We can now look at the yearly player rankings with the NBA Finals and the draft behind us. Looking at the top players in the league, there are tiers to greatness, and here is how every player is ranked. From LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Kevin Durant, who are the top players alive, to Damian Lillard, who needs a star or two to win a ring. At the same time, the league has a lot of people that are star players but only has a few who can be considered a superstar. Each tier has a different category that the player fit into and a brief description of why they belong in that category.
Starting from the bottom tier, we have young players just entering the league. We also have the players who can’t win anything without supporting another huge star. While the players need help, they are good enough to keep the franchise afloat until the team can get another weapon. However, most teams would give up a lot of assets to acquire one of these players. Furthermore, some players here are hanging on by a thread and could fall out if they have a terrible season.
Check out some more of our NBA coverage
Tier 8: The Ancillary Pieces to a Championship
- Zion Williamson
- Darius Garland
- LaMelo Ball
- Evan Mobley
- Klay Thompson
- Draymond Green
- Fred VanVleet
- Deandre Ayton
- Jrue Holiday
Coming in at the bottom tier, we have the largest selection of players. Holiday and Thompson are the two players who could fall off the list if they don’t have a great season next year. However, Ball, Mobley, and Garland could jump up a tier if they have a great season. At the same time, VanVleet and Williams are most likely stuck on this tier until further notice. Williams needs to put together an entire season, if not two, to move up. At the same time, Thompson could be a better player next year as he gets even more comfortable with his legs under him.
The big wonder from this tier is Ayton. While he has put up big stats during the regular season, it always seems like empty stats. Not to mention how during the playoffs, he always shrinks and comes up small. For the last two years, we have seen Ayton get cooked in the playoffs by Giannis Antetokounmpo, and then this past year struggled to assert his dominance. However, Williams is also a huge question mark going into next season. But, when he steps on the court, he looks great. In contrast, he has spent more time in street clothes on the bench than lacing up his shoes. At the same time, Holiday is the odd man out. On the one hand, he is over his prime, and on the other, he is the third piece on a championship team.
Tier 7: Good Players who put up stats
- Zach LaVine
- Jaylen Brown
- Andrew Wiggins
- Jamal Murray
- Karl-Anthony Towns
- Domantas Sabonis
- Dejounte Murray
- Rudy Gobert
While the players on this list are all fan favorites, who can throw up great stats, they can’t win. However, in this tier, we start to see players who can still dominate a game when needed. At the same time, we can see that players in this tier are just All-Star players and nothing more. The players here are just starting to be able to be the single costar or a costar on a playoff team. Gobert, Sabonis, and Wiggins are the three players who won’t ever be the second-best player on a championship team. However, Towns, Brown, and Murray could be that second piece to a team looking for a championship. The one exception is LaVine, who flirts with the line every week.
Towns is another player who flirts with the line between second and third options. While he has the skill to dominate, he often isn’t and leaves much to be desired on the court. Sabonis is hard to grade. On the one hand, he is very good at throwing up stats. On the other hand, he plays on terrible teams. However, some believe he can be good on a playoff team. He just hasn’t gotten the chance to show it. Murray is in the same category as Sabonis and Wiggins. He can be the one piece missing from a championship team. They are missing a point guard for a team like the Boston Celtics, scoring in Brown and Jayson Tatum and a tremendous supporting cast around them. A dynasty could be made if a team can find someone like Murray from the San Antonio Spurs.
Tier 6: The Second Star that Does Need Other Help
DeRozan, Middleton, and George are players who are most likely stuck in this category unless they put on a show next season. However, Derozen and Middleton are the clear choices over George if a trade came available for all three. At the same time, many of George’s struggles in the team role stemmed from Kawhi Leonard being out for so long. Edwards could be the odd man out here and is the most likely to jump a tier if he continues to have great seasons. While controversial, young is the most likely to drop a tier if another season is marred in disappointment. However, he will likely stay in this tier with a good season.
In contrast, Edwards is in a prime position to be jumping over the competition and be put in the next tier. Coming off a dominant season where he shined in the postseason, he could be one of the next future stars of the league. Edwards most likely will be jumped into another tier come next season. He will be moved unless he doesn’t have a good season next year. At the same time, he can’t rest on his morals and will have to repeat his success this year.
