As we gear up for the 2023-24 NBA season just around the corner, the excitement is palpable. New talents are breaking into our top 27 list, while legends like LeBron James and Stephen Curry continue to defy Father Time. Here’s a look at the cream of the crop:
27. DeMar DeRozan, Chicago Bulls
DeMar DeRozan has been a model of consistency throughout his 14-year NBA career. The six-time All-Star has scored more than 20 points per game for the last ten seasons and has been shooting an impressive 51% since 2019.
Recently, he’s also turned in the best defensive season of his career. DeRozan is like a fine wine, getting better with age.
Early Life and High School Career: DeMar DeRozan was born on August 7, 1989, in Compton, California. He attended Compton High School and was ranked as one of the top college recruits in the nation from the class of 2008. He was a McDonald’s All-American and won the 2008 McDonald’s All-American Slam Dunk Competition.
NBA Career and Achievements: DeRozan was selected ninth overall by the Toronto Raptors in the 2009 NBA draft. He is a six-time NBA All-Star and has been named to the All-NBA Second Team twice. He has played for the Toronto Raptors, San Antonio Spurs, and currently plays for the Chicago Bulls. He has also represented the United States in the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Personal Milestones: DeRozan has had several career-high moments, including scoring 52 points in a game, which is a franchise record for the Toronto Raptors. He has also been named Eastern Conference Player of the Month multiple times.
Family Motivation: One of the reasons he left for the NBA after only one year at USC was to better take care of his mother, who suffers from lupus.
Franchise Leader: DeRozan finished the 2017–18 season as the franchise leader for the Raptors in several categories, including regular-season games played, wins, total minutes, and field goals both attempted and made.
26. Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls
Initially drafted by the Timberwolves as a raw talent, Zach LaVine has blossomed into a well-rounded NBA star. Now 28, he’s been averaging 25.5 points on 48% shooting since the 2019-20 season kicked off.
LaVine has also improved his three-point shooting to a career 38% and has upped his defensive play. Whether he’ll continue to excel in Chicago or elsewhere next season is the big question.
Early Life and Athletic Family: Zach LaVine was born on March 10, 1995, in Renton, Washington. He comes from an athletic family; his father played American football professionally, and his mother was a softball player.
Inspiration from NBA Legends: LaVine developed an interest in basketball at the age of five after watching Michael Jordan in the film “Space Jam.” He later became a fan of Kobe Bryant and modeled his game after these legends.
High School Stardom: LaVine attended Bothell High School and was named the 2013 Associated Press Washington State Player of the Year and Washington Mr. Basketball. He was also a first-team Parade All-American.
NBA Achievements: LaVine was drafted 13th overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2014 NBA draft. He is a two-time NBA All-Star (2021, 2022) and a two-time NBA Slam Dunk Contest champion (2015, 2016). He currently plays for the Chicago Bulls.
Olympic Gold Medalist: LaVine was part of Team USA at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo (postponed to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic). He won a gold medal and was a valuable sixth man for the team, averaging 10.6 points and shooting a team-best 47% from three-point range.
25. Jalen Brunson, New York Knicks
Jalen Brunson, once underestimated as a second-round pick despite leading Villanova to a national championship, has proven the skeptics wrong.
Now 26, Brunson is among the NBA’s elite, averaging 24.0 points and 6.2 assists with a 49% shooting rate in his debut season with the Knicks. His next challenge? Stepping up his defensive game.
Basketball Pedigree: Jalen Brunson was born on August 31, 1996, in New Brunswick, New Jersey. His father, Rick Brunson, played nine seasons in the NBA, providing Jalen with a strong basketball background.
High School Achievements: Brunson attended Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Illinois, where he was named Illinois Mr. Basketball in 2015. He also set the IHSA playoff single-game and the IHSA Class 4A championship game scoring records.
College Success: Brunson played college basketball for Villanova University, where he won two NCAA championships (2016, 2018) and was named the National Player of the Year in 2018. He was also a Consensus first-team All-American in 2018.
NBA Career: Drafted by the Dallas Mavericks in 2018, Brunson played for the team until 2022. He then signed with the New York Knicks. He has shown promise as a point guard and has had several standout performances.
Academic Excellence: In addition to his on-court achievements, Brunson was named a Second-team Academic All-American in 2018, showcasing his commitment to academics as well as athletics.
24. Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat
Bam Adebayo’s standout performance in the NBA Finals has elevated his status among the league’s top players. The dominant center averaged 21.8 points, 12.4 rebounds, and 3.2 assists in Miami’s five-game series loss to Denver.
This is just the latest chapter in Adebayo’s rapid development, as he’s evolved from a rookie averaging just 6.9 points to one of the NBA’s premier centers.
Unique Nickname: Bam Adebayo was born as Edrice Femi Adebayo, but he got his nickname “Bam Bam” from his mother when he was just one year old. While watching “The Flintstones,” he flipped over a coffee table, mimicking the character Bamm-Bamm Rubble.
Multicultural Roots: Adebayo was born in Newark, New Jersey, to a Nigerian Yoruba father and an African-American mother. This diverse background adds a unique flavor to his personality and game.
High School Stardom: He attended Northside High School in North Carolina and was named North Carolina Mr. Basketball in 2016. He was a five-star recruit and one of the best high school prospects of his class.
College and Draft: Adebayo played for the Kentucky Wildcats in college and was selected by the Miami Heat with the 14th overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft. He was named to the Second-team All-SEC and the SEC All-Freshman team during his time at Kentucky.
