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Best NBA Players in 2020: LeBron James at one

BEST NBA PLAYERS: Now that the big three and super-team era seemingly in the rear-view mirror, there’s parity in the Association once again. Each team has at least one if not two, legitimate stars that their respective franchises can build around.

While some stars might be older, others are either just hitting their peak or are young but have shown enough flashes of stardom that they can be considered future stars. That said, even though a particular team doesn’t have a great record — be it due to injury or something else — there are still some worthwhile players to look at.

Without further ado, here are the top-50 NBA players right now.

50. Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics

Heat Jimmy Butler, Celtics Jaylen Brown Game 3 Eastern Conference Finals
Sep 17, 2020; Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA; Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) defends Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) during the fourth quarter in game two of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2020 NBA Playoffs at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Brown has teamed up with Jayson Tatum to form an elite young wing duo in Boston. The former No. 3 overall pick averaged 20.3 points and 6.4 rebounds on 48% shooting from the field this past season. He added an average of 21.8 points during the Celtics’ run to the Eastern Conference Finals in the playoffs. This kid is going to be good.

49. Kristaps Porzingis, Dallas Mavericks

Mavericks' Kristaps Porzingis during NBA game against the Grizzlies
Feb 5, 2020; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (right) greets forward Kristaps Porzingis (6) as he comes off the court during the second half against the Memphis Grizzlies at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Despite continued injury issues, Porzingis has always produced when he’s on the court. Currently sidelined with a knee injury, the hope is that he’ll be ready to go for the 2020-21 campaign. This past season saw the Unicorn average 20.4 points and 9.5 rebounds on 43% shooting from the field. If Porzingis can ever stay healthy, he’ll be a nice building block around Luka Doncic in Dallas.

48. D’Angelo Russell, Minnesota Timberwolves

Nets' D'Angelo Russell looking to make impact for new team.

Vastly underrated by the masses, Russell found himself traded from the Warriors to the Wolves back in February. He responded by averaging 21.7 points, 4.6 rebounds and 6.6 assists while shooting 35% from the field in Minnesota. This former top-two pick is going to be a nice piece with Karl-Anthony Towns in the Twin Cities.

47. Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns

Injuries and a suspension have hindered this 2018 No. 1 overall pick throughout his first two seasons in the NBA. Despite this, Ayton seems to be a solid No. 2 option in the desert behind Devin Booker. He averaged 18.2 points and 11.5 rebounds on a resounding 55% shooting from the field as a sophomore. That seems pretty darn good.

46. Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans

New Orleans Pelicans star forward Zion Williamson
Mar 8, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) in action against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

If injuries had not cut short this generational talent’s rookie season, Williamson would have vied with Ja Morant for the NBA Rookie of the Year honors. The dude was on pace for the most efficient scoring season before the campaign was suspended back in March. All said, Williamson averaged 22.5 points and 6.3 rebounds on an eye-opening 58% shooting from the field. He’ll be an All-Star as a sophomore.

45. Montrezl Harrell, Los Angeles Clippers

Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell in a game against the Warriors
Mar 10, 2020; San Francisco, California, USA; LA Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell (5) reacts after a foul is called against the Golden State Warriors in the second half at Chase Center. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

One of the top bench options in the NBA over the past several seasons, Harrell is going to cash in once free agency starts. The former Houston Rockets second-round pick averaged 18.6 points and 7.1 rebounds on 58% shooting from the field during the 2019-20 NBA season. While Harrell might not be a top scoring option on a good team, he’s more than proven his worth as a top-45 player in the Association.

44. Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets

Nuggets' Jamal Murray reacts after scoring against Jazz in NBA Playoff game
Aug 25, 2020; Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA; Jamal Murray #27 of the Denver Nuggets reacts after a shot during the fourth quarter against the Utah Jazz in game five of the first round of the 2020 NBA Playoffs at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

Murray’s ascension into the ranks of the elite is primarily due to what we saw from him during the Nuggets’ playoff run. The former lottery pick averaged 26.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 6.6 assists in 19 postseason games. During a three-game stretch in the first round, he averaged a whopping 46 points per game. This might have been Murray’s coming-out party.

43. Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans

Pelicans Brandon Ingram against Jazz during NBA restart.
July 30, 2020; Lake Buena Vista, USA; New Orleans Pelicans’ Brandon Ingram, right, looks to pass around Utah Jazz’s Jordan Clarkson (00) during the first half of an NBA basketball game. Mandatory Credit: Ashley Landis/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports

All the talk in Nola has surrounded Zion Williamson. That’s fine. But Ingram has been extra special since they acquired him from the Lakers. In his first season with the Pelicans, this wing averaged 23.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 4.2 assists while shooting 39% from distance. He’s going to be extra special next to Mt. Zion for new Pelicans head coach Stan Van Gundy.

42. Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat

Heat Bam Adebayo against the Lakers
Dec 13, 2019; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo (13) dunks against Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) during the second half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Some saw Bam as a major project coming out of Kentucky a few years back. Coming off an All-Star appearance as a third-year player, that can no longer be considered the case. Adebayo averaged 15.9 points, 10.2 rebounds and 5.1 assists for a Heat team that made a shocking NBA Finals appearance. This dude is going to be special.

41. Fred VanVleet, Toronto Raptors

Toronto Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Set to hit free agency, it’s not yet known whether VanVleet will be back with the Raptors next season. What we do know is that this kid has morphed into an absolute star since going undrafted out of Wichita State. VanVleet, 26, averaged 17.6 points and 6.6 assists on 39% shooting from distance during the 2019-20 NBA season. If not with Toronto, some team is going to find a stud once free agency opens.

40. R.J. Barrett, New York Knicks

R.J. Barrett #40 Best NBA Players in 2020
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

As the Knicks’ latest draft pick, Barrett was the clear choice to choose from that squad. No other player on the roster has the same upside that the 20-year-old Barrett possesses and his ability to play either the two or three makes him a valuable piece for the Knicks moving forward. Whether the Knicks have an ability to capitalize on his upside remains to be seen.

39. Collin Sexton, Cleveland Cavaliers

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Each time LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers, they have tried to build around a point guard. In 2011, it was Kyrie Irving. This time around, it’s Collin Sexton. Sexton is the clear-cut choice as the Cavaliers’ main building block — no other player is as young (21) or has the scoring acumen (20.8 points per game) that he has.

38. Blake Griffin, Detroit Pistons

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After having his best all-around season in 2018-2019, Griffin’s recurring injury history has caught up with him. In fact, the former All-Star barely played this past season. When he’s been on the court though, the 31-year-old looks like a shell of the former six-time All-Star he was as his overall numbers are way down compared to previous years. Still, he’s the Pistons’ best player when healthy.

37. Devonte’ Graham, Charlotte Hornets

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Although the Hornets surprised everyone by signing Terry Rozier to a three-year, $58 million contract, perhaps even more surprising was Graham’s growth. After averaging 4.7 points, 2.6 assists and 1.7 rebounds per game as a rookie, Graham exploded this year, putting up 18.2 points, 7.5 assists and 3.4 rebounds. The 25-year-old has to improve his shooting but he’s a surprising second-year player.

36. Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls

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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 25, 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. One has to hope that the Bulls find a competent coach to fully maximize LaVine’s potential.

35. Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz

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An amazing defensive player, the “Stifle Tower” has shown that he can stop almost anyone at the rim. His 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. Judging by the fact that Gobert has two Defensive Player of the Year awards and is a two-time All-NBA selection, he’s doing something right.

33. Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic

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A throwback to bigs of the past, Vucevic has been slowly expanding his offensive game to include a three-point shot and more perimeter shots. Nevertheless, the 29-year-old is the Magic’s best player: he’s top-three in points (first), rebounds (first) and assists (tied for third). On his back, the Magic made it back to the playoffs last season.

33. Domantas Sabonis, Indiana Pacers

Initially a throw-in piece in the Paul George trade, the 23-year-old Sabonis is thriving in Indiana. He averaged career-highs in points (18.5), rebounds (12.4) and assists (5.0) this past season. As such, he made his first All-Star team in 2020. If he keeps this up, it won’t be the last.

32. Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors

Kyle Lowry, #30 Best NBA Players in 2020
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Taking a back seat to Kawhi Leonard in 2018-19, Lowry saw his scoring numbers (14.2) fall to the second-lowest since 2013 (11.6). But with Leonard taking his talents to Southern California, the 33-year-old Lowry and Pascal Siakam represented the de facto one-two punch as the former averaged 19.4 points while the latter averaged 22.9 points for a Raptors squad that came short of a repeat in 2019-20.

