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Top 100 NBA Players of 2021

The best players of the upcoming season? Sports Illustrated resumes the grueling task of ranking the best of the best, 1 to 100. Let the quibbles commence.
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Who will be the NBA’s best players in the 2020–21 season? Sports Illustrated‘s Top 100 list returns, aiming to answer that question.

As always, this is a wide-ranging exercise with a host of qualified candidates. There’s an abundance of information and analytical resources available with which to assess players. The rankings were again determined holistically by a combination of data and subjective evaluation, aiming to take players out of their team contexts and look at their skills and performance in a vacuum. These rankings are specifically for the upcoming season, and they do not take into account players’ long-term prospects or career arcs beyond 2020–21.

It’s best to look at these rankings as short-term projections, based on performance history and the impact of a player's age—some growth can be expected from younger players, and a degree of potential decline from older veterans. This is not a representation of a player’s trade or market value, and it does not account for the impact of his salary relative to his production. The list attempts to account for the entirety of a player’s impact—on offense, on defense, structural and otherwise—and tends to favor those with the most malleable skill sets.

Availability due to injury and future injury risk has always factored into this process—this year, the two resulting omissions were Klay Thompson and Jonathan Isaac. Stars like Kevin Durant and John Wall are making their returns from serious setbacks. Others, like Kemba Walker and Kristaps Porzingis, are already banged up to start the season. To see our 25 biggest snubs from this year’s list, click here. We also compiled a watch list of 12 young players who could make the top 100 for years to come. 

This is the first Top 100 list without Rob Mahoney, who along with Ben Golliver set the standard for this process over the better part of the past decade. Rob’s 2020 list provided a particularly valuable starting point. SI NBA writers Rohan Nadkarni, Michael Shapiro and Ben Pickman provided valuable feedback and contributed to the player entries.

For further reference, explore SI.com’s Top 100 Players of 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014. This year's list incorporated data and statistical context from Basketball-Reference, NBA.com, ESPN.com and Synergy Sports.

Let the debates begin! 

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Nos. 100-51

100. Dejounte Murray, San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs are in the midst of pivoting to a new era, with DeMar DeRozan’s and LaMarcus Aldridge’s contracts set to expire after 2020–21. So who will lead San Antonio forward? Murray is likely the franchise headliner. He isn’t a prototypical point guard, but Murray’s athletic gifts are undeniable. He’s a superb on-ball defender, sporting a 6' 10" wingspan that makes life increasingly difficult for opposing guards. Murray’s ability to upsize onto larger guards provides significant value, as does his ability to wreak havoc in passing lanes. There’s a significant dose of uncertainty for San Antonio after two decades of sustained success. Murray’s defensive excellence should help stabilize the ship. His defensive value and transition prowess lands him the final spot on our Top 100, and he’ll need to improve his half-court offense to move much higher. Murray attempted fewer than two threes per game last season, and his reticence from beyond the arc isn’t an isolated statistic. He doesn’t quite explode to the rim in the half court, nor does he look to create his own shot. He’s often too content to probe and dish, limiting his scoring impact in a middling offense. Let’s hope Murray truly takes the reins of San Antonio’s offense after an underwhelming offensive campaign in 2019–20. —Michael Shapiro

Duncan Robinson of the Miami Heat shoots

99. Duncan Robinson, Miami Heat

How important is Robinson to the Heat’s offense? When he, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo shared the floor last season, Miami had an offensive rating of 115.8, practically equivalent to the all-time mark of 115.9 set by the Mavericks in 2020. Without Robinson, lineups including Butler and Adebayo could manage an offensive rating of only 108.8, which would have ranked in the bottom third of the league. Simply put, Robinson’s presence is the difference between a historic offense and a middling one. And it’s all because of the pressure he puts on defenses with his otherworldly shooting. If his breakout year doesn’t prove to be a massive fluke, Robinson will be one of the best floor spacers in NBA history. He shot 46.0% on catch-and-shoot looks in the 2019–20 season. That means his effective field goal percentage on such shots is 69%, which is higher than what LeBron James shoots on attempts within five feet. Only 26 years old, Robinson should have time to grow the other areas of his game. His defense improved throughout the playoffs, though he’ll still be targeted on that end. And his offensive game could use an extra flourish here and there, or at least one counter to teams who can doggedly chase him off the arc (as the Lakers did in the Finals.) As Robinson rounds out his game, he will continue to [ahem] shoot up this list. —Rohan Nadkarni