NBA Achievements: Adebayo is a two-time NBA All-Star and a four-time NBA All-Defensive Second Team honoree. He has been instrumental in the Miami Heat’s success, helping them reach the NBA Finals in 2020 and 2023. He also won a gold medal with the U.S. Olympic team in 2020.
23. Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves
Anthony Edwards’ rise to stardom in his third NBA season is hard to ignore. The former No. 1 overall pick recorded a career-best 53% effective field goal percentage while averaging 24.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 4.4 assists.
His three-point shooting has improved to 37%, and his defensive play has also taken a leap, earning him a hefty new contract from Minnesota this summer.
Nicknamed “Ant-Man”: Anthony Edwards, born on August 5, 2001, in Atlanta, Georgia, is affectionately known as “Ant-Man.” He currently plays for the Minnesota Timberwolves as a shooting guard.
Football to Basketball: Edwards initially played youth football and was one of the best Pop Warner running backs in the country by age 10. However, he switched his focus to basketball because he thought it looked more fun.
High School Star: Edwards finished his high school career at Holy Spirit Preparatory School in Atlanta, where he was a consensus five-star recruit. He was also named SEC Freshman of the Year after his freshman season with the Georgia Bulldogs.
No. 1 Overall Pick: Edwards was selected as the No. 1 overall pick by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2020 NBA draft. He made his NBA debut on December 23, 2020, scoring 15 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists in 25 minutes.
Rookie Achievements: In his rookie year, Edwards finished second in Rookie of the Year voting and was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team.
Record-Breaking Performances: Edwards has had several standout performances, including scoring a career-high 49 points in a game against the San Antonio Spurs in April 2022. He also set a Timberwolves franchise record for the most points scored in a playoff game with 41 points.
First-Time All-Star: In February 2023, Edwards was named an NBA All-Star for the first time in his career as a reserve, replacing injured stars Stephen Curry and Zion Williamson.
Personal Life: Edwards lost his mother and grandmother to cancer within an eight-month span in 2015 when he was in eighth grade. He wears the No. 5 jersey to honor them, as they both died on the fifth day of the month.
Acting Debut: Edwards made his acting debut in the 2022 sports drama film “Hustle,” where his performance was praised by many, including the film’s producer and star, Adam Sandler.
Multi-Sport Talent: During his childhood, Edwards also excelled in baseball and has jokingly expressed that he was very skilled at a variety of sports when he was younger.
22. Paul George, Los Angeles Clippers
Injury woes have restricted Paul George to just 87 games over the last two seasons, causing him to miss the Clippers’ recent playoff campaigns.
Despite being 33, George remains a force when healthy, averaging 23.2 points and shooting 39% from three-point range in his four seasons with the Clippers. His future in Southern California is uncertain, though, as trade rumors continue to swirl.
Draft Pick: Paul George was selected by the Indiana Pacers with the 10th overall pick of the 2010 NBA draft.
Nickname: He is nicknamed “PG-13” and is an eight-time NBA All-Star and a six-time member of the All-NBA Team.
Injury Comeback: George suffered a broken leg in 2014 while competing for a roster spot on the United States national team for the FIBA Basketball World Cup. He missed most of the 2014–15 season but recovered to become an All-Star again in 2016.
Olympic Gold: In 2016, he won an Olympic gold medal with Team USA.
Career Moves: He was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2017 and then to the Los Angeles Clippers in 2019.
High School to NBA: George played high school basketball for Knight High School before playing two seasons of college basketball for the Fresno State Bulldogs.
Family Athletes: He grew up with two older sisters: Teiosha, who played basketball at Pepperdine, and Portala, who played volleyball at CSU-San Bernardino.
Lakers Fan: George idolized Lakers star Kobe Bryant and grew up rooting for the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers.
Late Bloomer: He did not play organized basketball until his freshman year at Knight High School.
Retired Number: On November 10, 2019, George’s number 24 was retired by Fresno State.
21. De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings
As the inaugural NBA Clutch Player of the Year, De’Aaron Fox is a key factor behind Sacramento’s best season in 25 years.
His performance metrics are off the charts, boasting a 21.8 Player Efficiency Rating (PER) and 7.4 win shares. For context, even LeBron James had a 23.9 PER and 5.6 win shares last season, highlighting Fox’s exceptional 2022-23 run.
All-Star Debut: In 2023, De’Aaron Fox was named an NBA All-Star for the first time in his career.
Clutch Player: He was the inaugural recipient of the NBA Clutch Player of the Year Award in 2023.
High School Standout: Fox was a McDonald’s All-American in 2016 and led Cypress Lakes High School to three state playoff appearances.
College Career: He played for the Kentucky Wildcats and was the fifth overall pick by the Sacramento Kings in the 2017 NBA draft.
Triple-Double: Fox notched his first career triple-double with 31 points, 10 rebounds, and 15 assists in a game against the Atlanta Hawks in 2018.
Improvement: He was nominated for the NBA Most Improved Player Award in the 2018–2019 season.
Contract Extension: Fox signed a contract extension with the Kings in November 2020.
Personal Life: He married Recee Caldwell in August 2022, and they had a son named Reign Fox in February 2023.
Anime Fan: Fox is a fan of the Dragon Ball Z anime series and says that Vegeta is his favorite character.
NFT Controversy: In February 2022, Fox faced criticism for shutting down his personal NFT project, leaving more than $1.5 million in unpaid investment.