31. De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings

© Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Although a case can be made that 27-year-old Buddy Hield is the Kings’ best player, that title still belongs to De’Aaron Fox. The 22-year-old Fox led the Kings in scoring (21.1) and assists (6.8) per game this past season. With so many young pieces in Sacramento, it’ll only be a matter of time before the Kings are back in the playoffs, led by Fox.

30. Jrue Holiday, New Orleans Pelicans

NBA rumors Jrue Holiday
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

For the New Orleans Pelicans, it was a three-man race between Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson and Jrue Holiday. In all honesty, they’re all good players. Ultimately, the 30-year-old Holiday is the Pelicans’ best player right now because he is consistent on both sides of the ball. Additionally, the 22-year-old Ingram is sporadic and Williamson played only 24 games as a rookie.

29. DeMar DeRozan, San Antonio Spurs

DeMar DeRozan
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Even without a three-point shot, the 31-year-old DeRozan has found a way to stay effective. An excellent mid-range shooter, he improved his rebounding and passing since coming to the Spurs in 2018. Even though he’ll never be a defensive presence, count on DeRozan to put up 20/5/5 every night.

28. Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies

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At just 21, the runaway Rookie of the Year led the Grizzlies in scoring (17.8) and assists (7.3) while sitting at third with 3.4 win shares in his debut season. Morant was slated to be good coming out of Murray State but he has exceeded all expectations, leading Memphis to surprise playoff contention this past season. It’ll be interesting to see how much better Morant can get in the future.

27. C.J. McCollum, Portland Trailblazers

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Although Damian Lillard got a lot of credit for leading the Trailblazers to a surprise Western Conference Finals appearance in 2019, that couldn’t have been done without McCollum. As a consistent 20-plus point per game scorer, the 28-year-old McCollum is the perfect complement to Lillard. Defense might be an issue, but that doesn’t hurt as much if the team is able to outscore its opponents with ease.

26. LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs

LaMarcus Aldridge

In all honesty, LaMarcus Aldridge and the aforementioned DeRozan could switch positions on this list and no one would bat an eye. Both players are similar in that they can put up an easy 20-piece on mainly mid-range shots and have shown a weakness on the defensive end. However, Aldridge can hit the occasional three-pointer. But his advanced age of 34 makes it difficult for him to be ranked higher.

25. Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards

Courtesy of USA Today Images
Courtesy of USA Today Images

Having led the league in scoring at 30.5 pooints per game this past season, the 26-year-old Beal is a fantastic offensive option. He can do almost anything on the offensive end but without a competitive squad around him, he can only do so much. Hopefully things will change once John Wall returns with Beal becoming the undisputed top option.

24. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics

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As part of Boston’s three-headed monster, the 22-year-old Tatum has taken that next step of being the go-to option on offense. Leading the Celtics in scoring (23.4) and three-point shooting (40%) last season, he has shown that he can lead a playoff team. If he keeps playing the way that he is, he is a lock to be an All-Star every year.

23. Kemba Walker, Boston Celtics

© David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

In Boston, the 30-year-old Walker doesn’t have to carry as much of the offense with Jaylen Brown and the previously-mentioned Tatum scoring more than 20 points per game. The four-time All-Star is still a focal point in the offense and without his guidance, the Celtics would not have headed deep into the playoffs in 2019-20.

22. Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors

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The other half of the vaunted “Splash Bros.,” the 30-year-old Thompson is one of the greatest shooters the NBA has even seen. Because of how great of a shooter he is, Thompson can score 30-plus in a quarter or even score 60-plus on fewer than 15 dribbles in the blink-of-an-eye. If he’s not destroying opposing teams offensively, he’s doing it on the defensive end as he’s an All-Defensive-type performer.

21. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves

Karl-Anthony Towns injury
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

A former No. 1 pick, the 24-year-old Towns has lived up to his end of the bargain on the offensive end. He still needs to work on his defense but as long as he keeps working, he should be serviceable on that end. But any improvement would be for naught if the Timberwolves don’t put a competitive squad around Towns to complement his talents.

