The biggest (also my favorite) article of the year is finally here. My top 100 players of the 2021 season. It took me a while to put this together. I started with around 150 players, and cut it down to 100 ( actually it’s 110. I have ten “honorable mentions”, which makes this a top 110).
I considered a few different things while ranking players. Stats is obviously one of them. I looked at basic counting stats, but also I used FiveThirtyEight’s RAPTOR stat a lot. It’s some crazed advanced stat that I don’t even fully understand. It uses things such as box plus/minus and on/off ratings to determine how effective players are on both sides of the ball (read more about it here).
However, stats aren’t everything to me. I watched a lot of basketball this year, so the eye test matters a lot to me as well. If I let numbers decide everything for me, then my list would be garbage (for example, Marcus Smart’s defensive rating for this season was 113, which isn’t too good. We all know he’s an elite defender though).
Another thing that’s very important to me is impact. Does the player make a difference on the court? Impact towards winning matters a lot (which is why some players like Malik Beasley and Darius Garland are lower on the list than their stats would suggest), but also some players are very good but the team around them is not (Karl-Anthony Towns and Zach LaVine are a few players who were affected by this in the 2021 season).
Finally, playoff performance matters. If you didn’t perform when it matters most, your regular season performance means less to me.
So, without further ado, let’s get going with this list.
(One last thing. I’ll be comparing the prediction list I made before the season to this list. I didn’t compare them until I started writing this article, so writing this list was the first time I really saw how accurate my predictions were.)
Prediction Leaveoffs: Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond, Goran Dragic, Kelly Oubre Jr., Eric Bledsoe, Tyler Herro, Dennis Schroder, Steven Adams, Josh Richardson, Marvin Bagley, Serge Ibaka, Davis Bertans, Brandon Clarke, Lou Williams, Kevin Love, DeMarcus Cousins, Devonte’ Graham, Aaron Gordon, Ricky Rubio, J.J. Redick, Hassan Whiteside, James Wiseman
All of these players were on my prediction list, but none of them ended up on the postseason list. Some of them underperformed (Kelly Oubre, Eric Bledsoe, Davis Bertans), some of them didn’t take the jump I thought they would (Tyler Herro, Marvin Bagley, Brandon Clarke), and some of them straight up weren’t good enough to make it (Dennis Schroder, Serge Ibaka, Lou Williams). The NBA is super talented. It’s hard to predict who the best players will be at the end of an entire season. I think lots of these players were reasonable choices before the season so I’m not too worried about it.
Injury Leaveoffs: Klay Thompson, Jonathan Isaac, Jaren Jackson Jr., T.J. Warren, Markelle Fultz, Spencer Dinwiddie, LaMarcus Aldrdge (he retired midseason so I figured I’d include him with the injuries. I’m glad to see he’s back in the league for next season).
All of these players are top 100 caliber, but they didn’t play enough games this season to make the list. Jaren Jackson is the only one of them who played 10+ games this year. Everybody on the list played 30+.
Alright. Let’s start the list!
Honorable Mentions (110-101):
110: Thaddeus Young (Prediction: N/A)
109: Montrezl Harrell (Prediction: 80)
108: Bobby Portis Jr. (Prediction: N/A)
107: Tyrese Haliburton (Prediction: N/A)
106: Jakob Poeltl (Prediction: N/A)
105: Reggie Jackson (Prediction: N/A)
104: Mitchell Robinson (Prediction: 90)
103: Robert Covington (Prediction: 67)
102: Harrison Barnes (Prediction: N/A)
101: Marcus Morris Sr. (Prediction: 106)
Like I said earlier, this list is a top 110 rather than a top 100 because of my “honorable mentions.”
Most of these guys didn’t make my prediction list. Bobby Portis, Milwaukee fan favorite, nabbed a spot on this list because of his insane energy that was a big part of the Bucks’ championship run (he also has skill, of course). Jakob Poeltl deserves an apology from me. In this article, I said he did nothing on the court. I was wrong. He’s a top tier interior defender. His defensive RAPTOR this year was +5.1, which is third amongst players that played 1,000+ minutes in the 2021 season. That deserves a top 110 nod. Montrezl Harrell and Robert Covington are two guys that placed lower than what I predicted. Montrezl wasn’t as productive this season as he was in 2020. I think I placed RoCo so high in my prediction because I loved his fit with Portland so much that I overhyped him as a player.
Here’s the actual top 100.
100: Duncan Robinson (Prediction: 84)
Don’t get me wrong, Duncan is still one of the best three point specialists in the NBA. He shot 41% from three on eight attempts per game this season. The issue is that’s all he does. I was hoping he would become a better defender this year, but he really didn’t. He plays aggressively on defense, but picks up lots of fouls because of it. In the end, even though Duncan is an elite shooter, his lack of anything else makes it hard to place him above other more versatile players. That’s why he falls dead last in my top 100.
(Duncan has 19 total offensive rebounds in his 160 career games. He’s 6’7”. Muggsy Bogues had 78 offensive rebounds in 77 games one season. He’s 5’4”. I know Duncan’s role isn’t rebounding, but that’s still a crazy little tidbit.)
99: Wendell Carter Jr. (Prediction: N/A)
Although Wendell’s stats aren’t mind boggling (11 PPG, 8 RPG this season), numbers aren’t everything. I like Wendell’s game. He’s a lob threat and can score in the post. He’s got a post fade game that looks nice. He’s developing a three point shot (29% this season). He’s a solid post defender. Wendell’s got the skillset to become an All-Star level player one day. This season was a step in that direction for him. That’s good for him, because he was drafted over players like Shai, MPJ, Sexton, and Mikal Bridges.
98: Joe Harris (Prediction: N/A)
Joe Harris is another three point specialist at the bottom of my list. He led the league in 3PT percentage this season (47%). What separates Joe from Duncan is Joe is average on defense. His defensive RAPTOR in the regular season was +0.5. That’s not super high, but it’s just around average. It’s also higher than KD, Harden, and Kyrie’s defensive RAPTORs from the regular season. I’m not saying he’s good on defense, but being serviceable on that end makes Joe Harris’s elite shooting even more valuable.
