Projecting the top 125 NBA players for 2022-23 season

Joel Embiid, Luka Doncic, ranking NBA players Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Joel Embiid, Luka Doncic, ranking NBA players Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports /
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(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

New Orleans Pelicans. Zion Williamson. 20. player. 69. . F

Ranking NBA players — 20. Zion Williamson, Pelicans

It has been a while since Zion Williamson played NBA basketball. There’s probably some rust there, but Zion also appears to be in the best shape of his life. Before his injury, Williamson was the most dominant interior scorer in the game. He can knife his way to the rim effortlessly, no matter how prepared the defense is for the drive (he’s not exactly stretching the floor). Once he’s in the paint, Zion is too strong, fast, and explosive for any defender to truly contain. He can out-run, out-jump, or out-muscle just about anyone. He also played point forward last time we saw him, to great effect. Expect him to come right back and establish himself as the fulcrum of New Orleans’ postseason-caliber offense.

C. Minnesota Timberwolves. Karl-Anthony Towns. 19. player. 86.

Ranking NBA players — 19. Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves

Karl-Anthony Towns said he’s the best shooting big man of all-time and he’s probably right. No 7-footer has ever really matched Towns’ volume and efficiency behind the arc. Combine that with his equally dominant scoring inside the arc, and you’re talking about one of the singular offensive talents of his generation. Towns has gotten better on the defensive end in recent years and he’s only 26 — there’s time to get even better. He will be tested in new ways playing next to Rudy Gobert.

93. . G. Philadelphia 76ers. James Harden. 18. player

Ranking NBA players — 18. James Harden, Sixers

Which version of James Harden will show up? The answer to that question could determine which team comes out of the East next spring. If Harden regains the burst and aggressiveness that defined him in Houston, the Sixers’ offense will be pretty much unstoppable. If he’s the same player we saw in May, then he’s only an All-Star. “Only” is mildly sarcastic of course. Even in his diminished state last season, Harden was the league’s most prolific facilitator and a damn good scorer too.

player. 211. . G. Memphis Grizzlies. Ja Morant. 17

Ranking NBA players — 17. Ja Morant, Grizzlies

Ja Morant took the Grizzlies to new heights last season, earning some fringe MVP support as a result. He’s still a poor defender and unreliable shooter, but Morant is the most dominant slasher in the game. He simply cannot be kept out of the paint. He’s must-watch television with a skill set that serves his teammates just as well as himself.

86. . C. Minnesota Timberwolves. Rudy Gobert. 16. player

Ranking NBA players — 16. Rudy Gobert, Timberwolves

Rudy Gobert is the best defender of his generation and should be mentioned right alongside Draymond Green in the annals of NBA history. He’s a one-man defensive system who could look even better in Minnesota, where there’s more help on the perimeter both defensively and offensively. He has Towns spacing the floor, Edwards slashing from the wing, and D’Lo running the offense — a playmaking guard who’s actually willing to pass to his lob threat.