NBArank 2022: A big surprise is hidden in our top 10

Our NBARank is back for its twelfth consecutive season valuing the best players in the league.

Where are the MVP candidates like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncić, Joel Embid Y Nikola Jockic? What about the rookies and young stars ready to make the leap to reach the top tier of NBA players?

And where is Lebron Jameswhich is about to play its twentieth season?

To get our final NBARank predictions, we asked our panel of experts to vote for their favorite pairings: LeBron vs. Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry vs. Ja MorantLuke vs. Jayson Tatum…and the list goes on.

We ask: “Which player will be better in the 2022-23 season?” Voters made their predictions regarding the expectations they have for each player during the season.

We already revealed player numbers 100-26 and 25-11. Today, our ranking continues with players numbers 25-11.

Note: ESPN’s NBArank panel, made up of more than 200 journalists, editors, producers and commentators, was tasked with rating players based on their predictions of the contributions (both quality and quantity) they would make only during the 2022-23 season.

Who is the key player coming back from injury for

phoenix suns | SG

2021 NBArank: #15

Just 25 years old and already a three-time All-Star and coming off an All-NBA selection, Booker and his silky-smooth offensive game should contend for the status of best shooting guard in the league for years to come.

Why did it go up 5 positions?

Booker’s breakout year — including a run in the NBA Finals, followed by an Olympic gold medal and leading Phoenix to a league-best 64 regular-season wins — ended in a precipitous decline. The Suns were unceremoniously eliminated from the second round of the playoffs, with Booker pitching a combined 9-31 in Games 6 and 7 against Dallas.

But Booker’s 26.8 points per game last season ranked him as high as 12th in the league, further cementing his reputation as one of the game’s deadliest scorers. However, he will take the next step by harnessing those scoring skills at crucial moments. Last season, in the first nine minutes of the quarters, Booker shot 48.5% overall and 42.1% from 3-point range. In the last three minutes of the quarters? He shot 41.8% from the field and 31.8% from deep.

A big question mark for 2022-23

The Suns have won a whopping 74.6% of their regular-season games over the past two seasons, but they are defined by their failures as much as their successes. Booker’s rise to All-Star status has been largely absent from the weight of expectations. He will have to win big in the playoffs to advance his place in the game.

The question is, in today’s NBA, where the top tier of stardom is reserved for players who dominate at both ends, what room for growth is left for Booker? Offensively, he relies on subtlety, angles and footwork to do damage. Defensively, he is certainly known as a strong player who can operate within team schemes. Can he get more forceful with his saves and his scoring to continue climbing the list of the best in the game?

— Dave McMenamin

Who is the key player coming back from injury for

memphis grizzlies | GP

2021 NBArank: #31

Morant might be the most entertaining player in the NBA, a high-flying acrobat with a poise and confidence that borders on arrogance. He has made the Grizzlies a must-see team on television.

Why did it rise 22 positions

Morant made the massive leap last season from up-and-coming franchise cornerstone to bonafide superstar. His scoring average soared more than eight points per game to 27.1, elevating Morant to the top echelon of the offensive weapons and earning him his first trip to the All-Star Game and the Most Improved Player award.

He is a pure point guard who is a dominant inside scorer despite his 6’3” (1.91m) height, as Morant has an impressive combination of explosiveness, subtlety and fearlessness. He averaged 16.6 points in the paint last season, becoming the only point guard to lead the league in that category over the past 25 seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

A big question mark for 2022-23

How much better can Morant get? The 23-year-old has room for drastic improvement on the defensive end, where his skinny frame makes him a target and he has a tendency to lose focus.

Offensively, he’s already a nightmare for opponents, but imagine how difficult it would be to defend Morant if his 3-point shooting (34.4% last season) continues to improve. If Morant can make point guards constantly pay to go under a screen, he could be impossible to contain.