97: Jae Crowder (Prediction: N/A)
Jae Crowder is one of the best glue guys in the NBA. He’s that do-it-all role player that everybody wants on their team. The shooting is there, the defense is there, the hustle, all of it. He was a big part of Phoenix’s Finals run. Jae Crowder is a winning player, and that earns him a spot on my list.
96: Luguentz Dort (Prediction: N/A)
Lu Dort burst onto the scene during the 2019-20 season as an NBA starter. He was an end-of-bench player on a two-way contract for the Thunder. Then, in January 2020, Dort became a starter. He stood out as a defender, but his offense was still developing (he showed flashes, including a 30 point performance in Game 7 against the Rockets in the bubble). This season, as a full time starter, Dort had a really solid season. His awesome defense returned (his +3.9 defensive RAPTOR is top ten for the 2021 season), and his offense took a jump. He shot 34% (6 attempts per game) from three, which is better than the 30% (3 attempts per game) he shot in his rookie year. He had a 42 point game this year. Lu Dort was the second best player on OKC this season (and the best when Shai was injured). He may fall to 96 this season, but he’ll be higher in seasons to come as his offense catches up to his defense.
95: Gary Trent Jr. (Prediction: N/A)
Gary Trent Jr. is fun to watch. He had a breakout performance in the bubble, and this year he built off that. He can really shoot the ball (38% on 7 attempts per game). Gary proved he can be a starting shooting guard in the NBA this season. He is just 22, and will be part of Toronto’s long term plans. Even though he doesn’t do much else besides score, his offensive production still lands him in the top 100.
94: Lonzo Ball (Prediction: 95)
I was really close with this prediction. That’s good for me, but I don’t think that’s good for Lonzo. After his fourth season, former second overall pick Lonzo is just the 94th best player in the league. His stats suggest he’s better. 15 points per game, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, 1.5 steals, 38% from three on 8 attempts per game. I’m just not sold on his offense yet. His three point percentage is really good considering how many threes he shot per game, but he’s not even consistent. Every good shooting game is matched by a bad one for Lonzo. Considering shooting threes is the only way Lonzo can score, inconsistency is not a good thing. Lonzo is a great playmaker, and he’s good on the defensive end, but until his scoring comes along Lonzo falls here on my list.
93: De’Andre Hunter (Prediction: N/A)
Although he only played 23 games this season (28 counting the playoffs), De’Andre still deserves a spot on this list. He’s becoming one of the better wing defenders in the NBA (his defensive RAPTOR this season was +3.9). He can shoot the ball decently (33% this season, 35% in his rookie year), but his shot looks good and his percentage will increase in coming years. De’Andre is an underrated member of the Hawks core, and they really could have used him deep in the playoffs.
92: Chris Boucher (Prediction: N/A)
Chris Boucher was a top MIP candidate this year. He proved himself as a do it all center. He protects the rim, stretches the floor, rebounds, and scores at the hoop. He’s a starting caliber center coming off the bench. He’s a top 100 player in the NBA.
91: Tim Hardaway Jr. (Prediction: N/A)
Timmy Jr. had himself a season. He’s an ok defender, but his main job is to put the ball in the basket when Luka passes to him. He did that very well. He averaged 17 points per game, and shot 39% from three on 8 attempts per game. That’s really good. He also shot 40% from the mid range (16 feet to the three point line). He was the Mavericks second best player in the playoffs while Porzingis struggled. This was a big season for Tim Hardaway Jr., and it stinks that I had to put him this low. The NBA is super talented.
90: Seth Curry (Prediction: N/A)
Seth is yet another three point specialist at the bottom of this list. He shot 45% from three overall (5 attempts per game), and a ridiculous 64% on corner threes (although just 16% of his three point attempts came from the corner). Seth was a big part of the 76ers success this year, as he added elite shooting that Philly desperately needed. The biggest part of this season for Seth was the playoffs. He averaged 19 points per game while shooting 51% from three (7 attempts per game). His volume increased, and so did his efficiency. Those numbers are top tier for a specialist like Seth. That’s what Seth Curry is, after all, a true specialist.
89: Derrick White (Prediction: 104)
I think Derrick White is underrated. People don’t talk about him enough. He’s very good on the defensive end (his defensive RAPTOR was +3.2, which was 11th highest in the league). He’s a capable scorer from all three levels. He can play on and off the ball. He’s one of the better 3&D guards in the league. If Derrick played for a contender, he would get a lot more attention. As someone who watches the Spurs often, I’m telling you now that Derrick needs his respect.
88: Richaun Holmes (Prediction: N/A)
In the 2019-20 season, Richaun Holmes came out of nowhere as a starting center. In 2021, he built off that. He’s a bright spot on defense for a Sacramento team that was dead last in defensive rating (1.6 blocks per game, +1.9 defensive RAPTOR). He’s an efficient scorer in the post (64% from the field, which was second in the league behind Rudy Gobert. He’s really good at this floater/push shot). Richaun is one of those anchor centers that every team wants. He’s a rock solid player.
87: Danilo Gallinari (Prediction: 61)
My prediction of 61 was high, but Gallo still had himself a solid season. His scoring was down from past seasons (he had a lesser role), but 13 points on 40/40/90 shooting is good. He also had a good playoff run. He stepped up in the Philly series and the Bucks series, scoring the ball more and doing it more efficiently. Even though scoring is all he does (0.8 assists per game in the playoffs), he scores at a high level and he did it deep in the playoffs when it matters the most.
86: Darius Garland (Prediction: N/A)
Darius Garland’s rookie season was iffy. His efficiency was below average, his playmaking was questioned, and his defense was bad (defensive RAPTOR of -3.9 in the 2020 season). This season, he proved that he has legitimate star potential. He averaged 17 PPG, 6 APG, shot 40% from three on 5 attempts per game, and improved somewhat on defense (he’s not good, and probably won’t ever be because of his size, but he didn’t suck this year). If I were in Cleveland’s front office, I would consider trading Sexton so Garland could be the guy in the backcourt.
85: Victor Oladipo (Prediction: 48)
This was not a good season for Victor Oladipo’s standards. Just a few seasons ago, he was an All-NBA player. This year, he wasn’t even in the top 75. It’s not all his fault. He’s been injured a lot in the last couple seasons (just 88 games across the last three seasons. 33 in 2021). But when he played this season, he just wasn’t himself. He averaged 20 points, but he wasn’t very efficient (41% from the field, 33% from three. His offensive RAPTOR was -1.6, which is not good). He averaged 5 assists per game, and played good defense (1.4 steals per game, +1.6 defensive RAPTOR). All in all a solid statistical season, but it didn’t have much impact on anything, so Victor falls to 85 on this list.
