Best NBA Players 2021: Ranking the Top 10
Like they do every year, ESPN recently released their “Top 100 Players List Going into the Season.” Just like last year, the staff at CrownHoops decided to make their own list and rank the best NBA players of the 2021 season. The voting process was straightforward and the same as last year. Each member submitted a top-10 list, then the votes were tallied.
If a player was number one on a list, they would get 10 points, second would be worth nine points, and so on with 10th being worth one point. If a player received a vote within the top five, it will be noted on this list. Without further adieu, here is our list of the best NBA players of the 2021 season.
All first, second, or third-place votes were annotated.
Top 10 Best NBA Players 2021
10. Damian Lillard (16 Points)
After Damian Lillard put the Portland Trail Blazers on his back and willed them to a playoff spot last season, it is easy to see why he has a spot on this list. Never mind his impressive Bubble run, Lillard had an impressive season all around. Last season, Dame came away with totals of 30.0 points, 8.0 assists, and 4.3 rebounds per game while shooting a career-high 56.3 effective field goal percentage. Can he and his other star backcourt mate, CJ McCollum, help the Blazers earn a higher seed this season? With their offseason additions and Dame’s everlasting ambition to get better year after year, all the signs seem to point to yes.
9. Nikola Jokic (34 Points)
Nikola Jokic is now widely considered the best center in the league – and for good reason. He was a crucial part in helping the Denver Nuggets make their first Western Conference Finals appearance since the 2019 campaign. Not to mention, he and Jamal Murray were the catalysts for helping Denver become the first team in NBA history to overcome not one, but two 3-1 deficits in the postseason.
It used to be a big debate on whether Jokic was better than Joel Embiid or Karl-Anthony Towns. After last year, though, it seems as if the Joker has snatched that title for himself as he has become a more consistent staple in the playoffs compared to Embiid. Not to mention, the fact that Denver has advanced further so far, with Jokic leading the way than Philadelphia has with Embiid. Last season, Jokic averaged 19.9 points, 7.0 assists, and 9.7 rebounds per game to go along with an effective field goal percentage of 56.5 percent.
8. James Harden (35 Points)
James Harden is a polarizing player right now, to say the least. Despite constant trade rumors swirling around, the former MVP is still one of the best players in the league. You know you are one of the best offensive threats this league has ever seen when a 20 point game is considered a ‘bad’ offensive outing for you.
Despite Houston’s constant shortcomings in the playoffs, Harden still showed out last season with numbers of 34.3 points (good enough for his third-straight scoring title), 7.5 assists, and 6.6 rebounds per game. Not to mention, the Beard also tallied an effective field goal percentage of 54.3 percent, his highest total in this category since the 2011-12 season. Whether he is still in Houston or not by the trade deadline does not determine if the eight-time All-Star is one of the best in the league.
7. Luka Doncic (51 Points, One Third-Place Vote)
Luka Doncic is coming into this season as a heavy MVP favorite with good reason considering the Dallas Mavericks gave the Los Angeles Clippers a run for their money in the first round of the playoffs. If Kristaps Porzingis can stay healthy, this team has the potential to sneak into the top five in the Western Conference with that dynamic one-two punch at the helm. It is not far fetched for Doncic to win either when you look at last year’s totals of 28.8 points, 8.8 assists, 9.4 rebounds, and an effective field goal percentage of 53.1 percent. He nearly averaged a triple-double last season! If Doncic can develop a consistent three-point shot, then the league better make way for its next poster child.
6. Stephen Curry (62 Points, One First-Place Vote)
Stephen Curry is ready for a bounce-back season. After missing most of last season with a broken hand, the spotlight is on the two-time MVP to put the Warriors back on the map. We will once again see a Golden State offense with Curry as the focal point since Klay Thompson is now out for the year.