–Tim MacMahon

Who is the key player coming back from injury for

Brooklyn Nets | SF

2021 NBArank: #1

No player fueled the NBA’s summer conversation more than Durant, after requesting, and then withdrawing, a trade request to leave Brooklyn. How he fits back into the Nets’ culture after requesting the firing of coach Steve Nash and general manager Sean Marks is one of the most intriguing questions in the league.

Why did it fall 7 positions

When Durant plays, he’s one of the best players on the planet. The former MVP’s problem is that he has not been able to stay on the court.

A knee injury cost him nearly two months of games, and for the second year in a row, he was forced to miss a large portion of the season. Durant has played in 90 of a possible 152 regular-season games the past two seasons. Durant, who will be 34 when the season begins, has to prove he can stay healthy for the Nets to return to the East’s elite.

A big question mark for 2022-23

Aside from health, the big question for the Nets is whether Durant will remain committed to the team. After a season filled with emotional ups and downs for the organization, Durant’s trade request and the uncertainty surrounding Kyrie Irving Y Ben Simmons make the Nets one of the most fascinating stories in the NBA. But what happens if times get tough? Will old frustrations surface?

— Nick Friedell

Who is the key player coming back from injury for

boston celtics | SF

2021 NBArank: #14

After making his first All-NBA appearance, winning Eastern Conference Finals MVP, making his first trip to the NBA Finals and playing for a team projected to contend for the best record in the league, Tatum is poised to take another leap entering its sixth season.

Why did it go up seven positions

After Tatum did not make any of the three All-NBA teams in 2020-21 as the Celtics finished seventh in the East, the forward was a creditable first-team member last season after leading Boston’s dramatic turnaround from be under .500 at the end of January to finish second in the East and advance to the Finals for the first time since 2010.

Along the way, Tatum set a career-high 26.9 points per game, continued to increase his rate of 3-point attempts and remains one of the best two-way forwards in the league.

A big question mark for 2022-23

Tatum made some strides as a passer last season, something coach Ime Udoka has emphasized since he arrived last summer, but continuing to improve that part of his game is what will allow him to move from being a player in the back half of the top 10 to one that competes for the first position of this list.

Although his assist total was essentially unchanged from year to year in the regular season, the number shot up during the playoffs, including averaging seven per game during the Finals. He will also look to bounce back from a disappointing performance in their series against the Golden State Warriors, where he shot 30.8% from 2-point range in six games.

–Tim Bontemps

Who is the key player coming back from injury for

Los Angeles Lakers | SF

2021 NBArank: #3

It’s James’ 20th season, and the stakes are high for the all-time great. You need 1,323 points to outshine Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, but the success of the Lakers team — or lack of success — will largely determine how the moment resonates.

Why did it fall three positions

For the second time in four seasons as a Laker, James missed the playoffs, after only missing the postseason twice in his first 15 years in the league. James’ average of 30.3 points per game was unprecedented for a 19-year veteran, but the 26 games he missed due to various injuries and a roster that didn’t fit around him made it one of the most disappointing seasons in NBA history. the franchise.

James has already redefined the notion of how long a player’s prime can last, so it would be foolish to write it off too soon, but it’s impossible to ignore that the Lakers had a net rating. negative with James on the court last season, which is why it’s enough to knock him out of the top five in the standings regardless of his impressive offensive output.

A big question mark for 2022-23

In the midst of scoring 42 points during a cameo at Los Angeles’ famed Drew League in July, James told ESPN, “I’m 100 percent healthy.” That’s a solid starting point for James to get things back on track.

The question is, can James have the good fortune to stay healthy at the same time as Anthony Davis, giving the Lakers a chance to replicate the success that led to a title in 2020? If James and Anthony can play most of Los Angeles’ games, the Lakers will have a viable path back to the postseason, even with the challenges of working on Russell Westbrook and be mentored by a new coach, Darvin Ham..


Who is the key player coming back from injury for

NBArank 2022: Nos. 100-26 | Nos. 25-11 | Nos. 10-6 | Nos. 5-1 (Saturday).

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NBArank 2022: A big surprise is hidden in our top 10