20. Bradley Beal, Phoenix Suns
After a headline-grabbing trade from Washington, Bradley Beal joins forces with Kevin Durant and Devin Booker in Phoenix, potentially forming the next NBA super team.
While questions about team chemistry remain, Beal’s stats speak for themselves: he’s averaged 27.6 points with a 47% shooting rate since the 2019-20 season began.
Team Switch: Bradley Beal was traded to the Phoenix Suns in 2023 after spending 11 seasons with the Washington Wizards.
High Scorer: He is second on the Wizards’ all-time leading scorer list.
Young Achiever: Beal was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team in 2013 and was a three-time All-Star with the Wizards.
High School Star: During his senior year of high school, Beal averaged 32.5 points per game and was named the 2011 Mr. Show-Me Basketball, recognizing him as the top high school basketball player in Missouri.
College Commitment: Beal committed to the University of Florida and played for the Florida Gators during the 2011–12 season.
Injury Woes: Beal planned to undergo season-ending surgery on his left wrist in February 2022.
Big Contract: He signed a new 5-year, $251 million max contract in July 2022.
Olympic Plans: Beal committed to playing on the 2020 U.S. Olympic team but was ruled out for the Tokyo Olympics after testing positive for COVID-19.
19. Kyrie Irving, Dallas Mavericks
Setting aside his off-court controversies, Kyrie Irving remains an elite NBA talent. After moving to Dallas from Brooklyn, Irving has continued to impress despite some team challenges.
The eight-time All-Star has been putting up 27.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 6.0 assists, and 1.3 steals with a 51% shooting average. His effective field goal percentage of .586 is stellar, earning him a lucrative three-year contract extension this past summer.
Australian Roots: Kyrie Irving was born in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, and holds dual citizenship with Australia and America.
Cultural Heritage: He is a citizen of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, adding another layer to his diverse background.
Rookie of the Year: Irving was named the NBA Rookie of the Year in 2012 after being selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers as the first overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft.
All-Star Accolades: He is an eight-time NBA All-Star and was the NBA All-Star Game MVP in 2014.
NBA Champion: Irving won an NBA championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016, hitting a crucial three-pointer in Game 7.
50-40-90 Club: He joined the prestigious 50–40–90 club in 2021, showcasing his elite shooting efficiency.
Conspiracy Theories: Irving has been known to promote various conspiracy theories, including a flat Earth theory which he later recanted.
Film and Voice Work: He has written, directed, and acted in a number of advertisements as “Uncle Drew,” which became a feature film in 2018. He has also done voice work in shows like “We Bare Bears” and “Family Guy.”
Trade Requests: Irving requested a trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2017 to be the focal point of his own team and was traded to the Boston Celtics. He later played for the Brooklyn Nets and as of 2023, he is with the Dallas Mavericks.
Vice-President of NBPA: In February 2020, he was elected as one of the seven vice presidents of the National Basketball Players Association.
18. Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks
Recently, the subject of trade chatter, Trae Young’s leadership role on the Hawks had been under scrutiny. His disagreements with former coach Nate McMillan contributed to McMillan’s dismissal during the 2022-23 season.
However, tensions have eased, and Atlanta is sticking with their current lineup. Young’s offensive prowess is undeniable; he’s been averaging 27.4 points and 9.7 assists while shooting 36% from beyond the arc since his second season in 2019-20.
Nickname: Known as “Ice Trae,” Trae Young has made a name for himself in the NBA.
Draft Journey: He was initially drafted by the Dallas Mavericks in the 2018 NBA draft but was traded to the Atlanta Hawks.
NCAA Record: Trae Young is the only player to ever lead the NCAA in both points and assists in a single season.
Family Background: His father, Rayford Young, played basketball at Texas Tech and professionally in Europe.
High School Stardom: Averaged 42.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game in his senior year at Norman North High School.
All-Star Appearances: He is a two-time NBA All-Star as of 2022.
Playoff Debut: Scored 32 points, 7 rebounds, and 10 assists in his NBA playoff debut, joining the likes of LeBron James, Chris Paul, and Derrick Rose in achieving such stats in a playoff debut.
Defensive Criticism: Despite his offensive prowess, he has been criticized for his defensive capabilities.
Contract Extension: Signed a five-year max extension with the Hawks worth up to $172 million and possibly $207 million in August 2021.
Career High: Scored a career-high 56 points in a game against the Portland Trail Blazers in January 2022.
Historic Achievement: Became the second player in NBA history to lead the league in total points and assists in a season, joining Tiny Archibald.
17. Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers
Kawhi Leonard’s career has been marred by injuries lately, including missing the entire 2021-22 season due to a torn ACL and sitting out 30 games and the playoffs this past season with a torn meniscus.
Despite these setbacks, when he’s on the floor, he’s one of the best. Leonard has five All-Star nods, five All-NBA team selections, and is a two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year. As he enters his age-32 season, his health remains a concern, but his talent is unquestionable.
Nicknamed “The Klaw”: Kawhi Leonard is often called “The Klaw” or “Claw” due to his exceptional ball-hawking skills and unusually large hands. This nickname has become synonymous with his defensive prowess.
Multi-Team Finals MVP: Kawhi is one of only three players to win the NBA Finals MVP with multiple teams. He won his first with the San Antonio Spurs in 2014 and his second with the Toronto Raptors in 2019.
Defensive Stalwart: Leonard has won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award twice, in 2015 and 2016. He is one of the few players to win both NBA Defensive Player of the Year and NBA Finals MVP, joining legends like Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon.