84: Jusuf Nurkic (Prediction: 49)
Kind of a disappointing season for Nurkic. His performance in the bubble suggested 2021 would be a big season for him. It really wasn’t. He had a big defensive season (his defensive RAPTOR was +4.2, which is top 10 in the league. He also averaged 1 steal and 1 block per game), but overall his production was underwhelming. 11 PPG, 9 RPG, and 3 APG is solid but not great. Nurkic wasn’t fully healthy this year, so hopefully next season he can stay healthy and return to form.
83: Joe Ingles (Prediction: N/A)
Joe Ingles was the glue guy for the team that had the best record last season. He does anything the team needs him to do. He shoots the ball at a high level (45% on the season, but he was at 50% at some point midway through the season. He’s really good off the catch because he catches and shoots it right away). He plays defense. He’s a good playmaker, so he plays like a point forward sometimes (5 assists per game). His versatility and his impact on a top team earns him this spot on my list.
82: Evan Fournier (Prediction: 68)
Evan Fournier had another highly productive year on the offensive end. He averaged 17 PPG (20 PPG with Orlando, 13 PPG with Boston) and shot 41% from three (39% with Orlando and a sizzling 46% with Boston. 57% on corner threes overall). He also came to play in the playoffs (15 PPG, 43% from three). Unfortunately, because the NBA is so talented, Fournier had to fall this low on my list.
81: Anthony Edwards (Prediction: N/A)
Ant’s basic stats suggest that he should be higher. 19 PPG, 5 RPG, and 1 SPG while playing in all 72 games. If you look at his efficiency, however, it’s not that good. 42% from the field and 33% from three is not awesome. On average, he shot 7 threes per game and made 2. Because Minnesota wasn’t competitive and had injuries throughout the season, Ant had the freedom to do whatever he wanted. His shot selection needs work. Overall, Ant’s numbers were kind of empty this season. He still has the pure skill to land this high on the list, and he has potential to be a special player. (Ant is also really funny).
80: Bojan Bogdanovic (Prediction: 64)
While talking about Bojan in my prediction article, I said that a 20 PPG scorer on a competitive team would earn a spot in the top 65. Unfortunately, Bojan didn’t score 20 PPG this year. He didn’t have to, because Mike Conley and Jordan Clarkson scored those extra baskets. However, when Bojan isn’t scoring, he’s not very valuable. His defense is average at best (-1.4 defensive RAPTOR) and he doesn’t pass or rebound very well. Bojan is a high end role player, but with his role being smaller this year he falls to 80 on my list.
79: Dillon Brooks (Prediction: N/A)
Dillon Brooks opened a lot of people’s eyes with his playoff performance. He averaged 26 points while shooting 40% from three and playing gritty defense (he does a good job on Steph here. He also locked up DeMar in the play in game). His regular season numbers were also good, as he averaged 17 PPG (although 42% from the field and 34% from three is not great). Dillon made a winning impact on both ends for the Grizzlies this season, and that earns him a spot in the top 80. He could land even higher next season as he continues to get better.
78: Buddy Hield (Prediction: 81)
By my definition of a three point specialist (a very good shooter who isn’t above average at anything else), Buddy is the second best three point specialist in the league. He shot 10 threes per game this year, and shot 39% (so basically 40%). That’s ridiculously good. Shooting is so valuable in today’s NBA that I have to put Buddy here.
77: Malik Beasley (Prediction: N/A)
At the 2020 trade deadline, Malik Beasley was traded to the Timberwolves. He was averaging 21 points and shooting 43% from three before COVID shut down the season. He was able to keep up that production in his first full season in Minnesota. He averaged 20 points per game, and shot 40% from three (he shot 9 threes a game. That’s Buddy Hield type efficiency). He was the third best player in Minnesota this year. If he played for a more competitive team, he would be even higher.
76: Dejounte Murray (Prediction: 93)
Dejounte is one of my five favorite players in the NBA. I love his game and I love watching him play. He’s an excellent defender. He’s a triple double threat every night (7 RPG and 5 APG). He’s a knockdown mid range shooter (48% between 16 ft and the 3PT line, 45% from 10-16 ft. 40% of his total shots come from those two areas). The only “weakness” in his game is that he’s an inconsistent three point shooter (He’s not bad at threes though. 32% isn’t awful). Dejounte is the 76th best player now, but next season he’s gonna be even better.
75: Jarrett Allen (Prediction: 103)
I disrespected Jarrett Allen with my preseason prediction. I don’t know what I was thinking. At just 23 years old, he’s one of the better rim protectors in the NBA. He’s averaged 1+ BPG every season of his career (1.4 BPG in 2021). He grabs you a lot of rebounds, as he was 13th in the league in rebounds per game (10) and 8th in offensive rebounds per game (3). He’s an efficient scorer in the paint (62% from the field, which was 6th best in the league). Jarrett does everything you want from a center, and he does it at a high level.
74: Jordan Clarkson (Prediction: N/A)
There’s one thing that Jordan Clarkson brings to a basketball team, and that’s scoring. He was the Lou Williams of the 2021 season (the guy who comes off the bench and scores a ton of points), and that’s why he won 6MOY. Unfortunately, both below average efficiency (42% from the field, 35% from three) and the lack of any other way to contribute when he’s not scoring means Jordan falls down here on my list.
73: Marcus Smart (Prediction: 54)
For the five seasons prior to the 2021 season, Marcus Smart’s defensive rating never was above 110, and his defensive RAPTOR never fell below +1.9. He’s a defensive superstar. But, according to those stats, he had a down year on D in 2021. His defensive rating was 113, which is about average. His defensive RAPTOR was -0.1, also around average. The eye test says otherwise, but those stats do matter. The eye test is the reason he’s still this high on my list. He hustles harder than anybody on the court, and it shows. He has a knack for poking the ball loose from players trying to post him up. Marcus’s offense is below average (although he’s a solid playmaker), but he’s still a high value player when he’s on the court and he earned this spot on the list.
