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50 Best NBA players of 2022: Giannis leads the charge as Anthony Edwards, Joel Embiid rise the ranks

Each team has at least one, if not two, legitimate stars that their respective franchises can build around.

Vincent Frank

As the best NBA players take to the court in the playoffs hoping to lead their teams to the pinnacle of success, we’re reminded that basketball is a fleeting game.

Players who found themselves among the best just a short calendar year ago are not longer on the radar. Los Angeles Lakers veteran Russell Westbrook being an example. Meanwhile, youngsters such as Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards continue to make waves.

Below, we look at the 50 best NBA players of 2022.

Note: The article was originally written by Jarrod Castillo, since updated by the Sportsnaut team.

Related: 2022 NBA Playoff and championship predictions

50. Tyrese Haliburton, Indiana Pacers

top 50 nba players: tyrese haliburton, indiana pacers
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Acquired from Sacramento during February’s NBA trade deadline, Haliburton is among the best young point guards in the NBA. In limited action with the Pacers, the 22-year-old guard averaged 17.5 points, 4.3 rebounds and 9.6 assists while shooting 50% from the field.

49. Jarrett Allen, Cleveland Cavaliers

best 50 nba players: jarrett allen
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A first-round pick of the Nets back in 2017, Allen displayed flashes of brilliance in Brooklyn before heading to Cleveland in the James Harden trade to open the 2020-21 season. Since joining the Cavaliers, he’s been an elite force for this up-and-coming squad. That included Allen averaging 16.1 points and 10.8 rebounds on 68% shooting during the 2021-22 regular season.

48. Cade Cunningham, guard, Detroit Pistons

best nba players: cade cunningham, detroit pistons
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Cunningham missed training camp and the start of his rookie season after the Pistons made him the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. However, he closed out said season strong by averaging 21.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 6.4 assists in his final 21 games.

47. Christian Wood, center, Houston Rockets

Top NBA players: Christian Wood, Rockets
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Chistian Wood saw his numbers take a step back in 2021-22, leading to increased speculation that the Houston Rockets might look to trade him. Even then, the former undrafted free agent from UNLV put up great numbers (17.9 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 50% shooting).

46. Miles Bridges, Charlotte Hornets

top nba players: miles bridges
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

In the latter half of the 2020-21, Miles Bridges began to show signs that he was ready to have a breakout year coming into this past season. The former Michigan State standout then took it to a whole new level, averaging 20.3 points and 7.0 rebounds on 49% shooting. He should cash in this summer as a restricted free agent.

Related: Moves the Charlotte Hornets should make this offseason

45. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, guard, Oklahoma City Thunder

Best NBA Players: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Signed to a max contract extension ahead of the 2021-22 season, Gilgeous-Alexander saw injuries impact him again. He missed 26 games to injury, leading to a two-season total of 63 absences. When on the court, SGA is an elite player. He’s averaging 24.2 points, 4.9 rebounds and 5.9 assists over the past two seasons.

44. Ben Simmons, Brooklyn Nets

top 50 nba players: ben simmons, brooklyn nets
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

It’s going to be interesting to see how Simmons pans out in Brooklyn after the blockbuster trade from Philadelphia. He’s fallen down our list of the best NBA players big time after sitting out the entire regular season and following a disastrous performance during the 2021 NBA Playoffs.

43. De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings

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De’Aaron Fox has proven himself to be among the best NBA players at the point guard position. That’s magnified by the fact Fox has improved in each of his four seasons. Unfortunately, the Sacramento Kings have not been in the postseason since 2006. With Fox’s numbers taking a big dip, the Kings missed the playoffs again in 2021-22.

Related: Highest-paid NBA players of 2022

42. Julius Randle, New York Knicks

Top NBA players Julius Randle
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After a season in which he was named the NBA’s Most Improved Player leading to a well-deserved contract extension, Randle saw his production decline big time in 2021-22. That included averaging four points less than 2020-21 and shooting a mere 41% from the field. It could lead to Randle’s departure from the Big Apple this summer.

Related: Ideal Julius Randle trade scenarios this offseason

41. Darius Garland, Cleveland Cavaliers

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Atlanta Hawks
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Darius Garland is a true star in the making for an ascending Cleveland Cavaliers team that just barely missed out on the playoffs this past season. One of the best NBA players under the age of 23, Garland averaged 21.7 points and 8.6 assists on 46% shooting as a third-year player for the up-and-coming Cavs.

Related: Moves the Cleveland Cavaliers should make this offseason

40. Jrue Holiday, Milwaukee Bucks

Top NBA players: Jrue Holiday, Milwaukee Bucks
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As unassuming as they come, Holiday has combined a field general mentality with elite-level defense to become one of the better all-around point guards in the NBA. Since the start of the 2018-19 season, this late bloomer is averaging 19.1 points and 6.6 assists while posting a combined defensive win shares of 29.8.

39. Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors

best nba players: draymond green
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

While he missed 36 games to injury during the 2021-22 regular season, the 32-year-old Green returned to the dominating all-around play that has defined his career. The three-time NBA champion averaged 7.5 points, 7.3 rebounds and 7.0 assists while playing elite-level defense and shooting 53% from the field.

38. Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans

Pelicans Brandon Ingram against Jazz during NBA restart.
Ashley Landis/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports

Quietly, the 24-year-old Ingram has morphed into a perennial All-Star level performer. Despite missing 27 games to injury this past season, the former Los Angeles Lakers lottery pick was still able to averaged north of 22 points for the third consecutive year. He also shot 46% from the field while contributing 5.6 assists per.

37. Domantas Sabonis, Sacramento Kings

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Chicago Bulls
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Acquired by Sacramento in the blockbuster Tyrese Haliburton trade, Sabonis remains one of the most-skilled bigs in the game. The two-time All-Star is averaging 19.2 points, 12.2 rebounds and 5.6 assists since the start of the 2019-20 campaign. Unfortunately, issues on defense keep Sabonis limited on our list of best NBA players right now.

36. Dejounte Murray, San Antonio Spurs

best 50 nba players: dejounte murray, san antonio spurs
Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not that Murray wasn’t a good player earlier in his career with San Antonio. Rather, it’s all about him taking his game to the next level since being the primary focus on offense. The veteran guard was outstanding in 2021-22 — averaging 21.1 points, 8.3 rebounds and 9.2 assists on 46% shooting. The question now becomes whether he’ll be in San Antonio long-term.

35. Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns

best 50 nba players: deandre ayton
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Ayton, 23, has morphed into one of the more reliable centers in the NBA. He’s doing so for a championship-contending Suns squad. Since the start of last season, he’s averaging 15.6 points and 10.4 rebounds on an otherworldly 63.1% shooting. The question now is whether Phoenix will award him with a max contract as a restricted free agent during the summer.

Related: Deandre Ayton and the top 2022 NBA free agents

34. Nikola Vucevic, Chicago Bulls

Best NBA players: Nikola Vucevic
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

A throwback to bigs of the past, Nikola Vucevic has been slowly expanding his offensive game and it is paying dividends for a Chicago Bulls team that is on a fast rise to contention in the Eastern Conference. Vucevic averaged 17.6 points and 11.0 rebounds on 47% shooting in his first full regular season with the Bulls.

33. Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets

Nuggets' Jamal Murray reacts after scoring against Jazz in NBA Playoff game
Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

In highly unfortunate fashion, Jamal Murray went down to a torn ACL 48 games into the 2020-21 season. That came after the 2019-20 NBA Playoff hero averaged 21.2 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists 41% from three-point range. Unfortunately for him and the Denver Nuggets, this cost him the entire 2021-22 regular season.

32. Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves

best nba players: anthony edwards, minnesota timberwolves
Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

Consistency has obviously been an issue for the 20-year-old Edwards since Minnesota made him the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Despite this, the flashes this Georgia product has shown thus far in his career makes him a top-50 NBA player. The kid averaged 21.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists on 36% shooting as a sophomore in 2021-22 en route to leading Minnesota to a suprising playoff appearance.

Related: Anthony Edwards and breakout stars of the 2022 NBA Playoffs

31. Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors

best nba players: klay thompson, golden state warriors
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Thompson returned to action during the 2021-22 season after a two-year hiatus. While he was limited in minutes as the Warriors looked to get him up to speed, we have not seen too much of a drop-off in production. The three-time NBA champion ended the regular season averaging 27.3 points on 42% shooting from distance in his final 11 games.

Related: 2022 NBA Rookie of the Year rankings

30. Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz

Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

An amazing defensive player, the “Stifle Tower” has shown that he can stop almost anyone at the rim. Gobert’s offense needs work if he is to stay on the court against smaller, faster teams. But as long as he plays his role, he’ll be fine.

Related: Rudy Gobert trade to the Golden State Warriors?

29. Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors

Pascal Siakam #20 Best NBA Players in 2020
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Since given the opportunity to be the full-time starter in Toronto, Pascal Siakam has shown that he is among the best power forwards in the league today. After some struggles earlier during the 2021-22 season, Siakam picked it up down the stretch — averaging 24.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists on 51% shooting over his final 38 games.

28. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves

Karl-Anthony Towns injury
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

A former No. 1 pick, the 26-year-old Towns has lived up to his end of the bargain on the offensive end. He’s coming off the best overall performance of his career this past regular season, averaging 24.6 points, 9.8 rebounds and 3.6 assists on 41% shooting from distance.

27. LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets

NBA games today
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a season in which he became the first Charlotte Hornet to win the Rookie of the Year since Emeka Okafor in 2005, Lamelo Ball did not become victim of a sophomore slump in 2021-22. En route to earning his first All-Star appearance, the former No. 3 overall pick averaged 20.1 points, 6.7 rebounds and 7.7 assists on 39% shooting from distance. Dude is still only 20 years old.

Related: LaMelo Ball and the top-selling NBA jerseys

26. Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

While Khris Middleton gets a bad reputation for being inconsistent, he is arguably one of the most-underrated players in the NBA. Since the start of the 2017-18 season, Middleton is averaging 19.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists while playing elite-level defense.

Best NBA players: Top-25 NBA players of 2022

25. Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers

Anthony Davis #5 Best NBA Players in 2020
© Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The 28-year-old Anthony Davis has been a two-way presence since being the first pick back in 2012. Sadly, injuries have impacted the NBA champion big time over the past two seasons with Ant missing 72 games during that span.

Related: Ideal Anthony Davis trade scenarios

24. Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics

Heat Jimmy Butler, Celtics Jaylen Brown Game 3 Eastern Conference Finals
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Jaylen Brown has teamed up with Jayson Tatum to form an elite young wing duo in Boston. The former No. 3 pick has proven former GM Danny Ainge right in refusing to include him in trades for the likes of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in the past. He averaged 23.6 points and 6.1 rebounds on 47% shooting during the 2021-22 regular season.

23. Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat

Heat Bam Adebayo against the Lakers
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

A first-round pick out of Kentucky back in 2017, Adebayo was seen as raw heading into the NBA. In fact, the big man averaged a mere 8.0 points in his first two seasons. It’s been a completely different story with the center over the past three seasons with Bam averaging 17.8 points, 9.8 rebounds and 4.7 assists on 56% shooting.

22. Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls

Jorge N ez-EFE via USA TODAY Sports

No longer just a dunker, LaVine has improved in almost every other facet of his game from his shooting averages to his per-game totals. Only 27, LaVine has a lot of time to improve other facets of his game to become one of the better all-around players in the NBA after averaging an eye-opening 25.7 points since the start of the 2019-20 season.

21. Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz

© Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Since coming into the league in 2017, Mitchell has proven to be a fast-rising star in the NBA. The 25-year-old is a nightly 20-4-4 threat and even as the focal point in the offense, his percentages have stayed consistent in his five years in the league with the former Louisville standout averaging 23.9 points.

20. James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers

best nba players: james harden
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe one of the best offensive players in NBA history, Harden has shown that he can lead a team as the No. 1 option on that end of the court. The question here is whether Harden will take a step back at the age of 32. He averaged just 22.0 points on 41% shooting in 2021-22 — his worst output since all the way back in 2011-12.

Related: Ranking 2022 NBA defenses

19. Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards

Courtesy of USA Today Images
Courtesy of USA Today Images

Over the course of his past two seasons ahead of the 2021-22 campaign, Beal averaged a resounding 30.9 points per game. Unfortunately, he missed 42 games to injury this past season and averaged his worst scoring total since 2017-18 en route to shooting a mere 30% from distance.

18. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

Damian Lillard #10 Best NBA Players in 2020
Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

No doubt one of the best clutch shot makers in recent history, the 31-year-old Damian Lillard definitely knows what time it is when it comes to the game clock. It’s “Dame Time.” Sadly, Lillard missed all but 29 games during the 2021-22 season. His future in the Pacific Northwest is now in question.

17. DeMar DeRozan, Chicago Bulls

top nba player: demar derozan
Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

DeMar DeRozan is coming off the best regular season performance in his first year with the Chicago Bulls. The five-time All-Star averaged 27.9 points on a resounding 50% shooting while contributing 5.2 rebounds and 4.9 assists per. did we mention he’s about to turn 33?

16. Paul George, Los Angeles Clippers

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

One of the few truly elite two-way players in the league, George is a terror on both ends of the court. He can drop 20-25 points on a nightly basis while also shutting down the opposing team’s best player. George earned a lot of people’s respect in returning from injury late this past season en route to leading the Clippers to a near-playoff appearance before missing the team’s play-in loss to the Pelicans with COVID-19.

15. Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat

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The 32-year-old Butler seems to have finally found a home in Miami. Butler has embraced the Heat’s winning culture with great success thus far and that could be amplified this year as the Heat have a new and improved team thanks to a wealth of new additions and entered the NBA Playoffs as the No. 1 seed back east.

14. Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies

Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

After leading the Memphis Grizzlies to their first postseason since 2017, Ja Morant took his team to a whole new level in 2021-22. En route to leading Memphis to the second-best record in the NBA, the former Rookie of the Year averaged 27.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 6.7 assists on 49% shooting.

13. Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets

Kyrie Irving injured
Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Probably the best ball-handler of all-time, Kyrie Irving’s mastery with a basketball is undeniable. He can score 50 on any given night and drop any defender that’s in front of him. After returning from a COVID-mandated absence this past regular season, Irving averaged 27.4 points on 42% shooting from three-point range. The NBA champ is just lethal.

12. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Each year, Jayson Tatum continues to get better and better the more he plays the role of the number one option on offense for the Boston Celtics. The competition in the Eastern Conference is thicker than it’s been in a long time with Tatum’s Celtics leading the way. As the kids say, he’s a living bucket (26.9 PPG in 2021-22).

Related: Sportsnaut’s updated NBA power rankings

11. Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks

best nba players: trae young
Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

As we saw in the playoffs last year, Trae Young is shaping up to be the next shooter with limitless range. Trae is making a name for himself as not only a great shooter but one of the brightest stars in the league today. Despite some struggles to open the 2022 NBA Playoffs, Young’s star still shines bright in Hotlanta.

Related: Full 2-round 2022 NBA mock draft

Top 10 Best Basketball Players:

10. Chris Paul, Phoenix Suns

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Utah Jazz
Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Paul demonstrated that he still has gas left in the tank during an absolutely brilliant 2020-21 regular season for the Phoenix Suns. Despite injuries this past regular season, he continued to prove himself as one of the best two-way point guards in the NBA. It’s insane how strong he’s still going at 36.

9. Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns

Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Stardom. That’s what we saw from the 25-year-old Devin Booker during Phoenix’s shocking run to the NBA Finals last season. Booker built on that this past regular season, averaging 26.8 points on 38% shooting from three-point range.

8. Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers

NBA: Playoffs-Utah Jazz at Los Angeles Clippers
Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

This two-time NBA Finals MVP missed the entire 2021-22 season due to a torn ACL. In no way does this discount Leonard’s status as one of the best NBA players in the game today. Over the course of his past six seasons, Leonard is averaging 24.7 points and 6.6 rebounds on 49% shooting. He’s also a two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year winner.

7. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

NBA: Playoffs-Los Angeles Clippers at Dallas Mavericks
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

At only 23, Doncic is doing things for the Dallas Mavericks that haven’t been done since LeBron James. Since the start of his sophomore campaign, Doncic is averaging 28.3 points, 8.8 rebounds and 8.7 assists. He’s earned three consecutive All-Star appearances and is a downright dominant force on offense. This dude has Hall of Fame written all over him.

6. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets

NBA: Playoffs-Boston Celtics at Brooklyn Nets
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the Nets also having stars such as Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons, Kevin Durant proves he is among the best of the best every time he steps out on the court. Sadly, his 2021-22 regular season was defined by injuries. One has to wonder if Durant’s 33-year-old body is on the verge of breaking down.

5. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

best nba players: lebron james
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

LeBron James has been accused of being selfish because he has clearly found the fountain of youth but will not let his peers know where it is. He is now 37 years old and continues to show he has many, many years left in his career. Showing no signs of slowing down any time soon, LBJ averaged 30.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 6.2 assists in 2021-22. That’s just insanity.

Related: Updated Los Angeles Lakers trade rumors

4. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

best nba players: stephen curry, golden state warriors
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, Stephen Curry put up what might have been the best individual season of his career but it was not enough to lift the Golden State Warriors into the playoffs. This year, the Warriors have returned Klay Thompson from injury and are witnessing Jordan Poole’s ascension to stardom. Curry is back at full health and has found his fountain of youth as one of the four best NBA players in the game today.

Top 3 players in the NBA now

3. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets

NBA: Playoffs-Phoenix Suns at Denver Nuggets
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

A good argument could be made that reigning MVP Nikola Jokic has solidified himself as the best big man in the NBA today. The three-time All-Star is only 27 but is already making a name for himself as the most dynamic center the NBA has ever seen. Here’s a dude who is averaging 26.7 points, 12.3 rebounds and 8.1 assists over the past two seasons.

2. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers

NBA: Playoffs-Washington Wizards at Philadelphia 76ers
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The often-injured Joel Embiid is now among the best NBA players in the game right now. That’s not hyperbole. We’re talking about the most-dominant big man since Dwight Howard was in his prime. Embiid put up 30 30-point games to end the regular season since mid-January. He’s also the first center to win the NBA scoring title since some dude named Shaquille O’Neal.

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

NBA: Playoffs-Brooklyn Nets at Milwaukee Bucks
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

After an incredible performance in the 2021 NBA Finals, leading the Milwaukee Bucks to their first championship in 50 years, Giannis Antetokounmpo showed no signs of letting off the gas during the 2021-2022 NBA regular season. He’s an MVP finalist once again and has his Bucks as legitimate NBA title contenders. He’s also the best player in the Association today.

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