% shooting from distance. Dude is still only 20 years old.
22. Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
Over the course of his past two seasons ahead of the 2021-22 campaign, Beal averaged a resounding 30.9 points per game. Unfortunately, he missed 42 games to injury this past season and averaged his worst scoring total since 2017-18 en route to shooting a mere 30% from distance. The hope here is that Beal returns to full health in 2022-23 after signing a super-max extension with Washington.
21. Chris Paul, Phoenix Suns
Chris Paul demonstrated that he still has gas left in the tank during an absolutely brilliant 2020-21 regular season for the Phoenix Suns. Despite injuries this past regular season, he continued to prove himself as one of the best two-way point guards in the NBA. The question here is whether CP3 can keep it up after the 37-year-old struggled in the playoffs.
20. Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics
Jaylen Brown has teamed up with Jayson Tatum to form an elite young wing duo in Boston. The former No. 3 pick has proven former GM Danny Ainge right in refusing to include him in trades for the likes of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in the past. He averaged 23.6 points and 6.1 rebounds on 47% shooting during the 2021-22 regular season before some struggles in the playoffs.
19. DeMar DeRozan, Chicago Bulls
DeMar DeRozan is coming off the best regular season performance in his first year with the Chicago Bulls. The five-time All-Star averaged 27.9 points on a resounding 50% shooting while contributing 5.2 rebounds and 4.9 assists per. did we mention he’s about to turn 33?
18. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
No doubt one of the best clutch shot makers in recent history, the 31-year-old Damian Lillard definitely knows what time it is when it comes to the game clock. It’s “Dame Time.” Sadly, Lillard missed all but 29 games during the 2021-22 season. His future in the Pacific Northwest is now in question with the Blazers having just suffered through one of the worst seasons in franchise history.
17. Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls
No longer just a dunker, LaVine has improved in almost every other facet of his game from his shooting averages to his per-game totals. Only 27, LaVine has a lot of time to improve other facets of his game to become one of the better all-around players in the NBA after averaging an eye-opening 25.7 points since the start of the 2019-20 season. This led to LaVine getting paid big time.
16. Paul George, Los Angeles Clippers
One of the few truly elite two-way players in the league, George is a terror on both ends of the court. He can drop 20-25 points on a nightly basis while also shutting down the opposing team’s best player. George earned a lot of people’s respect in returning from injury late this past season en route to leading the Clippers to a near-playoff appearance before missing the team’s play-in loss to the Pelicans with COVID-19.
15. Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets
Probably the best ball-handler of all-time, Kyrie Irving’s mastery with a basketball is undeniable. He can score 50 on any given night and drop any defender that’s in front of him. After returning from a COVID-mandated absence this past regular season, Irving averaged 27.4 points on 42% shooting from three-point range. Now that Irving is set to return to Brooklyn after off-season trade rumors, let’s see if he can play a full season.
14. Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers
Since entering the Association back in 2017, the 25-year-old guard is averaging 23.9 points, 4.2 rebounds and 5.3 assists on 45% shooting. He now joins a loaded Cleveland Cavaliers team that includes fellow All-Stars Darius Garland and Jarett Allen as well as an up-and-coming center in Evan Mobley following a blockbuster trade from the Utah Jazz. This should be fun.
Related: 2023 NBA mock draft
13. Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks
Trae Young is shaping up to be the next shooter with limitless range. Trae is making a name for himself as not only a great shooter but one of the brightest stars in the league today. He also put up a career-best performance for an otherwise average Hawks team in 2021-22. That included Young averaging a near double-double at 28.4 points and 9.7 assists per.
12. Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers
This two-time NBA Finals MVP missed the entire 2021-22 season due to a torn ACL. In no way does this discount Leonard’s status as one of the best NBA players in the game today. Over the course of his past six seasons, Leonard is averaging 24.7 points and 6.6 rebounds on 49% shooting. He’s also a two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year winner.
11. Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat
Jimmy Butler is like fine win. The 32-year-old gets better with age. Miami’s run to the Eastern Conference Finals was prime example of that. Butler upped his game big time in the playoffs, averaging 27.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, 4.6 assists and a league-best 2.1 steals on 51% shooting. The guard has gone from malcontent with previous organizations to a legit team leader for a championship contender.
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10. Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies
After leading the Memphis Grizzlies to their first postseason since 2017, Ja Morant took his team to a whole new level in 2021-22. En route to leading Memphis to the second-best record in the NBA, the former Rookie of the Year averaged 27.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 6.7 assists on 49% shooting. At 22, Morant is simply one of the best young players in the game.
9. Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns
Stardom. That’s what we saw from the 25-year-old Devin Booker during Phoenix’s shocking run to the NBA Finals in 2021-22. Booker built on that this past regular season, averaging 26.8 points on 38% shooting from three-point range. Unfortunately, said season came to a premature end in the Western Conference Semifinals.
8. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
LeBron James has been accused of being selfish because he has clearly found the fountain of youth but will not let his peers know where it is. He is now 37 years old and continues to show he has many, many years left in his career. Showing no signs of slowing down any time soon, LBJ averaged 30.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 6.2 assists in 2021-22. That’s just insanity.
7. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
Tatum’s struggles in the NBA Finals will add to some recency bias. With that said, he did lead Boston to its first Finals since 2010 and did so while acting the part of a true superstar. That included averaging 25.6 points, 6.7 rebounds and 6.2 assists throughout the Celtics’ playoff run. At just 24, Tatum will just continue to get better.
6. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
The often-injured Joel Embiid is now among the best NBA players in the game right now. We’re talking about the most-dominant big man since Dwight Howard was in his prime. This past season showed us this in a big way with him finishing as an MVP finalist after averaging 30.6 points and 11.7 rebounds. Just flat insane numbers.
5. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets
Despite the Nets also having stars such as Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons, Kevin Durant proves he is among the best of the best every time he steps out on the court. Sadly, his 2021-22 regular season was defined by injuries. One has to wonder if Durant’s 33-year-old body is on the verge of breaking down. At the very least, he’s now set to return to Brooklyn after backing off a previous trade request.
4. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
Watching Doncic carry Dallas to the Western Conference Finals this past season got us thinking. Have we seen a 22-year-old player asked to do so much since LeBron James was somehow making Cleveland relevant eons ago? El Niño Maravilla averaged 31.7 points, 9.8 rebounds and 6.4 assists in the playoffs. Dallas’ second-leading scorer was Rick Brunson’s son. Yeah.
Top 3 players in the NBA now
3. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
A good argument could be made that the two-time reigning MVP Nikola Jokic has solidified himself as the best big man in the NBA today. Still only 27, he’s averaging 26.7 points, 12.3 rebounds and 8.1 assists while shooting 58% from the field over the past two seasons. Not bad for a fat kid from Serbia.
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
How good has the Greek Freak been in recent seasons? The two-time NBA MVP is averaging 28.4 points, 11.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists since the start of the 2017-18 campaign. He won the NBA Finals MVP in 2021 and continues to get better at the still-young age of 27. He’ll be among the best NBA players over the long haul.
1. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
At 34, Stephen Curry is the best player in the NBA. There’s little question about that after he led Golden State to its fourth title in eight years, winning NBA Finals MVP for the first time in the process. In the Finals against Boston, Curry averaged 31.2 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists while shooting 44% from distance. Forget about today. This dude is an all-time great.
This article was originally published on Sportsnaut.com and is republished here with permission.