TSL Presents: The Real Top 10 NBA Players

It’s Wednesday so we thought we would make everyone angry with a top 10 NBA players list.

Hoops fans often talk about the best player in the world like it’s a constant. It’s not. The title rotates among a group and can be held for weeks, months, even years.

This list is for the current 2021-22 season and takes into account impact on winning, efficiency, and raw stats. To what degree do we weigh each? It’s all arbitrary. These are the best players in the world, it’s literally splitting hairs.

There are two stats we will reference consistently. Estimated Plus Minus (EPM) and win shares per 48 (WS/48).

EPM is an all-in-one metric that tells us your impact in points on your team per 100 possessions. It takes into account who your teammates are and who your opponents are. An EPM of 0 means a player is a net neutral. Their team doesn’t outscore opponents with said player on the floor, nor are they outscored by their opponents when they are on the floor.

WS/48 is an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player per 48 minutes. The league average is .100.

Let’s get into it!

10. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics

The Celtics forward is averaging 26 points, eight rebounds, and four assists per game with an eFG% of 50 and a TS% of 56. He is 10th in the NBA in EPM at +4.8. His WS/48 is .150.

After a slow start to the season, he and the Celtics have come on like a house on fire. At 24 years old he’s already tied Celtics’ legend Larry Bird for the most 50 point games in franchise history with 5.

#9. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

The Mavericks’ Serbian star guard is averaging 28 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists per game with an eFG% of 51 and TS% of 55.8. He’s ranked 13th in EPM at +4.5. His WS/48 is .149.

He’s ranked ahead of Tatum because he’s a much better playmaker and slightly more efficient. Like the Celtics, the Mavs started the season slow under a new coach but have turned it on since January.

Anybody who calls for LeBron James on a switch and scores has moxie.

#8. Chris Paul, Phoenix Suns

You’re probably thinking to yourself how is he on this list at his age? The Suns have been the best team all season long, and the “Point God” is a big reason why.

His counting stats won’t wow you. He’s averaging 15 points, 4 rebounds, and 10 assists per game, with an eFG% of 53 and TS% of 58. The most efficient on this list so far. He’s ranked sixth in EPM at +5.2. His WS/48 is .212. Both are the best on the list so far.

With Paul on the floor the Suns will almost always get a good-to-great offensive possession, and defensively he’s good at the point of attack, handles his own on switches, and is brilliant at reading the opponent.

7. DeMar DeRozan, Chicago Bulls

This whole list has been tough, but here is where it got really hard. DeRozan is having his best season, averaging 28 points, five rebounds, and five assists per game, with an eFG% of 53 and TS% of 60. He is having a career year in EPM at +3.6. His WS/48 is .176.

DeRozan has been the best fourth quarter scorer all season and has had the Bulls near the top of the East all season long. He has been clutch this season for a team many thought would be in the play-in tournament.

#6. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

25 points, five rebounds, and six assists per year with an eFG% of 55 and TS% of 60 is a down year by his lofty standards. But of the four other players below him he’s still the most efficient in a down year. He’s ranked fourth in EPM at +6.8. His WS/48 is .177.

The Warriors have been the No. 2 team in the NBA almost all season, and have done most of their work in 2022 without their all-everything forward Draymond Green. As a result the team’s offensive and defensive efficiency has suffered.

But no Curry and this a lottery team. His gravity alone makes it so the Warriors can still generate good looks. His teammates just haven’t been as consistent in converting.

#5. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

At some point you run out of superlatives to talk about what LeBron is doing in his 19th season in the league. He’s averaging 29 points, eight rebounds, and six assists per game, with an eFG% of 59 and a TS% of 61. He’s ranked fifth in EPM at +6.3. His WS/48 is .188.

Yes, the Lakers are a disaster. He is doing everything he can physically at this stage of his career to help them, but even his brilliance can’t seem to overcome this ill fitting roster.

At least he still gives you moments like this.

#4. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets 

Like with LeBron, we tend to take for granted what KD is still doing at this point in his career. Unlike LeBron, he’s suffered two major injuries (Jones fracture and ruptured achilles tendon) and is still the game’s best and most efficient bucket-getter.

He’s averaging 29 points, seven rebounds and five assists per game, with an eFG% of 57 and TS% of 63. He’s ranked ninth in EPM at +4.8. His WS/48 is .189.

Brooklyn has the Kyrie Irving, James Harden and now Ben Simmons drama. The one constant is when KD plays he’s excellent and the team wins.

#3. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

In our opinion the top three have been the cream of the crop this season. On any given day you could switch the order of these three and you’d be justified in doing so. They are the three clear-cut MVP candidates as well.

The reigning Finals MVP is averaging 29 points, 11 rebounds, and six assists per game, with an eFG% of 58 and TS% of 63. He’s ranked third in EPM at +7.5. He’s ranked second in WS/48 at .295.

In any other season he might be the clear MVP and DPOY, which would be his third and second, respectively.

#2. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers

“The Process” is averaging 29 points, 11 rebounds, and four assists per game, with an eFG% of 53 and TS% of 61. He’s ranked second in EPM at +8. He’s ranked fourth in WS/48 at .264.

The 76ers are rolling, and now that they’ve acquired James Harden their title chances have increased. But make no mistake, this team will go as far as Embiid’s broad shoulders can carry them.

#1. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets

The reigning league MVP could very well go back-to-back. He has played all season without his second- and third-best players in Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr.

He is averaging 26 points, 14 rebounds, and eight assists per game, with an eFG% of 62 and TS% of 67. That’s absurd. He’s ranked first in EPM at +8.7. He’s also ranked first in WS/48 at .300. The latter is three times league average.

The Nuggets are sixth in the West and only a game and a half behind the Utah Jazz for fourth. That’s all because of the Serbian big man.

He may not “look the part”. But there is no denying what he’s done all season long.

Honorable mention:

Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat

Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz

Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies

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