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Top 100 NBA Players of 2022: Where Do Russell Westbrook and Ben Simmons Rank?

Our countdown of the best players for the upcoming season continues. Today, we enter the top 50.
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Who will be the NBA’s best players in the 2021–22 season? Sports Illustrated‘s annual Top 100 list is back, aiming to answer that question.

This year, the rankings were determined holistically by a panel of NBA writers—Chris Herring, Rohan Nadkarni, Michael Pina and Jeremy Woo—through a combination of data and subjective evaluation. (As far as the content of those discussions is concerned, consider the first rule of Fight Club.) The goal remains to evaluate players in a vacuum as much as possible, without overvaluing team context in taking stock of their quality.

To be clear, these rankings are specifically for the upcoming season and do not take into account players’ long-term prospects or career arcs beyond 2021-22. As has been the tradition here, rookies were not considered. So it’s best to consider these rankings as short-term value projections. This is not a representation of a player’s trade value or contract value, and it does not account for the impact of his salary relative to his production. The possibility of growth or decline are factors, tied to players’ age and career stage. The list attempts to account for the entirety of a player’s impact: offense, defense, structural or otherwise, and tends to favor those with the most malleable skill-sets.

Availability due to injury and the ensuing recovery process are also factors here: this year, Kawhi Leonard, Jamal Murray and Klay Thompson were most affected in that way. The biggest snubs from this year’s list can be found here.

For further reference, explore’s Top 100 lists from 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014. SI’s Michael Shapiro, Ben Pickman and Wilton Jackson also contributed player profiles to this year's list.

SI TOP 100: Read 100-51 here.

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50. Tobias Harris, Philadelphia 76ers

(Previous rank: 52)

While Harris may have never delivered on the promise he flashed when he was briefly averaging 20 points per game with the Clippers, he remains a versatile forward who can create his own shot. Even if Harris won’t take a team too far as a No. 1 option, he would contribute more than just a 3-and-D guy in any starting lineup. — RN

49. Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets

(Previous rank: 22)

Murray's ranking here reflects the concerns surrounding his availability and recovery after he tore his ACL on April 12, but leaves the door open for a return before season’s end. He’s one of the league’s most dangerous scoring guards, particularly working in tandem with Nikola Jokić, and this rank will be far too conservative if he makes a full in-season recovery (for what it’s worth, Murray rated 22nd on last year’s Top 100). We’ll hope for that, but we can’t count on it just yet. — JW

48. Clint Capela, Atlanta Hawks

(Previous rank: 69)

The Hawks center successfully reprised the gig he performed in Houston alongside James Harden, serving as a devastating lob finisher and a defensive backbone. His contributions on D—particularly without stud wing defender De’Andre Hunter—were widely overlooked. But Capela held opponents more than 10 percentage points beneath their averages when shooting around the rim. — CH

47. Malcolm Brogdon, Indiana Pacers

(Previous rank: 54)

Brogdon would make just about any team better. He’s someone who shouldn’t be your best player, necessarily. But he can create his own shot if needed, set the table for others and knock down an open look. He can play either guard spot and is a solid defender. Not quite as good as Jrue Holiday, who’s a more natural floor general and a superior hound on defense. Yet Brogdon is a taller, better-shooting, diet version of him. Who wouldn’t want that? — CH

46. Fred VanVleet, Toronto Raptors

(Previous rank: 57)

With Kyle Lowry in Miami, VanVleet will now be the primary ballhandler in Toronto. It’s a role he can handle. But it’ll be tougher with Pascal Siakam potentially missing the start of the season. One question facing the 6' 1" guard: Can he finish better at the cup? He drove almost 15 times per game last year, but shot just 38%—the worst in the NBA among those who drove 10 times per game—when he did. — CH

45. Gordon Hayward, Charlotte Hornets

(Previous rank: 53)

Finally free of having to wonder where he sat in the pecking order, Hayward looked fully comfortable again last season, putting up borderline All-Star numbers for Charlotte alongside LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier. He suffered a foot sprain toward the end of the season that hindered the Hornets’ chances of winning a playoff spot. But when he’s healthy, Hayward still has undeniable playmaking ability. — CH

44. Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors

(Previous rank: 30)

His recent struggles aside, Siakam is a tantalizing wing player who should just be entering the prime of his career. He’s now averaged over 20 points in back-to-back seasons, and his size makes him the perfect piece for a modern NBA defense. Given a relatively normal season to play in, Siakam should thrive as he was before COVID-19 threw the league into chaos. — RN

43. Mike Conley, Utah Jazz

(Previous rank: 50)

After his first season with the Jazz, we wondered if Conley was in full decline. After watching him return to All-Star form and guide Utah to the top of the West, it was clear the 33-year-old guard had more in the tank, upping his shooting splits across the board (including a career-best 41% from three) and remaining one of the league’s most reliable floor leaders. It’s hard to win big at the Jazz’s plodding pace without making the most of each possession; Conley still takes care of the ball as well as anyone in the league. — JW

