Who’s the best player in the NBA? It’s a fun conversation starter — the kind of question that is both definitive and abstract. Every person views the game of basketball differently. Every person brings certain values or biases to a conversation. If you ask 10 people who the best player in basketball is, you’re liable to get five or six or seven different answers. Especially now, with league parody being greater than it has ever been.
It feels like the NBA has more stars than ever. More great, MVP-caliber players than ever. We’re on the heels of a truly historic MVP race. The top three candidates — Jokic, Embiid, Giannis — all put up numbers in line with or surpassing MVPs of yesteryear. But only won could win. It speaks to how much great basketball is being played nowadays.
With that in mind, I have tackled the impossible task of ranking the top 100 NBA players. Several factors ultimately contribute to this list — team context, past success vs. recent success, injuries, my own personal preferences — but in the end, the guiding principle is simple. Which players contribute to winning the most?
SG, Cleveland Cavaliers
Ranking the top 100 NBA players — 100. Collin Sexton, Cavaliers
There are a lot of split opinions on Collin Sexton, the 23-year-old guard who is due for an extension after missing all but 11 games to a torn meniscus. He’s electric on the ball, with blinding downhill speed and a lovable (if at times flawed) confidence when attacking his man. He’s also an elite 3-point shooter. The next step in his development is working harder off the ball and becoming more balanced in his approach. He showed positive signs early in the season, but there are unavoidable questions after missing so much time to injury.
PF, Phoenix Suns
Ranking the top 100 NBA players — 99. Jae Crowder, Suns
Jae Crowder has been a steadfast contributor for several contenders now. He’s integral to the No. 1 seed Suns, providing hard-nosed and versatile defense on the perimeter and a bankable 3-point shot. He’s not creating much of his own offense, but the toughness and production within his role is hard to knock.
PF, San Antonio Spurs
Ranking the top 100 NBA players — 98. Keldon Johnson, Spurs
Keldon Johnson hit 40 percent of his 3s and elevated his scoring once again for the retooling Spurs. He’s part of the nucleus there. He’s a 6-foot-6 power forward, gobbling up rebounds, defending all over the floor, and supplying San Antonio with timely shots from various spots on the floor. As the Spurs push further into their rebuild, it will be exciting to see where Johnson’s game goes from here.
SF, Golden State Warriors
Ranking the top 100 NBA players — 97. Andrew Wiggins, Warriors
Andrew Wiggins started in the All-Star Game, which slightly oversells his skill set but is nonetheless representative of the leap he has taken in Golden State. He’s playing winning basketball for a winning team. His staunch perimeter defense is essential to Golden State’s switchable scheme, and his improvement as a spot-up shooter has made it much easier to fit within Steve Kerr’s complex offense. For some players, less is more. Wiggins looks a whole lot better when he’s not expected to carry the offense every night.
PG, Utah Jazz
Ranking the top 100 NBA players — 96. Mike Conley, Jazz
Mike Conley started to show his age this season, and it culminated with a poor showing in the playoffs. He remains efficient from 3-point range, and he still has much of the craft and I.Q. that made him a standout point guard in Memphis, but he’s not the reliable two-way star he once was. He’s contributing in shorter bursts now, and he played a role in Utah’s porous perimeter defense.