High School Standout: During his senior year in high school, Kawhi averaged 22.6 points, 13.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and 3 blocks per game. He was named California Mr. Basketball, highlighting his early promise.
Draft Night Trade: Leonard was initially selected by the Indiana Pacers with the 15th overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft but was traded to the San Antonio Spurs on the same night. This trade turned out to be a defining moment in his career.
Jersey Retirement: San Diego State retired Kawhi Leonard’s number 15 jersey, making him the first Aztecs men’s basketball player to receive this honor.
All-Star and All-NBA Teams: Leonard is a multiple-time NBA All-Star and has been named to both the All-NBA First and Second Teams, showcasing his all-around skills.
Homecoming: In 2019, Kawhi signed with his hometown team, the Los Angeles Clippers, after leading the Toronto Raptors to their first NBA championship.
16. Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers
In his debut season with the Cavaliers, Donovan Mitchell elevated his game and the team, marking their best run since the LeBron era. The four-time All-Star averaged a career-best 28.3 points and 4.4 assists, shooting at a 48% rate.
He also shot 39% from beyond the arc, showcasing a well-rounded offensive skill set that made him a fan favorite in his previous stint with Utah.
Nickname “Spida”: Donovan Mitchell is affectionately nicknamed “Spida,” and he currently plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA.
Drafted 13th Overall: He was drafted in the first round of the 2017 NBA draft with the 13th overall pick. Initially selected by the Denver Nuggets, he was traded to the Utah Jazz.
Four-Time NBA All-Star: Mitchell is a four-time NBA All-Star and has been named to the All-NBA Second Team in 2023.
Slam Dunk Champion: In his rookie year with the Utah Jazz, he won the NBA Slam Dunk Contest in 2018.
Baseball Background: Donovan Mitchell’s father is a former Minor League Baseball player, and Mitchell spent his childhood around Major League Baseball locker rooms.
High-Scoring Games: On January 2, 2023, Mitchell scored an NBA season-high, career-high, and Cavaliers-record 71 points, along with eight rebounds and 11 assists, in a game against the Chicago Bulls. This was the highest-scoring game for any NBA player since Kobe Bryant’s 81-point game in 2006.
First All-NBA Team Selection: In the 2022-2023 season, he was named to the All-NBA Second Team for the first time in his career.
15. Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers
Anthony Davis silenced critics who questioned his durability by delivering a phenomenal performance that took the Lakers to the Western Conference Finals.
The eight-time All-Star averaged 22.6 points, a league-leading 14.1 rebounds, and 3.1 blocks while shooting 52% during the playoffs. This could very well secure him a contract extension with the Lakers in the coming months.
NBA Champion: Anthony Davis won the NBA championship in 2020 with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Versatile Player: He plays both the center and power forward positions, showcasing his versatility on the court.
Numerous Awards: Davis has been an 8-time NBA All-Star and has received multiple All-NBA and All-Defensive Team honors.
Unique Achievement: He is the first player in basketball history to win an NCAA title, NBA title, Olympic gold medal, and FIBA World Cup.
Chicago Roots: Born and raised in Chicago, Davis had a rapid growth spurt in high school that propelled him to basketball stardom.
14. Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics
Despite some playoff hiccups, Jaylen Brown has evolved into a premier two-way player. During the 2022-23 season, he had career highs in points (26.6), rebounds (6.9), and assists (3.5), while shooting an impressive 49%.
Brown’s defensive skills have also been on the rise each season, setting him up for a lucrative super-max contract extension with the Celtics this summer.
Chess Enthusiast: Jaylen Brown is not just a basketball player; he’s also a chess enthusiast. His Twitter and Instagram handle, FCHWPO, stands for Faith, Consistency, Hard Work Pays Off, and one of his YouTube videos is titled “Pawn to E4,” referring to a chess move.
Youngest NBPA Vice President: At just 22 years old, Jaylen became the National Basketball Players Association’s youngest elected vice president. He’s spoken on the importance of education and technology at prestigious institutions like Harvard University, MIT, and the University of California, Berkeley.
MIT Media Lab Fellow: Jaylen was named an MIT Media Lab fellow and has collaborated with the university to create the Bridge Program, which mentors Greater Boston youth and high school students of color interested in STEM careers.
Vegetarian and Multilingual: Jaylen is primarily a vegetarian and has diverse interests, including learning Spanish, studying history, meditation, and philosophy. He aims to learn three more languages by the age of 25.
Record-Breaking Contract: In July 2023, Jaylen signed a five-year, $304 million contract extension, surpassing Nikola Jokić’s $276 million extension as the richest deal in NBA history.
Social Advocate: Through his work with MIT and his 7uice Foundation, Jaylen has taken a strong interest in tackling education and income inequality, among other social advocacy initiatives.
Father’s Influence: Jaylen’s father, Marselles Brown, is a professional boxer and the 2016 WBU World Champion. He’s also a member of the Hawaii State Boxing Commission Board.
YouTube Channel: Jaylen has a YouTube channel where he posts documentary-style video series depicting his life during the season and off-season workouts.
First NBA Finals Appearance: In the 2021–22 season, Jaylen helped the Celtics reach the NBA Finals for the first time in his career, and it was the Celtics’ first NBA Finals appearance since 2010.
All-NBA Team Selection: In the 2022–23 season, Jaylen was selected for the All-NBA Second Team, marking another milestone in his already illustrious career.
13. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
When you think of Damian Lillard, two things come to mind: scoring prowess and loyalty. However, his loyalty is currently under scrutiny after requesting a trade.
What’s undeniable is his scoring ability. Lillard had a career-best average of 32.2 points per game, with an effective shooting percentage of .564. He even had games where he scored 71 and 60 points during the 2022-23 season.
Rap Career: Besides his basketball prowess, Damian Lillard is also a rapper. He goes by the stage name Dame D.O.L.L.A. and has released multiple albums that have charted on the Billboard 200.
High School Journey: Lillard attended three different high schools before settling at Oakland High School. He was a two-star prospect and wasn’t heavily recruited out of high school.
Weber State: Lillard played college basketball for Weber State Wildcats and was a third-team All-American in 2012. He chose Weber State partly to escape his violent neighborhood in Oakland.
Rookie of the Year: Lillard was unanimously voted the NBA Rookie of the Year in 2013, joining the likes of Blake Griffin, David Robinson, and Ralph Sampson as unanimous winners.
NBA 75th Anniversary Team: In October 2021, Lillard was honored as one of the league’s greatest players of all time by being named to the NBA 75th Anniversary Team.
Olympic Gold: Lillard won a gold medal with the 2020 U.S. Olympic team in Tokyo.
Three-Point Contest Champion: In 2023, Lillard won the NBA Three-Point Contest, adding another feather to his cap.
12. Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat
Criticizing Jimmy Butler for his Finals performance is missing the bigger picture. The man was instrumental in propelling an 8th-seeded team to the championship series.
He lit up the scoreboard with 56 points against the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round and added another 42 in the decisive Game 5 win over the top seed. Overall, Butler had a standout postseason, averaging 26.9 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and 1.8 steals per game.
Resilient Upbringing: Jimmy Butler’s father abandoned the family when he was an infant, and he was kicked out of the house by his mother at the age of 13. Despite these challenges, he maintains a close relationship with his parents.
Late Bloomer: Butler was not heavily recruited coming out of high school and attended Tyler Junior College before transferring to Marquette University. His performance at Tyler caught the attention of Division I programs.
Defensive Stalwart: Butler has been named to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team five times, showcasing his skills on the defensive end of the court.
Most Improved Player: In 2015, Jimmy Butler was named the NBA’s Most Improved Player, a testament to his hard work and dedication.
Steals Leader: Butler led the league in steals during the 2021 NBA season, further solidifying his reputation as a defensive powerhouse.
Triple-Double Machine: Butler has recorded multiple triple-doubles in his career, including becoming the first player in Miami Heat history to register three consecutive triple-doubles.
Big-Game Performer: Known as “Playoff Jimmy,” Butler has had several standout performances in the playoffs, including scoring a playoff career-high 45 points in a 2023 postseason game.
Contract Extension: In 2021, Butler signed a four-year, $184 million contract extension with the Miami Heat, indicating the team’s long-term commitment to him.
11. Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets
Jamal Murray has made a triumphant comeback from his ACL injury, missing out on the entire 2021-22 season. He was so good he could have easily snagged the NBA Finals MVP title from teammate Nikola Jokic.
In the five-game series victory against the Miami Heat, Murray posted an impressive 21.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 10 assists while shooting at a 45% clip. That’s top-tier performance, no doubt.
Canadian Roots: Jamal Murray was born on February 23, 1997, in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. He represents the Canadian national basketball team.
Nicknamed “Blue Arrow”: Murray has earned the nickname “Blue Arrow,” and he was crucial in leading the Denver Nuggets to their first NBA championship in 2023.
Early Start: At just three years old, Murray could play basketball “for hours,” and by age six, he was already playing in a league for ten-year-olds.
Kung Fu and Basketball: His father put him through various basketball drills and kung fu exercises, including meditation, to improve his skills.
High School Duo: He and fellow prospect Thon Maker formed a formidable duo in high school that helped their team defeat many American schools.
Rising Star: Murray was named MVP of the Rising Stars Challenge in 2017 and made it to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team the same year.
Career-Highs: He scored a career-high 50 points in a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2021, becoming the first player in NBA history to score 50 points without attempting a free throw.
ACL Comeback: After suffering an ACL injury that kept him out for an entire season, Murray returned to the court in October 2022 and has been instrumental in the Nuggets’ success.
Three-Point King: In 2023, Murray became the all-time leader in three-pointers made in Nuggets history.
NBA Finals Heroics: In the 2023 NBA Finals, he averaged 21.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 10.0 assists per game, joining the likes of Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and LeBron James in achieving this feat.
10. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder
Had the Thunder been more competitive last season, SGA could have been in the MVP conversation. Acquired in the headline-grabbing Paul George trade in 2019, he’s evolved into a top-tier player.
Last season, Gilgeous-Alexander averaged an eye-popping 31.4 points while shooting 51%, and he also racked up an impressive 11.4 win shares. To give you some context, that’s better than what Luka Doncic (10.2) and Stephen Curry (7.8) managed. He’s a star on the rise, no doubt about it.
Canadian Roots: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, often known by his initials SGA, was born on July 12, 1998, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He grew up in Hamilton, Ontario.
Athletic Family: His mother, Charmaine Gilgeous, is a former track athlete who competed for Antigua and Barbuda in the 1992 Summer Olympics.
High School Journey: Shai initially didn’t make the St. Thomas More junior team in grade 9 and played on the school’s midget squad. He later transferred to Hamilton Heights Christian Academy in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to improve his basketball skills.
