Disgusted with ESPN’s efforts at #espnrank? Wondering how on Earth Jalen Brunson could miss the top 30? We’re here for you (just barely).
Hoop-Social paneled five of our experts to compile a list of the top 30 best NBA players for the 2023-24 season. This is the objectively correct subjective list.
30. Jaylen Brown
You can joke about his left hand all you want; Brown can’t hear you over the sound of his $300 million contract. He’s improved every season of his career, culminating in last year’s 27 points per game. Although his defense slipped a bit, Brown is still one of the best two-way players in the game today – and he’s only getting better.
29. Jalen Brunson
In his first year as the lead ballhandler on a team, Brunson flourished, averaging career-highs in points, three-point percentage, assists, and steals. He was the primary offensive engine in the playoffs and proved he could elevate his game even in the cramped confines of New York’s offense.
28. Jaren Jackson Jr.
The reigning Defensive Player of the Year also had a much-improved rebounding and shooting season. He brings 3-and-D to a whole new level, and it’s possible he’ll rack up even more counting stats with the 25-game suspension of Ja Morant.
27. Kyrie Irving
For all his controversy off the court (the latest being signing with a Chinese footwear firm accused of using slave labor), Kyrie rarely fails to deliver on it. Our panel was intrigued by his fit with Doncic and one-of-a-kind ballhandling abilities.
26. Trae Young
Trae’s star has fallen in the eyes of many, but you don’t average 26 and 10 by accident. Trae is still one of the absolute best offensive creators in the game today, and if his improved defense under Quin Snyder last year holds up, this ranking will be too low.
25. Pascal Siakam
Siakam is still one of the most versatile and well-rounded players in the NBA, a two-way jack-of-all-trades. He’d be best suited as a second offensive option, not a primary creator, but it’s not his fault he’s better than everyone else Toronto had.
24. Domantas Sabonis
Last year’s seventh-place MVP candidate should only be better this year with a healthy thumb and an even deeper supporting cast. If he remembers how to shoot jumpers, the Kings’ offense might set more records.
23. Zion Williamson
Zion is arguably the toughest player to rank in the league. 23 is absolutely incorrect; when healthy, he’s a top-15 player at worst, but when is doing a lot of work in this sentence.
22. Jamal Murray
Regular season stats be damned; at some point, we have to acknowledge that playoff Jamal Murray is a different sort of animal. Shouldn’t that be rewarded? Murray has a sublime connection with Nikola Jokic, but he’s more than capable of taking over games himself.
21. De’Aaron Fox
Sabonis’ running mate and the inaugural winner of the Jerry West Clutch Player award, Fox still hasn’t reached his ceiling. Despite Sabonis’ rebounding, low-post savagery, and passing, the Kings can only have playoff success if Fox leads the way.
20. Tyrese Haliburton
Haliburton is one of the best pure passers in the game, but he hasn’t fully tapped his scoring potential. Regardless, our panel is high on the young Pacer, and a full season of health and some new, high-octane running mates in Obi Toppin and Bruce Brown could lead to a big year for the point guard.
19. Bam Adebayo
Bam is inarguably the most versatile defender in the game today, and despite Heat fans’ moaning, he’s become a legitimate offensive force. Bam’s never made one great leap, but he’s incrementally improved every year. At this point, I wouldn’t bet against him becoming a top-flight offensive option, too.
18. Paul George
George’s is still one of the best two-way wings in the league, pairing a slithery, silky offensive game with lockdown defense on the perimeter. George’s health remains a question mark ( his 56 games last year were the most since 2018-19), but he is as steady on the court as ever.
17. Ja Morant
With increasing amounts of ugly off-court trouble, Morant has fallen a bit out of favor. But there’s a chance that he will come back after his suspension this season and go on a rampage, reminding viewers that his ineffable magic extends beyond the box score.
16. Donovan Mitchell
Spida had a tremendous season for Cleveland last year, highlighted by his astonishing 71-point performance in an overtime win against Chicago. He showed renewed defensive focus while setting career-highs in scoring and three-point percentage. Few players were as consistently unstoppable (at least until the playoffs).
15. Anthony Edwards
This is the ranking that we may come to regret by the end of the season. Ant has legitimate MVP potential, pairing breathtaking athleticism with an insatiable will to dominate and legitimate defensive chops. Minnesota is one giant question mark; Ant will be the answer.