72: Myles Turner (Prediction: 97)
For most of his career, Myles has been known as one of the premier 3&D centers in the NBA. He’s not an excellent three point shooter (33% in 2021, 35% for his career), but he’s good for a center. He is an excellent rim protector. He averaged an absurd 3.4 blocks per game this season, which led the league (it’s the second time he’s led the league in BPG). His career BPG average is 2.2. That level of rim protection puts him here on my list.
71: Brook Lopez (Prediction: 71)\
I promise I didn’t rank Brook the same as his prediction on purpose. It just happened. Brook was the starting center on the championship, and he had a big impact. He’s another 3&D center. He stretches the floor (34% from three in the regular season, 32% in the playoffs), he protects the rim (1.5 BPG in both the regular season and the playoffs), and he even plays decent perimeter defense at times. He’s the anchor for the Bucks, and he’s the 71st best player in the NBA.
70: R.J. Barrett (Prediction: N/A)
The Knicks as a whole were a surprise in 2021, but so was R.J. Barrett. He was the third pick in the draft, and didn’t make an All-Rookie team. In his sophomore season, he improved a ton. He scored the ball more (14.3 PPG in 2020, 17.6 in 2021), and that was due to his efficiency improving (40/32/61 splits in 2020, 44/40/75 splits in 2021). In 2021, R.J. showed us why he was picked so high in the draft. He lands at 70 right now and will probably be higher in 2022.
69: OG Anunoby (Prediction: 55)
I did say in my prediction article that 55 was a risky pick for OG. He didn’t play up to that level, but he still had a great season. He averaged 16 PPG (48% from the field, 40% from three), 5.5 rebounds, and 1.5 steals. He played really good, versatile defense (his defensive RAPTOR was 2.3, which tied with Giannis and Jimmy Butler). I like OG’s game a lot, and he’s a top 70 player in the NBA.
68: Bogdan Bogdanovic (Prediction: 82)
If you remember last offseason, the Bucks trade for Bogdan fell through due to tampering. I like Donte DiVincenzo, and I think he’s really good, but I would love it if the Bucks had Bogey. He’s a high volume, high efficiency shooter (44% on 8 attempts per game on threes in 2021). He improved on defense this year, and now plays reliable on-ball defense (In his first three seasons, he never had a positive defensive RAPTOR. In 2021, he was +1.5. The eye test proves his defensive skill as well). Bogey is a very valuable role player to have on your team, and Atlanta is lucky to have him. He didn’t perform very well in the playoffs, or he would place any higher on this list.
67: Mikal Bridges (Prediction: N/A)
Mikal emerged as the do-it-all starter for a Finals roster in 2021. He’s 6’6” with a 7’1” wingspan, which earned him the nickname “Inspector Go Go Gadget”. He uses those long arms to be an excellent defender. He grabs a ton of steals, and blocks shots too. Mikal is also a very efficient offensive player. He shot 54% from the field and 42% from three in 2021. Mikal was good in 2021, and I’m looking forward to seeing him grow even more in the next few seasons.
66: LaMelo Ball (Prediction: 110)
LaMelo had a lot of hype around his name headed into this season. I wasn’t sure if he would live up to it, but he did. He definitely has All-Star, maybe even All-NBA, potential. His playmaking is elite, and I mean that. He’s capable of scoring, but his jumpshot needs work. He’s a decent defender, and he grabs lots of steals (1.6 per game). LaMelo impressed me in his rookie year, and he earned this spot.
65: Andrew Wiggins (Prediction: 72)
Wiggins was known as a dude who just chucked up a lot of shots to score for a long time. If you think that after the 2021 season, you’re stuck in the past. Wiggins has bought into playing winning basketball. The big change was on defense. Wiggins was not a good defender in prior seasons (his 2020 defensive RAPTOR was -2.1, which is horrendous), but he put in the effort and became a positive one (he had the same defensive rating as Jrue Holiday. His defensive RAPTOR was +0.5). He also improved his efficiency, especially from three. He shot 38% from deep in 2021, a career high. That’s what taking high quality shots does for you. I’m super impressed by Andrew’s growth this season. He deserves this spot.
64: Derrick Rose (Prediction: 70)
D-Rose had himself another 6MOY level season in 2021. He averaged 15 PPG, 4 APG, and 1 SPG. Most impressive to me is his 3PT shooting. He shot a career high 39% from three (41% in 35 games with the Knicks, but just 33% in 15 games with the Pistons). As he continues to get older, and his athleticism decreases, consistent shooting will keep him in the league even longer. D-Rose was a significant part of the Knicks making the playoffs, and that’s what puts him this high on my list.
63: John Wall (Prediction: 34)
John Wall’s 2021 per game stats look good. 21 PPG, 7 APG, and 1 SPG are All-Star numbers. His efficiency stunk though. He shot just 40% from the field and 32% from three. Obviously, the achilles injury he suffered affected his game. It doesn’t help his case that the Rockets were at the bottom of the standings. When I made the prediction list, Harden was still in Houston. Any team with Harden is always in the playoffs, and so I thought Wall would be able to contribute to a good team. It’s not all Wall’s fault that he landed so far away from my prediction.
62: Kemba Walker (Prediction: 38)
2021 was another season where Kemba struggled to stay healthy. He only played in 57% of the Celtics games. However, it’s what he did in the games he played that lands him so far from my prediction. His averages of 19 PPG, 4 RPG, and 5 APG are good, but considering his shooting volume (16 FGA per game, 8 3PA per game), he wasn’t very efficient (42% from the field, 36% from three, and just 35% from the mid range). Kemba just wasn’t as effective as he once was, and that’s why he falls outside the top 50.
61: Caris LeVert (Prediction: 58)
Caris Levert’s season (and career) was on the line when a mass was discovered on his kidney after he was traded to Indiana. He was able to recover from that and ball up when he came back. In 35 games with Indiana, he averaged 21 PPG, 5 RPG, 5 APG, and 1.5 SPG. Those are All-Star stats. His efficiency wasn’t great (44% from the field, and just 32% from three in those games with Indiana), but he probably wasn’t completely himself after what happened. Caris’s offensive production lands him around where I predicted him to be.