College Career: He played one year of college basketball for the Kentucky Wildcats and was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team and SEC tournament MVP in 2018.
NBA Draft: Shai was selected 11th overall by the Charlotte Hornets in the 2018 NBA draft but was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers the same night.
Rookie Honors: In his rookie year, he was named to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team.
Trade to Thunder: In July 2019, he was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder, where he became their leading scorer in his first year.
All-Star and All-NBA: In 2023, Shai was named to his first NBA All-Star Game and was voted to the All-NBA First Team. He finished the season with a career-high average of 31.4 points per game.
Injury Struggles: Despite dealing with injuries in the next two seasons, he has been a standout player for the Thunder.
Record Breaker: Shai became the youngest guard in NBA history to average 30 points on 50 percent shooting from the field, beating Michael Jordan’s record.
National Team: He has committed to a three-year stint with the Canadian senior men’s national basketball team and led them to a qualifying berth for the 2024 Olympics.
Endorsement: In July 2020, Shai signed an endorsement deal with Converse.
9. Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns
During the 2022-23 season, there were moments when Devin Booker was simply untouchable. He exploded for 58 points in a game against the New Orleans Pelicans and led the league in playoff scoring with an average of 33.7 points on an astonishing 59% shooting.
Despite the Suns bowing out in the conference semis for the second year in a row, Booker and Kevin Durant have formed a dynamic duo. With the recent addition of Bradley Beal, expect Booker to have even more opportunities to shine next season.
Youngest 60-Point Scorer: In 2017, at the age of 20, Devin Booker became the youngest player in NBA history to score over 60 points in a game. He finished that game with 70 points against the Boston Celtics.
Three-Point Champion: Booker won the NBA Three-Point Contest in 2018, showcasing his incredible shooting skills.
Olympic Gold Medalist: Booker was part of the 2020 U.S. Olympic team that won a gold medal in Tokyo.
All-NBA First Team: In the 2022 season, Booker was named to the All-NBA First Team, marking a significant milestone in his career.
Family Influence: Booker is the son of Melvin Booker, who was named the 1994 Big Eight Player of the Year while a point guard at Missouri. This basketball lineage has clearly influenced his career.
8. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
It’s hard to believe LeBron will be 39 this December. He could practically be the dad of some of the league’s rising stars. But age hasn’t slowed down this living legend. Last season, King James put up an average of 28.9 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 6.8 assists.
Sure, he’s lost a step or two on defense, and his long-range shooting isn’t what it used to be, but that’s par for the course at his age. LeBron continues to defy logic and time, playing at an elite level as he approaches his 40s. It’s nothing short of miraculous.
High School Stardom: LeBron James was a basketball sensation even in high school, playing for St. Vincent–St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio. He was heavily touted by the national media as a future NBA superstar.
NBA Draft: LeBron was the first overall pick of the 2003 NBA draft, selected by his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers.
MVP Awards: LeBron has won four NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) Awards, four Finals MVP Awards, and has been named an All-Star 19 times.
Championships: He has won four NBA championships, two with the Miami Heat, one with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and one with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Scoring Record: On February 7, 2023, LeBron surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to become the all-time leading scorer in NBA history.
Off-Court Ventures: LeBron is not just a basketball player; he’s also a businessman and philanthropist. He has been a part-owner of Liverpool F.C. since 2011 and leads the LeBron James Family Foundation, which has opened an elementary school, housing complex, retail plaza, and medical center in Akron.
Billionaire Status: LeBron is the first player in NBA history to accumulate $1 billion in earnings as an active player.
Media Presence: He has been featured in books, documentaries and even starred in the sports film Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021).
7. Kevin Durant, Phoenix Suns
While Father Time is starting to make his presence felt for Durant, his skill set remains top-tier. Since leaving Golden State after the 2018-19 season, the two-time Finals MVP has only played 137 games.
But when he’s on the hardwood, KD is still a scoring machine. He averaged an impressive 29.0 points and 8.7 rebounds during the Suns’ postseason run, despite only playing eight regular-season games following a high-profile trade from Brooklyn.
Team Changes: Kevin Durant has played for several teams in the NBA, including the Seattle SuperSonics, Oklahoma City Thunder, Golden State Warriors, Brooklyn Nets, and as of 2023, the Phoenix Suns.
Awards Galore: Durant is a 2-time NBA champion, 2-time NBA Finals MVP, and was named the NBA Most Valuable Player in 2014. He has also been selected 13 times as an NBA All-Star.
Scoring Machine: Durant has won the NBA scoring title four times and is a member of the exclusive 50-40-90 club, which signifies shooting percentages for field goals, three-pointers, and free throws, respectively.
Olympic Gold: Representing the United States, Durant has won three Olympic gold medals and is the leading scorer in Team USA’s men’s Olympic basketball history.
Off-Court Ventures: Apart from basketball, Durant has ventured into acting with a role in the film “Thunderstruck” and has also contributed to The Players’ Tribune as both a photographer and writer.
Family Background: Durant was raised by his mother and grandmother after his father deserted the family when he was an infant. His father reentered his life when he was 13.
Jersey Number: Durant wears the jersey number 35 in honor of his AAU coach, Charles Craig, who was murdered at the age of 35.
High School to College: Durant was a highly recruited high school prospect and played one season of college basketball for the Texas Longhorns before declaring for the NBA draft.
Financial Moves: Durant is one of the highest-earning basketball players in the world, thanks to endorsement deals with companies like Foot Locker and Nike.
6. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
Even though the Celtics couldn’t make it past the Eastern Conference Finals, Jayson Tatum had a season to remember. The one-time Duke sensation lit up the scoreboard with 51 points in a decisive Game 7 victory against their arch-rivals, the Philadelphia 76ers, during the conference semis.
At just 25, Tatum had an incredible season, averaging 30.1 points and 8.8 boards while shooting at a 47% clip. It’s no surprise that Boston is gearing up to offer him a whopping $318 million contract extension. He’s certainly earned that payday.
Nickname: Jayson Tatum is nicknamed “the Problem” by LeBron James, emphasizing his impact on the court.
Record Holder: He holds the record for most points scored in an NBA All-Star game with 55 points, as well as the most points scored in a Game 7 of any NBA playoffs series with 51 points.
Gold Medalist: Tatum won a gold medal with the 2020 U.S. Olympic team in Tokyo, showcasing his talent on an international stage.
Young Achiever: He was named the NBA Eastern Conference Finals Most Valuable Player in 2022 at a relatively young age, signaling his rising stardom.
High School Stardom: Tatum was a McDonald’s All-American in high school and chose to play college basketball for the Duke Blue Devils, where he continued to shine.
5. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Heading into last season as the NBA’s top player, Curry may have been slightly eclipsed but still had an extraordinary year. The 35-year-old four-time champion scored an average of 29.4 points per game, sinking an incredible 43% of his three-pointers.
His effective field goal percentage stood at .614. As he teams up with 12-time All-Star Chris Paul, we can’t wait to see what magic they’ll conjure on the court.
NBA Records: Stephen Curry holds the NBA record for the most three-pointers made in a single season and in a career. He broke his own record multiple times, setting the bar higher each time.
MVP Awards: Curry is a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player (2015, 2016) and was the first player to be elected MVP by a unanimous vote. He also won the NBA Finals MVP in 2022.
Family Ties: He is the son of former NBA player Dell Curry and the older brother of current NBA player Seth Curry. His family has a strong basketball background, and he often shot with the Hornets during warm-ups as a child when his father was playing.
College Career: Curry played college basketball for the Davidson Wildcats, where he set career scoring records for Davidson and the Southern Conference. He was named conference player of the year twice and set the single-season NCAA record for most three-pointers made during his sophomore year.
Social Justice: Curry won the NBA Social Justice Champion Award in 2023, highlighting his off-court contributions to social causes.
Academic Achievement: Curry completed his bachelor’s degree in sociology in May 2022, making him eligible for jersey or number retirement at Davidson College. His number was retired in a ceremony held on August 31, 2022.
4. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
At just 24, Doncic has had the most impressive first five years of any player in modern NBA history. Averaging 27.6 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 8 assists over his young career, he’s already making his mark.
Last season, he scored 50 or more points four times, including a jaw-dropping 60-point, 21-rebound triple-double against the Knicks. He’s not just a current superstar; he’s on a fast track to becoming one of the all-time greats.
Slovenian Prodigy: Luka Dončić was born on February 28, 1999, in Ljubljana, Slovenia. He is considered one of the greatest European players of all time.
Young Debut: He made his professional debut for Real Madrid at just 16 years old, becoming the youngest in the club’s history.
EuroLeague Star: Before joining the NBA, Dončić led Real Madrid to a EuroLeague title in 2018 and won the EuroLeague MVP and Final Four MVP the same year.
NBA Draft: He was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks in 2018 but was immediately traded to the Dallas Mavericks. He won the NBA Rookie of the Year award for the 2018–2019 season.
Triple-Double Machine: Dončić has a knack for triple-doubles and became the youngest player in NBA history to record three triple-doubles.
Honorary Member: In 2021, the Real Madrid Football Club named Dončić an honorary member, which is the highest distinction award of the club.
3. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
Last season’s MVP, Embiid, was a statistical juggernaut, leading the league with an average of 33.1 points per game. He scored 40 or more points in one-fifth of his games and hit the 30-point mark in 65% of them.
His dominance as a big man is unparalleled since the days of Wilt Chamberlain. Add to that his 3.9 defensive win shares and a .587 effective field goal percentage, and you’ve got a force to be reckoned with.
MVP and Scoring Titles: Joel Embiid was named the NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) in 2023. He also led the NBA in scoring during the 2021–22 and 2022–23 seasons, becoming the first center to do so since Shaquille O’Neal in 2000.
Nickname “The Process”: Embiid has nicknamed himself “the Process” in response to a refrain from 76ers fans during the Sam Hinkie era to “trust the process.”
Multi-Nationality: Born in Yaoundé, Cameroon, Embiid also holds French and American citizenship.
Late Starter: Embiid started playing basketball at age 15, initially planning to play professional volleyball in Europe. He was discovered at a basketball camp by Luc Mbah a Moute, an NBA player and fellow native of Yaoundé.
Injury Delays: Multiple foot and knee injuries delayed Embiid’s NBA debut for two seasons until 2016–17.
Historic Performances: On 13 November 2022, Embiid scored a career-high 59 points along with 11 rebounds, eight assists, and seven blocks in a game against the Utah Jazz. He became the first player in NBA history with 50 points, 10 boards, five assists, and five blocks in a game since blocks became an official stat in the 1973–74 season.
Educational Journey: Embiid attended the University of Kansas for one year and was named one of the 30 finalists for the Naismith College Player of the Year.
Contract Extensions: On 17 August 2021, Embiid signed a four-year, $196 million extension with the 76ers.