Tier 5: The Solo Second Star
In tier five, we have the second-largest selection of players aside from tier eight. However, with the amount of all-star talent in the league, it’s only fitting. Furthermore, with most of these players being the solo or first options of a team, they only need a little help to win a championship. At the same time, Paul is so close to being retired that he could see himself falling out of the tier if a regression happens. In contrast, Morant and Ingram are both the candidates to move up. In Morant’s case, he is already on the verge of being a superstar and could leapfrog many players. While with Ingram, he needs to do something in the playoffs.
The player that needs a shakeup is Lillard. On the one hand, he is a certified bucket getter. However, he hasn’t done anything in the playoffs. However, much of that can be attributed to the horrible front office the Portland Trail Blazers have. Booker, Beal, and Mitchell are all players who are free-flowing players in this tier. While the higher the tier a player is, the easier it is to get knocked off. With that being said, Booker is the most secure player. Mitchell and Beal are the most likely to be moved down a peg if this season doesn’t go according to plan. Beal has a better chance to stay on this tier based on his track record in the league. Furthermore, Mitchell is hanging on by the thread and most likely will be knocked off by another player next season.
Tier 4: The Entry Level Super Stars
Davis is the one confusing player in this tier. While when healthy and locked in, he is a top 5 player in the league. However, he often plays down his competition. Davis is often hurt and needs to keep his energy high when healthy. The issue is when grading him and what to do with all that information. For now, Davis is staying in this tier, but one more season where he isn’t living up to his potential, and he will drop. At the same time, Davis is one of the most skilled players in the league, and for now, that is holding him in this tier. However, if Davis gives us another poor season, he won’t be in this tier for long.
While most people will argue about Butler being in this tier, he is worthy. In the regular season, he won’t be putting up killer numbers. However, he does dominate in the playoffs when it matters. He is a killer when it matters with suffocating defense and numerous 40-point games during the playoffs. Under the bright lights of the playoffs, he shines, which is why he belongs in this tier. Leonard and Tatum are opposites of each other. While their games are similar, their career paths are not. He could be pushed out the door with the injury history and lack of playoff production since leaving Toronto. Leonard hasn’t played basketball in a year and a half, and he is hanging on by a thread in this tier.
On the other hand, Tatum is a player that deserves to be on this tier. Coming off a trip to the NBA Finals, Tatum is a certified superstar. Although he had a disappointing finals, he did make it there. However, he was the main force behind the Boston Celtics getting to the finals. Furthermore, he is only 25 years old and has a lot of room to grow and develop to get better.
Tier 3: The Superstars of the League
We now get to the cream of the crop, the best of the best in the league, and it starts in tier three. The tier is already loaded with back-to-back MVP winner Jokić and young stud Donćić. At the same time, Embiid has an argument for the best center in the league or the second best. However, the headliner is James. While being the best player in the company for the last decade-plus, he hasn’t been the same level of player the previous two years, which bumps him down a notch. Although James is still one of the league’s top players, there are certainly better players now than him. With another year of subpar team success, he could see himself falling.
With all the hype surrounding Donćić, he needs to show out this season. While he already has an impressive regular season and playoff numbers, he has yet to take the next step that people are waiting for. At the same time, pictures have emerged of an in-shape Donćić, meaning he might be taking that next step.
Tier 2: Top One Percent in the League
Starting with Durant, we have a player who just came off getting swept in the first round. For the last decade, Durant has been considered the second-best player in the league. However, he is still in the top one percent of the league. Although he is on the hot seat right now after getting swept, next season is essential. If another season of disappointment happens, we might have to replace Durant with someone from tier three.
Now we get to the reigning finals MVP, Curry. After dominating the playoffs and the finals, Curry gets the nod into tier two. However, Curry is safe for the time being and isn’t in jeopardy of being moved down a peg. At the same time, there isn’t any room for him to leap to the next tier. So while Curry is stuck in tier two, it isn’t a lousy tier to be stuck in.
Tier 1: Best in the League
We now get to the best player in the world. He is the best offensively and defensively and won’t be knocked off his pedestal for a while. At 27 years old, he is at the peak of his powers and will continue to stack rings and accolades. Since the start of the 2017 season, Antetokounmpo has averaged 29 points, 12 rebounds, and 5.6 assists per game. While he is genuinely unstoppable on the court, he is an absolute monster. There is no argument for another player with two MVP awards under his belt and a DPOY.
Check us out on our socials:
Twitter: @PTSTNews and @TalkPrimeTime
Facebook Page: Prime Time Sports Talk
Join our Facebook Group: Prime Time Sports Talk
Follow Michael Schiro on Twitter @michaelschiro4
Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images