42: DeMar DeRozan, Chicago Bulls

(Previous rank: 39)

Perhaps the most impactful free agent who flew under the radar this offseason, the star wing heads to Chicago, a club that suddenly has an abundance of high-level ballhandling. Too many will focus on DeRozan’s refusal to take threes, without recognizing that in 2021 he assisted, got to the line and connected from midrange at a higher rate than he ever has. He’s a much better player than when he was in Toronto. — CH


41. Julius Randle, New York Knicks

(Previous rank: NR)

Randle was left off last season’s Top 100, so consider this a mea culpa after an undeniably impressive, career-defining campaign. He led the league in minutes played, made second-team All-NBA, got the Knicks back to the postseason and racked up double-doubles as the focal point of the team. For all Randle’s flaws—he’s not a shot-blocker, relies far too much on his strong hand, and was wholly erased by the Hawks in the playoffs—he’s come a long way. If he can replicate his shooting splits, another All-Star appearance is within reach. — JW

40. Kyle Lowry, Miami Heat

(Previous rank: 28)

Intentional or not, the Toronto favorite saved his best for last as a Raptor, dropping a 37-piece in his final performance for the Canadian club against the Lakers. Whether the 35-year-old has more like that left in his tank remains to be seen. He consistently plays hard, and led the NBA in charges taken this past year. If he can remain impactful on both ends in Miami, the Heat should be solidly in contention for the East. — CH

39. Nikola Vučević, Chicago Bulls

(Previous rank: 43)

This is the complete list of players who averaged at least 23 points and 11 rebounds per game last season, while also shooting above 38% from three on at least five attempts from deep a night: Nikola Vučević. Vooch is an underrated offensive big who should look even better playing off Zach Lavine for a full year. — RN

38. CJ McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers

(Previous rank: 35)

Before he broke his foot in mid-January, McCollum was hoisting a ridiculous 11 threes per game, up from the 7.3 attempts he took the previous season. One of the game’s most potent midrange assassins had expanded his range in ways that would’ve surely resulted in an All-Star appearance, had he been able to stay healthy. — MP

37. Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns

(Previous rank: 74)

Ayton’s all-around evolution, particularly on the defensive side, earned him appropriate acclaim during the Suns’ Finals run. By sacrificing post touches and using his sheer size to influence the run of play, Ayton became more than simply the most physically gifted 7-footer in the sport. He’s one of the game’s best rebounders, a much-improved screener, and too mobile to scheme off the floor in the playoffs: in essence, why he was the No. 1 pick. — JW

36. Domantas Sabonis, Indiana Pacers

(Previous rank: 55)

Sabonis put up a career year in 2021, averaging bests in points (20.3) and assists (6.7) while also collecting a neat 12 rebounds a contest. Don’t let his slight frame fool you—Sabonis is happy to go blow for blow on the block, and he’s also an adept pick-and-roll partner for any guard. — RN

35. Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors

(Previous rank: 34)

Green is pretty easily the most limited scorer in this upper tier of players—yes, even more than Ben Simmons. But assuming Klay Thompson can get back and look like his old self, Green will have more space to work with as one of the league’s best passers. And he continues to be one of the league’s smartest and most valuable defenders, despite his height and lack of explosive athleticism. — CH


34. Russell Westbrook, Los Angeles Lakers

(Previous rank: 25)

Westbrook is always one of the hardest players to rank in an exercise like this. Seemingly through brute force, Russ is going to put up numbers. If there was ever a chance for Westbrook to own the narrative about his style of play, it will be this season playing alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis. — RN

33. Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans 

(Previous rank: 36)

Two highly effective years in New Orleans have proven Ingram to be one of the more efficient volume shooters in the league, capable of creating his shot against anyone, and with a borderline unguardable jumper at his size. Still just 24, he’ll have to expand his game in other ways to get his team into the playoffs: he’s made progress as a playmaker, but hasn’t fully bought in on defense, where his length could be much more impactful. Regardless, Ingram is in the upper echelon of jumper-centric wing scorers, with room left to grow in all facets. — JW

32. De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings

(Previous rank: 37)

A player who, much like Trae Young and Devin Booker, will see his stock rise among the average fan the instant his team starts winning. At 32% in 2020–21, the blisteringly fast Fox still lacks a consistent three-point jumper. But even without one, he can get to the rim—where he shot 76.1%, per Basketball-Reference—whenever he wants. — CH

31. Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers

(Previous rank: 21)

Simmons is an All-NBA caliber defender who has yet to play for a team tailored to his strengths. Both he and the Sixers deserve blame for how his tenure in Philly went south. Only 25 years old, there isn’t only hope for Simmons moving forward. There’s an expectation he should thrive once he’s finally playing within the proper context. Until he proves himself somewhere else however, Simmons’s playoff failures will hang over him. — RN

Coming Wednesday: Players 30-11

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