Remember the last time Curry was the main option for Golden State? He became the only player ever to win the MVP award unanimously in a year that featured him striking it from beyond the arc at a rate of 45.4 percent. Despite missing most of last year, he still showed his value in the small sample of games we got from Curry as he averaged 20.8 points, 6.6 assists, 5.2 rebounds, and an effective field goal percentage of 47.6 percent in the five games he played. It will be interesting to see how far Steph Curry can lead the Warriors this season.
5. Kevin Durant (64 Points, Three Third-Place Votes, One First-Place Vote)
Kevin Durant is one of the hardest players to rank coming into the new year. We know that he will still be KD, but it is hard to determine if he will be the top echelon of superstars or not coming off an Achilles injury. Regardless, the man is still a former MVP, two-time Finals MVP, and two-time champion. We cannot forget he is one of the few players who has no fear, even against the best of the best, (see back to back daggers over LeBron in the two straight years he won Finals MVP). He did not play last season due to his rehab process, but it is safe to say that he and star teammate, Kyrie Irving, will easily make the Brooklyn Nets a contender – not just for the Eastern Conference, but for the entire league.
4. Anthony Davis (71 Points, Two Third-Place Votes, One Second-Place Vote)
Anthony Davis finally got the monkey off his back by earning his first ring last season with the Los Angeles Lakers. He and his star teammate, LeBron James, were the most dominant star duo in the Bubble and it translated into cementing AD’s legacy as a future Hall of Famer. One could even argue he was the most valuable player to the Lakers last season, even more so than LeBron. With numbers of 26.1 points, 3.2 assists, 9.3 rebounds per game, and an effective field goal percentage of 53.6 percent while being in the Defensive Player of the Year race with 2.3 blocks per game, it is easy to see why this argument was made around the NBA landscape. He is a heavy favorite to win the Defensive Player of the Year coming into this season, which could also signal a passing of the torch this coming year.
3. Kawhi Leonard (72 Points, Three Third-Place Votes, Two Second-Place Votes)
Kawhi Leonard was unable to replicate the success that he had in Toronto. However, he still has plenty of opportunities to bring the Clippers out of the basement. Do not let the Clippers’ choke job in the second round fool you, Leonard still had a great season. He still averaged a career-high 27.1 points, a career-high 4.9 assists, and 6.1 rebounds per game to go along with an effective field goal percentage of 52.4 percent. If his co-star, Paul George, can regain some of his MVP candidate form, then Kawhi leading the Clippers to their first title eventually is not completely out of the question.
2. LeBron James (87 Points, One Third-Place Vote, One Second-Place Vote, Five First-Place Votes)
LeBron James is in the MVP conversation year after year. At this point, it is no longer even surprising. James found himself back on top and claiming another Finals MVP for his NBA resume last season in large part due to his new star teammate, Anthony Davis. However, James still had an impressive campaign as he finished second in the MVP voting. He tallied totals of 25.3 points, 10.2 assists (good for his first assists title of his career), 7.8 rebounds, and an effective field goal percentage of 55.0 percent. The Lakers are most likely going to use him as their primary point guard again this season which could translate into a repeat for Los Angeles.
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo (96 Points, One Third-Place Vote, Four Second-Place Votes, Three First-Place Votes)
Coming in first place in the top 10 NBA players of the 2021 season is none other than Giannis Antetokounmpo. He just won his second straight MVP last season while also winning the Defensive Player of the Year. A feat that has only been done a few other times throughout NBA history. With this in mind, it makes sense as to why he would be ranked the best player in the league going into the new season. He is going to remain in Milwaukee for the foreseeable future as he just signed a $228 million supermax extension, the largest deal in NBA history.
Bucks fans can suddenly breathe a sigh of relief. The Greek Freak had a year for the ages last season with averages of 29.5 points, 5.6 assists, 13.6 rebounds, and an effective field goal percentage of 58.9 percent. The expectations going into this year are now bigger than ever with the addition of Jrue Holiday and a new contract to solidify the Milwaukee Bucks as a contender for years to come.
That concludes our top 10 best NBA players of the 2021 season. Let us know your thoughts on Twitter!
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images