60: Norman Powell (Prediction: 77)
I’m pretty sure I was higher on Norman more than most people headed into this season, but he outperformed even my expectations. He was on fire all year long. In 42 games with Toronto, he averaged 20 PPG and 1 SPG on 50/44/86 shooting splits. He slowed down a little in his 27 games with Portland (which makes sense, because he was sharing the ball with Dame and C.J.), averaging 17 PPG on 44/36/88 splits. Norman has proven himself as a bucket, and he’s still underrated. I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up in my top 50 next season.
59: Michael Porter Jr. (Prediction: 79)
You know how I feel about MPJ, so I’ll make this brief. He’s ridiculously efficient (44% from three on 6 attempts per game). He doesn’t do anything besides shoot on offense. He rebounds pretty well (7 per game). He still needs to improve on defense. He’s the 59th best player in the NBA.
58: Kristaps Porzingis (Prediction: 46)
Kristaps annoys me at points. His offensive game is limited to shooting threes and shooting fadeaways over smaller players instead of backing them down. Like bro, you’re 7’3”, use your freaking height! He’s a former All-Star turned glorified role player (injuries did play a part in this), and then he wants to complain about not being involved in the offense. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still good (otherwise he wouldn’t be this high), but his value caps out lower than Dallas wants it to.
57: Mike Conley (Prediction: N/A)
This is embarrassing. I can’t believe I didn’t have Conley anywhere on my prediction list. In my defense, he didn’t have a good 2020 season (for his standards). His play in 2020 led me to believe he couldn’t return back to his borderline All-Star self. I was wrong. He was an All-Star for the first time in his career (although his spot should have gone to DeMar! I will argue that until I die. Screw team success. DeMar is better!). He made the All-Star game by shooting efficiently, being a playmaker, and playing defense (and pity). After this year, I know better than to count Mike Conley out.
56: Jonas Valanciunas (Prediction: 66)
JV makes a big impact at the center position. He’s one of the best rebounders in the NBA (He finished 2nd in offensive RPG, 3rd in RPG, and 3rd in TRB%). He was just outside the top 10 in total screen assists and screen assists per game. He’s not an excellent shot blocker, but he protects the paint. He’s productive on offense (17 PPG, 59% from the field, 37% from three). Jonas is the type of center that every team wants on their roster.
55: Collin Sexton (Prediction: 75)
The eye test tells me Collin is a certified bucket. Just watch highlights from this game. He dropped 15 points in overtime to lead the Cavs to a win over the Nets. The problem is that he’s one dimensional on the court. He’s not a good passer (he averaged 4 APG, but when you have the ball as much as Collin did, you get assists naturally), and he’s not a good defender either (his -2.9 defensive RAPTOR was bottom 15 in the league). Collin is up for an extension soon, and he wants max money. In order to get that, he needs to prove that his scoring can result in winning basketball.
54: John Collins (Prediction: 47)
John Collins is underrated. He’s been a productive player his whole career, and this season he did it for a winning team. He scores (18 PPG in 2021), rebounds (7 RPG, which is impressive considering he’s competing with Clint Capela to get boards), and defends (+0.9 defensive RAPTOR, top 30 in block %). He’s become a knockdown midrange scorer (47% on long midrange, 55% on short midrange). This is probably the last time he’ll fall outside of the top 50 for the next 5+ seasons.
53: Gordon Hayward (Prediction: 53)
Staying healthy has become a problem for Gordon, but when he plays, he’s borderline top 50. He’s the veteran leader for the Hornets, and on the court he’s a productive scorer at all three levels (he shot an insane 64% on corner threes in 2021). Many people would probably call him the best player on the Hornets (I disagree, we’ll get to the best in a bit), and higher on their list. I simply think he’s not as good as the guys in the top 50.
52: Jerami Grant (Prediction: N/A)
Everybody was questioning what Detroit was thinking after they gave Jerami a 3 year contract worth $60 million. I don’t think anybody’s questioning it now. In his 2021 MIP runner-up campaign, Jerami showed that he can handle the workload of being a number one option. He scored at all three levels (although he wasn’t the most efficient, shooting 43% from the field and 35% from three. That’s what taking lots of difficult shots does to your percentages). He played solid defense (Eye test wise, at least. -0.4 defensive RAPTOR is just average). Jerami falls just outside the top 50 for 2021, and has the potential to be top 50 next year if the Pistons win some games.
51: Pascal Siakam (Prediction: 26)
Am I underrating Pascal? Potentially. Obviously I don’t think so, but I’ve seen lots of people on social media talk about how Pascal is underrated. I’m not on that train. He lost the title of best player on the Raptors. His stats look good (21 PPG, 7 RPG, 4.5 APG), but they aren’t special in today’s NBA where lots of guys score (especially because Pascal isn’t all that efficient. He shot 50% on twos and 30% on threes in 2021). In the end, Pascal just doesn’t impress me anymore. That doesn’t mean he’s bad, he just doesn’t stand out in a super talented NBA (I don’t mean he’s not “flashy” enough, because that doesn’t matter).
50: Deandre Ayton (Prediction: 45)
The first player in the top 50 is Deandre Ayton. He was my preseason pick for MIP, as I thought he was going to become an All-Star level player. His regular season play wasn’t up to that level (14 PPG, 10 RPG, and 1 BPG is good, but not All-Star good), but his playoff performance was spectacular. That’s why he’s up here on the list. He averaged 16 PPG, 12 RPG, and 1 BPG while shooting 66% from the field. His defensive RAPTOR in the playoffs was a ridiculous +3.7. He came to play every single night when it mattered most, and that’s what a top 50 player does.
49: Clint Capela (Prediction: 89)
Clint Capela stuffed the stat sheet in 2021. He averaged 15 PPG, 14 RPG (that led the league), and 2 BPG. He’s the best rebounder in the league, and also protects the rim at an elite level (defensive RAPTOR of +5.2, which was second in the league behind Rudy Gobert). Besides his lack of a jumpshot, Clint Capela is the ideal center.
48: D’Angelo Russell (Prediction: 31)
D’Lo is one of the clutchest players in the league (statistically, at least. I wouldn’t put him up there with the Dames and the KDs of the world). In 42 games, he made 15 Clutch² shots (shots that were crucial to the outcome of the game, specifically a buzzer beater or a near buzzer beater). He made 67% of his Clutch² attempts. Beyond his clutch performance, D’Lo scores at a high level in general. In just 28 minutes per game, he averaged 19 PPG. He shot 39% from three on 7 attempts per game, which is really good. D’Lo isn’t a good defender, but his offensive makes up for that. He’s still a top 50 player in the league, and I feel like people ignore that.
