For the eighth season in a row, ESPN.com is ranking the top players in the NBA.
Who will be the best player this season? To get the final prediction, we asked our expert panel to vote on pairs of players.
We asked, “Which player will be better in 2018-19?” To decide, voters had to consider both the quality and the quantity of each player’s contributions to his team’s ability to win games.
We’ll roll out our top 100 players over the next week. Here are Nos. 20-11.
To find out the top 10, tune in to our NBArank TV special Thursday night at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2, then head to ESPN.com for a complete breakdown.
As a young star, Irving charted as high as No. 8 in NBArank based on his immense potential. Now he’s settled in as a top-20 player because he has averaged only 63 games played in his seven seasons — and his defensive effort is not a lengthy visitor. But at age 26, with a full return to health and the possibility of playoff heroics ahead, Uncle Drew can rise again. — Royce Webb
#ChinaKlay went on to win his third title in four seasons. Will #QatarKlay make it four out of five?
Thompson will hit unrestricted free agency in 2019, and should he choose to leave, it could signal the beginning of the end to all the fun the Warriors have had together as one of the greatest teams ever assembled. In the meantime, Thompson will continue to bolster his reputation as one of the most efficient outside shooters and effective two-way guards in the league. — Ohm Youngmisuk
What a fascinating, unique basketball player, who defies easy comps and traditional classifications. Simmons is the Sixers’ nominal point guard, but his role mirrors that of a young LeBron James, a characterization employed repeatedly by coach Brett Brown.
Simmons might be the most limited shooter among NBA starting perimeter players, yet only one year in, he is already an elite defender, exquisite distributor, skilled rebounder and a locomotive with the ball in his hands and space in front of him. As he refines those skills, his trajectory into the league’s pantheon of stars will be a show worth viewing. — Kevin Arnovitz
Towns is an extremely skilled offensive player, but he has not shown the same type of effort on the defensive end. The hope within the Timberwolves organization is that the 22-year-old continues to improve and mature, yet he remains an enigma at times because of his inconsistent effort. Towns was supposed to be the face of Minnesota basketball for years to come. But in order to do that, he must take another step in his evolution this season. — Nick Friedell
Green is still the engine for a Warriors team that continues to chase history. At 28, Golden State’s emotional leader has shown he has the ability to raise his level of play when needed. The key for coach Steve Kerr’s team will be whether Green can continue to show the consistent defensive prowess that has defined his game in recent years. — Friedell
There are a lot of things to credit for Oladipo’s monumental breakout in 2017-18: a new chiseled body, a commitment to film and conditioning, an understanding of what it takes to play at a high level every night, more opportunity, a new situation and new teammates. Or you could just say it’s because he wasn’t playing with Russell Westbrook anymore. But that does a disservice to the work and evolution of Oladipo, reinventing himself as a multifaceted scorer, and the fresh, reliable franchise face for the Pacers.
But the question he faces is a tough one for any player making a star leap: What now? Can he do it again — or even elevate to another level? — Royce Young
Butler remains one of the best two-way players in the league. If he stays in Minnesota this season, the 29-year-old will be expected to carry the Timberwolves on both ends of the floor as he did at times last season prior to a knee injury that cost him a month of time.
Of course, Butler’s future was thrown into doubt after Wednesday’s reports that he wants to be traded. The NBA world will be watching to see where the All-Star will apply his talents and whether he’s willing to commit for the long term with free agency potentially looming next summer. — Friedell
At his best, George is maybe the best two-way talent in the NBA, combining destructive defensive instincts with all-world scoring and playmaking. After one two-month stretch last season in which George flashed the entire package, Thunder general manager Sam Presti called him the “best player in the league.” But George had some injury issues, which resulted in a couple of offseason procedures, and he has always battled against consistency and slumps.
With a year under his belt learning how to play off Westbrook, the hope for OKC is that George will benefit from the continuity and stability of his situation and show his versatile game more often. — Young
The best passing big man (6.1 APG in 2017-18) in the NBA is close to cracking the top 10 even without earning All-NBA honors in his first three seasons. The move up four spots is a result of the progression Jokic has made from his NBA debut in 2015 to what the expectations hold for the future (All-Star in 2019?).
Now fresh off a $148 million contract signed this summer, the expectation for Jokic is to lead the Nuggets back to the playoffs for the first time since 2012-13. — Bobby Marks
Isn’t it cute that there were concerns about CP3 coexisting with James Harden a year ago? The Rockets responded by leading the league with 65 victories and finishing “a hamstring away” from a title, as GM Daryl Morey put it, referring of course to the injury that sidelined Paul after Houston took a 3-2 lead over the Warriors in the Western Conference finals.
As he begins a four-year, $160 million deal at age 33, a healthy Paul remains a point god. But durability is a concern, considering Paul has missed a total of 45 games in the past two regular seasons and had injuries prematurely end two of his past three postseasons. — Tim MacMahon