20. Chris Paul, Oklahoma City Thunder

Chris Paul trade
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He may be the oldest player on the roster at 34, but Chris Paul is showing that he still has gas left in the tank. Under Paul’s tutelage, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Dennis Schroder enjoyed career years in 2019-20. Although he’s past his prime and his numbers are aren’t “Chris Paul-like”, CP3 is still the Thunder’s best player, especially in the locker room.

19. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers

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When he’s on the floor, the oft-injured 26-year-old Embiid is a game-changer. He can put up points in bunches while also shutting guys down on defense. There’s not a lot of players in the league that have the capability of doing what Embiid can on both ends of the court. He’s the 76ers best player by a mile but he has to stay healthy.

18. Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns

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Much like Towns, the 23-year-old Booker is an offensive force. Look no further than his 70-point performance against the Celtics a few years ago as evidence. He may not be a defensive stopper, but because he can easily put up 26-6-4 every night, there’s not much opposing teams can do. The Suns just have to give him a good supporting cast so that he can finally earn a playoff appearance. That almost came to fruition following a perfect 8-0 run in Orlando.

17. Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks

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Having averaged almost 30 points per game as a sophomore, Young is shaping up to be the next shooter with limitless range. The Hawks may have struggled this past season, but it’s not the fault of the 21-year-old as he led the team in scoring (29.6) and assists (9.3) in just his second year. Young may never be a defensive stalwart but his ability to hit from anywhere on the court more than makes up for it.

16. Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors

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

The new No. 1 option in Toronto, Siakam has shown to be a capable offensive player, scoring either inside or out at will. Averaging career-highs across the board this past season, the 26-year-old has the skill to be a perennial All-Star, all while keeping the Raptors in the championship hunt.

15. Paul George, Los Angeles Clippers

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

One of the few 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 teams’ best player. Fairly durable throughout his career, George’s age (30) makes it difficult to see where his ceiling is at this point.

14. Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz

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Since coming into the league in the 2017, Mitchell has proven to be a fast-rising star in the NBA. The 23-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 three years in the league. If he’s able to keep producing, it’s not outside the realm of possibility to see Mitchell average 25-5-5 moving forward.

13. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets

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Not the fleetest of foot, Jokic’s game has always been predicated on his methodical movement and amazing IQ. The two-time All-Star is only 25 but he can easily put up 20-10 with seven assists as the focal point of the Nuggets’ offense. Considering his age, it’s not out of the question to see Jokic develop a three-point shot and become a better all-around player.

12. Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets

Kyrie Irving injured
Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Probably the best ball-handler of all-time, Irving’s mastery with a basketball is undeniable. He can score 50 or any given night and drop any defender that’s in front of him. But purported locker room issues, his injury history and his defensive struggles make it difficult to rank him within the top-10. Still only 28, Irving has ample time to improve on those facets.

11. Damian Lillard, Portland Trailblazers

Damian Lillard #10 Best NBA Players in 2020
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No doubt one of the best clutch shot makers in recent history, the 29-year-old Lillard definitely knows what time it is when it comes to the game. The three-time All-Star has led the Trailblazers in almost every facet since being drafted in 2012 and it doesn’t seem like that is changing any time soon. This dude also averaged 37.6 points in the eight seeding game in Orlando, leading Portland to a shocking playoff appearance in the process.

Top 10 Best Basketball Players:

10. Russell Westbrook, Houston Rockets

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A constant triple-double threat, the 31-year-old Westbrook has yet to properly lead a team deep into the playoffs primarily due to his style of play. Still, the intensity and ferocity with which he plays the game is unmatched. With defenders already respecting his athleticism, if Westbrook can develop a three-point shot and learn to play a more consistent style of basketball, he can rocket back into the top-five.

9. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets

Kevin Durant #4 Best NBA Players in 2020
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At 6-foot-11, the 31-year-old Durant is unlike any player the NBA has ever seen. He can back you down in the post and can drill deep daggers from deep — and easily put up 30-10-5 on any night. He is also an excellent defensive player with his height and wingspan, averaging more than a block per game.