47: Terry Rozier III (Prediction: N/A)
Terry Rozier was the best player on the Charlotte Hornets in 2021. He was their go-to guy when they needed a basket, and he always delivered. He averaged 20 PPG, and shot 40% from three (8 attempts per game. That’s elite efficiency). He got a big extension recently, and he deserved it. All-Star level players get All-Star level money.
46: Draymond Green (Prediction: 88)
Draymond is one of the most polarizing players in the NBA. Some people understand the value he brings and why he’s good, and some people only pay attention to stats and think he’s trash. I wasn’t on the Draymond train prior to this season, but I have been enlightened. Draymond is a vital part of the Warriors offense, because he helps the best shooter ever get open. He’s an elite defender, and a great leader. If you ever need proof on why Draymond is good, ignore the stats and watch a game.
45: Kyle Lowry (Prediction: 33)
In my prediction article, I said that Lowry would take a step back in 2021 and let Freddy and Siakam be the guys. I wasn’t really right. His numbers from 2021 are identical to his numbers from 2020 (besides two less free throws made per game in 2021), although he was more efficient in 2021. So Kyle was still himself, but other guys got better and he falls to 45.
44: Christian Wood (Prediction: 63)
In 2020, after Andre Drummond was traded, Christian Wood became the starter for Detroit. In 12 starts before the shutdown, he averaged 22 PPG and 9 RPG on really good efficiency (56% from the field, 41% from three). When Houston paid him in the 2020 offseason, they were counting on him to keep playing like that for an entire season. Christian delivered. He was a legitimate All-Star candidate before his injury. In his three fully healthy months, Christian averaged 23 PPG, 10 RPG, and 1.4 BPG (overall he averaged 21 PPG, 10 RPG, and 1.2 BPG). Christian stretches the floor and protects the rim at a high level. He’s now a certified top 50 player.
43: Fred VanVleet (Prediction: 50)
Fred (or, as Drake calls him, Federico), took the mantle of best player on the Raptors in 2021. Freddy gets it done on both ends. He averaged 20 PPG and 6 APG, and shot 37% from three on 9 attempts per game (he even made 11 threes in a game). He averaged 1.7 SPG, and had a defensive RAPTOR of +2.3. Because Freddy plays in Toronto, I’ll throw in a Drake line to describe him: “I’ve been hot since the birth of my son”. Ever since his son was born, Freddy’s been on fire. 2021 was his hottest season yet.
42: C.J. McCollum (Prediction: 41)
For years, C.J. has been Dame’s scoring sidekick. In 2021, he averaged a career high 23.1 PPG. He did it efficiently, shooting 46% from the field and 40% from three (9 attempts per game). We know C.J. is a bucket, but he doesn’t do much else. He’s average at best on defense. He’s good enough of a scorer to crack the top 50, but he probably won’t ever be higher as he exits his prime
41: Tobias Harris (Prediction: 62)
For the first time in his career, Tobias was legitimately an All-Star level player (He was close in the 2018-19 season, but not quite there). He was the second scoring option on the first seed in the Eastern Conference, and he did that job very well. He averaged 19 PPG on 51% from the field, 39% from three, and 89% from the free throw line. That’s very close to 50/40/90. Tobi also improved on defense this season, and showed he is capable of being a solid defender. He can play some defense in the post and on the perimeter. Tobias is a very solid, reliable player who will help you win.
40: Malcolm Brogdon (Prediction: 52)
Even though his efficiency is down from his 50/40/90 year, Malcolm has improved significantly since his time with the Bucks. In 2021, he averaged 21 PPG, 5 RPG, and 6 APG. He shot 39% from three on 7 attempts per game. Unlike his Bucks days, he’s creating shots from deep rather than just hitting them off the catch (just 66% of his threes were assisted). He had a serious case for being an All-Star this year, and he’s become a legitimate top 50 player in the league.
39: Ben Simmons (Prediction: 21)
I won’t bore you with the same thing everybody else has been saying about Ben Simmons. Yes, he can’t score, and his unwillingness to change that is a problem. That’s why he’s all the way down here. He’s still an elite defender, and a high level playmaker, but the unfortunate truth is that he won’t return to his top 30 self if he’s not able to put the ball in the basket
38: Ja Morant (Prediction: 32)
Ja had a successful sophomore season. He’s already able to lead his team to the playoffs, and he’s only 22. He passes and gets to the rim at a high level. The next step for him is to improve his jumper. Ja will be top 25 in the near future, but for now he’s in the 30s.
37: Jrue Holiday (Prediction: 36)
Jrue was the starting point guard on the team that won the championship. He made multiple clutch defensive plays in big time moments. I would love to put him higher, but it’s hard to ignore his playoff scoring struggles. He had big games when it mattered, but overall in the playoffs he shot just 41% from the field and 30% from three. He did step up his playmaking, and averaged 9 assists per game in the playoffs. This might be the highest he’ll be for the rest of his career, but he definitely earned it.
36: Jamal Murray (Prediction: 29)
Jamal had a career scoring year in 2021, which is exactly what we expected. He averaged 21 PPG, and shot 48% from the field and 41% from three. That earns him a spot up here. I just wish he could be a better playmaker or defender, because right now he’s sort of one dimensional. That’s how he can become an All-Star. For now, he falls short of the lofty expectations everybody had for him prior to the year.
35: DeMar DeRozan (Prediction: 39)
DeMar is still one of the most disrespected players in the NBA. How did he not make the All-Star game over Mike Conley? I’ll be mad about that for a while. DeMar is still one of the top mid-range scorers in the NBA, but he’s become a playmaker as well. Advanced numbers hate his defense, but when I watch him play he’s not as bad as the numbers suggest. DeMar is still an All-Star player, and I’m tired of people saying he isn’t.
34: De’Aaron Fox (Prediction: 43)
De’Aaron Fox has become one of my favorite players who isn’t on the Bucks or the Spurs. He’s one of the fastest players in the league, and he uses that speed to get to the basket whenever he wants. He showed a strong mid-range game last season, and a consistent three point shot is next. De’Aaron played at an All-Star level in 2021, and the moment the Kings are a competent team he’ll officially become one.
