NBArank 2022 – Ranking the best players for 2022-23, from 5 to 1

NBArank is back for its 12th season and ranks the best players in the league.

Where are MVP candidates like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic, Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic? What about rookies and young stars ready to make the leap to the big leagues of NBA players?

To come up with the final NBArank prediction, we asked our panel of experts to vote on player pairings: LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry vs. Ja Morant, Luka vs. Jayson Tatum… and the list goes on.

We asked: “Which player will be better in 2022-23?” Voters had to predict what they wanted from each player during the season.

We’ve already revealed players #100-26, #25-11 and a surprise #10-6. Today our leaderboards conclude with the top five Superstars in the league.

Note: ESPN’s NBArank panel, made up of over 200 reporters, editors, producers and analysts, was asked to rank players based on their projected contributions – quality and quantity – for the 2022-23 season only.


Warriors of the Golden State | PG

NBA Rank 2021: 5

If a Finals MVP was the piece of hardware missing from Curry’s argument as one of the all-time greats, that’s settled now as Steph led the Warriors to their fourth title in six years en route to earning the elusive honor. Sources told ESPN that heading into training camp, Curry looks on form and is primed to pick up where he left off.

Why his ranking remained unchanged

Curry is in the same position as at the start of last season. After averaging 25.5 points per game on 43.7% shooting, Curry was by no means a subpar season – he was an early contender for MVP – but an ankle injury kept him off the bottom in the final month of the regular season. In his absence, his teammates stepped up and kept the Warriors afloat to secure the West No. 3. Maybe that’s why – along with the rise of the MVP contenders below – he’s in the same spot on our leaderboard.

A big question for 2022-23

Can Steph and the warriors do it again? Despite the strength of her all-star core and supporting cast, her title hopes rest mostly on Curry’s shoulders. As mentioned above, Curry is said to be ready to start this season as he finished the last one. And despite increasing talk about Curry’s age (he’ll turn 35 before the end of the regular season) and how big his remaining window is, his performance suggests he could continue to play at this level for the foreseeable future.

Why he might end season #1

Based on Curry’s 2021-22 season, there’s no apparent reason to think he couldn’t finish this season as the league’s No. 1 player. Barring an extended absence, Curry should be able to put together a strong, full season that could see him win another championship and potentially more individual hardware.

– Kendra Andrews


Philly 76ers | C

NBA Rank 2021: 7

After two narrow second-place finishes behind Jokic in MVP voting, Embiid is once again a favorite to be recognized as one of the better teams in the league.

Why it went up three points

Embiid was dominant last season, averaging 30.6 points per game to lead the league as top scorer for the first time in his career — the first time a center has won the league since Shaquille O’Neal in 1999-2000 as the top scorer, and the first time a center had scored at least 30 points per game in an entire season since Moses Malone in 1981-82.

Embiid averaged the fewest minutes by a player to win the scoring title, averaging 33.8 per game, beating the 34.2 mark set by Curry in both 2016 and 2021. He is one of the league’s most impressive rim protectors .

A big question for 2022-23

At this point in his career, Embiid’s not necessarily the only question is: Can he get through a postseason healthy?

Up to this point in his career, he’s had a string of bad luck with injuries, including a fractured face and a sprained thumb during the playoff run in Philadelphia that spring. If Embiid is healthy and available, there may not be a more dominant player in the NBA today. After a career-high 68 games last season, Embiid is aiming for both a healthy regular season and the playoffs this time. If he does, the sky’s the limit.

Why he might end season #1

After years of making up for the shortcomings of a flawed roster around him, Embiid marks the first time Embiid has been surrounded by a team focused on optimization his Strengthen. That will only increase Embiid’s chances of winning that elusive MVP award and leading Philadelphia to the deep playoff run that’s missing from his resume.

If those things happen, he could jump to the top of this list.

– Tim Bontemps


Dallas Mavericks | PG

NBA Rank 2021: 4

Having spent his off-season as a main man for the Slovenia national team, Doncic should return to training camp in full form for the first time in several years. When stamina isn’t an issue, Doncic is one of the most dominant forces in the NBA.

Why it went up a point

At 23, Doncic has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that he’s in the premier league of superstars, a enduring All-NBA selection, and an MVP contender. He cemented that status last season when he was the only All-Star on a Dallas team to reach the West Finals.

Despite a calf strain that sidelined him in the first three games of the first round, Doncic led Dallas in points, rebounds and assists 10 times in the playoffs — the most in a single postseason, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

He’s arguably the best offensive weapon in the NBA — a goalscorer who scores goals and assists titles who tears apart defenses with a mix of power, skill and wits. He’s also a ruthless competitor, as evidenced by his unforgettable demolition of the top-seeded Suns in Game 7 as he single-handedly matched Phoenix’s score in the first half.