With this in mind, Durant has had a history of off-court mishaps –as well as in the locker room — and it remains to be seen how he will recover from the Achilles injury he suffered during the 2019 NBA Finals. Nonetheless, if Durant can play at 90% of his capabilities, he is still a top-five player in the NBA.

8. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

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At only 21, Doncic is doing things for the Mavericks that haven’t been done since LeBron James. Nearly averaging a 30-10-10 in only his second year, the sky is the limit for Doncic and the Mavericks. Even though his three-point shooting needs to improve, defenders are still respecting his shot because he has shown that he can hit three-pointers from any range, especially when the game is on the line. He also has Dallas thinking long playoff run moving forward in his career.

7. Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat

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On his third team in three years, the 30-year-old Butler is hoping that Miami is the best destination for him long term. Leading the team in scoring (19.9), assists (6.0), steals (1.8) and free-throw attempts (9.1) per game last season, Butler has embraced the Heat’s winning culture with great success thus far. It led to a shocking NBA Finals appearance for the upstart team.

6. James Harden, Houston Rockets

James Harden #6 Best NBA Players in 2020
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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 offense. At 30, Harden is seemingly able to find new and creative ways to get the ball in the basket every year, no matter how questionable it may look. Even with lackluster defensive effort, his ability to go for a 60-point triple-double makes him one of the most dangerous offensive players in the NBA.

5. Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers

Anthony Davis #5 Best NBA Players in 2020
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The 27-year-old Davis has been a two-way presence since being the first pick back in 2012. His numbers have been improving every year and if he keeps up this pace, he is Hall of Fame-worthy. Davis’ penchant for continually improving each year is unmatched and playing in Los Angeles can only do wonders for his game and his marketability. That’s especially true after this dude averaged 27.7 points in the playoffs en route to leading Los Angeles to its first title in 10 years.

4. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

Stephen Curry Kyle Lowry NBA Finals Game 4 Warriors Raptors
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Curry’s status as a top-five player in the league is in doubt after missing most of last season with a broken hand. Nevertheless, the 32-year-old’s ability on the court is undeniable. Defenders respect him because of his limitless range and when he drives, he can find the open man. If he’s able to regain some of his durability in the future, there’s no doubt that Curry is a top-five player. But for now, he’ll have to settle for seventh, just like where he was drafted.

Top 3 players in the NBA now:

3. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo #1 Best NBA Players in 2020
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While it could be argued that James is still the best player in the NBA, Antetokounmpo has proven it on both sides of the ball. The 25-year-old reigning MVP was in the top-five in almost all categories including PER (first), total rebound rate (fifth), defensive win shares (first), win shares (second), scoring (third) and rebounds (third) this past regular season.

Although Antetokounmpo needs to improve his shooting — mainly his three-point and free throw shooting — there’s evidence to show that he’s working on that facet of his game. Considering his age, if he’s able to hit at an above-average clip, Giannis can be the face of the league for at least the next five years. If all works out for Antetokounmpo, he could end up as one of the greatest players of all time.

2. Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers

Kawhi Leonard #3 Best NBA Players in 2020
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The elite defensive player of the NBA, the 29-year-old Leonard lets his play do all the talking and rightly so. The two-time NBA Finals MVP has improved on every facet of his game, averaging career-highs in points (27.1), rebounds (7.1) and assists (4.9) this past regular season. The fact that Leonard seemingly doesn’t care about regular season stats or accolades and would rather focus on the postseason success just goes to show what type of player he is.

Leonard embodies the saying that “it should be the quiet guys you should fear” as he will nary say a word. In all, he could be the best regular-season player, but playoff success is a bigger goal for him.

1. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

LeBron James #2 Best NBA Players in 2020
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Even at 35, James is still finding ways to improve his game. Look no further than the fact that he averaged a career-high 10.2 assists in his 17th season. His career numbers (27-7-7) are unheard of in this day and age. The fact that James seems to be doing it almost effortlessly makes it seem like he can play for another five-plus years. Although his defense has taken a step back as he’s gotten older, James is still a formidable defensive player when called upon.

There will never be another player like James, with the raw athleticism and all-around play that he brings to the table every night. His body of work over his career is why James is considered one of the top-two players in NBA history and quite honestly, he can still be considered to be the best player in the NBA. Oh, and he’s coming off his fourth career title and NBA Finals MVP award. That’s not too shabby.

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