33: Brandon Ingram (Prediction: 24)
Brandon Ingram is an elite scorer. People forgot about him this year, but he’s just as good as he was in his All-Star season. Just like DeMar and De’Aaron, BI is a victim of playing for an “irrelevant” team. I didn’t forget about him, and he lands just outside the top 30.
32: Nikola Vucevic (Prediction: 40)
Vucevic has cemented himself as a top 5-6 center (until Deandre Ayton comes for his spot). He’s a three level scorer (68% on close shots, 44% on long mid-rangers, 40% on threes). He rebounds a lot (12 RPG in 2021, which was top 5 in the league). He doesn’t block a ton of shots, but he’s still a positive interior defender. Nikola Vucevic does it all.
31: Domantas Sabonis (Prediction: 42)
Sabonis is one of the most unique guys in the league. He has the closest playstyle to Jokic’s in today’s NBA. Domantas is a high post maestro. He was second in the league in passes made, because he’s a good passer (7 APG). He’s also one of the better post scorers in the league. In my prediction article, I said his 2020 All-Star game would be his last. Now, he’s become a perennial guy.
30: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Prediction: 44)
In 2021, Shai showed why he can be one of the best guards in the league one day. In just his third season, he became the clear cut number one option. He excelled in that role. His efficiency was elite. He shot 42% from three, far and away a career high. He was one of the most efficient guards when it comes to scoring at the rim. Shai’s really good, and he’s another one of my favorite non Bucks/Spurs.
29: Rudy Gobert (Prediction: 35)
Love him or hate him, Rudy Gobert is still the best rim protector in the NBA. His 2021 defensive RAPTOR of +7.9 is ridiculously good, and 2.7 BPG was second in the league. I don’t have much else to say about him, but his elite defense puts him in the top 30.
28: Zion Williamson (Prediction: 37)
Zion earns this spot by pure force. He averaged 27 PPG, and basically all those points came from barreling his way into the paint. The fact that he’s only 21 and is already basically unstoppable is very impressive. Zion won’t be outside the top 30 for the next 5+ years.
27: Zach LaVine (Prediction: 30)
Zach LaVine is a bucket. He shot 42% from three, which is elite considering he shot 8 a game and half of those were unassisted. He has the potential to be top 20 next year, when his elite scoring leads to winning. For now, he’s top 30.
26: Bam Adebayo (Prediction: 25)
Bam was once again the most versatile big in 2021. He guards everybody, he makes plays, scores in the paint, and rebounds. I feel like it was a quiet season for Bam (I didn’t see much love or hate for him on social media this year. People were comparing him and Deandre Ayton though, which is disrespectful to Bam), but he was better than his All-Star year. He’ll break into the top 20 very soon.
25: Jaylen Brown (Prediction: 28)
Jaylen Brown made his first All-Star game in 2021, and became a top 25 player. His two-way ability is awesome. He’s a smooth scorer at all three levels, and he guards the opposing team’s best player every night. Just like Bam, Jaylen will be a top 20 guy very soon (maybe even top 15 one day).
24: Julius Randle (Prediction: 109)
What a season for Julius Randle. Best story of the year. He went from a dude who could fill the stat sheet and make no impact on winning basketball and a boneheaded ball-stopper to the best player on the 4 seed. He made the All-NBA second team. That’s wild, and I never would have guessed that before the season. Literally never. The improvement Julius made is amazing. He became a shooter, a playmaker, and a defender in one season. Julius clearly put in the work to get better, and it paid off.
23: Russell Westbrook (Prediction: 20)
Russ had a historic season. He had 38 triple doubles, and passed Oscar Robertson to become the all time leader in that category. He averaged 22 PPG, 12 APG (well, 11.7, but I round up. He was the league leader in APG), and 11 RPG. Unfortunately, his numbers just didn’t result in much winning. The Wizards roster wasn’t great, but it wasn’t all his teammates’ fault. In the playoffs, he shot a woeful 33% from the field and 25% from three. He’s a floor raiser, but not a ceiling raiser. Russ’s ability to fill the stat sheet gives him a spot in the top 25, but I can’t put him any higher.
22: Khris Middleton (Prediction: 27)
Kash Money Middleton shut up the haters in 2021. There were countless times where I saw people on social media saying Khris couldn’t be the number two guy on a championship roster. Those takes aged horribly. Khris is a top 5 clutch guy in the NBA (the only guys I’m taking over him clutch performance wise are KD, Dame, and Luka). He always steps up when needed. Khris Middleton is really that dude, and I’m gassed to call him a top 25 player.
21: Trae Young (Prediction: 23)
Trae became the villain of the 2021 season during the playoffs. He’s the most hated man in NYC, and he loves it. I don’t hate him, but I don’t like him either. I won’t ever look at him the same after the way he flopped in the Hawks vs Bucks series. That doesn’t take away from how good he is. Trae is going to be a top point guard for years to come.
20: Karl-Anthony Towns (Prediction: 19)
KAT is still a top 3 center in the league, and people act like he isn’t. He’s the best shooter the center position has ever had. It seems like he wants to stay in Minnesota, but they need to win something soon because KAT deserves it.
19: Bradley Beal (Prediction: 16)
Bradley Beal lost his spot as a top 3 shooting guard, and probably won’t get it back for the foreseeable future. It’s not because he got worse, because he didn’t. He’s still an elite scorer, and 31 PPG proves that. Some other guys got better, and that’s why Beal falls to the bottom of the top 20.
18: Devin Booker (Prediction: 18)
D-Book had an excellent season. With Chris Paul on the team, Book could focus on scoring. He is (I feel like I might be using this word a little much, but every time I use it it’s justified) an elite scorer (even if his scoring is inflated by all the flopping he does). His mid range game is up there with the best, and he’s a three point threat as well (he shot just 34%, but he’s obviously better than the percentage suggests). Booker established himself as a top 20 guy, and could legitimately be top 10 in the near future. (P.S: I will NEVER forget when Book clearly picked up his 6th foul and they didn’t call it. That was an atrocity.)
