New year, new NBA best player, right? Maybe …
The mythical belt for “best player in the world” is not something one holds consecutively like a ranking in tennis. The person who starts the year as the best, may very well end as the best, but it’s likely another few players wrested the title away during the course of a full season.
There will be a ton of young players that have spectacular seasons, but cracking the top five in this game is tough.
By the end of 2022, who will we be saying are the NBA’s best? TSL is looking into its crystal ball and we see many familiar names.
No. 5. LeBron James
At the end of 2022 he will be 38 years old and in his 20th season. Is 2022 finally the year we bet against LeBron?
As each year passes he plays less games as the injuries mount. But when he does play, he is excellent. It’s just harder to sustain the excellence.
You know we aren’t big on counting stats, but this season LeBron is averaging 28 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists per game. Those are essentially his career averages.
That’s ridiculous this late into his career.
He’s third in the league in estimated plus minus at +7.2. His 59.1 eFG% and 66.2 TS% are career highs.
When it’s all said and done he will be one of the five best players at the end of 2022, barring injury.
No. 4. Steph Curry
The NBA’s all-time three point king is like a fine wine. He too is getting better, if that’s possible, with age.
From 2015-2019 Curry and his Golden State Warriors advanced to five consecutive NBA Finals, winning three titles. That’s a lot of basketball.
One of the reasons dynasties fade is fatigue. The wear and tear physically and emotionally playing basketball late into June year after year takes its toll.
In 2020 and 2021 the Warriors failed to make the playoffs. Curry was injured in 2020 with a broken wrist and barely played that season. Those two years off afforded him a ton of rest after those Finals runs.
He’s come into this season with more muscle and playing like he did as a two-time MVP. His shooting ability, conditioning and added muscle means he will have an extended prime.
Curry is second in the league in EPM at +8.4 and hasn’t shot well, by his standards, from three yet this season. He’s second in the league in scoring and leading the team with the best record.
No. 3. Kevin Durant
A walking bucket. A hooper’s hooper. Best player in the world. These are all terms his peers and fans use when describing KD.
Coming off the devastating Achilles injury in 2019 and missing the entire following season, nobody knew what to expect. He silenced all doubters and reclaimed his spot among the game’s elite players.
At 7 feet with handles like a guard and unlimited shooting range, KD’s offensive game is built to handle the aging process. Defensively, he’s having one of his best seasons ever in this, his 14th season.
KD leads the league in scoring, is sixth in EPM at +5.6 and has led the Nets to the best record in the Eastern Conference. Along with Curry and Nikola Jokic, he’s an MVP candidate.
No. 2. Giannis Antetokounmpo
The reigning Finals MVP has something the previous three players don’t. Youth.
Giannis is 27 years old and now entering his prime. A frightening thought for the rest of the NBA. He’s averaging 27 points, 11 rebounds, and six assists per game this season, and he’s kind of on neutral.
He can get to the rim at will, and despite a shaky jumpshot he’s still able to dominate on that end of the floor. On defense he is a rim protecting, switching terror that wreaks havoc on opposing offenses.
He is ranked fourth in the NBA in EPM at +7.1.
#1. Nikola Jokic
The reigning league MVP is 26 years old and might be having a better season this year than he did during last year’s MVP campaign.
The Serbian big man doesn’t “look the part” of an NBA superstar, but all you need to do is watch him play for a couple minutes and you see it. He is a sublime passer and is essentially a point center. The Nuggets’ offense runs through him, but he is also it’s initiator.
His Nuggets team has been ravaged by injuries and they’re still above .500. That’s because of Jokic. He averages 26 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists per game. He leads the league in EPM at +9.4.
His skill level is among the best who have ever played this game and he is the best big in the game.
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