Ranking the top 10 NBA players in 2021 so far

Philadelphia 76ers v Denver Nuggets
Philadelphia 76ers v Denver Nuggets

The 2020-21 NBA season has entered its business end, with multiple elite teams looking capable of winning the championship as of now. From the NBA Eastern Conference, the likes of the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers have been dominant through the playoffs and look set to battle it out in the conference semi-finals this year.

In the West, Kawhi Leonard’s LA Clippers are currently trying to fashion a comeback against the top seed in this year's NBA Western Conference, the Utah Jazz. Meanwhile, the Phoenix Suns have also taken a 3-0 lead against Nikola Jokic’s Denver Nuggets.

2020-21 NBA Season: Ranking the top ten players so far

The likes of Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard had exemplary NBA seasons for their teams, but minimal help from teammates meant they were knocked out earlier this year. Defending NBA champions LA Lakers also had an injury-threatened season and were knocked out by the Phoenix Suns in round 1 of the playoffs. The likes of Anthony Davis, Trae Young and Kyrie Irving are honorable mentions who miss out on the rankings due to a number of reasons. Keep in mind the performances of individual players so far.

#10 Donovan Mitchell

Donovan Mitchell is enjoying his best-ever NBA season and has taken the playoffs by storm. Mitchell missed a number of games towards the end of the regular season and has looked exactly like the star that the Utah Jazz needed him to be since his return. In seven playoff matches so far, Mitchell has increased his points average to produce more than 32 per game. He has shown some top-quality decision-making and playmaking in recent games as well.

Los Angeles Clippers v Utah Jazz - Game One
Los Angeles Clippers v Utah Jazz - Game One

He is currently helping his team overcome the LA Clippers, who bounced back with a victory in game 3 to make the series 2-1.

#9 James Harden

James Harden has also missed a considerable number of games in lieu of injuries and has missed the Nets’ last two matches against the Milwaukee Bucks as well. However, Harden has been at his very best when available, and was looking like a strong MVP contender towards the start of the season. He would have been ranked higher on the list if not for the injuries. The Beard will play a huge role in any title charge that the Brooklyn Nets muster in the next few weeks.

#8 Giannis Antetokounmpo

Giannis Antetokounmpo had a similarly impressive 2020-21 NBA season as he did over his NBA MVP winning season. He produced 28.1 points, 5.9 assists and 11 rebounds throughout the regular season and helped his team blow away the Miami Heat in round 1 of the NBA playoffs.

Milwaukee Bucks v Miami Heat - Game Four
Milwaukee Bucks v Miami Heat - Game Four

Giannis is currently trying to fashion an emphatic comeback for the Milwaukee Bucks against the top-heavy Brooklyn Nets. He finished 4th in the overall voting results for the MVP award this year.

#7 Damian Lillard

Another player unlucky to be knocked out of the playoffs early is Damian Lillard. Dame was at his very best this season and came up clutch to win his team multiple games throughout the regular season.

Lillard provided plenty of highlights throughout the playoff series against the Denver Nuggets as well, and produced his highest ever points total of 55 in game 5. Lillard produced 28.8 points and 7.5 assists per game and had his second-best shooting efficiency this season overall, with 55.4%.

#6 Kawhi Leonard

Kawhi Leonard’s basketball credentials have never been under scrutiny. He is arguably the best two-way player in the league and has shown the ability to carry his teams to championship winning runs in the past.

Los Angeles Clippers v Utah Jazz - Game One
Los Angeles Clippers v Utah Jazz - Game One

Leonard has been highly impressive throughout the playoffs and led his team past the Dallas Mavericks in round 1 despite initially losing 2-0. He is currently attempting to pull off a similar feat against the Utah Jazz, and delivered 34 points and 12 rebounds in game 3 to help his team to their first win of the Western Conference series.

#5 Stephen Curry

The 2020-21 NBA season scoring champion had LeBron James’ approval for the MVP award this season. However, Curry finished third in the rankings despite single-handedly helping his team make the play-in tournament, where they lost to the LA Lakers.

Curry produced 32 points, 5.8 assists and 5.5 rebounds per game and will be itching to return next season with a better roster. The Golden State Warriors missed Klay Thompson through a season-ending start and should be dipping into the trade market in the offseason to make improvements.

#4 LeBron James

Widely accepted as the best player in the NBA and one of the best to ever play in the league. James also missed a sustained period through injury towards the end of the regular season, and was a frontrunner for the NBA MVP award before his injury.

Denver Nuggets v Los Angeles Lakers
Denver Nuggets v Los Angeles Lakers

With Anthony Davis also ruled out towards the end of the Lakers’ season, James struggled to help his team past the Phoenix Suns with little help from his teammates. But he did enough throughout the NBA season to make it to the list just outside the top three. James also became the first player to average 25 points a season for 17 straight seasons this year.

#3 Kevin Durant

With two players on this list on the Brooklyn Nets’ roster apart from the honorable mention of Kyrie Irving, the Nets will consider anything less than a ring a disappointment this season.

Durant returned in time to help his team power through opponents in the playoffs, and has produced 28 points and more than 7.5 rebounds per game. He would have been in the reckoning for the NBA MVP award had it not been for injuries, and will be keen to earn another championship this season.

#2 Joel Embiid

For Joel Embiid, the 2020-21 NBA season appears to be finally the year when the process finally comes to fruition. He was runner-up to Nikola Jokic in the MVP race and is currently helping his team try and get past the Atlanta Hawks.

Philadelphia 76ers v Washington Wizards - Game Three
Philadelphia 76ers v Washington Wizards - Game Three

Embiid registered 28.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per game and has also had a huge impact on the Philadelphia 76ers defensively. He is having his best ever season with respect to shooting efficiency (54.5%) and also produces a steal and 1.4 blocks per game.

#1 Nikola Jokic

The 2020-21 NBA MVP winner also takes the number #1 spot in this list. Jokic has not missed a single game for the Denver Nuggets this season and proved his credentials as the best center in the league. He had his best ever-season with respect to points (26.1), assists (8.3) and rebounds (10.8) and helped his team past the Portland Trail Blazers after some monster performances.

Jokic brought the Nuggets to the NBA Playoffs round 2 despite the absence of Jamal Murray, and speaks volumes about his overall impact this season.

Edited by Arnav Kholkar
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