14. Damian Lillard
This ranking feels a bit low, given the season he just had, but Lillard slots in as a top-15 player. He and Giannis make up the second-highest-rated tandem in the league in our rankings. While his counting stats might dip this year, his impact on winning will be higher than ever.
13. LeBron James
LeBron’s NBA career is officially eligible to have a beer, and he’s still a top-15 NBA player. Absolute insanity. Father Time is definitely taking a toll…but you couldn’t tell by his 29/8/7 stat line last season. 29/8/7! On 50% from the field! 13 seems too low when you just look at the stat sheets.
12. Kawhi Leonard
You can pretty much copy and paste his teammate Paul George’s blurb down here. On the floor, he looked like a fringe MVP candidate. But he missed 30 games, and he’s sure to miss 30 more this year, too. It would be nice to see the Clippers have a healthy playoff run, which would give us a better idea of how to rank Leonard and George.
11. Jimmy Butler
People reading these rankings twenty years from now will not understand Butler’s high rank from the stats. Not that 23/6/5 on 54% from the field is bad, but it dramatically undersells his impact. Butler is better than anybody in the league about trusting his teammates to do their jobs. He certainly rises to the occasion when it’s needed, but his ability to get the best from his floormates is his most underrated skill.
10. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
I’m gonna take a victory lap on this one. Last year, I was the only returning panelist to have Shai in the top-30, and it turns out I was still underrating him. No worries about that now, as Shai’s idiosyncratic offensive game sparkled on a Thunder team that seemed one Chet Holmgren away from being a real threat. He squeaks into the top-10.
9. Anthony Davis
Davis’ defensive performance in the 2020 NBA Finals against Miami remains the most incredible series I’ve ever seen on that end of the floor. He came close to replicating that feat for large chunks of the 2022-23 season, all while absolutely obliterating the boards and scoring 26 points per game. He clearly re-asserted himself as an absolutely elite two-way force.
8. Devin Booker
Booker has an increasingly troubling playoff injury history of his own, but when healthy, he was unstoppable. Pre-injury, he was decisively outplaying teammate Kevin Durant in the ‘yoffs. Imagine being the go-to guy on a team with Durant! Booker is also an underrated defender and playmaker. His counting stats may drop with the addition of Bradley Beal, but never forget that he’s as complete a shooting guard as exists in the league today.
7. Jayson Tatum
Tatum’s highs are as elevated as anyone’s. Too often, though, that elemental force takes a backseat and lets passivity drive. But every year, Tatum gets better, and this feels like it’ll be the last before he stakes his claim as a top-5 force in the league.
6. Kevin Durant
At some point, age will knock him down a peg or two. But Durant remains one of the most efficient jump-shooters of all time, an underrated defender, and a savvy passer. There isn’t much of an answer to him when he gets it going, and he had it going all of last season.
5. Joel Embiid
He won his coveted MVP, but our panel is slightly skeptical of his playoff performances and health. But a top-5 ranking is no shame, and at his best, there might not be a more forceful player on both ends. You feel Embiid in a way that only Giannis can match. If James Harden is traded, even more of an offensive burden will fall upon his capable shoulders.
4. Luka Doncic
At this point, the only thing stopping Luka from rising higher is Luka. He looks to be in better shape, but he’ll need to improve his defense and his on-court demeanor to surpass any of the titans in front of him. As an offensive fulcrum, only Jokic is better. Luka seems destined to surpass even him at some point; could it be this year?
3. Stephen Curry
They say the last thing to go for an aging shooter is the shot, and if that’s the case, Curry might be on these rankings for a long time. Health derailed an MVP-caliber season last season, but Curry’s sublime off-ball movement, ability to innovate, and of course, one-of-one shooting ability make him the most difficult guard to gameplan against in the league.
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo
Jump shot? Who needs a jump shot? Giannis received first-place MVP votes again last season. He’s the scariest help defender in the NBA and an unrelenting offensive battering ram. We know he can lead a team to the mountaintop, and he’s never had a running mate like Lillard before. Would it be a surprise to see him rise back up to #1 in next year’s rankings?
1. Nikola Jokic
Jokic is the most efficient scorer in the league. He is one of the best rebounders and one of the best screen-setters. He’s the best passer, perhaps ever. There has never been anyone quite like him. His offensive game transcends any defensive limitations (which are vastly overstated by people who only watch Instagram highlights, anyway). He’s the best player in the league, and as the playoffs showed, it’s not particularly close – he was the unanimous #1 pick in our panel. At just 28, he could stay on top for a few more seasons to come.