98. Will Barton, Denver Nuggets

One of the most impressive parts of the Nuggets’ most recent Western Conference finals run was that they won two thrilling playoff series without Barton. The 29-year-old small forward started 58 games for the Nuggets last season and was among the team’s most consistent contributors. He averaged 15.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, while shooting 37.5% from three and playing a multitude of roles. Simply put, he was Denver’s third-most-reliable player. Barton left the bubble on Aug. 19 with a knee injury, after playing just a single half of an Orlando scrimmage. But heading into this season, those within the Nuggets organization continue to echo his importance. “We’re not where we are without Will,” new GM Calvin Booth recently said. Barton, a former second-round pick of the Trail Blazers, was traded to Denver in the middle of the 2014–15 season as part of a deal that sent shooting guard Aaron Afflalo to Portland. And while Barton was once viewed as merely a solid wing defender off the bench, he has gone on to start 155 games for Denver, almost all of which have come in the last three seasons. It’s possible that Michael Porter Jr. might cut into Barton’s role this season, but the veteran small forward will surely be a key part of another Nuggets team with title aspirations. —Ben Pickman

97. Jonas Valančiūnas, Memphis Grizzlies

Valančiūnas isn’t earning All-NBA honors anytime soon, but Memphis’s big man remains a legitimate problem for defenses on the low block. Valančiūnas posted a 60.6 effective field goal percentage in 2019–20, averaging 0.97 points per possession on post-up attempts. The Lithuanian big man made his mark in the NBA as a skilled offensive big, though he often lacked the physicality expected from a player his size during his seven seasons in Toronto. The move to Memphis has brought out the best in Valančiūnas. He snagged a career-high 11.3 rebounds per game last season, providing a dose of brute strength next to talented youngsters Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke. Valančiūnas remains a key cog for the Grizzlies as they look to snap a three-year playoff drought. —M.S.

96. Patrick Beverley, Los Angeles Clippers

Three-and-D doesn’t do Patrick Beverley justice because it doesn’t account for the fact he’s a Hall of Fame pest. Beverley is one of the most relentless on-ball defenders in the NBA, and he relishes his role as someone who exists to annoy superstars and anger opposing fanbases. (He can also delight people—I distinctly remember Bill Hader got quite a kick at a Clippers game last season watching Beverley harass James Harden.) On the other end of the floor, Beverley is a career 38.1% three-point shooter, which means he’s the kind of player who can stay on the court in the highest-stakes moments. While Beverley’s on-ball tenacity, sneaky-good offensive rebounding, and capable shooting would be welcomed by any contender, his game also exists in a narrow scope. His size (perhaps generously listed at 6’1”) means he won’t be regularly used on perimeter stars. And he’s not a playmaker nor a pick-and-roll option, though he nominally functions as a point guard. These limitations hardly make Beverley a liability. But without the proper infrastructure around him (like playing with superstars), his talents wouldn’t be as pronounced. —R.N.

95. Harrison Barnes, Sacramento Kings

Harrison Barnes always felt a bit like the fifth Beatle in his time with the Warriors, and perhaps that’s led to an underwhelming evaluation of his skill set entering 2020–21. He’s viewed by many as little more than a replacement-level wing, but a closer look provides a clearer picture. Barnes may not be a standout player in any single metric. But his wide array of skills makes him a valuable player and an underrated asset. Barnes has seen his scoring drop in each of the past two seasons, but a dip in volume has correlated with perhaps the most efficient stretch of his career. Barnes posted his second best career true shooting percentage in 2019–20, and he’s one of 20 players to make more than 275 threes at a clip of over 38% in the last two seasons. Barnes isn’t solely a stationary shooter. He can attack the rim and finish with authority, and he’s evolved into a somewhat savvy playmaker. His contract may dampen his value on the trade market, but Barnes remains an effective player nearly a decade into his career. — M.S.