A big question for 2022-23

How far can Doncic take a team that doesn’t have another All-Star? The Dallas roster took a serious blow when Jalen Brunson, the Mavs’ second-best pick last season, rushed to New York in free agency. Mavs management are confident Brunson’s goal gap can be closed with the return of Tim Hardaway Jr from injury and the arrival of Christian Wood via trade.

But in a league full of star duos, Doncic carries just as much of a burden as anyone. Doncic has led the league in terms of usage rate for the past two seasons, a trend likely to continue into 2022-23.

Why he might end season #1

Doncic has finished fourth, sixth, and fifth in MVP voting for the past three seasons respectively. This could be the season where Doncic climbs to the top of the ballots, especially if he gets off to a strong start and Dallas claims a top-four spot in the competitive West.

The Mavs went 32-12 – a 60-win pace – with Doncic in uniform after he returned from a three-week absence to heal his sprained ankle and work on his conditioning.

– Tim MacMahon


Denver Nuggets | C

NBA Rank 2021: 6

Although Jokic averaged 31.0 points, 13.2 rebounds and 5.8 assists, the Nuggets were no match for Golden State in the first round. But with Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. expected back this season, Denver is hoping to be back in contention, led by its two-time reigning MVP.

Why it went up four points

How did Jokic follow up on an MVP season? He got better. Jokic became just the 13th player in NBA history to win back-to-back MVP honors, and it’s been on a historic campaign. He is the first player to average 25 points, 13 rebounds and 7 assists in a season and the first to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and field goal percentage.

Jokic beat Embiid as MVP by recording the highest single-season PER (32.8) in NBA history. Jokic amassed 19 triple-doubles — the most by a center since Wilt Chamberlain — and led Denver to one more win than last season despite missing Murray and Porter Jr.

A big question for 2022-23

The Nuggets are whole again, but can Jokic and a revamped roster regain the form that helped Denver reach the West Finals in the 2020 bubble? Murray missed all of last season with a cruciate ligament rupture and Porter Jr. has been out since early November with back surgery.

The Nuggets welcome both back but have also undergone some off-season changes, namely the addition of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Bruce Brown and the trade of Monte Morris to the Washington Wizards to provide playing time for rising point guard Bones Hyland in second year off.

Why he might end season #1

If he’s put together a historic season without Murray and Porter Jr., what can he do with them on the pitch? Jokic made 191 appearances in doubles at post-ups last season, the most in the league. With a whole host of contributors around him, Jokic won’t face the same type of defensive attention.

While his score could go down, assists and other categories could increase this season. And if he can score three goals as MVP, Jokic would achieve what only Larry Bird, Chamberlain and Bill Russell have achieved – sounds like a recipe for becoming the No. 1 player in the league.

– Ohm Youngmisuk


Milwaukee Bucks | PF

NBA Rank 2021: 2

As Antetokounmpo heads into the season at the age of 28, his list of accolades already makes him one of the most decorated winners in league history. So the question remains how he will add to this list. Can he win a third NBA MVP? The Bucks are among the favorites to win another NBA championship, but can Antetokounmpo secure another Finals MVP? Expectations are high every season, but Antetokounmpo usually finds a way to exceed them.

Why it went up a point

Antetokounmpo’s sheer consistency and dependable dominance every night only reinforced his claim to being the world’s best player last year. Arguably no player in the league can reach his influence at both ends of the floor.

Antetokounmpo went on to earn his first Finals MVP and was fighting for the scoring title, averaging 29.9 points (third in the NBA) while averaging 11.6 rebounds and 5.8 assists with 1.1 steals and 1.4 blocks distributed per game. Though Milwaukee were without their second-best player, Khris Middleton, during their second-round playoff series against Boston, the Bucks extended the streak to seven games at the will of Antetokounmpo, who averaged 31.7 points, 14.2 in the postseason rebounds and 6.8 assists on .

A big question for 2022-23

What new ability will Antetokounmpo bring to the table? After each off-season, Antetokounmpo shows up with a new ability in his arsenal. Over the years he’s honed his vision as a passer, improved an outside jumper that leaves defense in the dark, and become more unstoppable in attack on the color and off the post. Can Antetokounmpo get any better?

– Yamal Collier


NBA Rank 2022: No. 100-26 | No. 25-11 | No. 10-6 | #5-1 NBArank 2022 – Ranking the best players for 2022-23, from 5 to 1

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