Playoff Struggles: Despite his individual brilliance, Embiid has faced several playoff disappointments, including losing to the Toronto Raptors and Miami Heat in crucial series.
COVID-19 Impact: Embiid missed nine games during the 2021–22 season due to testing positive for COVID-19.
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
It’s hard to imagine how the Bucks would have fared in the playoffs without an injury-hampered Giannis. At 28, he’s been the NBA’s most overpowering force for the last six years, averaging 28.8 points, 11.7 rebounds, and 5.6 assists.
His trophy case includes two MVPs, a Finals MVP, five All-Defensive Team nods, and a Defensive Player of the Year award. And he’s just hitting his peak years.
Dual Heritage: Giannis Antetokounmpo, often referred to as the “Greek Freak,” was born in Athens, Greece, to Nigerian parents. He holds dual citizenship—Greek and Nigerian—and embraces both identities.
Street Vendor to NBA Star: Before his basketball career took off, Giannis and his older brother Thanasis helped their parents make ends meet by selling watches, handbags, and sunglasses on the streets of Athens.
Historic Achievements: Giannis is one of the most decorated players in NBA history. He has won two NBA Most Valuable Player Awards, an NBA Finals MVP, and an NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award. He is one of only three players, alongside Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon, to win MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season.
Record-Breaker: In the 2016–17 NBA season, Giannis led the Milwaukee Bucks in all five major statistical categories, becoming the first player in NBA history to finish a regular season in the top 20 in total points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks.
Cinematic Life: A film titled “Rise,” based on Giannis and his family’s life, was released in 2022.
Largest Contract: In December 2020, Giannis re-signed with the Bucks on a 5-year, $228 million extension, making it the largest contract in NBA history.
All-Star MVP: Giannis became the first non-American to win the NBA All-Star Game MVP in 2021, scoring 35 points on a perfect 16-of-16 shooting from the field.
NBA Champion: In 2021, Giannis led the Bucks to their first NBA championship in 50 years, scoring 50 points in Game 6 of the NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns.
1. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
With two NBA MVP titles and the latest Finals MVP trophy on his shelf, Jokic’s elite status is indisputable. Last season, he was just shy of a triple-double average during the Nuggets’ championship run, posting 30 points, 13.5 rebounds, and 9.5 assists per game.
His shooting was equally impressive, hitting 55% from the field and 46% beyond the arc. His win shares even surpassed the combined totals of Curry and LeBron. Mind-blowing, isn’t it?
Draft Steal: Nikola Jokic was selected by the Denver Nuggets in the second round of the 2014 NBA draft, and he’s hailed as one of the biggest draft steals in NBA history.
MVP and Championships: As of 2023, Jokic is a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player (2021, 2022) and has led the Denver Nuggets to their first-ever NBA championship in the 2022–2023 season. He was also awarded the NBA Finals MVP in 2023.
Triple-Double Machine: Jokic ranks among the top 10 on the all-time list of NBA players with the most triple-doubles (regular season and playoffs). He holds the record for the fastest triple-double, achieved in just 14 minutes and 33 seconds.
Serbian Star: He has represented the Serbian national team and won a silver medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics. He’s also a three-time Serbian Player of the Year (2018, 2021, 2022).
Horse Racing Enthusiast: Apart from basketball, Jokic has a passion for horse racing and even competed as an amateur in the sport.
Who is the reigning Finals MVP?
Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets is the reigning Finals MVP. He led the Playoffs in points, rebounds, and assists, which is something that has never been done in NBA history.
Who has the biggest contract in NBA history?
Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics has set a new NBA record for the biggest contract ever after finalizing a supermax extension with the team valued at $304 million.
Who was the defensive player of the year in 2023?
Jaren Jackson Jr. of the Memphis Grizzlies won the Defensive Player of the Year in 2023.
Which player has the most playoff experience?
LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers has the most playoff experience, having played in 16 playoff appearances.
Who is the most improved player in the 2022-2023 season?
In his sixth year as a pro, Lauri Markkanen, who plays for the Utah Jazz, clinched the 2023 Most Improved Player Award.
Despite guiding his team, the Utah Jazz, to unparalleled achievements, they stumbled towards the end and missed out on the NBA Playoffs.
Who is considered the best player going into the 2023-24 NBA season?
Based on recent performances and accolades, Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets is considered the best player going into the 2023-24 NBA season.
Are there any rookies or young talents expected to break into the top rankings?
While the list mainly consists of established stars, Anthony Edwards of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Jalen Brunson of the New York Knicks are young talents who have made it into the top rankings.
How are injuries affecting the rankings of top players?
Injuries have had a significant impact on players like Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, who have missed considerable time but are still considered among the top talents when healthy.
Are there any players who have significantly moved up or down the rankings?
De’Aaron Fox of the Sacramento Kings has seen a significant rise in his ranking due to his exceptional performance in the 2022-23 season.
How do player trades affect the rankings?
Trades can have a significant impact on player rankings. For example, Bradley Beal’s move to the Phoenix Suns has created a potential super team, which could elevate his standing if the team performs well.
The NBA is currently a hotbed of extraordinary talent, featuring a mix of seasoned veterans and rising stars who are redefining the game. Whether it’s the promise of new super teams or the thrill of individual accolades, the 2023/2024 NBA season is shaping up to be one for the history books.
Keep an eye on these 27 players; they’re the ones setting the pace, breaking the records, and, most importantly, keeping fans on the edge of their seats.