94. Otto Porter Jr., Chicago Bulls

Porter doesn’t exactly provide the most bang for your buck out of any player in our Top 100. He’s logged just 52 games in the last two seasons, and he’s on the books for $28 million in 2020–21. But despite an underwhelming tenure in Chicago thus far, Porter remains an intriguing piece for this season and beyond. If the Bulls find their way in the playoff chase this spring, Porter could play a crucial role. When healthy, he’s shown flashes as an elite three-and-D guy, sporting an impressive three-point stroke for a player of his size. Porter is one of just five players to shoot over 42% from three in the last four seasons (min. 400 makes), and he sports the size to defend larger forwards and the occasional big man. His fit in Chicago specifically is a bit curious. The Bulls are flush with forwards after drafting Patrick Williams, and there isn’t a deep collection of playmakers on the roster. Porter is a quality stationary wing, but he provides little off the bounce. Perhaps he can make an impact on a contender via a trade before the deadline. —M.S.

93. Dāvis Bertāns, Washington Wizards

Bertāns’s nickname, the Latvian Laser, should move him up at least a few spots on our list, but that’s an argument for another day. What’s not up for debate is Bertāns’s value as one of the league’s most effective frontcourt shooters. The fifth-year forward continues to show impressive range from beyond the arc, making a legitimate leap in 2019–20 as he nearly doubled his scoring to 15.4 points per game. Bertāns has some skill as a roll man and interior defender, but those attributes are quite ancillary to his ability to let it fly from beyond the arc. Only seven players canned more threes last season. Of the 93 players to hit 100 triples, just four posted a better percentage from three. Bertāns can stretch the floor far beyond the arc, and he has one of the quicker releases in the NBA. Washington remains on the fringe of the playoff race entering 2020–21, but they could sport one of the league’s most exciting offenses. Bertāns’s excellence remains integral to the Wizards’ attack. —M.S.

92. Derrick Favors, Utah Jazz

Simply knowing where to be at all times and never flinching is a skill unto itself. And after a year away in New Orleans, Favors returns to Utah as the league’s most overqualified backup center. Despite missing time with an injury, he finished just outside the top-10 in rebound percentage and lent defensive backbone to a team that struggled massively without him. While his mobility has waned to a degree, Favors has proven he can take away easy looks at the rim and is hardly ever out of position. He also shot a career-high 61.7% from the field, remaining among the league’s more effective finishers, capable of overpowering a mismatch when necessary. He’s also an underrated passer in the short-roll, capable of delivering the ball to either corner and greasing an offense in a pinch. Favors knows his strengths and requires minimal maintenance. It’s tough to place a premium on most bigs who present no threat to shoot from distance, and his lack of a jump shot limits his utility as such—the Jazz ought to make his minutes mutually exclusive with Rudy Gobert’s as much as possible. Situationally, there’s only so much value that can be ascribed. But Favors’s presence has long ensured a degree of reliable defensive competence, and his skills continue to age gracefully. And in a reserve role, his services are quite a luxury. —Jeremy Woo

91. T.J. Warren, Indiana Pacers

On June 20, 2019, the Suns traded Warren and the No. 32 pick in the 2019 draft to the Pacers for cash considerations. Just over a year later, Warren, who was in effect traded for cap space, emerged as one of the biggest stars of the bubble. He scored 53 points in Indiana’s opening seeding-game victory over the Sixers and followed that performance up with 34- and 32-point games over Washington and Orlando, respectively. Warren has always been a prolific scorer. He averaged 25 points per game as a sophomore at NC State, his final collegiate season, and reached double digits in his second NBA season. In each of his final two seasons with the Suns, he averaged more than 18 points per game. With Indiana last year, he recorded career-high 19.8 points per game while improving his field goal percentage from 48.6% to 53.6%. While the 6’ 8’’ Warren is by no means a lockdown defender on the wing, he also showed improvement on that end of the floor. The Pacers preached continuity this offseason and have returned the core of their roster, meaning that Warren will yet again be a key scorer for an Eastern Conference playoff hopeful. —B.P.

Lou Williams lays the ball in

90. Lou Williams, Los Angeles Clippers

At 34 years old, Williams remains one of the most professional scorers in the league. He averaged 18.2 points per game for the Clips in 2020, playing 28.7 minutes a night off the bench. Williams can get hot at a moment’s notice, and many a coach has watched their lead slip away because of a Lou scoring barrage. With the right pick-and-roll partner, Williams can be particularly devastating, penalizing defenses who aren’t fully confident in their coverages. Efficiency is a bit of a bugaboo here, however. Williams ranked in the top five pick-and-roll ballhandlers in terms of frequency last season, but he generated only 0.92 points per possession on those plays. That number is not terrible and certainly above average, but it’s a reminder there are sometimes better looks to be had when Williams commands the offense while some of his more illustrious teammates are on the floor. Also, his size makes him an easy target on defense. All of that being said, if you are in desperate need of a bucket, you could do a lot worse than Williams. —R.N

