The NBA has rarely been in such a great place when it comes to talent.
From a few all-time greats still performing at elite levels to several up-and-coming superstars, the league is stacked with quality from top to bottom.
Any ranking of its top 10 players will inevitably upset at least a couple of fanbases who believe their star belongs on the list.
Even with a winning name that’s as close to consensus as we’ve been in a few years, this is no easy ranking to complete. How much weight should be placed on recent performances compared to full-career accolades?
This list leans toward the former, but allows plenty of room for a player’s track record to shine as well.
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10. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
The newest entry to the NBA’s list of true superstars is SGA, a 24-year-old Canadian guard who has taken the league by storm. He averaged over 30 points per game and finished fifth in MVP voting for the 2022-23 season, then was arguably the best overall player in this summer’s FIBA World Cup. Gilgeous-Alexander operates at a cadence all his own, a whirring blend of limbs and dribble moves that have proven impossible for defences to crack – and capped by elite shooting from all over the floor. He’ll be a mainstay on lists like these for years to come.
9. Jimmy Butler
To look only at Butler’s regular season statistics, one would question his place in any league-wide top 10. But when the play-offs come around, he’s simply a force – the kind of big-game player who consistently elevates the Heat to post-season runs no one ever saw coming. He hits huge shots, defends opposing stars and seems to singlehandedly will his team to victory with shocking frequency. Even if he never wins a title, he’ll go down as one of this generation’s most clutch players.
8. LeBron James
If it seems completely absurd for a near-39-year-old to rank among the NBA’s 10 best players in his 21st season, that’s because it is. James continues to defy Father Time each year, and does it at a crazy high level: Still averaging around 25 points, eight rebounds and eight assists a game, even as the league’s oldest player. Within a year or two, James could be playing alongside his eldest son in the NBA – and might still be on this list, for all we know. What an incredible career.
7. Luka Dončić
Some might view this placement as insulting to Dončić, who has certainly racked up some of the most impressive statistics of any player in recent seasons – over 32 points, eight rebounds and eight assists a night last year. Doncic is a one-man offence, an orchestra conductor with complete mastery over every piece on the floor. But his defensive commitment is inconsistent, to put it mildly, and it’s proven tough at times for his Dallas Mavericks to find ideal supporting players due to his unique play style. But he’s only 24, and can only go up from here.
6. Jayson Tatum
Maybe the best of the NBA’s young guard today is Tatum, who at just 25 has already racked up four All-Star appearances, three All-NBA selections and a fourth-place finish in MVP. He’s the most complete young wing in the league, both an elite offensive creator and a high-level defender. Tatum is also incredibly durable, never missing more than 10 games in a single season despite playing huge minutes consistently. A title is the next big step for this young star, and at least one seems likely in the next few years.
5. Joel Embiid
Embiid finally got his long-awaited MVP award after consecutive runner-up finishes, and is clearly among the game’s most dominant regular season players. His skill set for such a massive person is shocking, from deft footwork to long-distance shooting – and with brute force backing it all up. But with a growing track record of being less efficient and productive in the play-offs, fifth is the highest Embiid can rise on this list.
4. Kevin Durant
One of the greatest scorers in NBA history is still doing his thing at 35, averaging over 30 points a night in his 17th season. He can play absolutely any role: Dominating the ball, spotting up around Devin Booker and Bradley Beal, distributing – you name it. He has one of the purest jumpers in the game and can get it off over any defender. Durant’s return to among the league’s best despite an Achilles tear that cost him a full season is nothing short of remarkable, and he’ll go down as an all-time great.
3. Stephen Curry
Another legend still telling his story is Curry, who simply continues to amaze as the greatest shooter basketball has ever seen – and arguably its most unique offensive player ever. The four-time champ and nine-time All-Star seems to age like fine wine, still averaging 30 and ripping the nets from deep despite the toughest diet of shots of any player in the league. Few have ever changed the game like Curry, and he’s still going strong.
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo
In a league that increasingly favours two-way dominance, Antetokounmpo may as well have been lab-created. Even with a shaky jumper, he’s an offensive wrecking ball and the league’s scariest force in the open floor; he’s also a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate, a guard-all-five-spots menace who somehow also might be the NBA’s best help defender. He’s fulfilled every bit of promise the Bucks saw when they took a chance on him in the middle of the first round in the 2013 Draft.
1. Nikola Jokić
If the two straight MVPs weren’t enough, Jokic put together one of the most dominant play-off runs we’ve seen in ages on his way to the 2023 NBA title: 30 points, 13.5 rebounds and 9.5 assists a game, and one of the easiest Finals MVP calls ever. There’s truly no answer for his offensive game, which is perfect in every possible area. He’s the NBA’s best passer, an unstoppable post scorer, an ace jump-shooter and even an elite offensive rebounder. While observers often quibble about his defence, he’s so far ahead of the pack offensively that no one else could possibly occupy the top spot.