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 Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

Miami Heat. Jimmy Butler. 10. player. 110. . F

Ranking NBA players — 10. Jimmy Butler, Heat

Jimmy Butler continues to get older and the Heat continue to finish at the top of the Eastern Conference. Butler has been to the conference finals two of the last three years now. He gets it done in the regular season and in the playoffs, supplying the Heat with elite playmaking and defense from the wing. His lack of a 3-point crops up in conversation every now and then, but he’s so deadly inside the arc that it often doesn’t matter.

77. . F. Los Angeles Clippers. Kawhi Leonard. 9. player

Ranking NBA players — 9. Kawhi Leonard, Clippers

Kawhi Leonard missed all of last season and is returning from his second major knee injury. He hasn’t been at full strength in a while, and next season won’t be any different. The Clippers will manage his minutes and he will probably conserve energy in the regular season. That said, when he’s going full speed, Leonard can look like the best player in the NBA. He’s a dominant isolation scorer with the strength, footwork, and touch to navigate any defense. He’s also an elite wing defender. Going forward, it’s just a matter of how often Leonard can go full speed.

147. . F. Brooklyn Nets. Kevin Durant. 8. player

Ranking NBA players — 8. Kevin Durant, Nets

The Nets refused to honor Kevin Durant’s trade request over the summer.  Brooklyn will be firmly in the title race as a result. Durant is not quite the undisputed top-two player he was a few years ago, but the Nets’ superstar can still score with remarkable ease. His jumper is unguardable. Let him get to his spots unmolested, and your defense is cooked. Durant has also seen his assist totals increase in Brooklyn, while his defense — if not always consistent — can reach impressive heights.

. F. Los Angeles Lakers. LeBron James. 7. player. 20

Ranking NBA players — 7. LeBron James, Lakers

LeBron James’ numbers were as strong as ever last season. Unfortunately, the team around him was simply not built to win. Davis got hurt (and James got hurt for that matter). The Lakers are better positioned to win games this season, and James still looks more than capable of leading them to the playoffs (and far into the playoffs) at 37. He’s no longer the best player in the sport, but he’s still unequivocally brilliant.

Boston Celtics. Jayson Tatum. 6. player. 18. . F

Ranking NBA players — 6. Jayson Tatum, Celtics

Many have penciled in the Celtics as favorites in the East. That all starts with Jayson Tatum, who made the leap to superstardom in the plain view of everyone last season. The 24-year-old is at the very beginning of his prime — he’s still getting better. Tatum entered the league as a ludicrously polished isolation scorer. Now, he’s getting teammates involved, making advanced passing reads and diversifying his approach. He’s also an elite wing defender, capable of going toe-to-toe with the likes of Kevin Durant on both sides of the ball.