89. Serge Ibaka, Los Angeles Clippers

Now entering his 12th NBA season, Ibaka remains one of the most versatile bigs in the league. After being used primarily as a power forward throughout the first decade of his career, including his first season in Toronto, the 31-year-old Ibaka played the majority of his minutes last year as the Raptors’ center. In doing so, he provided Toronto with a capable floor-spacer from the perimeter, shooting 38.5% from three, his best mark since 2016–17. While Ibaka might not be as much of a rim protector as he was when he was a spry 22-year-old blocking more than 3.5 shots per game, he remains a smart and more-than-capable force on the defensive end of the floor. His two-year deal with the Clippers was widely regarded as one of the most economical yet potentially impactful deals of the offseason. According to Basketball Reference, Ibaka had the highest postseason win-share of his career per 48 minutes in last year’s postseason, after averaging a postseason career-high 14.8 points per game. In joining L.A., he will similarly be expected to play a key role for a team with title aspirations, and he will bring Los Angeles much-needed frontcourt flexibility. —B.P

88. Spencer Dinwiddie, Brooklyn Nets

Dinwiddie has shown steady growth in each of first four years in Brooklyn, emerging as the Nets’ leading man in 2019–20 after Kyrie Irving’s season ended in February. Squint hard enough and Dinwiddie at times resembles Irving, though with considerably fewer acrobatics around the rim. Regardless, Dinwiddie is effective as the pick-and-roll initiator, excelling when he can drive downhill at opposing bigs. He remains outside any All-Star conversation, but Dinwiddie can be a passable engine for an NBA offense. It could be a bit of an awkward transition for Dinwiddie in 2020–21 with Irving and Kevin Durant now leading the Nets. Dinwiddie posted a career-high in usage last season, and in the games he did play with Irving, there was a palpable tug-of-war within Brooklyn’s system. But if Dinwiddie buys into his role, he could be an effective piece in a high-octane attack. Dinwiddie made 37.3% of catch-and-shoot threes last season, and he could spend a hefty share of minutes alongside Durant when Irving heads to the bench. Dinwiddie could also be in for a sizable new contract next summer if he continues his progression. —M.S.

87. Paul Millsap, Denver Nuggets

It’s undeniable that Millsap’s best NBA days are behind him, but the 35-year-old power forward still remains an important part of Denver’s roster heading into the 2020–21 NBA season. When Millsap joined the Nuggets in 2017 on a three-year, $90 million deal, he helped shepherd a young franchise into the future, culminating, thus far, in Denver’s most recent Western Conference finals run. Despite his scoring output dropping to its lowest mark since 2009–10 and his rebounding total dropping to its lowest mark since 2007–08, Millsap remains a steady defender who is capable of playing a productive, limited role on a high-quality team. The four-time All-Star recorded double-digit points four times in Denver’s thrilling Western Conference semifinals series victory over the Clippers, including tallying 17 points in Denver’s series-altering Game 5 win. He returns to Denver this season on a one-year deal, looking to help the Nuggets reach their first Finals appearance since they joined the NBA in the mid 1970s. —B.P.

86. Joe Harris, Brooklyn Nets

Brooklyn Nets team president Sean Marks recently said that small forward Joe Harris “epitomized what it means to be a Net.” The 29-year-old Harris fully resurrected his career in Brooklyn after playing just 56 games in his first two years in Cleveland. He enters this season as a starter on a perennial playoff team, having signed a fresh four-year deal worth more than $70 million. Among the 208 players who have taken at least 400 three-pointers since 2017–18, only Seth Curry has a higher three-point field goal percentage than Harris. While his three-point percentage dropped to 42.4% last season—a decrease from his league-leading 47.4% mark in 2018–2019—Harris still finished the year tied for sixth in three-point percentage. On a team that is littered with stars, Harris also appears to be more than content staying out of the public spotlight (as evidenced by being one of the few NBA players not on Twitter). After inking his new deal, the former second-round pick told reporters that he “couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.” He’ll be a key cog in the Nets’ present and future, and as the modern NBA continues to emphasize the importance of consistent three-point shooters, Harris’s value should only increase. —B.P.