17: Donovan Mitchell (Prediction: 17)
That’s right, I still think Donovan Mitchell is better than Booker. I believe that Donovan could have led that Suns team to the Finals just like Book did. He’s been a winner his whole NBA career, leading his team to the playoffs since his rookie season. Donovan vs Booker will be a fun discussion for seasons to come.
16: Kyrie Irving (Prediction: 15)
Kyrie just had the best season of his career. He averaged 27 PPG and 6 APG, and joined the exclusive 50/40/90 club. He is one of the flashiest/most exciting guys to watch. That’s why I think people overrate him sometimes. Kyrie isn’t the second best point guard, or even the third or fourth (as in he’s not better than Dame, Luka, or CP3), because he’s a sidekick. He’s an excellent player, but he’s not going to be your number one guy. That’s why he lands just outside the top 15.
15: Jimmy Butler (Prediction: 10)
Jimmy is one of the best leaders in the NBA. He’s built to be your franchise guy. He’s an extremely hard worker, he’s very unselfish, and he helps everybody around him get better. He’s a lockdown defender, great passer, and can score (21 PPG, 7 RPG, 7 APG, and 2 SPG is an elite statline). Jimmy’s game is full of grit and hustle, and I love that. That’s why he’s still in the top 15 after his atrocious playoff performance vs the Bucks.
14: Chris Paul (Prediction: 22)
CP3 is a franchise altering point guard. If he’s on your team, you’re making the playoffs. We saw that in 2020 when he was with the Thunder. In 2021, we saw him lead the young and hungry Suns all the way to the Finals. He’s another one of the top leaders in the league. Even at age 36, his passing, scoring, and defensive abilities are still on point (In my opinion, he’s the second best mid range scorer behind KD). Chris Paul is a textbook point guard, and he’s a top 15 player in the league.
13: Anthony Davis (Prediction: 4)
Injuries derailed what I thought would be a huge season for AD. Even when he played, you could tell the injuries affected him. He averaged just 22 PPG, 8 RPG, 1 SPG, and 1.6 BPG (Those are All-Star stats, but it’s a down year for AD). He was still a top 3 defender in the league. Overall, AD was still impactful enough when he was healthy to get a spot in the top 15 (he was the hardest player to rank overall).
12: Paul George (Prediction: 14)
Playoff P stepped up big in the 2021 playoffs. When Kawhi got injured, Paul kept the Clippers going all the way to the WCF. He got clutch buckets and played good defense every game. Overall, it was a helluva season for PG13, and I think he deserves everybody’s respect again.
11: Jayson Tatum (Prediction: 11)
Putting Tatum over PG13 was a tough decision to make, but it’s the right one. I think Tatum became a superstar in 2021, and his playoff performance backs that up. He dropped 50 in a playoff game, and averaged 31 PPG overall. He averaged 26 PPG in the regular season, and had a 60 piece. Jayson Tatum is really that guy, and he could be top 5 in the next three seasons.
10: Joel Embiid (Prediction: 13)
Joel Embiid had an MVP level season. That’s why he’s top 10. He’s a force on offense and defense. You know that I don’t like him very much, so I don’t have much else to say. Embiid is a top big in the league.
9: Nikola Jokic (Prediction: 12)
What? The MVP at 9? That’s too low! No, it’s not. MVP doesn’t mean best player. That doesn’t mean Jokic didn’t have an elite season. He is the best center in the NBA, and probably the best passer as well. He averaged a career high in PPG (26) and APG (8) in 2021. He was an easy choice for the top 10.
8: Damian Lillard (Prediction: 9)
2021 was another elite year for Dame. Everybody knows what he does by now, so I’ll keep this short. In the playoffs, Dame had a game where he dropped 55 points by making 12 threes. He also had 10 assists that game. That’s the player Dame is.
7: Luka Doncic (Prediction: 7)
It took a solid amount of thinking to decide Luka is better than Dame, but I made the right choice. Luka is the best young player in the league. He’s a top passer and scorer in the league, and he’s just 22 years old. It’s likely that he’ll be top 3 in the next 3 years, but he lands at 7 for now.
6: James Harden (Prediction: 8)
After years of being ball dominant, Harden joined a team where he needed to share the ball. People questioned the fit, but it worked almost seamlessly. He proved that he’s an excellent passer, as he averaged 11 APG. The only thing keeping Harden out of the top 5 is his performance against the Bucks in the playoffs. He averaged just 11 PPG on a disgusting 31% from the field and 19% from three. I know he was injured, but because he chose to play, it’s not an excuse.
5: Kawhi Leonard (Prediction: 3)
Kawhi played exactly like I thought he would in 2021. He falls short of the top 3 because other guys overperformed by prediction, not because he underperformed. The Klaw was still a basketball robot in 2021.
4: LeBron James (Prediction: 1)
LeBron didn’t regress in 2021. When he played, he played like the best player in the world. He was just overall outperformed by the three guys above him. The top 4 is a lot of fun, because all 4 have a very strong case for being the best player in the league.
3: Stephen Curry (Prediction: 6)
Steph had an MVP level year. He did everything he could to drag the Warriors to the playoffs, but they fell short. He led the league in scoring while facing double and even triple teams every night. The best shooter to ever touch a basketball was the third best player in 2021.
2: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Prediction: 5)
I really wanted to put Giannis at 1. He’s everything I would want in my franchise player. He’s a dominant force on the court, his work ethic is second to none, he’s a great teammate and person, he’s loyal to his team, and so much more. Giannis led the Bucks to a championship. I feel like he should be the face of the league, but too many people give him unnecessary hate. Everybody’s just salty he didn’t join their favorite team (Heat, Warriors, etc.) to form a super team. Giannis stayed loyal and won a championship the hard way. I really hate that I had to put him at 2, but he’ll be number one in the near future.
1: Kevin Durant (Prediction: 2)
Kevin Durant is unguardable. Same goes for Giannis and Steph, but KD takes it to another level. He’s the greatest scorer of all time. I think this is the first time he’s been the best player in the world, so congrats to him.
So, that’s my top 100 list. I hope you enjoyed it, because it took me ages to write. Did you agree with my list? If not, let me know on Twitter what you would change.
I’ve got my 2022 prediction top 100 on the way, so look forward to that. I’ve got some other stuff that will come out before that.
Thanks for reading, and see you next time!