85. Marc Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers

At 35, Gasol is no longer the same player he was back in the early to mid-2010s, when he anchored a Grizzlies team that was a perennial postseason threat. He still remains a valuable piece on any team he joins. While Gasol averaged 19.5 points per game in the 2016–17 season, that number dropped to a career-low 7.5 points per game last year, in his first full season with the Raptors. The Spanish center’s post-up game has diminished, but he has been more open to taking three-pointers in recent years, shooting 38.5% for Toronto in 2019–20. The former Defensive Player of the Year remains a force on that end of the court, using his high IQ and strong instincts to make an impact. As an example, he was part of all four of Toronto’s best defensive lineups that logged at least 50 minutes. “I use a lot of communication as a center,” Gasol said recently. “You’re behind them. I think communication builds trust and it solves problems.” Originally a Lakers second-round pick, he’ll finally join the franchise that drafted him after signing a two-year veteran minimum contract. L.A. had the league’s third-best defensive rating last year, behind just Milwaukee and Gasol’s old team, Toronto, and he should further solidify an already strong defensive group. —B.P.

84. Buddy Hield, Sacramento Kings

Perhaps because he plays in Sacramento, it’s gone somewhat unnoticed how downright Curry-esque Hield’s shooting has been since entering the NBA in 2016–17. Hield has the sixth-most threes in basketball over the last four seasons. Of the 16 players with at least 600 made triples in that span, Hield leads the pack in three-point percentage. The Oklahoma product shot a blistering 41.3% on catch-and-shoot triples last season. He ranked in the top 10 in pull-up threes made. Few players in the league are as talented at one specific skill. Hield may be a lethal three-point shooter, but he’s not earning All-NBA honors anytime soon. He’s not a physically imposing defender, and he’ll deliver his fair share of mental lapses on that end of the floor. Hield remains a middling playmaker, with limited skill off the bounce. Sacramento didn’t do him any favors playing at the league’s No. 20 pace last season, limiting the effectiveness of both him and De’Aaron Fox. A stylistic shift could boost both of Sacramento’s backcourt pieces in 2020–21. —M.S.

Goran Dragic lays it in

83. Goran Dragić, Miami Heat

Coming off the bench full-time for the first time since 2011, Dragić was still the Heat’s second-leading scorer in 2020. And when bumped into starting duty during the postseason, he took his game to another level, leading the team in scoring until his injury in Game 1 of the Finals. Dragić is a feisty competitor with a well-rounded offensive skill set. He’s often deadly in pick-and-rolls, adept at finding lanes against all varieties of big men. Dragić will pull up against slower footed centers who sag off him, or he’ll find a way to snake around a smaller five who wants to dance on the perimeter. He’s also a willing lob thrower, and when playing off the ball he can space the floor all around the arc thanks to his reliable shooting. Interestingly, for someone who frequently finds himself in the paint, you’d think Dragić would get to the free-throw line a touch more regularly than he currently does (4.2 attempts per game last season). And while he’s a heady team defender, Dragić can struggle at the point of attack, particularly against quick guards. Those issues are hardly dealbreakers, however, and any contending team would be happy to employ a malleable presence as Dragić. —R.N.

82. Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves

Rubio entered the NBA as one of the most-hyped international players ever. Fans flocked to YouTube to track down clips of the dazzling Spanish star, who first appeared in Spain’s top professional league at 14 and held his own during the 2008 Olympics. The Timberwolves selected Rubio with the fifth pick in the 2009 draft. And after three seasons away from the Twin Cities, the now 30-year-old guard has returned to the franchise that initially invested in him. Rubio’s first stint with the Timberwolves was largely marred by injury as an ACL tear cut short his promising rookie season and an ankle injury derailed his 2014–15 season. But the veteran guard has nevertheless been a solid, starting-caliber player, capable of being not only a prolific passer, but also a solid defender and decent three-point shooter. Last season, while with the Suns, Rubio averaged 13 points and 8.8 assists per game while also finishing the year in the top 10 in ESPN’s real plus-minus statistic for point guards. Upon being traded to Minnesota this offseason, he admitted he was a “different player than when I came here, and when I left.” While he won’t be the star they once imagined, he’ll be a solid veteran presence for a Timberwolves team building around D’Angelo Russell and top draft pick Anthony Edwards in the backcourt. —B.P.